The Real Reason “Condi for Governor” Is Intriguing

Republican Convention

In the wake of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's well-received speech to the Republican National Convention, Republicans are talking her up as a candidate for governor in California, where she lives.

Former state party chair Ron Nehring even posted a list of 10 reasons why "Condi for Governor" makes sense. The reasons focus on her electability and her Republican credentials.

The problem with this thinking is that Rice's Republican affiliation would hurt her in California politics -- it may be an albatross. Indeed, Nehring misses the biggest reason why Rice could be an intriguing candidate: she's done smart work on California reform.

Rice is a member of the Think Long Committee for California. As your blogger described in detail recently in the magazine Pacific Standard, Think Long developed broad, integrated recommendations for how to fix California governance.

The focus of those reforms is highly relevant to governors: Think Long tried to come up with ways to give at least some state officials greater power to make decisions and plan for the future. Which is to say: they tried to make it easier to govern the state. Central to Think Long's recommendations is the creation of a citizens' council with broad powers and political independence; a majority of the council members would be appointed by a governor.

Rice signed on to the Think Long recommendations; that decision didn't represent a full endorsement of each specific idea in the Think Long recommendations, but a broad agreement of progress. But if Rice were to run for governor, she would have something important to run on: ideas that she helped develop that would change the game in California, and perhaps make the state more governable.

If Rice were this kind of candidate, it would be a refreshing departure for the state. None of the 2010 candidates for governor talked about changing the system to make the state governable. Gov. Jerry Brown has dismissed virtually every approach to broad reform as unrealistic. A Brown vs. Rice race would offer a clear choice between a governor who believes in muddling through California problems, and someone who has embraced much more systemic changes.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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