Dear Sen. Cogdill:
1130 K Street, Suite 290
Sacramento, CA 95814
February 21, 2008
Just a note to offer my congratulations, which I assume is the right word, on your election as Senate GOP leader.
Ross Johnson, a predecessor in your new post, once described the job of Assembly Minority leader as “herding cats through a minefield while juggling hand grenades.”
Given the membership of your caucus and the more genteel comportment of the upper house, I’m sure your tenure will bear no resemblance to that colorful, albeit perilous, scene.
After your selection, I started thinking a bit about your predecessors. You already know how delightful and hard-working Dick Ackerman is.
Prior to Dick was Jim Brulte, thoughtful and strategic and always looking for ways to build GOP bridges to traditional Democratic constituencies. A solid negotiator and good listener – not always a trait as common as it should be.
I think it was Tony Blair who said recently that leadership is always better after a bit of listening.
Ross preceded Jim after Rob Hurtt, the Orange County businessman, was, to use a common political consultant euphemism, un-elected.
During the closed-door budget negotiations between legislative leaders and then Gov. Pete Wilson, Hurtt was considered by the other participants to be the lightest weight of the bunch, in part because Hurtt didn’t much like the sessions and periodically left early.
As one of my favorite lobbyist pals says, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
I never quite understood this but the GOP caucus, I guess because it had moved further toward the right, dumped the very savvy, well-regarded, master-deal-maker, Ken Maddy for the untested, politically unsophisticated Hurtt.
You probably know all there is about Ken and then some, coming from his neck of the woods.
I was always struck by his perseverance. It must have taken at least a couple of decades of wheedling, cajoling and pummeling Caltrans to turn that Blood Alley of Highway 99 near Livingston into freeway.
Willie Brown once said there’s no problem in this state he and Ken Maddy couldn’t solve together.
I think that’s because both of them realized there would never be a legislative situation where either would get everything they wanted – particularly Ken since he was the minority party — and that creating a mutually acceptable deal to end a vexing problem, budgetary or otherwise, was preferable than stalemate and, at rock bottom, their shared duty as legislative leaders.
Not unlike Brown, Ken was uncanny in seeing the positions legislative combatants had staked out and projecting where they’d move next and then where they would move after that. And not just on issues he was passionate about – everything.
Maddy would encourage me to write stories saying the opposing interest groups were both one step beyond where they currently were. In turn, I looked like a genius. It took a few years to realize, as it did with Brown, that I was part of Ken’s chess game.
I attended the dedication of the Ken Maddy Institute at Fresno State with him. Because of his cancer, the day wiped Ken out. I offered to drive him and his chief of staff, Jo-Ann Slinkard, back to the Fresno airport to return to Sacramento.
I was dependent on their directions. They got lost, prompting a snide remark by me about him getting lost in a district he’d represented for 27 years. Ken came back with something snappy about how hard it was to see anything from inside a mailbox.
A really wonderful friend and a truly gifted politician. Maybe it helped that he won his first election in a heavily Democratic district.
It appears you’ll be able to hang out personally, if you haven’t already, with Maddy’s predecessor, Jim Nielsen of Santa Rosa. Jim is expected to win his bid to become an Assembly member. An affable man, his stint as minority leader came before I began at the Chronicle.
Before Jim there was the uber-affable Bill Campbell. If you haven’t already become acquainted, Bill is someone worth creating a relationship because his political instincts are very sound and he has the ability to find collaborative solutions where others might not.
Out of office for more than a decade when the energy crisis occurred, Bill was who I called for an opinion as a non-combatant of what steps Governor Davis could have taken – you’ll recall he did like more than cower – to contain the problem within the Sempra-San Diego service area.
Without hesitation, Bill said he would have convened a meeting of every party involved, whether he agreed with their positions or not, and lock them in a room until they emerged with six things they all agreed on that would help solve the problem.
Bill didn’t expound on it but I got the sense that even if they came up with four or five proposals, there was value in getting everyone together airing differences and groping toward common ground.
Here endth the windy history recitation. As some Democratic wag said: There’s always room for another good minority leader.
Knock ‘em dead,
P.S. Hoping you might see your way clear to support my candidacy for Assembly Speaker.
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