Former Republican congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Michael Huffington, who is bisexual, took out nominating papers Friday to run for governor of California in the October recall election, and his spokesman said he is seriously considering a candidacy. "He's been contemplating it and made a final decision this past week to file the papers," said Huffington spokesman Bruce Nestande.
Huffington served one term in Congress, from 1992 to 1994, representing the Santa Barbara area, before losing a close and bitter Senate race to Dianne Feinstein that broke records for campaign spending. He made headlines in 1998 when he disclosed his bisexuality and since then has occasionally resurfaced at Republican gatherings and talked of reentering politics.
Huffington's ex-wife, maverick columnist Arianna Huffington, is herself the subject of a draft campaign by San Francisco Bay area activists to get her to run for governor. Nestande said Arianna Huffington's plans are "irrelevant to anything we'll do." He said the divorced couple live within blocks of each other in Los Angeles's Brentwood district.
The suggestion that Michael Huffington might enter the race drew a strong comment from Scott Taylor, campaign manager for Republican congressman Darrell Issa, who funded the recall effort. "I just have the feeling voters aren't going to embrace the first bisexual gubernatorial candidate," Taylor told the Los Angeles Times.
Although Issa's communications director called Taylor's comments reckless, his office drew strong criticism from gay activists. "Gay baiting has no place in any campaign, no matter what the circumstances," Seth Kilbourn, national field director for the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, told the Times. "The fact that Darrell Issa has injected this ugly message into this campaign is, I think, a disturbing preview of things to come."
Geoff Kors, executive director of the statewide group Equality California, said he is "extremely disturbed" that Issa would "target groups of Californians in order to advance his own political interests."
The news about Michael Huffington was the latest development in what was becoming an increasingly diverse field of potential candidates a day after the lieutenant governor announced an October 7 date for the recall election of Democratic governor Gray Davis. Candidates have until 5 p.m. August 9 to file. Also in the mix as potential Republican candidates are actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan, former GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Simon, former vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp, and state senator Tom McClintock. The only declared GOP candidate is Issa.
Another announcement Friday came from former state assemblywoman Audie Bock, a onetime Green Party member who shocked the Democratic establishment when she won a special election in 1999 to represent the 16th district, which covers the cities of Oakland, Alameda, and Piedmont. Bock, who changed her party registration to Independent after her election to the legislature and then to Democrat after she lost reelection, said she is entering the recall race as a Democrat.