Politics in California is often surprising, especially so under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. As if the point needed proving, the governor stunned state politicos by naming of a card-carrying Democratic leftist, Susan Kennedy as his new chief of staff. Kennedy (no relation to the governor’s in-laws) has a eyebrow-raising political pedigree–a former assiciate of Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, and deputy chief of staff to former Governor Gray Davis.
Conservatives are aghast. Political pundit John Fund of the Wall Street Journal today asked in horror “has Governor Schwarzenegger jumped the shark?” The selection of Ms. Kennedy, he said, may be the governor’s “Harriet Miers” moment.
Fund–who is usually right about such things–is wrong here. Harriet Miers was a moderate Republican whose political views were obscure. No one is accusing Kennedy of being a moderate. But– in another California surprise–she is a strong supporter of economic deregulation. In her previous job as a California PUC commissioner, she was a leader in the fight to reduce telecom regulation. One of only a handful of pro-market state regulators in the country, she put even most Republican PUC members to shame. She co-founded, along with Florida GOP regulator Charles Davidson, the “Federation for Economically-Rational Utility Policy. (See “Economically-Rational Regulators, Not an Oxymoron Anymore.”) Perhaps more colorfully, she has been called “California’s Deregulation Energizer Bunny” in Cisco’s high-tech blog.
I have no idea what Kennedy’s views are on other issues. But, as a regulator for the past three years, she resembled former governor Reagan than former Governor Davis. Pigeon-holing her politics may not be as easy as it looks. Pundits should prepare for more surprises.