DANA POINT—I entered the Harbor House and immediately recognized Paul Martin.
Maybe it was the glasses. Maybe it was the curious glance. Maybe it was that something about the man looks … inviting. If that’s a confusing term, allow me to elaborate. Martin, the long-shot Republican candidate for California’s 48th Congressional District, has a certain air of openness about him. He’s a casual guy; a comfortable have-a-seat-and-let’s-chat mojo that’s immediately appealing.
So, earlier tonight, I had a seat. And we chatted.
As anyone who reads crazydana knows, I’m a pretty hard-core liberal. But that doesn’t mean I’m not openminded to the upcoming race. The No. 1 goal, right now, is for someone to unseat Dana Rohrabacher. If that’s Harley Rouda—great. If that’s Laura Oatman—great. And if that’s Martin—well, I’m good with it.
Why? Allow me to list the reasons:
• 1. Because he abhors Dana Rohrabacher: There was no ambiguity about this one. In our 1 1/2 hours together, Martin called the congressman “inept” and “criminal.” He said he would vote for any Democrat over Rohrabacher, and openly questioned what, exactly the man has done in his time in congress. “Over the last 17 years there’s been one bill passed that was his legislation,” Martin said. “That’s embarrassing.”
• 2. Because he abhors Donald Trump: I asked Paul to list his five all-time favorite political figures. It read thusly:
- 1. Abe Lincoln
- 2. Winston Churchill
- 3. George H. W. Bush
- 4. John F. Kennedy
- 5. Ronald Reagan
I then asked for his three least-favorite:
- Donald Trump
- George Wallace
- Lyndon Johnson
Martin rightly blames Trump for the current awfulness of America. In particular, he cited decency, compassion, empathy. “All lacking,” he said. “It’s just depressing.”
• 3. Because he’s just a guy: Martin is as much a politician as I am. Or as former Seattle Mariner DH Edgar Martinez is. Or as the members of Jefferson Starship are. He’s a former Anglican pastor who worked for many years as a self-employed technical writer. He blogs. He vents. His motivation to run is simple: He’s fed up with Rohrabacher. So he’s spent the past several months pressing the flesh, raising money, speaking to groups. “I just think we can do better,” he said. “It’s that simple.”
• 4. Because he’s very moderate: I asked Paul why, exactly, he’s a Republican. And while parts of his reply didn’t thrill me (he believes strongly in a small federal government), at least he’s sincere. Paul is of the mindset that, not all that long ago, the GOP was the party of decency and empathy. He loved Reagan and the elder Bush, and thought both men were open to negotiations with opponents.
Nowadays, under Trump, Paul smells pure anger and mistrust. He sees himself as the ultimate moderate. He voted for John McCain and Mitt Romney, but thought Barack Obama was ultimately excellent. He loves Bernie Sanders; greatly admires Joe Biden. He’s pro-life, but doesn’t believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned. He’s 100-percent pro-gay marriage, and believes in protecting the environment.
Now here’s the question: Can Paul Martin win?
Answer: A whoooooole bunch of things would have to happen.
First, a gaggle of Democrats would have to divide the liberal/moderate/left vote, thereby allowing Rohrabacher and Martin to somehow wind up the two final candidates in the general election.
This could, theoretically, happen, but it’s starting to feel like Harley Rouda will be the definitive Democratic torchbearer. This would not benefit Martin, who needs some chaos to emerge. But, interestingly, he had no ill words for Rouda. “I would go for him over Dana,” he said. “In a second.”
Second, he’d have to raise a lot more money. Martin’s fundraising page has a stated goal of $20,000—a sliver of what’s probably needed to run a legitimate campaign. Thus far, according to data, 20 people have donated $1,705.
Third, Rohrabacher needs to acknowledge him. That might sound odd, but it’s true. Somehow or another, Martin needs to get the congressman’s attention. He needs the legitimacy of being an irksome flea on the dog. That serves of an “I’m here!” announcement.
Again, it’s all pretty unlikely.
But I dig his integrity.