Simon said what???

By Barbara Simpson

Wet your finger; hold it in the air. As soon as you figure out which way the wind is blowing, play politics. Change direction.

That’s what happened in California politics last week, and I’m not the only campaign-watcher suffering whiplash.

First, the GOP gubernatorial candidate said, if elected, he’d declare a statewide Gay Pride Day, award additional marriage rights to domestic partnerships, continue to facilitate gay adoptions and empower gays within the California GOP.

He also supported medical marijuana despite federal laws against it – but that wasn’t the headliner. It was the gay issue and it hit like a California earthquake. Whoa, baby! You’re talking Catholic, conservative, Republican supporting the gay agenda. Where did that come from?

Where, indeed!

It played out as a perfect political snafu – and you remember what that means: “situation normal, all fouled up.” Specifically, it’s the Bill Simon campaign for governor in California.

Simon is a Republican. A political novice, he trounced his moderate-to-left challenger in the primary and now faces long-time pol, fanatical fund-raiser, liberal incumbent Gray Davis. Note that Davis, who’s been spending $1.5 million a week on radio and TV commercials, has kicked that up to $1.7 million. A week!

The race clicks into high gear as November approaches – and while Simon is closing the poll gap, his campaign is plagued with problems: a $78 million civil-fraud judgment by a jury in a lawsuit against his family’s investment firm; an appeal is pending. Then there’s the lagging fund-raising, staff cutbacks, delayed release of income tax returns and, in a suit against the government dealing with S&L losses by investors (including Simon’s family) Simon is one of 26 witnesses. He’ll testify three days after the election.

The man clearly has a lot on his mind.

The latest problem is the headline news that Simon supports the “gay” agenda as posited by the Log Cabin Republicans, an openly homosexual group. They sent a policy questionnaire to the Simon campaign. It got filled out and returned with a Bill Simon signature on it.

Newspapers reported the story; Simon explained it on a talk radio show. Homosexuals loved it. In fact, his promise to declare a “Gay Pride Day” if elected got him invited to speak at a fundraiser in L.A. with Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Vice-President Dick Cheney. This would help Simon get needed votes of independents and moderates to pull off a November win.

Moderates shook their heads and pragmatists called it a shift to the center in a bid to win those marginal votes. But Christian and family groups fumed and blasted him! “Betrayal of values,” they charged, and apparently their criticisms hit home. For nearly a week, there was stonewalling – read: nothing said at all – from the Simon camp.

Then it hit the fan – and the headlines again – when Simon went public with a major backtrack. He says he never saw the questionnaire, didn’t sign it and that there were statements in it he doesn’t support.

Apparently the official comment is that “somebody did it – not me.” In fact, it’s a polite version of “I know nothing.”

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I saw Bill Simon use his right hand to point left, and his left hand to point right, as he attempted to explain “who done it.”

The weekend before Simon changed course, Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy, R-Arcadia, told me on my radio program that calls to his office are asking, “What happened to our guy?” He also said he’d spoken to Simon and that the questionnaire does not represent his views.

Sen. Ray Haynes, R-Riverside, attributed the completion and return of the survey to “campaign employees who do what they’re not supposed to do.” He said Simon told him the survey had never been cleared for release.

Hey, who’s in charge, the candidate or the handlers? It seems to me, if anything goes out of the office with Simon’s name on it, he should see it first – no exceptions. And if it happens, the ax should fall. Instantly. Publicly.

Some reports place the responsibility right at the top of Simon’s advisers. No matter. Bottom line, Bill: Fire him.

If what was said in that survey is not what you believe Bill, say so and fire the person who compromised you. Now.

Unless, of course … no, better not go there.

Oh, by the way, Simon was axed from the invitation list for the “gay” fundraiser. Whoops! Now what do we do, boss?

Just who is boss?