Is Gerry Parsky Al Checchi or Michael Huffington?
Gerry Parsky's thinking of running for Governor. Will anyone notice?
Parsky explores gubernatorial bid
Regents chair hints he'll run, but only if the governor doesn't.By Amy Chance -- Bee Political Editor
Published 2:15 am PST Saturday, March 12, 2005
Gerry Parsky, chairman of the University of California Board of Regents and President Bush's political point man in California, is quietly exploring the possibility of running for governor next year if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opts to bow out.
Parsky adviser Dora Kingsley made a recent trip to Washington, D.C., in which she floated the possibility to congressional and media representatives, and Parsky acknowledged in a written statement that he would not rule out the possibility.
"Should either President Bush or Governor Schwarzenegger again call upon me to consider additional public service in another capacity, I would seriously consider the honor," he said.
Despite his close ties to Bush, Parsky is a not a beloved figure in some quarters of the state Republican Party and is an untested statewide candidate.
But as a multimillionaire who serves as chairman of Aurora Capital Group, a Los Angeles-based investment firm, he is considered capable of paying for the campaign himself should he choose to do so.
He also has recently sent signals that he doubts Schwarzenegger will succeed in a sweeping effort to pass several initiatives on issues ranging from the state pension system to state spending controls in a special election showdown with Democratic interest groups.
Last week, he came to Sacramento to tell a legislative committee that, as chairman of the UC Board of Regents, he cannot support the governor's proposal to turn government pensions into a 401(k)-style system.
Parsky, whose stint as chairman expires next year, said Schwarzenegger's measure as drafted could damage the university system's ability to recruit faculty and therefore hamper the California economy. Kingsley said he has offered to help Schwarzenegger negotiate a compromise with legislative Democrats.
A month ago at the state Republican Party convention in Sacramento, Kingsley - a longtime GOP activist who is close to Parsky - resigned from the party's Rules Committee to protest its decision to pave the way for an early endorsement of Schwarzenegger's re-election.
The action was aimed at giving the party room to spend money preparing for Schwarzenegger's re-election campaign without violating its bylaws. Delegates then endorsed the governor on a unanimous voice vote.
Party Chairman Duf Sundheim said the move was necessary because new campaign finance limits prevent Schwarzenegger from collecting unlimited amounts for his own campaign treasury. The party is not subject to the restrictions.
But Kingsley argued that the move violated longtime party practice and would discourage competition in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
A spokeswoman for Parsky and Kingsley said this week, however, that Parsky was not considering challenging Schwarzenegger should he decide to run for re-election.
"We visited Washington and met with Republican leaders and advisers, refreshing a dialogue with friends and colleagues inside the Beltway," spokeswoman Elizabeth Blackney said. "Mr. Parsky and Dora are both totally supportive of the governor being re-elected at this point."
Some Republicans said they found it amazing that Parsky would have the temerity to offer his name given Schwarzenegger's current popularity, but weren't surprised that he did, given his past interest in key political positions.
"That is truly astounding and utterly believable," said Karen Hanretty, a spokeswoman for the state Republican Party.
Communications Director Rob Stutzman declined to comment on the possibility of a Parsky candidacy.
Party Rules Committee Vice Chairman Bob Naylor said any "anti-Schwarzenegger tone" to Parsky's interest would run contrary to the overwhelming support for the governor at the last convention. He said Parsky "probably didn't earn himself many Brownie points with the Republican grass roots" by testifying against the governor's pension plan.
"If this is the kind of exploratory effort that's a prelude to (a candidacy in) 2010, then it's just fine," he said. "Gerry Parsky would be on a list of very capable people out there when ... we have a very short bench. So I would encourage him to think about it, but not in 2006."
Naylor said he would be "shocked" if Schwarzenegger doesn't run for re-election.
"Everything in Arnold Schwarzenegger's lifetime suggests that he wants to be known as successful," Naylor said, "and I don't think he can be known as a successful governor given the depth of the problems of this state in only three years. The problems he is dealing with are so monumental and the political situation is so ideologically muscle-bound, it's just going to take more time."
Others suggested it might make sense to have a candidate waiting in the wings, given Schwarzenegger's unpredictable nature.
Schwarzenegger told CNN talk show host Larry King last November that he would decide whether he was running for re-election by spring.
But he hasn't repeated that statement recently, saying only that he is first focused on the policy proposals he hopes to put on the ballot later this year.
Schwarzenegger advisers say only that anyone who says they know what he will do doesn't remember his surprise announcement that he was running for governor in the first place, on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno in August 2003.
There remains, therefore, the risk that the party would be left without an obvious candidate for governor if the former actor decides late this year not to run.
But California political insiders are skeptical that Parsky could win a statewide election given his close ties to Bush.
Parsky served as chairman of the California delegation to the Republican National Convention in New York last year, but California voters decisively cast their ballots for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in November.
Blackney noted that Parsky has received appointments from each of the past five Republican presidents, including stints at the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Energy under former President Nixon. He served in 2001 and 2002 on Bush's Commission to Strengthen Social Security.
"Whether it's President Bush or President Reagan, he's always served the state of California and the American people well," Blackney said. "I don't see that his relationship with the current president of the United States would be a hindrance in any way."