By Alfa · Feb 28, 2004 · ·
  1. Alfa

    U.S. senate candidate Judge Jim Gray strives to make the Libertarian
    party matter

    Aside from the little frizzy-haired dude in the T-shirt-people of a
    certain age will recognize him as a demi-Jerry from Room 222-there is
    a conspicuous paucity of stoners at Judge Jim Gray's Senate campaign
    headquarters opening celebration. There are lots of adults in suits
    and ties-this is key-lots of people who look like they could be
    attending a Republican or Democratic function-also key-a lot of people
    whose closest brush with the phrase "try before you buy" no doubt
    involved vacation-time-share property.

    This is disappointing, of course, for anyone who expected Gray's
    headquarters to be a kind of Gomorrah Gone Wild, having built his
    campaign so conspicuously around the idea that the drug war has been a
    disaster and that his first order of business as a U.S. senator would
    be to decriminalize marijuana.

    "Every vote for me will be a vote against the drug

    He would have it regulated and sold "in some kind of package store,"
    the way one gets beer or wine in a liquor store, which is what this
    building was before it became Gray headquarters. It's a pale, starkly
    lit room with cinderblock walls, exposed ceilings, and a few desks and
    banners strewn about; a Costco veggie plate here, a vague, very pale
    portrait of Gray there. Still, at the height of the party, celebrating
    not only the kickoff of Gray's senatorial campaign but also his 59th
    birthday, there are more than 200 people here, laughing and smiling
    and feeling very good about things, mostly feeling very good about
    Judge Jim Gray, who, they believe, is a quantum step up in the kind of
    candidate the party has offered the public.

    In the past, the very near past, Libertarian candidates have ranged
    from serious, girl- and guy-next-door ideologues to entrepreneurs to
    jokesters to New Agers, all attracted by the party's rigorously
    independent streak, an independence that has at times worked against
    it. In 2002, the Libertarian candidate for governor was Trabuco
    Canyon resident Gary Copeland, who talked as much about his Druid
    faith as any policy stand and enjoyed being photographed in his Druid
    hood and robe. He talked about the peace the religion had brought him
    and that the basis of it was very Libertarian: that absolute power
    corrupts absolutely. Then, one day, angered about being treated as a
    loon, he "hocked the biggest loogie I could" at KABC radio talk-show
    host Brian Whitman, hitting him "dead square in the face." He was
    dropped from the ticket.

    There is nary a robe amongst the gathered. There are lots of suits and
    ties, which, of course, is key, suits and ties having become a mantra
    for party leaders who seem more comfortable with the idea of actually
    winning a race and see Gray as kind of the template for a new kind of
    Libertarian candidate.

    "We're professionalizing this; we're offering candidates now in suits
    and ties, the kind who don't have a stigma attached to them," said
    Bruce Cohen, a real-estate broker and Libertarian candidate for
    Congress in Christopher Cox's 48th District. "Suit-and-tie
    Libertarians. These are serious people. No Grateful Dead pot-smoking
    Libertarians -and I like the Grateful Dead."

    And at the top of the list of straight, serious candidates is the
    aptly named Gray, tall and sturdy, with shades of Wesley Clark and
    that guy on TV who tells you that if you can draw a picture of a
    turtle, you, too, may be ready to enter the exciting world of art. A
    Navy lieutenant and Peace Corps volunteer, a federal prosecutor and
    Superior Court judge, he has the look and pedigree one normally
    associates with a major party candidate, which he was in 1998 before
    one of the most wincingly awful flameouts this side of a Howard Dean
    performance piece. The Orange County Libertarian, the monthly party
    newsletter, called Gray the "candidate that can lead us to a
    breakthrough victory" and "the most important and compelling candidate
    in the country this election."

    With the likes of Gray, Libertarian leaders such as Cohen, a member of
    the state party's board of directors, see an opportunity to capitalize
    on growing interest. While official party enrollment has remained
    steady at about 80,000 in California, the term libertarian is used as
    an identity for people ranging from Dana Rohrabacher to Bill Maher,
    and any viewing of South Park these days is a veritable lesson in
    libertarian philosophy, that is the idea that government should
    interfere as little in people's lives as possible, that the ultimate
    right of an American is the liberty to do what one wants as long as it
    does not impinge on someone else's safety or liberty, and that each
    individual must take ultimate responsibility for their actions.

    That, as they say in the big parties, has traction these days. But, to
    borrow a page from Gray's day planner, if you're going to tell the
    Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative on March 10 that along with the
    freedom to smoke pot comes the freedom to tote guns or, at the San
    Francisco Bankers Club the following day, say that laissez faire goes
    hand and hand with a woman's right to choose, you better not be
    wearing a Druid hood and robe when you're saying it. You'd better be a
    tall, good-looking guy-wouldn't hurt to be a vet and Superior Court
    judge-who looks like he could have won in one of the big parties; you
    better be Judge Jim Gray.

    So excited are party leaders such as Cohen that he and Libertarian
    founder David Nolan-like Gray, a Newport Beach resident-helped him
    prepare days before a debate with Gail Lightfoot, his Libertarian
    primary opponent. It is only the second time that there has been a
    contested Libertarian primary in a statewide race, and it tells you
    something that when party leaders ask one of the candidates to drop
    out, it's Lightfoot, a member since 1972 and three-time candidate to

    Lightfoot says she was "very hurt" when asked to pull out of the race.
    People like Cohen say it's nothing personal, but actually, it is.
    While they compliment her for being a good soldier and acknowledge
    there is no significant policy or philosophic differences between Gray
    and Lightfoot, they point out that Gray is simply a more attractive
    candidate, able to attract more media, money and interest. Gray,
    they'll tell you, is a cut above.

    "Look at him," Cohen says, gazing admiringly at Gray. "He's so
    likeable, so squeaky-clean. He can talk to the Ladies Knitting Club
    about legalizing drugs and get a standing ovation. And I'm not
    kidding-I've seen him do it."

    Gray sees the drug war as the biggest drag on the nation, the biggest
    threat to its security; everything, even Iraq, pales to its scope and
    devastation. He came to the conclusion while on the bench, and hauling
    before him every day were people who needed treatment, not jail time.
    Add to that the wasted man hours, the possibility for the corrupt use
    of drug hysteria to limit rights and perform illegal searches, and
    Gray finally came to the conclusion that the War on Drugs was a
    disaster and that marijuana should be decriminalized, allowed to be
    sold and taxed just as alcohol is sold and taxed. (He always uses the
    term "decriminalize" because "when you say legalize marijuana, people
    stop thinking; they tend to equate legalization of marijuana to having
    vending machines full of marijuana across from the local junior high.")

    When he first went public with his thoughts a decade ago, it was to
    less than an enthusiastic response. Then-Orange County Sheriff Brad
    says, extending a hand toward the frizzy-haired dude in the T-shirt.
    "Can you help me with something?"

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  1. chupamivergaguey
    I was searching for Gordon Lightfoot and ended up here. Looks like I missed the Gail Lightfoot bus by a decade.
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