Pubdate: Thu, 30 Sep 2004
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2004 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: John Wildermuth, SF Chronicle Political Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Senate Hopeful Left GOP Over Patriot Act

While there are no medals for the runners-up in politics, Jim Gray,
Libertarian candidate for the Senate, still will be happy to finish
third on Nov. 2.

Gray, a judge on leave from Orange County Superior Court, has no
illusions about beating either Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer or
Republican Bill Jones in the high-visibility contest.

"I'm realistic," Gray said in an interview. "My chances of winning
are not strong. But every vote I get will be seen as a vote for
something different."

Gray, a 59-year-old Newport Beach resident, was a lifelong Republican
until the Patriot Act passed just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks.

"I can't be part of any organization that condones the Patriot Act,"
he said, arguing the anti-terrorism measure crushes the right to
privacy, frees the government from judicial scrutiny and has a
chilling effect on freedom of expression.

Even as a Republican, Gray was a maverick. Although he's been a judge
for 21 years and a federal prosecutor before that, he held a press
conference on the steps of the Santa Ana courthouse in 1992 to say the
nation's war on drugs wasn't working and changes had to be made,
including the possible legalization of marijuana.

The firestorm of criticism from prosecutors and law enforcement forced
him out of the criminal courts.

"I've taken myself off the criminal calendar since 1992," he said.
"They haven't missed me."

His views on drugs have hardened since then.

"I want to get the feds out of the marijuana control business," Gray
said. "I want to treat marijuana like alcohol and tax the stupid
stuff," with money going to treatment and education programs that he
believes will do more to prevent drug abuse.

Gray also supports Proposition 66, which would change the state's
"three strikes" law to require that the third strike, which can send
criminals to prison for decades, be a violent crime.

"It's heartless what we're doing and expensive to the state," he

While he's comfortable with the Libertarian philosophy, Gray admits
he's not a purist. There's an important role for government
regulation, he said, but it's a limited one.

"Do we need antitrust laws? You bet," he said. "But too many people
automatically rely on government, and that's not right."

Cutting government regulations could trim the costs of homes and other
products, Gray said, as well as giving people more freedom from
government attempts to micromanage their lives.

"In Anaheim, it costs $50 to get a permit to replace a water heater,"
Gray said. "That's nonsense. Government shouldn't be involved."

He also suggested the country had to work closely with the United
Nations and other international groups to deal with problems that
cross the country's boarders, such as environmental pollution and
fishing rights.

"Is that a libertarian philosophy?" he asked. "No, I'd probably be
shot, but I'm a pragmatist."

And it's the way he'd be in Washington, if lightning struck and he
were elected.

"I won't be a partisan in Washington, because I don't have anyone to
be a partisan with," Gray said. "But if you have the right answers,
you have my vote."

Gray has been campaigning full time for more than a year, traveling
around the state and making speeches. He's raised about $250,000 in
contributions and has a headquarters and a paid staff of five working
on his campaign.

That hasn't been enough to get him into the Senate debates expected to
take place in the next few weeks. Debate sponsors have told him he
needs to show at least 10 percent support in a major public poll, but
a Public Policy Institute of California poll released last week lumped
him in with the two other minor party candidates at a combined 1 percent.

Gray argues that polls that don't list him by name as the Libertarian
candidate don't accurately measure his support. He's been struggling
to get his name on the major surveys, but without any luck.

"If I can be in the debates, we'd talk about real issues, not more of
the same," Gray said. "It would change the whole debate if I could be
part of it. "

For a third-party candidate like Gray, the election is less about
winning than about making his voice -- and his issues -- heard.

"People ask why a judge of 20 years would take an unpaid leave of
absence and give up the best parking space at the courthouse to run as
a dark horse," Gray said. "But the country is going in the wrong
direction, and no one is talking about it."

The other two minor party candidates for the U.S. Senate are both from
the Bay Area.

Don Grundmann, the American Independent Party candidate, is a San
Leandro chiropractor. He's running against what he calls the total
corruption of the Federal Reserve banking system and the Internal
Revenue Service and argues that no law requires Americans to pay
income taxes.

Marsha Feinland, a teacher from Berkeley, is former state chairwoman
of the Peace and Freedom Party and a onetime commissioner on the
Berkeley Rent Board. She wants to withdraw American troops from
Afghanistan and Iraq, end U. S. aid to Israel until it returns to its
pre-1967 borders and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.



Age: 59

City: Newport Beach

Party: Libertarian

Education: Bachelor's degree, UCLA, 1966. Law degree, University of
Southern California, 1971.

Occupation: Judge. Named to Santa Ana Municipal Court, 1983. Named
to Orange County Superior Court, 1989. Currently on leave.

Family: Married, four children.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake