The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

Winged Post

Q & A with Tom Campbell


While students focus on the final exams of next month, politicians vying to be candidates in California’s gubernatorial election have their eyes on 2010. Tom Campbell, Republican, is one of those hopefuls, and he has a background in economics, professorship, and the Senate. He spoke with editors from the Winged Post about issues pertaining to young people and his plans for the state. He gave us his platform in six words after a question inspired by Smith Magazine’s book of six-word memoirs by “writers famous and obscure.”

What would you like to say to high school students?

That opportunity for our state is critically related to quality education opportunity. So, those who are high school students, I know at Harker you’re very very fortunate – you have an excellent school, excellent reputation and your facilities are up-to-date, so you’re very fortunate indeed – you’re therefore way above the average – but, my message would be the same nonetheless, which is to prepare well and to make the years that you’ve got in high school and for those who are going on to college, which I understand is almost everybody if not everybody at Harker – but it’s not so at other high schools – to anticipate making a contribution to our state by staying here and making it better. It’s so attractive to go elsewhere, where taxes are lower and cost-of-living is lower but our state will benefit only if the young people we educate here stay here.

What are your ideas or influence on health care?

I don’t have much influence on this debate – it’s taking place in Washington, but I’m hopeful that some thoughtful people might realize from the work I’ve done that – and I want to give credit to a student at Stanford, Adam Creasman, who helped me with that, you can see his name on that paper if you didn’t observe it before – but all I can do is put forward a plan which I think would be better for California and I think it’s attraction is its simplicity. You don’t need to have a federal government plan. We can handle this in California on our own. But I’m also realistic, I understand that Washington will develop something and we’ll have to respond to it; I only hope that they take into account that the states have the obligation to make it work.

How should we balance spending cuts with education reform?

The key is not to hurt our long-term prospects as we focus on the short-term emergencies. And so, the long-term is: access to college, and keeping class sizes low in K-12. Access to college means that we do not cut the Cal Grant, which is a scholarship available for students in California of modest income who can get into college but who can’t afford to go… I had to cut other things, and what I did was to bring down the level of welfare and the cost of medical assistance provided in the state… they would now be at the average of the 50 states.

What is your stance on the environment?

The fundamentals are to guarantee to the people of California cleaner air, cleaner water and more resources… The population is growing only one way, and the stress on that population is obvious […] we have increased demand for water without having built any more available resources for it, including storage and delivery systems. We should approach [greenhouse gases] with a sensible market-based mechanism …to impose a carbon tax on those companies that make use of greenhouse-gas-producing energy… with the result that you would stimulate the use of greenhouse-gas-reducing energy.

How did your opposition to Proposition 8 go over with Republican colleagues?

A substantial segment within the Republican Party finds itself as Libertarian on social issues […] That is the kind of Republican I am […] if you want less government in business, less government in economics…you might find it attractive to have less government in personal matters, as well…The government should not distinguish between people if they’re gay or straight. We should allow the government to do only that which is essential and not otherwise intrude into personal matters.

How can youth get involved in this election or in politics in general?

With the internet, there’s a huge opportunity. The blogosphere is available to people of any age. A lot of people who are still too young to vote nevertheless still participate in commenting on candidates’ positions and oftentimes putting forward ideas of their own… I’ve gotten a lot of ideas from people who contribute their thoughts to the website … So, my goal is to involve as many people who have good ideas as possible and that doesn’t cut off at the voting age and so that’s number one. Number two is… electronic door-to-door; sending a message to your e-mail list.

If you were elected governor, would you take any measures to improve transparency of California’s government?

I think the clearest area is the budget where we need to be very simple and clear and easy to understand. Particularly, when we’re spending the peoples’ money, that we are more careful in honestly estimating in how much expenditures will be and what money we have available rather than assuming that we have more than we do.

How are you competing in the primaries against people who are backed by billions of dollars?

I’m doing well. I’m happy to say that the field poll came out just two weeks ago and I’m tied for first place with Meg Whitman, she’s at 22, I’m at 20 but the margin of error was greater than 2 points and Steve Poizner is at 9. And, that’s remarkable given the fact that I don’t have multi-millions as both of my colleagues on the Republican side do, so I appear to be successful so far. I use the new media a lot – the web is an important part of my campaign. I also do Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and that is very, very cost-effective, very little money for that communication. And then, lastly, since you’ve gone to my website, you’ll see that I do a substantial amount of blogging and responding to posted questions and that also costs nothing except my time. So, I’ve been competitive because I’ve made the new media my own. And one other aspect of new media that you wouldn’t see on the blog or on the website – but it’s important – and that is tele-town hall meetings where I actually have a live town hall meeting, people can ask any questions they want and listen to other people asking questions for 90 minutes. I’ve done 7 of those statewide, and reached over or close to 200,000 people.

In the Wall Street Journal article, it mentioned that you have a proposal for a steep gasoline tax – why do you think this is needed?

Because otherwise the state budget might not have been balanced and what happened was that the legislature did not take my idea, and so they fudged. They fudged the budget. They said that we had more money than we did and now it’s coming to be clear that we don’t and we’ll have another budget crisis before the end of the year. Remember earlier in our conversation I said I would draw the line at cutting funding for schools or cutting funding for Cal Grants and as a result I had to come up with the money somewhere else. The legislature came up with some money by taking it from cities and counties, but I thought that was wrong because that meant cities and counties would have to increase their taxes or fees or cut back their services. So, instead I thought of a least harmful way to gain revenue for the state in last year’s budget, the one that was approved by the legislature in July and that was a gas tax, because we had already had gas at 4 dollars and 30 cents per gallon the previous summer and at the time I made my recommendation, gas was around 2 dollars and 70 cents, I think it’s about 3 dollars now.

In terms of campaigning, what are the most effective campaigning tools that you have used so far?

The internet – unbelievably powerful. I’ve got, I think, the very best web masters in politics today. It’s Mindy Finn and Patrick Ruffini – the two of them set up their own firm, it’s called Engaged and they are responsible – I’m happy to say that neutral observers have said that my website is the best of all the political websites in terms of accessibility, detail, transparency and that was simply not available when I first entered politics in 1988 so that overwhelmingly has been the biggest tool for me. I get a lot of ideas from people who send me comments. I try to respond and give them my own personal answer so they know they’re talking to a candidate and not having a pre-programmed stock answer or even worse simply one-way communication where you get something from a candidate and an ad on the radio or TV simply pushing out a message instead of taking any comments and receiving advice.

Had anything else you wanted to add or let us know?

Just that I’ve given my life to two things: teaching and public service. So my background is one that I hope will appeal to those who care so much about education as you obviously do, and as I suspect the majority of students at Harker do.

More to Discover