And then there's Mary Carey: adult entertainment performer and independent candidate for governor. Maybe you know her from such classics as "Double D Dolls 2," "Girls School 4," "Hot Showers 6," "New Wave Hookers 8," and "Decadent Divas 17" (and 18!).
Carey--real name Mary Cook (she borrowed her stage name from Mariah Carey)--isn't shy about who she is. "Even though I'm a bubbly, blonde porn star, I'm not stupid," she told "Entertainment Tonight." "I'm not one of those rich, upper-class politicians from an Ivy League school. I'm a normal girl."
Normal? Well, normal enough to understand where she fits in the greater scheme of the October 7 election: "Right now, I think the odds are pretty slim that I'm going to get elected. Obviously, I would love for that to happen. But right now, if I could get even 2 to 3 percent of the vote, it would make a big difference in history."
And smart enough to know how to market herself. A month ago, Carey took to the streets of Los Angeles in a bikini top, Tommy Hilfiger shorts, and 4-inch-high platform sandals to collect the 65 signatures needed to qualify for the recall ballot. She stopped traffic; she drew cameras; she got on the ballot.
Visit her campaign website and Carey offers no shortage of ways to part with your money. There's the $5 button ("Stick it anywhere you want it, baby!"), the $5 bumper sticker ("Kick Ass contract girl Mary Carey for governor"), and the $20 T-shirt ("wear my chest proudly across yours!"). Donate $5,000 to the cause and she'll break bread with you. That offer doesn't include sex: "During dinner, she is open to discuss any issues of importance to the contributor."
What issues are important to Mary Carey? Check out her gubernatorial platform:
1. Legalize gay marriage in California. This will generate a tremendous amount of revenue for the state as a honeymoon destination.
2. Tax breast implants. From Beverly Hills alone, we should bring in millions in tax revenue. (Note: I am all-natural and I personally discourage the use of implants!)
3. Make lap dances a tax deductible business expense. This will help grease the wheels of business in California and stimulate our economy.
4. If I'm elected Governor, I will wire the Governor's Mansion with live web cams in every room. We will create a pay site, and all money collected will go toward reducing the deficit. Californians will get to see their government in action--literally! (Also, we will have people from around the globe helping to pay off our debt, so it doesn't all fall on the shoulders of Californians.)
5. I will create a "Porn for Pistols" program to take handguns off the streets. Dealing with the violence and injuries associated with handguns is a huge drain on our state's resources.
6. As Governor, I will recruit fellow performers from the adult video industry as ambassadors of good will. These ambassadors will be a great help to California when it comes to such things as negotiating rates for buying electricity from neighboring states.
7. I will coordinate the state's unemployment and jury systems, so that anyone who applies for unemployment will instantly be called for jury duty. This will save California state and local governments millions of dollars, because we won't have to pay for jury duty. It will also relieve those with jobs from the stress of serving on lengthy juries.
8. I will fight the federal government's attempts to harass the adult video industry. Adult video is an $11 billion industry that creates more than $23 million in taxes each year for the state of California. We can't afford to lose this tax base!
And there's more: Carey says she's against national health care, supports physician-assisted suicide, is pro-choice on abortion, and supports legalizing ferrets. Her view on crime: "If more guys had orgasms, they'd be less violent." Global warming: "Wear less clothes.'" Spicing up California politics: "We've had Brown, we've tried Gray, now it's time for some blonde."
So what does it says that California has a porn star seeking the state's highest office?
You can thank her for the comic relief. On October 1, Carey will appear on the Game Show Network's "Who Wants To Be Governor Of California? The Debating Game". It'll be porn star versus child star: Carey will compete with Gary Coleman for a $21,200 check (recall's maximum contribution).
And if you don't like it, blame Europe, which already has given recall Arnold and Arianna. Italian politics produced the porn star Cicciolina (real name Ilona Staller), who represented the Radical party in parliament from 1987 to 1992. You might remember her for baring her left breast to highlight her left-wing politics, and her offer to have sex with Saddam Hussein if he'd free foreigners he was holding hostage. Last year, Peter Bond, a former German porn star turned game-show host, ran for parliament as a liberal Free Democrats party candidate. For once, California's not setting a trend.
There's another way of looking at Mary Carey's candidacy: she symbolizes a part of the Golden State economy that no recall candidate dares touch. The San Fernando Valley is home to some of the nation's biggest studios (Disney, Warner Brothers) and Californians trickiest swing voters. It also produces about 80 percent of America's porn and 90 percent of its sex toys, according to some estimates. That translates to about 9,000 jobs in the region (the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation lumps porn into a more general category of mainstream entertainment, for a total of 227,700 workers and $30 billion in gross revenues).
Carey's not the only buxom blonde in the race (Los Angeles billboard queen Angelyne also is running). Nor is she the only candidate with ties to porn (Hustler publisher Larry Flynt). But a consultant could have fun with her candidacy. Carey says she's half Cherokee Indian: watch out Cruz, she can talk to the tribes. Her business--Mary Carey Inc.--has its headquarters in Delray Beach, Florida. Who better to speak about California's hostile business climate?
Or you could just buy her dinner. Gray Davis's political fortunes began to slide when reporters realized that access to his administration came with a $100,000 price tag. Carey's asking price is 1/20th of that for a whole night on the town. That's a bargain by California standards--even if a lap dance isn't included.
Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he follows California and national politics.