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Republican Pete Peterson Leading in California Secretary of State's Race

Democrats' "culture of corruption" provides an opening for CA GOP.

9:20 AM, Apr 15, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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A lifelong Republican, Peterson had worked in direct-mail marketing in his native New Jersey for 12 years when he began spending his free time volunteering for campaigns. In 2005, he and his wife moved back to her home state of California so he could enroll at Pepperdine for a masters degree in public policy. After graduating, he was asked to stay at Pepperdine to head up a civic organization called Common Sense California, which later became the Davenport Institute. The institute trains public officials from across the country to learn how to better engage citizens in public life and policymaking.

That’s the spirit Peterson says he wants to bring to the secretary of state’s office. As the state’s chief elections officer, he would have purview over the ballot initiative process, which he says doesn’t do enough to educate voters about the costs and benefits of the several initiatives Californians vote on each election. Peterson cites a recent study by Pew that ranked California 49th among voter turnout, voter registration rates, and other election metrics. Asked about the push for voter identification being supported by Republican secretaries of state in other states, Peterson downplays its significance.

“I’m not running on voter ID,” he says. “I’m not pushing it.” Peterson says in California, the GOP is plagued by the perception, largely deserved, as the party of old white guys uninterested in getting more people involved in the political process.

“I want the Republican party to be seen as a party of informed citizenship, not as a party of roadblocks,” he says. He also says the party has a “Grover Norquist problem” with its focus on shrinking government “small enough to down it in a bathtub,” as the anti-tax crusader has said. Peterson said that’s the wrong way for Republicans, who ought to argue for “responsive and transparent government” as opposed to the Democratic model that he says is bound up by special interests.

“I think we should be talking about accountability,” he says. With the stench of corruption emanating from Sacramento, such a platform could seize the political moment while reviving the California GOP’s reformist brand. A double-digit lead for a statewide candidate isn’t a bad way to start.

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