Column: What's in recall for California agriculture?

Like Steve Beckley of California Plant Health Association says, watching the California gubernatorial recall is like watching a train wreck — you cannot take your eyes off it.

It is bizarre even by California standards.

The recall of Gov. Gray Davis is a gasp and gag affair. As soon as you gag at the absurdity of seeing a porn queen and a diminutive former child actor campaign to become governor of America’s largest state, you gasp at the political savvy of a former bodybuilder who appoints one of the richest men in America, Warren Buffett, and a former secretary of state George Schultz to head his economic recovery council.

Every Arnold Schwarzenegger opponent — Republicans and Democrats alike — are trying to knock off the "Governator." And, like the characters he plays in the movies, he seems unstoppable.

Will Schwarzenegger be California’s next governor? Who knows? One poll has him far outdistancing the other 134 candidates. Another has him neck and neck with the Democratic alternative, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the son of a valley farm worker.

The only "sure" bet at this point is that Gov. Gray Davis will get the boot. He recently tried to grovel his way back into favor by admitting he has made mistakes and is not as charismatic as others expect him to be, but failed miserably. Californians are tired of the plastic man who only makes excuses.

Are there better qualified, more politically astute politicians on the ballot of 135? Absolutely. Can they win? With less than a month to go before ballot time, it is not likely. All they try to do is upstage one of the nation’s most recognized movie stars or criticize him for not being "specific" on how he plans to turn California around. No one is listening to them.

Where does agriculture fit in all of this? Out of the fray mostly, except for one big exception so far. While the dynamic trio of Buffett, Schultz and Schwarzenegger were doused in the media spotlight at Arnold’s economic summit media event, an aside television interview was conducted with another member of Arnold’s council, former California Secretary of State Bill Jones.

Jones, part of a family of prominent West Side Fresno County, Calif., farmers, should be governor today. He ran in the Republican primary where Bill Simon was selected only to become political fodder for Davis’ puke brand of smear campaigning.

Jones is a statesman who repeatedly demonstrated his leadership during many years in Sacramento. When he ran for governor, it was California agriculture’s last chance to get one of its own in high political office.

Maybe not.

Jones’ invitation to sit on Arnold’s economic recovery council is a clear sign a Schwarzenegger win could take Jones back to Sacramento where he is sorely missed. Jones is a consensus builder with unquestionable integrity and tons of experience. California needs the likes of Bill Jones in state government. A Schwarzenegger win may be agriculture’s biggest recall windfall.

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