Richard Roth is a retired two-star general in the Air Force Reserve and a lawyer who defends businesses. He is a former Riverside Chamber of Commerce chairman who is married to the Riverside chamber's president, and she sits on the California Chamber of Commerce's board.
He's also a Democrat who wants to become a state senator, despite his obvious intelligence.
You'd think Roth would be the sort of guy that the California Association of Realtors, Farmers Insurance, Chevron, Philip Morris, Anthem Blue Cross and the California Chamber of Commerce might welcome to the Legislature.
But you wouldn't be thinking like the high-powered political consultants who run Sacramento. Nor could you guess at their line of attack.
Money from Philip Morris, Chevron, the Realtors and the others paid for mailers delivered to Democratic voters in the days leading up to last week's primary attacking Roth as a "corporate tycoon" and a "corporate defender."
Mailers funded by Chevron, Philip Morris and the rest of the corporate crowd charged that Roth has made his living by "defending corporations against union workers," and is a "Wall Street tycoon (who) could own up to $700,000 in stock in major corporations and Wall Street banks."
"It is a little different than what I expected," Roth said of the barrage. "I wish I was a tycoon."
The attacks were all about money. Clever consultants representing business interests worried that if Roth were to win in November, Democrats would capture a two-thirds majority in the Senate, allowing them to approve tax increases over Republican objections.
Operating through independent campaign committees, corporate consultants figured that by tearing down Roth, they would be helping the other Democrat, Steve Clute, win one of the top two slots in last week's primary.
They figured that the Republican candidate, Assemblyman Jeff Miller, would have an easier time beating Clute. They were probably right. Clute is a liberal who has run before and lost.
Roth foiled it all by winning the second place spot easily, though he will face a tough race against Miller, a formidable candidate who received more than 51 percent of the primary vote.
The corporations didn't spend the money directly.
Instead, they laundered it through excuse me contributed it to independent campaign committees, the heads of which declined to talk to me.
One is California Senior Advocates League, which received $650,000, $506,000 of which came from another group, California Now, a political action committee run by Rob Lapsley.
Lapsley is a long-time Republican operative who is president of California Business Roundtable, which represents big business, and used to be the California Chamber of Commerce's political director.
California Now received $525,000 from the Realtors, $255,000 from the Chamber of Commerce's political action committee (shortly after Lapsley left the chamber last year), $250,000 from Chevron, $175,000 from Farmers Insurance, $162,000 from health insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross and $150,000 from tobacco giant Philip Morris.
Roth shrugged it all off. If he wins in November, he said, his top priority will be to help get funding for a new medical school at the University of California, Riverside. How radical is that.
Knowing most races are won before they're run, cagey politicians in several races around the state sought to weaken primary election rivals who they feared would pose tough November election challenges, and built up opponents they assume they can beat. It worked in several locales.
Shockingly, dirty lowdown politics didn't die when California adopted the top-two primary. Party leaders and pundits were quick to decry the games that politicians played in this state's first top-two primary last week. Some declared it a flop. Some urged that it be abolished.
"Yes, politicians play politics," said Steve Peace, a former Democratic legislator who long advocated the top-two primary as a way to give moderates a path to victory. "As if there were no games before."
Two days after the primary, Roth got an email from the California Chamber of Commerce:
"These special interests have millions of dollars to fund attack ads against pro-business candidates so we must organize to fight back NOW and support pro-jobs candidates! So please follow this link to donate $25, $50, $100 or more to fight back now.
"Californians are sick and tired of job killers and the politicians that push them for their special interest friends. We can put an end to job-killing legislation once and for all by changing the Legislature, but it won't be easy."
Roth didn't donate.