Capitol Alert

Republican Ron Unz enters California U.S. Senate race

Proposition 227 author Ron Unz addresses the media and proponents of the proposal to end bilingual education in the state in Los Angeles on June 2, 1998. Prop. 227 passed by a wide margin in the primary election.
Proposition 227 author Ron Unz addresses the media and proponents of the proposal to end bilingual education in the state in Los Angeles on June 2, 1998. Prop. 227 passed by a wide margin in the primary election. AP

Ron Unz, the conservative critic of bilingual education who in recent years has championed incrementally increasing the statewide minimum wage, said Wednesday he will enter California’s crowded race for U.S. Senate.

Unz, a candidate for governor against fellow Republican Pete Wilson in 1994, said his chief motivation for mounting the uphill challenge is to help raise awareness about a fall ballot measure that would largely overturn his voter-approved Proposition 227, the 1998 initiative requiring schools to teach in English.

“Believe me, this was a last-minute decision,” Unz said by phone. He plans an unorthodox campaign in which he will ask donors to contribute no more than $99. “I never considered getting back into California politics.”

If somebody a year a go would have said that Donald Trump would be the odds-on favorite to be the Republican candidate ... It just shows how unhappy people are with the establishment candidates.

Ron Unz, GOP candidate for U.S. Senate

But the fact that GOP lawmakers joined their Democratic colleagues in voting to place the repeal before voters “just shows how worthless the Republicans are,” said Unz, adding he has a pro-immigrant background. The Legislature’s action two years ago was “just the sort of total idiocy that explains the disgust most voters have with the establishment politicians of both parties.”

Replacing Sen. Barbara Boxer won’t be easy, he acknowledged, given the significant advantages for the leading Democratic candidates, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange County. But he said neither of the Republicans, Duf Sundheim and Tom Del Beccaro, have been able to raise much money after months of campaigning.

“I think it’s a long shot for me or any of the Republicans to make it into the general election under a top-two system. It’s a possibility,” he said. “And at the very least it gives me an opportunity to raise a lot issues that basically a lot of these other politicians don’t talk about.”

He is resurfacing after a two-year hiatus. In 2014, he sponsored an aborted measure that would have raised the the state minimum wage to $12 by this year. He believes the dueling minimum wage proposals for the 2016 ballot, which would eventually hike base wages to $15 an hour, are too aggressive and will harm business in the state.

Unz suggested that this “very strange election year” may work to his favor.

“If somebody a year ago would have said that Donald Trump would be the odds-on favorite to be the Republican candidate,” he said “... It just shows how unhappy people are with the establishment candidates.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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