Jack Ohman

Getting into the swing of a Golden State of mind

As I wrap up my second year at The Sacramento Bee, which seems impossible to believe, I have a few observations about what I’ve been doing, what the political class been doing and what you readers have been doing.

First, I’m still learning where all the furniture is. California is such a complex state with a massive political infrastructure; every day here for me is like being in a very competitive master’s degree program.

Phrases like CEQA, PPIC, FPPC, BDCP and other tasty acronyms cross my cranium on a regular basis. I now know who Doug Ose is (which I am sure thrills him to no end), that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy started off running a sandwich shop and that Gov. Pat Brown was also attorney general in addition to San Francisco’s district attorney. I know that Don Bachardy (who really should be a political cartoonist) painted Gov. Jerry Brown’s portrait for his first term in office, that people around town really seemed to personally like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and that you can see former Rep. Gary Condit at Chops.

I have been to Manteca. I have been to Fresh Pond. I have been to Winters. I have been to Freeport. I have eaten at Trails, and I have eaten at Waterboy. Both restaurants are very good. I love the golf course at Land Park, and the Executive Airpark, too. And the Red Rabbit. I love the diversity of people here that, frankly, Portland, Ore., just doesn’t have. Oh, and the palm trees.

This was a big political year, but voters didn’t seem to pay any attention. For example, Neel Kashkari spent about $2 million and got slightly more votes as a percentage than Meg Whitman did. Sometimes I think I gave Kashkari more publicity and attention than he was able to generate himself. I need to bill him.

For example, I did a video introducing myself as Neel Kashkari as I walked around the state Capitol grounds. I talked to dozens of people. I have a comically full head of hair, and Mr. Kashkari does not. In no way do I resemble Neel Kashkari. And, not one of those dozens of people said, “Hey. Wait a minute. You’re not Neel Kashkari.”

I did introduce myself to one woman as Meg Whitman, and that seemed more credible to her.

I spent a lot of time drawing cartoons about political corruption in Sacramento, what with 8 percent of the California Senate having to resign in 2014. I must admit that in Oregon, there was never anyone named “Shrimp Boy” influencing state senators to run guns. The only time shrimp is mentioned in Oregon is in relation to its effectiveness as salmon bait.

I also enjoyed extending the brand of the governor’s dog, Sutter. I drew him as a monk, a Chinese communist, an astronaut and dozens of other non-dog personas. I finally met his owner, Gov. Jerry Brown, for the first time at an editorial board meeting. Giving him many verbal clues as to my identity belied no interest on his part in chatting about Sutter As My Fave Local Cartoon Character. I may well have said “Quid novi?” (“What’s new?”) when I met him, but it was a blur. Sic transit gloria mundi, I guess.

I found Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom more charming and likable in person, and that scared me, as he was becoming a favorite Pet Rock of mine. He would make a great action adventure movie sidekick as the pretty-boy cop opposite Arnold’s grizzled veteran if he chooses to leave politics.


“Can we just finish this merlot first?”

Finally, I want to say that I have enjoyed (mostly) and treasured (mostly) the interaction I’ve had with Bee readers. While there are a few testy correspondents, the vast majority of my contact has been intelligent, cordial and made me feel like you’re into what I’m drawing and writing. As I’ve spoken around the metro area, I have been warmly received, and I am very grateful to you for accepting me into your communities.

And I promise I won’t be pretending to be Neel Kashkari again. But I can’t rule out pretending to be Gavin Newsom. He’s the only person who ever made me feel like I looked like a cartoonist.

Have a Happy New Year. I know I will. After all, I have Sutter and his owner to draw.