McPherson is running to represent District 5, which includes the San Lorenzo Valley, on the board of supervisors.
District 5 County Supervisor candidate and former Secretary of State Bruce McPherson raised eyebrows from Boulder Creek to Zayante (and beyond; it was statewide news) when he dropped his affiliation with the Republican Party shortly after a tough primary against Democratic Party–backed Eric Hammer.
Granted, McPherson is famously moderate, a pro-choice lawmaker known for reaching across the aisle in the Assembly and State Senate, where he served from 1993 to 2004 before becoming Secretary of State. Still, the timing for a switch to “decline to state” looked a little dodgy to the casual observer.
But now McPherson has a local Democratic machine of his own in the person of County Treasurer Fred Keeley. Keeley, a self-professed bleeding heart liberal and former Assembly Speaker Pro Tem who says he’s never endorsed a Republican (“They’re not bad people; it’s what the party has come to stand for”), says his old Sacramento buddy’s newly available status, party-wise, enabled him to jump in with both feet and pull for him. “It is a clear choice for me,” says Keeley, who served as District 5 supe in the ’90s before going to the capitol, adding that while he admires Hammer, he believes McPherson’s Sacramento experience (and Rolodex) will be good for Santa Cruz County in coming years, as money and decisionmaking shift from the state to the counties in the process known as realignment.
At the Weekly’s offices (“I remember when we built this building,” mused McPherson, former Sentinel editor and owner), the two spelled out McPherson’s long history of bipartisanship and generally non-Republican behavior. “I was a lone soldier a lot of times,” says McPherson, who defied the Reep leadership to pass many Democrat-backed bills and even teamed up with Dem leader John Burton on a government transparency law. (Modern-day Republicans should not try this at home.) He supports Obamacare. He even wanted a road tax on the November ballot to help pay for fixing the county’s crappy rural roads. Fearing it would lose, the transportation commission pulled it a few weeks ago, but in these Grover Norquist–hued days, a Republican who will countenance a tax hike, even a targeted one, is an increasingly rare animal.
Clearly both McPherson and Keeley like the idea of working together in the county building, and the prospect does have a sort of Paul Newman–Robert Redford reunion vibe to it. In the legislature the two teamed up to pass Prop 40, the ginormous parks bond. They effectively lobbied state lawmakers to get the 6,800-acre Coast Dairies property north of Santa Cruz purchased and protected. They recently co-chaired the fundraising drive for the Sanctuary Exploration Center. They were both tapped by Leon Panetta, another famous moderate and Republican Party defector, to sit on the bipartisan government reform project California Forward. It looks like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ride again.