California's Hidden Dynasty

JAN. 6, 2011

Here’s a fun fact from the 2010 General Election you may not have heard: the candidate who received the most votes in the entire nation was none other than Bill Lockyer, state Treasurer. According to the final vote tallies from the Secretary of State’s office, Locker received 5,433,508 votes, 5,050 more than Jerry Brown received in the governor’s race. Across the nation, people like Rick Perry in Florida and Andrew Cuomo – candidates with huge name recognition – won with a fraction of Lockyer’s total, 2.7 million and 2.6 million votes, respectively.

Now I’m guessing your reaction at hearing such news is pretty close to mine: a quizzical frown with much brow-furrowing. That many people voted for… the state Treasurer?

My source for Lockyer being the nation’s top vote-getter is none other than former state Senator Art Torres, who told the anecdote to the packed crowd at yesterday’s swearing-in for Lockyer (who flubbed the oath of office in nearly the same place as Brown did earlier that day). There, on the black and white checkerboard floor of the Capitol Rotunda, where VIPs sat in folding chairs behind red velvet rope while tourists gawked from the second floor, Torres – who currently makes $225,000 as vice chairman of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine– emceed the ceremony.

Torres was part elder statesman, part game show host. Congresswoman Jane Harman was there, “looking fabulous as always,” Torres said, as well as one of our local congressmen, “the great John Garamendi.” In many ways he was the afternoon’s Godfather, a role he literally plays for Lockyer’s – “our great Treasurer!” – young son Diego.

People talk of the Brown family dynasty in California, but after watching yesterday’s ceremony – which received little, if any, press coverage – it’s the Lockyer family that holds real future political power.

At the top is Bill, a long-time pol with a giant campaign war chest and political chits spread across the state. Filings with the Secretary of State’s office shows his Lockyer for Treasurer 2010 committee spent nearly $5 million during the first 10 months of 2010, yet by the middle of October still had more than $5 million in the bank.

For a man who has held the posts of treasurer, attorney general and Senate president pro tem and spent a quarter century in the state Legislature, Lockyer’s future plans seem remarkably modest. A new note on the Secretary of State’s Web site shows the creation of a Lockyer for controller 2014 committee.

His name surfaced briefly during the 2003 gubernatorial recall election as a possible Democratic alternative to Gray Davis, but dropped away quickly (he later admitted he voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger). Of course, a lot can happen in three years, but even if Bill never runs for governor, his wife almost certainly will.

Nadia Davis Lockyer
, three decades his junior, administered the oath of office to her husband. She recently won election to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors (against one of her husband’s former girlfriends!), so there was at least something official about her doing so. A relative rookie to state politics, she is an intelligent, capable former criminal defense attorney who received tremendous assistance from Bill during her election, both in precinct walking (which Torres mentioned at the ceremony) and in a million dollars worth of campaign contributions (which Torres neglected to mention).

Now that I think about it, Bill was probably thinking of Nadia (and Diego too?) when he told the crowd during his brief acceptance speech that he was “enormously optimistic about California’s future.” Because given Lockyer’s earlier, all-too correct observation that his job as treasurer was to “remind lawmakers that their rhetoric is not always reflective of reality,” his being “optimistic” about the state seemed surprisingly out of character.

-Anthony Pignataro

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