The Editors' Soapbox: Get behind the scenes of the recall

    Next time I run for governor, I’ll keep a few things in mind.

    First, it’s important not to take yourself too seriously when you have no chance of winning.

    My goal wasn’t to win the election, but to convince the major candidates in the race to adopt a “”lower student fees”” plank into their platforms. I figured the next governor would pay attention to a 21-year-old candidate getting a couple thousand votes.

    Peter Camejo, the main Green party candidate, had one of his staff members call me and ask me for advice on the budget and student fees, so I made an impression on at least one of the “”big”” candidates. But I never acted like something I wasn’t.

    Unlike fellow college candidate Bryan Quinn, a 20-year-old Republican from Los Gatos who looks like he’s 15 and acts like he’s 50, I didn’t wear business suits everywhere I went (I wore a $17 “”Next Governor of California”” t-shirt from http://www.tshirthell.com). Using “”Wheel of Fortune”” winnings, I paid for my own filing fee and covered my campaign expenses, which amounted to less than $200. I made no pretenses: My ballot designation read “”Daniel Watts – College Student,”” while Quinn claimed to be a 20-year-old “”businessman.”” The guy probably had a lemonade stand when he was eight, and he thinks that makes him a businessman. He wasn’t fooling anyone, evidenced by his 108th-place finish, a few places ahead of accused murderer Scott Davis.

    Second, the media will always misquote you and take everything out of context, so candidates should go wild and say whatever they want.

    National Public Radio blatantly made up quotes. Fox News used a doctored photograph of me superimposed over Gray Davis’s body when John Gibson introduced my interview. And when I told the San Diego Union-Tribune that lowering student fees would help the economy by putting money back into students’ pockets ‹ who’d then spend it on videogames and comic books ‹ the article’s headline read, “”Student will do his part by reading comic books.”” If there were any doubts in my mind that the Union-Tribune is an inferior paper ridden with bias, they were vanquished by that headline.

    Liberal media outlets tend to treat minor candidates better than the conservative media. Fox News and the Sacramento Bee broadcast and published a doctored photograph and the Union-Tribune banished my article to the “”Entertainment”” section, while the more liberal Los Angeles Times and San Jose Mercury News gave me solid, unbiased coverage in their front sections. The Times even sent a reporter and photographer to San Jose to shadow me for a couple days while I campaigned at junior colleges ‹ a considerable expense, especially for such a minor candidate.

    A benefit of running, however, is that candidates get free stuff. Gateway gave me a digital camera, the only accompanying condition being to upload a photo to their http://www.candidatecamera.com Web site each day ‹ among the UCSD photos I posted were pictures of my Nintendo GameCube and Revelle’s cannibalistic Unolympics skit. Early in the campaign, while visiting a friend in Davis, I asked a Blockbuster clerk if gubernatorial candidates get free movies. Apparently they do, and I walked out of there with my one-day “”Chicago”” rental without paying. A later visit to a Thai restaurant brought me to the troubling conclusion that we do not also get free Thai iced teas.

    For all the talk of the recall “”circus,”” most candidates were surprisingly intelligent and qualified, if not electable. It’s sad that so many qualified people had absolutely no chance of winning. These people were lawyers, doctors, scientists, teachers and engineers. Most of them, with the exception of entertainment candidates like Gary Coleman and porn star Mary “”Carey”” Cook would’ve made better governors than half of the major candidates.

    After meeting more than 100 of these candidates, I’ve learned that the media only treats you like a circus sideshow if you let them. For example, Jay Leno invited me and the other candidates down to “”The Tonight Show.”” In the middle of the taping, candidate William Tsangares donned a Terminator mask and chanted, “”Equal time! Equal time!”” He brought “”The Tonight Show”” to a screeching halt ‹ an interruption later edited out for the nightly broadcast. He didn’t participate in Leno’s little circus, so his protest didn’t make the waves it should have. The news coverage of “”The Tonight Show”” instead focused on the porn star’s reaction to one of Leno’s jokes, completely ignoring the biggest event of the night. (Strangely enough, the media also neglected to cover the porn star’s pre-taping strip show performance.) That same day, Tsangares, who has since changed his name to “”Bill Wyatt,”” declared his intention to seek the Republican party’s 2004 presidential nomination.

    I’ve also learned that some people just don’t pay attention. Out of the hundreds of instant messages and e-mails from people who visited http://www.wattsforgovernor.com, I’ve gotten dozens asking me the same questions: Why are you running? Do you think you’ll win? Why should I vote for you?

    The answers are in the first three paragraphs of the Web site where they found my e-mail address and screen name. Even though these people put ludicrously little effort into research before harassing me, the mere fact that they looked at their voter’s guide to find my Web site means they put more effort into voting than most Californians.

    Now that the election’s over, I’ll still come across an occasional reference to me on someone’s Web site.

    UCSD students ask, “”How many people actually voted for Daniel Watts?””

    1,933 at last count. For a 21-year-old college student whose political experience consists of a 4-month stint as president of Blossom Valley Elementary School, that’s not bad at all.

    Put into perspective, that’s eight times more than those who voted for the “”fake”” Bob Dole for governor.

    It’s also five times more than those who voted for me for Earl Warren College president in Spring 2003, and twice as many as those who voted for 2003 A.S. presidential candidate Kevin Shawn Hsu. It was enough to put me in 40th place out of 135 candidates.

    Having ran for governor and been on “”Wheel of Fortune”” last spring during their college search in San Diego, simply going back to school would be a real downer. I need to do something really big to keep from sinking into unbearable depression.

    Therefore, I hereby announce my intention to establish a colony on Mars, rule it as Martian Prime Minister, and populate my fiefdom with Nintendo characters brought to life. My followers and I will remake the barren Mars landscape in the style of Super Mario Bros. 3, and wage war against the evil Sony Playstation drones. Who’s with me?

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