The dean of the Capitol’s consulting corps, the 66-year old Cavala was old-school, a warrior who played politics as a contact sport, and with honor.
In our dealings with him, Cavala inevitably shunned the limelight but was always direct, honest and straight. At once a fierce partisan and an urbane professional, he combined the instincts of a street fighter, the policy smarts of a poli sci professor and the war game wisdom of a Jedi knight.
As LAT columnist George Skelton told Calbuzz:
Cavala was all-politics, all the time and a fun, bright, candid guy to bounce ideas off and argue with, who never got emotional about any of it, a consummate, movie character pro whose deep belief was in electing Democrats. And he had an encyclopedic memory of the last 45 years in Sacramento. He’s one person who truly will be “‘truly missed.”
In recent years Cavala enjoyed a busman’s holiday, offering insightful analysis over at California Progress Report. In one of his last posts, “Bored Pundits Seek To Stir Up More Competition In Contest For Governor,” Cavala used trademark plainspokenness and unalloyed candor in jibing at the silliness of some political writers spinning speculations about increasingly unlikely late-entry gubernatorial candidacies:
Mayor Gavin Newsom’s decision to drop out of the race for the Democratic nomination for Governor of California has forced the state’s pundits to face the uncomfortable fact that they are stuck with a field of Poizner, Whitman, Campbell and Jerry Brown. “Stuck with” because most observers find these people uninteresting as a group.
Poizner and Whitman are “moderates” on social issues (that means they are pro-choice) and hard-line and coo-coos on economic interests. Not satisfied with opposing tax hikes, both have taken extremist positions in an effort to attract support from the dominant conservative wing of the GOP…
The bankruptcy of their positions – the two frontrunners for the GOP nomination – has been well documented by the older pundits of the state. But having said that, and called them liars to boot, what more is there to say?
It’s notable that despite his hard core partisanship, Cavala was the rare operative whose passing brought authentic expressions of respect and sorrow from friends, allies and political foes alike.
“Although we were on opposite sides of most issues, Bill Cavala was always a professional,” former Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte told Capitol Alert. “He was a fierce adversary, but a polite and honorable man.”
Fellow Democrat Richie Ross recalled not only Cavala’s professional skill but also his personal discretion, and his non-political passions: “Bill taught me a lot about campaigning, he knew a lot about baseball, and he was good at keeping secrets.”
Gale Kaufman, one of a generation of consultants who learned from Cavala, summed it up best:
Bill was the consummate pol. He loved what he did, shared his knowledge with anyone who asked for help, and did it with an incomparable style all his own. I loved him, he was a true mentor and friend.
Rest in peace, man.