In a move guaranteed to juice up the 2010 campaign, sponsors of a plan to convene a state constitutional convention have coaxed political consultant emeritus Clint Reilly out of retirement to lead their initiative effort.
Reilly, one of California’s more successful political operatives during the more than two decades he ran campaigns, made his bones managing an all-star roster of clients who went on to national prominence, including Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi.
He signed a contract last week to serve as chief strategist for Repair California, the political organization formed to pass two initiatives to call California’s first Constitutional Convention in more than 130 years.
“It’s a romantic idea, to return to the process our forefathers used in forming our state,” Reilly said in an interview with Calbuzz. “Sacramento is so dysfunctional, and the electorate is so alienated from their government, that it’s going to take a citizen movement to break the stranglehold of special interests.”
Since quitting the consulting business in the mid-90s, Reilly has run for mayor of San Francisco, waged war in federal court against the consolidation of Bay Area newspapers, become a philanthropist and built a real estate investment business. As owner and CEO of Clinton Reilly Holdings, he is on the board of the Bay Area Council, the corporate organization that has led the constitutional convention movement.
“Clint has a remarkable strategic sense and a passion for organizing, ” said Jim Wunderman, CEO of the business group, “which is all too often missing in statewide campaigns, and just what this historic effort needs to succeed.”
Repair California has submitted ballot measures that would authorize “a limited Constitutional Convention” to address four problems underlying the dysfunction of state government: the budget process; the election and initiative process; the relationship between state and local governments; and improving government efficiency.
Under the proposed initiatives, the convention could not propose tax increases or deal with polarizing cultural issues like abortion, gay marriage, immigration, or the death penalty. Measures to call the Convention are aimed at next November’s ballot; if they’re approved the convention would be held in 2011 and its reform package would go to voters in 2012.
“It’ll be a positive campaign,” Reilly told us. “We need to explain the importance of making major structural changes in state government.
P.S. – You’d retire too: Reilly’s too polite to say so, but one of the things that no doubt helped convince him to quit consulting was running the 1995 re-election campaign of then-San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan. Shortly before election day, the mayor was locked in a tight race with Willie Brown, when Jordan decided to perform one of the all-time, astonishingly dumb-ass, brain lock acts in the 233-year history of American politics.
Without mentioning it to his manager, Jordan invited two shock jocks from KRQR-FM into his home, where he proceeded to accept their invitation that he get naked with them in the shower while they broadcast their show live. Exactly why Jordan thought the Soap on a Dope stunt was a really good idea remains unclear to this day. In any case, it helped elect Willie Brown and helped drive Reilly into the retirement from which he has now emerged.