POSTED BY SCOTT RESTIVO, VPO
I just finished reading Alexander Spanos autobiography, "Sharing the Wealth". I want to say he is a remarkable and interesting man, who unfortunately has directed his vast wealth to conservative causes, including Pombo. I think it is important for anyone watching this race to know about his influence. I also would recommend reading the book to see how the Stockton power-network goes way back and how the Central Valley relies on these long-standing personal relationships and the trust involved with them. This does not mean voters will always vote Republican there, but understanding Spanos is understanding the basis of conservatives' strength in San Joaquin. He embodies what I think is the prevailing attitude of the Central Valley businessmen and farmers, and for that matter, many red-staters - self-made men, hard-working, loyal, church-going, family-oriented, generous to their community, who don't need a bunch of Volvo/Prius-driving, latte-sipping Berkeley liberals or government bureaucrats telling them what to do and how to live their lives.
The only way these people will vote for a Democrat is if he is one of them, such as Mike Machado. who is a rancher and descendant from Portuguese immigrants (like Pombo) to the Valley, or Barbara Matthews, a hometown, kind of conservative motherly type.
Now, how strong this "backbone" of the Valley is, is hard to say. There are more and more people moving there, diluting the influence of the long-time Valley residents. Also, the Valley is changing as the surburban influence spreads and it becomes more worldly. There are fewer and fewer ranchers/farmers and more and more surburbanites. At some point, the balance will tip towards the middle, dropping Pombo's far right ideology off the scale and finding a more moderate representative. They will probably vote Republican still, but it will be for a moderate Republican. It is possible they would vote for a centrist Democrat over a far right Republican at some point soon also.
Will that be this election cycle? Who knows? The tipping point is getting close though, and if the Dems can run a strong enough candidate, the race will be much closer than it has for Pombo the last 6 times out. Eventually, he will either moderate or be ousted, in my opinion. Hopefully, he will be ousted this time around, as his dogmatic pursuit of a far right agenda has predominated his time in office, leaving the Valley to suffer with bad air, poor schools, crime, transportion problems, levees in ill repair, etc.
Short synopsis on Spanos:
Spanos, who has lived his whole life in Stockton, is the founder of Spanos Construction, as well as several other related companies, and majority owner of the San Diego Chargers. Born in 1923, he is the son of a Greek immigrant. Spanos grew up in Stockton and helped in his father's bakery and restaurants. "Helped" is putting it mildly, since he recounts getting up at 4 am and working four hours every day before heading off to school. So he grew up with a strong work ethic. He went in the Air Force during WWII. After that, having never finished college, he went back to work for his father, a strict disciplinarian. He quit one day when his father did not give him a raise. Being married with one kid and another on the way, he started delivering baloney sandwiches to farm workers. From this, he found the farmers needed more workers, so he went to Mexico to find some. While there, he met another Stockton man who told him he had 350 workers, but that they needed food and housing. So Spanos high-tailed it back to Stockton and set up a temporary camp for them. He started making a good profit on this "bracero" program (feeding and housing Mexican farm workers) and eventually expanded to 1500 workers per season, bringing in some serious cash. The business was doing quite well, but his accountant told him he needed to find some tax shelters. So he got into real estate. Long story on that, but he eventually become the largest builder of apartments in the US and became very wealthy. He eventually bought a 56% share of the Chargers for $30.8 million (in cash, by the way) in 1983 and that share is now estimated to be worth over $500 million. All kinds of stories like that. Bottom line, he is very wealthy.
Along the way, mostly through golf it seems, he got to know many important people. He turned a Republican early in his career and became friends with the Bushes, Ronald Reagan, Pete Wilson, and other prominent Republicans. He is one of those people who can call the president and the president will take his call, it seems, (at least if he is not busy clearing brush or reading My Pet Goat). Spanos and his family members have donated millions to Republican causes.
He is a very generous man, giving to colleges and disaster relief, but in politics, it is Republicans and Republicans only. His business is family-owned and operated, and all four of his children are officers in the business (and also very wealthy). They also give large amounts to Republican/conservative causes.
Here is something you may want to do: go to the FEC site http://www.fec.gov/finance/disclosure/norindsea.shtml and type in Spanos for the last name. You will see what I mean. Here are the names to look for:
Alex or Alexander Spanos
Faye Spanos, his wife
Dean and Susan Spanos (his son and wife)
Michael and Helen Spanos (his son and wife)
Ron and Dea Spanos Berberian (his daughter and husband) -- you will have to type "Berberian" in the last name to get these
Alexis and Barry Ruhl (his daughter and husband) -- you will have to type "Ruhl" in the last name to get these
There are also a host of other Spanos based in Stockton and San Diego (because of the Chargers). Altogether, the amounts given from the Spanos fortune to Republican committees, PACS,and candidates are staggering.
Also, Spanos gave $5 million to "Progress for America", a group that promotes the White House agenda, see: http://www.democrats.com/node/2661. There are other groups like this that he and his family have helped fund, such as the Recall Davis campaign.
By the way, Dea Spanos Berberian is on the Board of Regents of the University of Pacific in Stockton, which has been a major recipient of the Spanos largesse.
Large money and personal contacts mean a pervasive Spanos influence in San Joaquin politics. Indeed, the Spanos influence extends across California (esp.
in San Diego) and nationally. Important to have this in the back of the mind while watching the 11th District race.