California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson stopped in Los Altos last week for an interview with the Town Crier. The former State Assemblyman and fourth-generation Santa Cruz native took office March 30 after Kevin Shelley resigned following questions about campaign funds.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed the Republican, and both Democrat-controlled houses of the California Legislature unanimously confirmed his appointment. As secretary of state, McPherson oversees 490 employees in Sacramento as well as in four regional offices.
TC: What has it been like to take your seat as secretary of state in the wake of the Kevin Shelley scandal?
McPherson: It wasn't a happy occasion. I was sorry about it. I think it's not a good situation when any elected official decides to resign. It's unfortunate. We were handed the ball to do it, and we said we're going to do the best job. I was excited about it, but I was frankly sad about it, too.
TC: Is the onus on you to improve the reputation of the secretary of state?
McPherson: Absolutely. We have been asked to restore the trust and confidence in the secretary of state's office. It's essential. I think we've been able to do that very quickly. I just think people should know that those employees in the secretary of state's office are professional and dedicated. ... And it was just some difficulty in the administration of some of the office's duty that is open to question now.
But the operations of the office and the elections themselves have gone off very well. We had a huge turnout last November of 76 percent of the voters - the highest turnout in years in elections.
People use the process, and I didn't hear really that many complaints.
TC: What's it like to work in Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration?
McPherson: Even though he nominated me, I'm really not in his administration. This is an independent office. ... He's a big person in physical stature and he likes to go after big issues and that's why he took on a lot of things at the same time.
Maybe he shouldn't have done that, but I personally find him very smart person. I think smarter than most people give him credit for, very politically astute, great sense of humor and a tremendous family man.
TC: Will redistricting ever make any difference?
McPherson: It's possible. I haven't taken a position on 77 or the other propositions. Previously I had said that legislators should not be drawing their own lines. I don't think it would make a difference in the numbers.
I think it would be a difference in the temperament. There's growing partisanship in Sacramento, and I think the general public recognizes that.
TC: Do you have any plans to run for governor?
McPherson: No, not now I don't. I made a very pointed decision not to announce my decision to run for election, not re-election, to this office a month ago. There's this HAVA situation to take care of, getting voting systems in place to implement the Help America Vote Act. We've got a lot of things on our plate. I want to get them resolved without thinking about campaigning at this point.
But I said upon being nominated by Gov. Swarzenegger that if I liked the job and what I'm doing and thought I was doing a good job, I would run again, and I feel like we're moving in that order.
I don't plan to announce until after the special election now.
TC: What about the cost of the special election?
McPherson: It's a big concern for me. I think that the state should pay for the additional election cost for the statewide election. The local governments didn't call it.
-Town Crier Staff