The national news at this moment is all about New York Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer, getting nabbed in a prostitution ring scandal, in front of God and everyone. Spitzer may resign before this edition of
City Weekly even sees print. But, whether he quits or not, the question applies to Spitzer and all crusaders who feel they can soar above the rules that govern the rest of us schmucks: WTF?
Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political science professor and always a reliable quote machine for journalists, told New York’s WCBS Radio the key to Spitzer’s downfall is hypocrisy. He set himself up as a saint and a crime fighter, and now he’s crashed. Also, it’s a matter of stupidity, Sabato says.
“It’s amazing to me that so many governors, senators and presidential candidates think they are so special and clever that the truth will never come out about them. This remarkable conceit has been the downfall of many a public person.”
There are other questions, and broader in scope than a governor who gets his kicks with a high-priced hooker. Watching this latest mess unfold and waiting for the usual display of public cynicism toward politicians that will flow from it, one has to wonder: Why would anyone want to step up and run for public office? Where is the good in it? Why bother?
I took those questions to Bob Springmeyer. He’s decided to run for governor this year against Jon Huntsman Jr. Springmeyer, 64, says he’ll officially announce his candidacy on March 17. Short of running—unsuccessfully—back in the ’70s for a seat on the defunct Salt Lake County Commission (it’s long since changed to the nine-member County Council), Springmeyer has been a good civic player behind the scenes.
He’s married to Gwen Springmeyer, who most recently worked as a community affairs liaison for former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. He’s a father of four and grandfather of four. Springmeyer owns an economic consulting firm, Bonneville Research, and counts among his clients a number of Utah cities.
By all accounts, he’s a good egg. An avid fly fisherman, Springmeyer for years has published a weekly fly-fishing report for anglers on his own dime. He and wife Gwen have been active in the Sister Cities Program between Salt Lake City and Matsumoto, Japan, and for decades have hosted scores of Japanese students in their Avenues-area home.
Springmeyer told me he’s in the process of resigning from volunteer boards that might cause a conflict or even the appearance of a conflict of interest (Go figure. Since when is
that a concern among Utah’s political climbers?). He’ll step aside from his seat on the Utah Wildlife Conservation Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that raises money for non-game wildlife programs in Utah.
“We work so closely with [the Division of Wildlife Resources] on these issues I wouldn’t want that relationship to become a campaign issue,” Springmeyer says.
So he’s ready to walk into the fiery furnace of Republican dominance in Utah. He’s going to take on yet another in a long line of juggernaut GOP governors with sky-high approval ratings who can do no wrong with voters.
Man, is this guy insane?
A natty dresser who favors tweed jackets, cashmere sweaters and colorful bow ties, Springmeyer calls himself a “Democrat in the tradition of [governors] Cal Rampton and Scott Matheson.” For the
CW readers who weren’t yet born in those ’60s and ’70s eras, the candidate offers this translation: “I’m a moderate Democrat who’s pro-environment, pro-education and believes in tolerance and compassion.”
He says he’s taking this effort seriously. Watching the work of the legislative session that just wrapped up pretty much convinced him the state needs a governor who can rein in power-hungry lawmakers with veto power when necessary.
“I’d like to see the governor use more leadership,” Springmeyer says, adding that lack of leadership may be Huntsman’s only serious weak point. “Jon’s an honorable guy but it’s clear he has ambitions for higher office someday and that he’s concerned with taking the high road all the time.” That concern leads the governor to take fewer risks in standing against unwise legislation when he should.
“Let’s face it. By law, governors don’t have a lot of power. Their power comes in leadership and the ability to form coalitions to get things done. One thing for sure, I don’t have any higher political ambitions than this,” Springmeyer says.
We talked a bit about the scandal du jour of Spitzer, and the tough and ugly landscape of modern politics. Some people in politics, Springmeyer says, are “entirely reckless, they are egos gone wild.” Then, sounding like the real thing—if there is such a species in politics any more—he says there are two reasons he’s pushing the boulder uphill against Huntsman.
“I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit there’s a good bit of ego involved. But more importantly, I was asked to run. It’s important to step up when you’re asked. It’s an honor and a privilege to represent the Democratic Party in this race.”