Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Tuesday, Jul. 22, 2014 – 12:00 am

One can categorize politicians by many indices – honesty, intelligence, effectiveness and ideology, for instance.

One of the more reliable, however, is what one might call self-identification. Does the politician, regardless of other qualities, see politics primarily as a civic duty – something separate from family and/or professional career – or as the essence of his or her persona?

The former can lose an election – former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush come to mind – and simply get on with the rest of their lives.

But to the latter, losing an election is a traumatic, life-altering event, so they will go to extraordinary lengths to remain in office.

That probably explains why John A. Pérez insisted on a recount after failing to gain a spot on the November ballot for state controller by a scant 481 votes.

That was the margin separating him from fellow Democrat Betty Yee for second place in the June primary and the right to face Republican Ashley Swearengin, who finished first, on Nov. 4.

Pérez, a former speaker of the Assembly, seemed to take the race for granted and was shocked when he lost by such a tiny margin.

Thereupon, Pérez started spending for a recount in counties and precincts that looked the most promising for gains, only to be disappointed when the initial tallies gave him just a few more votes. Last Friday, under increasing pressure from other Democrats, he pulled the plug.

So Yee, a member of the state Board of Equalization, will be facing Swearengin, the mayor of Fresno, and that matchup is probably bad news for Republican hopes of capturing a statewide office. Yee isn’t a sure thing, but Swearengin would doubtless have had a better shot against Pérez.

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