Capitol Alert
By Christopher Cadelago
August 23, 2015

  • Several former elected officials host their own shows
  • Republicans see forum as counterbalance to mainstream media
  • Hosts can stay relevant in their areas even while out of office

For nearly 30 years, former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock hosted a talk radio show, weaving his trademark sarcasm into defenses of limited government and riffs on liberals to become perhaps the most accomplished past politician on the airwaves.

But before stepping down from his nationally syndicated program this year, Hedgecock took fellow Republican Carl DeMaio to lunch to gauge his interest in hosting a new show. DeMaio, a former San Diego councilman coming off his second successive defeat, said he was intrigued by the possibilities.

Though he’d been a guest presenter on programs, DeMaio said he still worried about whether he could converse on air for three hours a day, five days a week. “Roger laughed and said, ‘You are a recovering politician. Of course you can talk for that amount of time,’” DeMaio recalled.

In April, the “DeMaio-Sullivan Report” premiered on KOGO (600 AM), offering Southern Californians three hours of daily banter about topics as varying as infidelity, Caitlyn Jenner, police brutality and public employee pensions – a favorite topic of DeMaio’s.

He joined a long list of current and former officeholders to land positions on radio, a once-ailing medium with historic roots in activating marginalized constituencies. In California, Hedgecock, Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, former Treasurer Phil Angelides, former Rep. Dan Lungren and ex-Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness all have sat behind a radio microphone for hours at a time.

It has been years since politicians could rely solely on nightly television news to reach their intended audience. The radio shows – which vary from news- and caller-heavy to outrage-fueled, reactionary formats – permit would-be candidates to remain relevant in their markets at a time of increasingly fractured media, said Eric Jaye, founder and president of Storefront Political Media in San Francisco.

Talk radio can become a kind of favor bank for hosts, affording their like-minded guests access to their audiences, Jaye said. The programs also provide former elected officials with a steady stream of content for their social media accounts and other digital channels.

“They are becoming their own publishers,” Jaye said of the officials. “And when you are your own publisher, there is a constant demand for content.”

Nationally, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg have had standing radio slots, as did former U.S. senators Bob Dole and Alan Simpson as part of a point-counterpoint with the late Edward Kennedy. Former governors Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Eliot Spitzer of New York and Jennifer Granholm of Michigan all hosted their own television shows.

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