He was in his political prime and running for Governor. Divine Fury. Chapter 5

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Chapter 5

FROM HIS CORNER office on the 22nd floor in the Embarcadero Center, Andrew Harper could see the traffic stalled on the upper deck of the Bay Bridge.  He was happy that he’d taken the underground BART train that morning to his law office and missed the traffic jam.  Like everything else the past two months, even his commuting choices seemed to be blessed by the gods.

First, the Latino front-runner from Los Angeles had dropped out of sight for two weeks and resurfaced in the arms of an Italian opera singer – to the surprise of his wife.  Then, the President had offered California’s junior senator the recently vacated job of FBI director.  She had accepted.  And, finally, the lieutenant governor had done battle with his wife for being too friendly with her yoga instructor.  She put him down for the count.

That left Harper, a former two-term congressman turned real estate attorney, as the last Democrat standing for the California governor’s race.  Sure, there were a couple of Democratic state legislators and the usual collection of unknown candidates – kooks, single-issue candidates, rich  vanity cases and everything in between.  But in terms of a candidate for governor with statewide appeal and recognition, Harper was it.

In college, Harper had been a second-team All American point guard on UCLA’s basketball team.  He’d graduated near the top of his class at Yale Law School.  In his first job, he established himself in a few years as a crusading federal prosecutor targeting white-collar crime in Silicon Valley.  Then, he was elected District Attorney of San Francisco.  After two terms in Congress, he declined to seek re-election.  No one politically knowledgeable considered it anything other than a short hiatus, a chance for Harper to assess the political landscape and take a breather while he considered his next move.

And, today marked the next step – a giant one.  Within the hour, he would make it official by formally announcing his candidacy for California governor at City Hall Plaza.  He had six interviews scheduled for the afternoon, including three at television studios in the Bay Area.  Tomorrow, he would head south and make the rounds of Los Angeles-area television stations and newspapers.  The following day, his media tour would be divided between San Diego and Sacramento.

Harper was 45.  His blond hair was thinning.  He was turning a bit jowly and was 20 lbs. past his college playing weight.  But he still looked youthful and athletic, even wearing a well-tailored dark blue business suit.  He played high-level pick-up basketball with friends once a week and was also an avid skier and mountain biker.

Most considered Harper ripening into his political prime.  No one now would consider him too youthful for serious office.  The extra years had softened his prosecutorial zeal.  His pedigree, charm and intelligence, plus unimpeachable integrity, were a winning combination.  What made him an even better candidate is that the California Republican Party seemed overrun by Orange County ultraconservatives.  It was likely that the final face-off in the Fall would be between the political extremes, a Democrat on the liberal left and a Republican on the conservative right.  The division of the middle would determine the outcome.

There were three sharp raps on his office door.  It wasn’t his assistant and Harper wondered who had gotten past him.  When the door opened, Harper saw it was Harry Blount carrying a life-size cardboard cutout of Ronald Reagan, standing tall with his hand raised in his signature wave.

Harper knew Blount would be with him at the campaign announcement and he was dressed for it.  Dapper gray Italian-cut suit.  Baby blue tie.  His longish hair was blown dry and perfectly in place.  His dark mustache and a small silver ring in his left earlobe gave him a slight roguish look – a pirate in pinstripes.

“I thought you were going straight to the rally.  What’s this?” asked Harper.  “C’mon.  Ronald Reagan?”

“Well, I had two things in mind,” said Blount, setting the cutout in the middle of Harper’s office and stepping back toward the desk and next to Harper so he could view it from a little distance.

“First, he was the ‘Great Communicator,’” Blount continued.  “His politics, obviously, aren’t yours.  But you should channel his technique.  Second, it’s just a great mind fuck.  Anyone who comes in here – all the press – will think, ‘What the…?’  Keep ‘em off balance.  Don’t let the conservatives pigeonhole you yet.”

“Fat chance of that,” said Harper, smiling wistfully and shaking his head.  “But I do think I like it.  Let’s shake up the status quo any way we can.”

He turned toward Blount and gave him a huge grin.

“You’re too much,” said Harper.  He grabbed Blount’s upper arms, pulled him close and gave him a hard kiss.  “What would I do without you?”

Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

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