FW: Major paper endorses Judge Gray for U.S. Senate

http://www.presstelegram.com/Stories/0,1413,204~21479~2481063,00.html

Long Beach Press-Telegram
October 20, 2004

A better Senate choice

  Gray's strong stand on issues sets him apart from Boxer and Jones.

Third-party candidates aren't as strong a force in American politics
as we'd like them to be. Still, their campaigns can sometimes change
the tenor of a race and deliver important messages to the two dominant
parties.

Independent Ross Perot's 1992 presidential campaign, for example,
drove the vital issue of mounting federal deficits into the spotlight.
Perot forced a discussion of the deficit into the presidential
campaign, garnered an impressive share of the votes for a third- party
candidate, and may have pushed President Clinton to tackle the issue
more aggressively in office than he might have otherwise.

We see some parallels in California's U.S. Senate race.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, the entrenched Democrat who is all but assured of
reelection, and Republican Bill Jones, the lackluster challenger who
has been cast adrift by the state's GOP funding machine, are offering
surprisingly similar policy positions on at least some issues. In a
recent AARP survey, Jones and Boxer gave identical policy positions on
a list of issues that included health care and Social Security.

There are major differences with the Libertarian candidate, however.
Instead of hammering on the deficit, as Perot did, Orange County
Superior Court Judge Jim Gray is taking the two major parties to task
for their lock-step perpetuation of the failed drug war and other
bipartisan abuses of governmental power. (By way of clarification,
Judge Jim Gray and Long Beach's longtime civic leader Jim Gray are two
different people.)

Gray won't win, of course, though he is qualified and we'd be pleased
to have him as a member of the Senate. Rather, a vote for Gray is a
powerful way to force the two major parties to acknowledge where
they've gone wrong.

One of those places is the drug war. In his 20 years on the bench,
Gray has seen first- hand the astounding misuse of taxpayer dollars
under drug prohibition, and the many lives discarded when nonviolent
drug offenders are given harsh prison sentences instead of the
treatment and rehabilitation they need.

Gray's platform calls for the federal government to allow states to
create their own drug policies, and in California, the
decriminalization of marijuana. In California, Gray says, the
legalization of marijuana would save the state about $1 billion a year
that now goes to arrest, prosecute and jail nonviolent drug uses,
dealers and growers. Under a strict system of regulation and taxation,
similar to alcohol, the state would stand to gain an additional $1.5
billion.

Gray also makes an unassailable point about the drug war's failure to
stop or even slow minors' access to marijuana. As he puts it, "drug
dealers don't ask for ID." Setting a strict age limit of 21 would help
keep marijuana out of the hands of minors.

Gray's other key campaign issue is the excesses of the federal Patriot
Act, which was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. The
Patriot Act has done some good, Gray says, where it has encouraged
various governmental agencies to share information. It vastly
oversteps, though, where it allows the government to pry into its
citizens' bank accounts, credit card statements and even library book
records without judicial oversight. The Patriot Act allows the
government to bypass judicial review, he says, and investigate any
citizen simply by declaring him or her a terrorist.

That doesn't feel right to him, and it doesn't to us, either.

Gray is a former Republican, a law-and-order judge who has in two
decades on the bench gained a refreshing perspective on the issues
facing the country. He has become a Libertarian because he sees the
party's platform as the most respectful of personal freedoms and
individual rights.

Sen. Boxer doesn't need any more votes, and giving them to Jones won't
do much good. A vote for Gray, however, would help make an important
statement in favor of personal liberties and against the abuses of
governmental power.