Matt Leslie

Don Bankhead is running for Fullerton City Council. He must be about eighty years old, and there must be people telling him he ought to just leave local politics behind him now, but can you really imagine him doing anything else?

A couple of weeks ago I observed that his demeanor hadn’t changed any since being decisively recalled for the second time in his decades long career on the council. He must feel optimistic about rebounding from being recalled a second time to win a council seat because that’s just what he did nearly twenty years ago when he was sent packing the first time for voting in favor of an unpopular utility tax. Opinions are mixed over whether or not he can pull it off again. If I were a betting man I’d put money on him losing. Still, part of me has to wonder if a combination of his die-hard base and know-nothing voters could put him over the top. After all, two years ago the same electorate who passed a term limits measure by 80% also cast the most votes for Mr. Bankhead, who had been in office for over twenty years.

Like Ronald Reagan, whose presidential term ended when Don Bankhead was first elected, Mr. Bankhead’s greatest strength is his absolute confidence in himself. No matter how bad his decisions, how baffling his thought process, how transparently compromised his motives, nothing seemed to stick to him enough to drag him down. I always wondered whether his folksy, grandfatherly personality was a cynical ploy, or was he really that out of touch? Not that it mattered. As much as his longevity bred a crushing inertia, it also gave him the only momentum he needed to survive in office in spite of ignoring our decaying infrastructure and running up bills for the next generation to pay.

And like Ronald Reagan, he is out of touch to the point of nearly being a pathetic figure, and would be one if only his cartoonish remoteness didn’t result in one disaster after another. He’s not as telegenic as Mr. Reagan was, but Fullerton elections aren’t won on television, although the ever growing number of internet videos of Mr. Bankhead in action, or inaction, may not serve his campaign well. He and his backers probably consider the low turnout in the June election that saw him recalled by a more than two to one margin not representative of the larger number of voters expected to cast ballots in November. They’re wrong. Don Bankhead may still be asleep at the switch, but Fullerton has awakened enough to dust itself off and move on.

Photo stolen from OCTA