Three years after he crossed party lines and cast a vote to pass California’s 2009-10 budget laden with tax increases that resulted in his ignominious exodus from the state Assembly, Anthony Adams this week announced he will attempt to resuscitate his political career with a run for Congress in the newly drawn California 8th Congressional District.
In doing so, Adams sought to reinvent himself as a “no party” candidate. In his earlier incarnation, Adams represented himself as a rock-ribbed, right-wing conservative Republican. He incubated his political career as a member of former San Bernardino County First District supervisor Bill Postmus’s political team. Adams worked on Postmus’s campaigns and was hired by Postmus as one of his field representatives, garnering a reputation for aggressively defending Postmus and his expressed right-wing ideology. Postmus then promoted Adams to the position of senior executive analyst on his staff. By 2004, Postmus had acceded to the position of chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Party and from that position, Postmus vectored party support to Adams in 2006, providing him with money from the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee’s coffers to assist him in overcoming three other Republican stalwarts in the primary race for the Republican nomination in the 59th Assembly District, Henry Scolinos, Barry Hartz and Chris Lancaster. Postmus used his authority as chairman of the board of supervisors to move Adams into the position of director of legislative affairs for San Bernardino County. With the power of the Postmus political machine behind him, Adams in 2006 captured the Republican nomination in the 59th Assembly District, in which the Republicans held a commanding 42 to 33 percent registration advantage over Democrats and in November 2006 he cruised to easy victory in the general election. In office during his first term, Adams hewed to a basically conservative Republican agenda and was handily reelected in 2008, signing a pledge not to raise taxes along the way. Adams’ political career was reaching its apex, with some suggestions that he might be selected as Assembly minority leader upon his reelection in 2010. But seemingly overnight, Adams political career seemed to go into a high speed wobble and then veered sharply left. 2008 was particularly unkind to his political godfather, Bill Postmus, who in 2006 had successfully run for county assessor. Events overtook Postmus when he created four high level positions in the assessor’s office that did not previously exist and installed in those positions political appointees, including two of his boyfriends, who knew nothing about assessing properties. The inability of Postmus’s political appointees to meet the demands of the assessor’s office together with their exploitations of their authority for political purposes led to a series of misadventures and resulting revelations that absolutely undid Postmus’s political career. After investigators with the district attorney’s office began to delve into illegal utilization of the assessor’s office’s facilities and personnel for partisan political purposes, the veil over first Postmus’s drug use and then his homosexuality was pierced. In time, Postmus and all five of his political appointees to positions within the assessor’s office would be charged with crimes.
Meanwhile, in Sacramento, the incipient crisis with regard to Adams and his political identity was beginning to set in. Many of his constituents and supporters were hearing for the first time that the putative conservative right wing political cauldron that Adams had been hatched from was in fact a hotbed of homosexuality and drug use whose principals had cynically manipulated the gullibility of the county’s Republican establishment and voters. The shock to those voters’ socially conservative sensibilities in short order was followed up with Adams’ departure from his long-enunciated fiscally conservative principals.
On February 18, 2009 Adams joined with all of the Assembly’s Democratic members, GOP leader Mike Villines and Republican Assemblyman Roger Niello to muster the bare minimum number of votes required to pass the 2009-10 California budget worked out by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenneger and the Democratic leadership that included $12.8 billion in temporary tax increases, and $11.4 billion in borrowing. In making that vote, Adams said it was not a decision “I make lightly. This will probably be the end of a political career for me.”
A firestorm erupted that ultimately chased Villines, Niello and Adams from office. An effort to recall Adams was undertaken, but ultimately failed when the respective registrars of voters in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties disqualified a portion of the signatures on the recall petitions. Nevertheless, Adams’ viability as a candidate in the 59th Assembly District was done and in 2010 he chose not to seek reelection. Further damage was done to his reputation when just weeks after he left the Assembly, Adams was appointed by Schwarzenegger to a $111,845-a-year post on the state Board of Parole Hearings, resulting in charges that Adams had sold out his principals for a cushy governmental sinecure.
Adams passed the California Bar in May of last year and is now “of counsel” with the Riverside-based law firm of Wagner & Pelayes. In tossing his hat into the 8th Congressional District ring, Adams forsook the vitriolic right wing rhetoric he utilized in getting elected to the Assembly in 2006 and reelected two years later. “The citizens of this district are fed up with the partisan bickering that has deadlocked Congress,” Adams said in announcing both his candidacy and his shedding of his Republican Party affiliation. “Democrats and Republicans are putting their party ahead of our country. I believe there is a better way.”
Adams’ strategy is a risky one. Republicans in the 8th Congressional District hold a 42.15 percent to 32.57% registration advantage over Democrats. Adams joins seven other Republicans – Assemblyman Paul Cook, Minuteman Civil Defense Corps of California co-founder Gregg Imus, Victorville Mayor Ryan McEachron; former Hesperia Mayor Bill Jensen, San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, Victorville Councilwoman Angela Valles, and certified public accountant Phillip Liberatore – and one Democrat – Jackie Conaway – in the race. This year a change in the state’s election code dispenses with party primaries for so-called open primaries, such that the two highest vote getters in the June primary of whatever party affiliation qualify for the general election.