Opinion » Rhetoric & Reason

Replacing Tommy Gong



Another lefty tantrum.

Today's liberals apparently feel entitled to rule by demand and insult. We are currently seeing a media campaign by Democratic partisans demanding the appointment of their favored candidate to replace former SLO County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong. The last two issues of this paper have featured letters to the editor insisting upon the summary appointment of Acting Clerk-Recorder Helen Nolan, and bitterly attacking the Board of Supervisors for conducting the customary statewide search for candidates.

This is pretty unusual, since the position of clerk-recorder usually generates less heat and controversy than occurs in selecting "paper or plastic" at the supermarket.

To recap, Tommy Gong served as clerk-recorder since his election in 2015 until June when he resigned. While I have no special insights into the operation of the office, my impression is that he did a good job. I do not recall any scandal, drama, or other problem in the office, and it seemed to operate quietly and effectively under his leadership. To a conservative like myself, that is all that we ask of government, and I would be happy to have him back at the position. His wife was subject to publicized criminal charges in 2019, but there was no allegation that Gong was involved.

Following the 2020 election, the nation engaged in many contentious discussions of the security of the electoral process, and SLO County was no exception. At a meeting of the Board of Supervisors, strong citizen criticism of the Clerk-Recorder's Office was offered, including one racist comment directed at Gong.

To hear liberal partisans tell it, this one racist comment was the functional equivalent of a lynch mob driving Gong out of town, displaying their usual gift for flaming hyperbole. Gong himself seemed to endure the incident stoically and with dignity. He had previously indicated that he was leaving to be near aging parents, although I suppose his wife's legal problems may have also played a role.

The Tribune waxed outraged because the conservative members of the board failed to argue with the speaker, and declined to participate in a political stunt expressing "unwavering support" for the office. During public comments, speakers sometimes utter all sorts of insane gibberish that is endured without comment. We'll see if The Tribune calls for a similar defense of public officials the next time the local lefty loons barrage the sheriff or district attorney with florid abuse. The Tribune also attacked the conservatives for opposing same-day registration and early voting, and for supporting voter ID, positions well within the mainstream of political belief. In fact, a solid majority of voters favor voter ID, so the conservatives are hardly outliers. Of course, to a liberal, anyone who doesn't enthusiastically buy in to their latest "big new thing" is obviously far beyond the pale.

While Ms. Nolan, as the acting clerk-recorder, may eventually prove to be the strongest candidate for the job, it is both customary and prudent to look at a wider range of candidates before making a choice. This is especially true since, far from merely being a short-term "caretaker" for the office, the incumbent will have a substantial advantage over challengers at the next election.

In their angry advocacy promoting Ms. Nolan, one writer accused the supervisors of seeking "statewide candidates without proper qualifications," despite having no knowledge of who they were talking to. Another charged them with being fiscally irresponsible since it would cost less to just accept their favorite candidate, and forgo further search. Still another accused the board of ignoring the "will of the people," since dozens of letters have been sent in support of Ms. Nolan. It takes a special contempt for mathematics to deem "dozens" as reflecting a groundswell of popular support in a county with more than a quarter million people.

Whoever is appointed as clerk-recorder should be nonpartisan—sort of a "political eunuch." The position should involve just the fair, transparent, and mechanical application of the law, not political advocacy, nor acting as a champion for one group or another. The long-term health of our democracy depends up our elections being perceived as fair and untainted by the use of political operatives in the election process.

I know of nothing about Ms. Nolan that would indicate that she wouldn't be a good choice, other than her supporters' shrill pronouncements that only she will do, and their rabid attacks on the supervisors for following the usual recruiting procedures. That raises suspicions.

While The Tribune opines that Republicans "fear that they are increasingly unable to win," this campaign suggests that it is the Democrats who fear that they will be unable to sell their political lunacy to the voters unless they cheat. It seems like the Democrats are attempting to tinker with and "massage" the voting process until it gives them the results that they want, instead of making the painful choice to tell their extremist wing to take a hike, and to tack back toward the moderate center. Δ

John Donegan is a retired attorney in Pismo Beach who would apply for the position, but is afraid that it would require far more work than he is accustomed to since he retired. Respond with a letter to the editor emailed to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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