EL CENTRO – Retired Judge Steven Bailey swung through Imperial Valley Tuesday to introduce himself as a California State Attorney General candidate for the November 2018 election.
Dressed in worn jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, and cowboy boots, Bailey spoke on his qualifications and judicial philosophy. The soft-spoken retired judge, now turned candidate, spoke ardently on following the law and not legislating from the bench.
“I served eight and a half years as a judge on the El Dorado County Superior Court,” said Bailey. “During that time, I saw maybe some of the best of people, but many times I saw the worst of people. You saw the problems people had, and as a judge, there was little to no opportunity to address a person’s problems. It became the proverbial, ‘Someone needs to do something,’ but there isn’t another someone. So I made the decision a year ago to explore the decision (to run for State Attorney General).”
As of now, Bailey is the only Republican running against two Democrats including incumbent Xavier Becerra and Dave Jones, California’s current Insurance Commissioner.
Bailey may seem late to the game with other candidates sporting multimillion-dollar campaign war chests they accumulated from previous elections and collected this year.
“We are always going to be the underdog, always playing catch up to the large campaign chests of opponents,” said Bailey. “Becerra had $1.5 million, and $3 million for Jones as of last March. We plan to eventually raise $6 million. Just started fundraising, and so far, going very well.”
He has run twice as a judge in El Dorado County, the last time unopposed. Bailey said he believes he is on a mission to help “clean California up.”
“The current officeholder and predecessors have turned the office into something akin to a public interest law firm,” Bailey said. “The people of California hire an attorney general to represent the state of California — the citizens — not some private interest. That’s what they are doing now. They have so politicized the office, you can’t get a ballot statement or a ballot title written that is fair and balanced,” he said.
Writing ballot measures is part of the office’s duties, and Bailey suggested solving the politics of biased ballot descriptions by giving clear directions and demanding a balanced presentation on ballots.
Bailey said the AG office staff in the past have used the equivalent of focus groups to effectively pervert the ballot descriptions in order to achieve desired political outcomes.
“It is wrong,” Bailey said. “We all have the right to have our chief law enforcement officer to be someone that takes the approach they are representing all of us. I don’t want to call it a non-partisan approach to the attorney general office, but a fair and balanced approach to the attorney general’s office.”
Bailey said he was very much opposed to sanctuary state and sanctuary cities. He went on to claim it was tantamount to lawlessness.
“We are a nation that follows the rule of law, not a state that picks and chooses which laws we want to enforce today. If you are a businessman, or a private citizen, you can’t be certain any longer what law the people in Sacramento are going to decide to enforce. Maybe they will enforce the law against you, but let one of their cronies off. They won’t enforce the law equally. It is wrong, and has to change, and won’t change unless we elect a judge who takes a judicial attitude towards the office. These people are taking a political approach. I’m going to take a judicial approach.”
He said his years as a judge cemented his belief in the rule of law. Prior to that, he practiced criminal defense for 18 years. His cases ranged from the simplest to the death penalty. He said he realized the need for lawyers to be committed to the uniform enforcement of the law.
Bailey is not worried that his win for the office might not change the political culture in Sacramento. He believed the office would give him incredible reach to the citizens of California.
“Being the State AG is a tremendous bully pulpit. There are 1,000 lawyers in the department,” he said. “I have herded cats before when I was president of the California Bar Association,” Bailey said on directing the department. “If the lawyers in the office want to engage in politics, we will find another place for them. The legislature will be the greatest challenge as AG. If they are not willing to listen to the people on public safety, we will take it back to the people.”
According to Bailey, the job requires a law degree, which all candidates hold. Becerra, Bailey said, has been inactive for 26 years as a lawyer.
“Lawyers have to go and get training. We require every lawyer to take continuing education classes. Because Becerra could not practice law for 26 years, he has missed out on that. I was inactive for the last eight and a half years because I was a judge, but I dealt with the law every single day, and I think that is what you need as an attorney general.”
Bailey added there is nothing Becerra has done since he got into office other than sue Washington (D.C.), because he knows nothing but Washington.
Bailey finished by saying he comes from three generations of farmers in the Sacramento area, and the qualities of hard work, integrity, and community were well-ingrained in him. And for all the lack of tolerance, he said, “Treating someone with respect does not require that I agree with them. I can disagree with them, but I can respectfully disagree.”