The following opinion piece by Scott Wilk was featured in today’s Santa Clarita Valley Signal:
In 1994, I had the honor of serving as chief of staff in the state Assembly.
After exhaustively interviewing applicants for a vacant staff position, I received a call from a friend asking me to interview some kid named Anthony.
When the lanky young man stepped into my office, his smile brightened the room. His enthusiasm was immediately contagious.
Although barely 23 years old, he shared his unfolding life story, and I was impressed with his passion and determination.
Anthony had been a high school all-star basketball player, and normally would have been the star, but he had a teammate named Don MacLean. MacLean, as you may recall, went on to play at UCLA and enjoyed a long NBA career.
Because of MacLean, every major coach of the country watched Anthony play ball, including Bobby Knight and Duke’s Coach K. Former University of Arizona coach Lute Olson expressed an interest in Anthony and arranged for him to play at an Arizona junior college, so he could hone his skills before transferring to the Wildcats.
Despite stellar play and grades in junior college, Olson decided to go in another direction. Normally this would be a crushing blow to a young athlete, but not Anthony. Despite having offers to play professionally in Australia and scholarship offers from two other PAC-10 schools, Anthony decided to attend Whittier College.
Anthony had decided a number of years earlier that public service, not professional athletics, was his life’s calling. At Whittier, he could play hoops and begin participating in the political process.
He started the Richard Nixon Republican Club, and the former president (an alumnus of the school) was so appreciative he invited Anthony to his office to meet him. Anthony had time for studying, politics and hoops — he once scored 47 points against my son’s alma mater, University of Redlands, still a school record.
I was so impressed; I offered him the job. He was willing to take a 75-percent pay cut to serve the people of California instead of playing basketball. That is commitment.
In 1998, the GOP-leaning 37th Assembly District became open due to term limits. At 26, Anthony believed he was ready to serve.
Never lacking self-confidence, he was pitted against a corporate attorney from Harvard Law School, who had just narrowly lost a seat in Congress, and three other candidates. The 37th was a GOP-leaning district, so the primary was going to determine the election winner.
Anthony was outspent 5-to-1, but he was not to be outworked. He personally knocked on more than 10,000 doors. He garnered 45 percent of the vote in the five-person GOP field and went on to victory in November.
In the midst of California’s energy crisis, Gov. Gray Davis and energy companies secretly negotiated long-term energy contracts that doubled ratepayers’ utility bills. Anthony met with his party’s caucus and stated he was going to sue the governor.
Not a single member was willing to join him, so he stood alone. The court agreed with Anthony, the contracts were opened up and the ashamed parties had to renegotiate, saving California taxpayers $6 billion.
In January, California will have a Democrat-controlled state Legislature, and most likely a Democrat governor. The only line of defense for California taxpayers will be the state controller.
Anthony is running for state controller, a position that is essentially California’s chief financial officer. He has the courage and fortitude to do the right thing. He will root out abuses so we don’t have another city of Bell situation. He will conduct a performance audit so taxpayers and parents can learn how the Los Angeles Unified School District spends its $10 billion annual budget.
As you probably have guessed, “Anthony” is Tony Strickland. He has the heart of a warrior and the integrity not to cave to the special interests. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican or independent, Strickland will be our countervailing force to obstruct the “tax-and-spend” culture of Sacramento. Strickland is a slam-dunk choice for state controller.