SANTA MONICA, California — A singer perhaps best known for a song called "Abolish Government" is now hoping to join it.
Jack Grisham, frontman for the veteran punk group T.S.O.L., announced to MTV News on Wednesday (July 30) that he is running for governor of California in the controversial October 7 recall election to unseat incumbent Democrat Gray Davis.
"I can't afford heath insurance, so I figure if I'm governor, at least they have a good health insurance plan," Grisham joked. The charming singer made light of his first interview as a politician, but insisted his campaign is entirely serious.
"For years I was always, 'F--- the government. F--- the government. F--- the government.' I was always bitching and not doing a thing about it," he explained. "And the other day I said, 'Now I am.' I just got tired of seeing people hurt, that was the biggest thing. I got three sisters who are teachers, two brothers who are police officers, a bunch of friends who are labor workers, dock workers. I work with undocumented alien immigrants all the time and I got tired seeing what they go through and no one caring. And they put this new budget out and the first thing they slash is health care and the first thing they start screwing is the people."
Grisham, who works labor jobs when not touring, will make heath-care reform the center of his platform. Recently, the singer himself was denied health care because his income was just more than the qualifying limit. "I said to the lady, 'So if I quit my job and left my wife and kids, you could fix my back?' " Grisham said. "And she said, 'Yes.' "
As for the state's budget crisis, Grisham said he would hire top accountants to come up with solutions. "It's like being a producer, you get the best people around you to take care of business," he said.
On other issues, Grisham is for legalizing and taxing both marijuana and prostitution, and supports full amnesty for undocumented aliens.
"Another big part of my platform is volunteerism, getting the community involved," he said. "People are just taking and giving nothing in return."
Grisham believes California is ready for an everyday guy, "someone who wears sandals with his sport coat" (as he did Wednesday), to be governor.
"The average California citizen is not riding around in a limousine," he said. "A lot of these [other candidates] want to talk about drug abuse and alcohol abuse and all that, but they've never seen it. You have no idea what these people experience until you've experienced it. Since the end of 1988, I've lost 80-something friends to drugs and alcohol abuse. I've been arrested. When was the last time a politician spent the night in jail? All jails create are more animals."
Grisham, who will run as an independent ("No one will take me," he joked), decided to join the unprecedented gubernatorial race only a few days ago, after friends made the suggestion. "Someone called me and said, 'Have you ever been convicted of a felony?' And I said, 'Well, never convicted,' " Grisham recalled. "And they said, 'Well, we want you to run for governor.' So I said, 'I'm in.' "
T.S.O.L. (True Sounds of Liberty), who formed in Huntington Beach, California, in 1978, were an influence on many other California punk bands forming at the time, including Bad Religion, the Dead Kennedys and Social Distortion.
Grisham left the band in the mid-'80s, but rejoined in 1999 and recorded 2001's Disappear with the original lineup. T.S.O.L.'s next album, Divided We Stand, is due September 9, however Grisham refused to talk about the project.
"The fact that I play music has nothing to do with this," he said. "I'm willing to give that all up to take this job. This really matters, it's not a joke."
Another entertainer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has hinted he might run as well, but a Republican Party spokesperson said Wednesday that he will not.
Davis, who was re-elected governor a year ago, has been blamed for California's $38 billion deficit and accused of being indecisive during the energy crisis. Earlier this summer, Republicans gathered the required number of signatures — 12 percent of the total number of voters in the previous gubernatorial election, in this case, 897,158 — for a recall, the first in the U.S. since the governor of North Dakota was removed in 1921.
To get onto the recall ballot, a candidate needs only 65 signatures and a $3,500 filing fee. Because so many names will be on the ballot and the length of the campaign period is so short, less traditional candidates have a better chance in a recall than in a normal gubernatorial election.