Peace was a member of the "Gang of 5," a Democratic bloc that attempted to unseat then-Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, in the late 1980s, as a state senator wrote energy deregulation legislation that backfired badly in the 1990s, and as Senate Budget Committee chairman and state finance director presided over a series of deficit-ridden state budgets.
This year, however, Peace scored a win when voters approved Proposition 14, which changes California's primary election system from separate partisan contests to a "top two" system that downgrades party identification by placing all candidates on the same ballot. Peace was plotting an initiative campaign for the primary change when it became part of last years state budget negotiations and the Legislature, albeit unwillingly, placed it on the ballot itself.
Now Peace wants to take the "top two" crusade national, as a lengthy article in the current issue of Bloomberg Businessweek magazine explores. Among other things, the article notes that Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York and owner of the magazine, is exploring a primary election change in his state.
"Peace, 57, acknowledges he's often considered a bit kooky himself," the Businessweek article says. "Outside California he's best known as the producer of 1978's Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!, a Hollywood spoof in which Peace, as Lt. Wilbur Finletter, wields a saber in the final scene's fight to the death against a swarm of murderous fruit. In state politics his star moment was pushing through a 1996 bill that deregulated the electricity market. When blackouts and price spikes whipped the state in 2000 and 2001, Peace became infamous."
It concludes: "The motivation to keep the political movement going, Peace says, is supplied by his first grandchild, a 9-month-old boy. "His odds of living in a democratic society are no better than 50 percent," Peace says. 'In the last 50 years there has been a steady march away from the fundamental principles of democracy, which is compromise. Instead we're moving towards the Third World model of democracy, where, if you don't like the outcome, you pick up your guns--literally or figuratively.' At the very least, it could provide the underpinnings for the next Killer Tomatoes plot."
The full article can be found here.
IMAGE: Steve Peace in 2003. IMAGE: Dick Schmidt/Sacramento Bee.