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Pistol-Packing Pol Eyes Governorship

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, arrested last year after nearly carrying a loaded gun aboard a jet, wants to be California's next governor.

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Opinion: Pistol-Packing Pol Eyes Run

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It's not political satire. But it has all the elements.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, is known mainly for his outspoken criticism of illegal immigrants, his former membership in the Minuteman Project, and his arrest last year at a Southern California airport for stashing a loaded handgun in his luggage.

On Wednesday, Ventura Star Capitol reporter Timm Herdt was first to unearth the news that Donnelly has also opened an exploratory committee to run for governor in 2014. That sparked a rush of stories by other Capitol reporters.

It certainly spiced up an otherwise quiet day in Sacramento.

In the aftermath of an election year that proved to be disastrous for the Republican Party in California, Donnelly would appear to be the last person the GOP would pick as its standard-bearer in the next election cycle. The party's registration has already dipped below 30 percent, and it suffered enough losses to hand Democrats their first two-thirds supermajority in the legislature in more than a century.

The Republicans had particular difficulty attracting Latino voters this year.

But Donnelly, in an interview posted on a conservative website, said he is motivated to run because "There's nobody out there who is fighting for us."

Donnelly, first elected to the Assembly two years ago, was a member of the Minuteman Project, a citizens group formed to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border. He tried and failed this year to roll back a new law that gives a college tuition break to undocumented immigrant students.

Donnelly made headlines late last year when he was arrested at Ontario International Airport after officers discovered a loaded handgun in his carry-on luggage as he prepared to board a flight to Sacramento. He said he had forgotten about the weapon, had his charges reduced to misdemeanors, and was given three-years probation.

News of Donnelly's interest in the governorship was, of course, an immediate source of delight for Democrats. Democratic consultant Jason Kinney proclaimed, via Twitter, that he was "giddy" at the prospect of Donnelly's candidacy.

Thoughtful Republicans, both in Sacramento and in Washington, are talking of the need to rebuild their party by changing their message on immigration and nurturing a moderate image.

Donnelly and his followers didn't get that memo. If he's serious about his candidacy, for those hoping to broaden the party's appeal, it adds up to a lump of coal in the GOP's Christmas stocking.

Author Kevin Riggs, an Emmy-winning former TV reporter in Sacramento, is Senior Vice President at Randle Communications.

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