The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

15 July 2007

Clark Howard, Talk Radio, Georgia State Politics


Could Consumer Talker Have A Political Future?

From the Department Of We Sure Didn't See This One Coming, consumer talk radio kingpin Clark Howard is seriously considering a move into political office.

Could the notoriously cheap bargain hunter become a future Georgia governor or Atlanta mayor? In a new interview with the AP's Shannon McCaffrey, the syndicated host is opening the door to that kind of move.

But where does the king of coupon clippers stand on the issues? That's a tough one, as we see in the piece:

He's given money to U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a liberal Democrat, and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, a conservative Republican.

He talks on his show about decriminalizing drugs, because the current drug war isn't working. He bemoans the problems that would result from government-run health care. He used the airwaves to label former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell a crook. Campbell is now in prison on charges of tax evasion.

In the largely conservative realm of talk radio, Howard calls himself "Switzerland."

Yet he was a popular draw at the recent Sean Hannity "Freedom Concert" that drew the conservative faithful. He fit in wearing his Georgia State Defense Force uniform and helping with recruitment efforts for the volunteer organization, akin to the National Guard.

Howard says if he runs it would be as an independent. His favorite politician is California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who Howard believes is an independent at heart.

So would Howard bring his notoriously frugal touch to government?

Yes, he says, but in increments.

He says that the city of Atlanta and the board of education have been job programs for too long.

"But do you go into office on the first day and start firing people? Not if you're smart you don't," he said. "But you set the direction and the tone."

Atlanta is a city known for its complicated racial politics. Howard is white in a city where the last non-black mayor was Sam Massell some 34 years ago. Like Massell, Howard is also Jewish.

State Rep. Bob Holmes, former director of Clark-Atlanta University's Southern Center for Studies in Public Policy, said the city's white population is exploding, a demographic shift that could work in Howard's favor.

"I think he would be a viable candidate. This city has really embraced nontraditional candidates who come from outside of politics," Holmes said.

"I think he would have that kind of appeal like Barack Obama, of being a fresh face."

Let's go ahead and give that last line an award for the week's weirdest political comparison: Clark Howard to Barack Obama?

Without a partisan alignment, however, what are Howard's real chances? To run as a true independent, he would probably need to self-fund the campaign. On the trail, it might be difficult to explain his bizarre history of contributions.

And the biggest issue is whether Georgia is interested in an independent candidate, especially one without a history of political involvement. While one could assume he'd be a fiscal conservative, how would voters know what to expect beyond that single issue?

In the end, however, if Howard is passionate about politics, it seems wrong to discourage him from running. He would certainly trim the fat inside government bureaucracies!

FOR Boston- area talk radio updates, see our other site. New: reading Howie Carr's tea leaves.

SAVE Internet radio: it's nearly too late! New: a reprieve?

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