Editor’s note: The newspaper was pleased that Judge Steven Bailey, a candidate for state Attorney General, dropped by our office Tuesday for an interview. Our policy is that we happily interview candidates for any federal, state or local position who visit our office. We don’t chase candidates and we don’t do telephone interviews.
Judge Steven Bailey acknowledges he has an uphill battle as a Republican in a one-party state like California, where it is not unusual for not a single Republican to be elected to statewide office, and where the state’s “Jungle Primary” often puts two Democrats on the ballot of the General Election. The Orange County Register recently wrote “State data shows 44.63 percent of registered California voters are Democrat, and 25.44 percent are Republican. But ‘no party preference’ has been gaining fast in recent years and, at 24.95 percent as of February, it could take over second place by the end of this year.”
Nevertheless, Bailey who earned the endorsement of the state GOP at last weekend’s California Republican Party convention in San Diego, is optimistic. “We’ve got a lot of one party states in this country, yet some have Republication governors, such as Massachusetts and Illinois. Running an uphill battle is maybe the best thing that can happen, because it makes you a better candidate and eventually tells the people you are focused on what they need. I think we can bring them across.”
Bailey, a superior court judge in the Lake Tahoe area for eight years, retired in August 2017 to run for state Attorney General. “It was impossible to have a full calendar as a judge and try to run for statewide office,” he said. While he was on the superior court bench, “Unlike other judges I handled the part of the criminal calendar that included extraditions, working with judges in other states, the entire civil l calendar. Everything from small civil matters to complex matters because of all the resorts. He was also presiding juvenile court judge for the county for four years. He was also a probate court, veterans court and behavior health court judge.
“Bottom line, there isn’t anything a judge would do in California that I have not done, which is unique, I think.” It is certainly unusual, since in recent years California’s attorney generals have been career politicians. “Maybe they should have been judges,” says Bailey. “The office should be treated with the deference a judge would treat his office. People should expect the Attorney General to be focused not on the next political issue.”
Bailey adds, “That office is there to protect our citizens. As a judge for 8 and half year I saw public safety become a back-seat issue. We didn’t care about victims. The Attorney General started to look at the criminals as the victims. As a criminal defense attorney, I have dealt with people that made mistakes but also, frankly a lot of people who made crime their career. I conclude that some people can’t be trusted to be out on the streets.”
Bailey argues that, “Unfortunately the Democrats in Sacramento have taken the approach ‘Let’s empty the prisons, decriminalize crime and be nice to everybody.’ It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that we are going to have an increase of crime. That happened after I took the bench. I saw what these policies do. The policies of progressive Democrats in Sacramento are failing.”
What, practically speaking, can an Attorney General do if the state is controlled by the other party. “You can do a lot,” says Bailey. “As Attorney General you are the chief law officer of the state. You manage and direct the litigation.” That would include litigation involving the state’s so-called “Sanctuary state law,” SB 52, which is the subject of a federal lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department.
So, isn’t the Attorney General obliged to defend a state law? Bailey disagrees. “You have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, which preempts the state law. When I make this sweeping statement that the sanctuary state is unconstitutional, I’m applying the Constitution. This is settled law. Arizona was slapped down when it tried to usurp federal immigration authority and here in California we don’t have any more authority than Arizona. You can’t get in the way of federal immigration law.”
Which begs the question, does the current California Attorney General Xavier Becerra believe he can win this case in federal court, or is he and other California politicians engaging in political posturing? “I think Becerra views it as apolitical decision because he couldn’t view it as a legal decision that he’s made because no qualified attorney considers the sanctuary state as constitutional,” says Bailey. “Legislators believe all sorts of things but that doesn’t make them constitutional.”
And that, says Bailey, “is why we need a judge as Attorney General We are litigating things that we shouldn’t be litigating. Ones that only Congress can solve.”
Bailey asserts that it is the “absolute responsibility” of the Attorney General to advise the legislature on the constitutionality of proposed legislation. “The current Attorney General
is not doing his job. To the crazy people in the majority they have a political issue looks like a great issue and they go forward with it. That doesn’t mean it will be found constitutional. The fact that a bunch of lawyers have a confab and decide it’s constitutional; from a judicial standpoint I’m telling them it’s not.”
As far as Bailey is concerned there are three major public issues: “public safety, public safety and public safety.” But there are side issues, one of the hottest being, “Being honest when you write initiative titles and descriptions.” For example, when an initiative to repeal last year’s 30 cent gas tax qualified for the November ballot, Becerra wrote that it would take away money to fix roads. “It doesn’t take away anything,” says Bailey. “It stays enforcement of the law. In this case it’s a constitutional amendment.”
Politicians in Sacramento “do things that are unconstitutional, ill advised, contrary to the message the people have clearly sent,” says Bailey. “It’s all the responsibility of the Attorney General to hold them in check. When you have all of the levers of power In Sacramento held by one party, then power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Noting that Governor Jerry Brown will be completing his second set of two-terms in office (he was also governor in the 1970s), Bailey says, “I’ve started to talk to audiences, many of who remember what Jerry Brown brought us the first time in office. We cleaned up that mess once before after he left the state a mess. We are going to have to do it a second time.”
As Democratic politicians go in California, many people regard Brown as the “last adult” left in Sacramento. “He MAY be the adult in the room, but his policies are making crime go up,” says Bailey. “Such as letting criminals out of prison, releasing drug addicts and the decriminalization of property crimes. You can’t deny what Brown, Kamala Harris and Becerra [all Attorneys General] have done. Those policies haven’t worked before and they aren’t’ working now.”
In 1994 the voters of California passed the “Three Strikes Law” and crime went down. “Jerry’s undone it and that is why crime is spiking,” says Bailey. “Those that the people didn’t want released are being released.”
When prisoners are released they are no longer being supervised by parole officers, Bailey says. “We removed parole officers from the responsibility for most people being released. Now judges are charged with doing parole violations.” The problem, he says, that under new laws prisoners serve six months or less for a year’s sentence. “If I sentence someone to a year they will do 180 days.”
There are four candidates on the ballot this June for Attorney General. Two Democrats and two Republicans. “I’m the California Republican party endorsed candidate.”
Going into the June primary Bailey says he is in second place right now, behind Becerra. “But when our issues are placed against his issues we beat him by 5 percent.
One issue that might surprise those who believe California has strict gun control laws is that, according to Bailey, “Over 10,000 people in this state who should not be in possession of firearms still have them. That is the responsibility of the Attorney General, and so far, they have managed to seize 600. Instead they spend all their time trying to take away your gun and mine.”
Another issue where Bailey says Becerra is behind is fighting the interstate trafficking of human beings, i.e. the sex trade. “San Diego’s District Attorney is a leader in the state, but the Attorney General has too many projects going, and one of them is not protecting public safety.”
“California,” says Bailey, “Needs the approach that a judge would bring to the office of Attorney General, one who views the office as not a partisan office, but certainly one focused on fair and impartial justice. A judge looks at the evidence and the law and applies justice. That’ what makes me different from any of the candidates who is running.”
But why should Democrats give him a second look? “Because Democrats are looking for an Attorney General who is going to apply the law consistently and fairly, an Attorney General who is not picking and choosing which laws to apply and enforce and not picking and choosing winners and losers under the law.”
Find out more information about Steven Bailey at www.baileyForAG.com.