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But his campaign to unseat Boxer has drawn smirks, derision and overall disbelief in California political circles. There’s Boxer’s longtime popularity, fund-raising prowess and two-time-incumbency status. Few people outside Orange County have ever heard of DeVore. Local history also stands against him: Orange County Republicans have failed spectacularly in running for statewide office; only one, Senator Thomas Kuchel of Anaheim, has ever won an election. (The only other local Republican to hold statewide office, former Senator John Seymour, replaced Pete Wilson by Senate appointment after Wilson became California’s governor in 1991; in Seymour’s only race for the seat, current senator Dianne Feinstein whipped him by 16 points.)
One local conservative activist who requested anonymity but who has been involved in GOP politics since the 1980s says, “Chuckles is crazy. He stands no chance whatsoever. None. No one knows him, and to think he can win is just wasting time and, frankly, looking like a fool.”
DeVore, a retired lieutenant colonel for the Army National Guard, remains a true believer. “Currently in Sacramento, we’re rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” DeVore says in an interview before his Pomona Valley Mining Co. speech. “Many of California’s problems are becoming America’s problems. I can stand against this in Washington. Boxer is part of the problem we currently face.”
What distinguishes DeVore from other politicians is his unabashed nerdiness, one manifested not just in self-deprecating talk but with a mastery and embrace of modern technology that keeps him constantly wired to friends, enemies and anyone who wants to chat with him. His constant use of Twitter earned DeVore a January Wall Street Journal front-page article, complete with a pencil-point portrait illustration that DeVore used as his Facebook profile picture for months (he carries a copy of that article to show off at community lectures). He has blogged since 2004 (nowadays mostly for the Red County network and Big Hollywood, a website created by Matt Drudge disciple Andrew Breitbart to counter perceived entertainment-industry liberalism) against the advice of his staffers and others in the Republican Party.
“They say the Internet is forever and things I write could be used against me in the future. If Alexander Hamilton and Lincoln lived today, would they be using their technology to get their message across? Yes,” DeVore declares. “What are the Federalist Papers but the technological equivalent in the 1700s of the blogs?”
Such an embrace has spurred the national GOP to urge its members to make like the Democrats and use social-networking sites to spread their conservative gospel. DeVore even won an award from Twitter for the best political use of the medium.
But his Net notoriety is still mostly among the political chattering classes; what is currently garnering him national attention are two parody videos you can no longer legally see. Earlier this year, DeVore’s staff produced their own versions of two songs by former Eagles front man Don Henley: “All She Wants to Do Is Tax,” an ode to Boxer lampooning Henley’s “All She Wants to Do Is Dance,” and a remake of “The Boys of Summer” with new lyrics criticizing the Obama administration. The idea came while DeVore campaigned in the Bakersfield area and spotted a Toyota Prius with a fading Barack Obama sticker. “It reminded me of the line in Don’s song: ‘Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac.’ He’s known to be thin-skinned and is a very liberal individual who gives thousands of dollars to Democrats. I thought, ‘Let’s parody!’ If there’s anyone fun to pick a fight with, Henley would be fun to poke.”
DeVore published the “new” lyrics to “The Boys of Summer” on Big Hollywood and “All She Wants to Do Is Tax” on chuckdevore.com and YouTube. The video was only up for a couple of days before Henley’s lawyers sued DeVore for copyright infringement in California federal court. (The Weekly also received a notification from Henley’s lawyers to remove the latter video from our Navel Gazing blog; about this, DeVore Twittered, “Don Henley’s legal goons threaten a liberal weekly over their posting and mocking of my mockery, egads!”). DeVore’s reaction? “I high-fived a staffer,” he says. “We’re using his material to skewer him and the people who support him. And having a heck of a good time doing it!”
Recently, Henley’s attorney notified DeVore and offered a compromise: If he agreed to take down the lyrics, as well as all video and audio, and never do this again, Henley would drop his lawsuit. “This shows me it’s not about intellectual property; it’s that he’s a liberal and I’m a conservative,” DeVore retorts. “Our response: Damn the torpedoes! I’m going to fight to the last attorney! Not only no, but heck no, and I’m going to take it all away around to the Supreme Court if we have to.”
By press time, Henley’s attorney had not returned calls seeking comment for this story.
Attention-getting lawsuits are fine and all but don’t guarantee votes. For DeVore, who freely admits he can’t possibly raise enough funds to match Boxer (first quarter fund-raising reports showed DeVore raised only $132,000 to Boxer’s $4.6 million campaign chest), such frankness and low-level efforts, little by little, eventually can translate into a political movement. What turned DeVore on to the possibilities of technology to wage unconventional campaigns was a cable commercial filmed in 2002, when he lost a race for an Irvine City Council seat by about 150 votes. “I wanted to do an intro piece—you know, me, my wife, two daughters and dog introducing ourselves,” he recalls.