By 2003, my radio career had taken somewhat of a bizarre turn. I had become firmly entrenched as the street reporter, stunt guy and all-around sidekick on Rick Dees In the Morning on KIIS-FM 102.7 in Los Angeles. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be working with this peachy, clean, all-American, family radio man, but here I was nearly two years into the gig on a top-rated Los Angeles morning radio show. Amazingly, Rick and I got along pretty well. My job was to pound the streets in search of the hottest topics and figure out creative ways to present them on the air.
In mid-July, the flavor of the moment was the Kobe Bryant sexual-assault trial. I was dispatched to Eagle, Colorado, for a couple of weeks to cover it. My job was to attend the hearings, dig up stories and do daily phone-in reports with Rick. Suddenly, on the day of my return to SoCal, another story became even hotter.
At the time, numerous people had put together a petition to recall Governor Gray Davis. They had enough signatures to submit it to a vote. The date of the recall election was set for Oct. 7. In addition to my position with KIIS-FM, I was airing the local TV show Poorman’s Bikini Beach on KTLA/Channel 5. The show’s producer phoned me in Eagle, prior to my flight home on a Thursday evening, and said his company was getting together a petition to nominate me as a candidate for the next governor of the state of California in the recall election. They did this without even consulting me. Suddenly, I’m a candidate for governor. We had two days to get the 100 signatures necessary to qualify my name for inclusion on the ballot. Seemed pretty simple, right? Wrong! I flew home that night excited about the possibilities—and unfortunately clueless about how complicated the process really was.
Friday morning arrived, and Rick had me in studio with him, co-host Ellen K (now the morning-show host on KOST-FM 103.5) and producer Paul Joseph. Rick was thrilled I was running for governor. We discussed on air my competition: Arnold Schwarzenegger, then-Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, actor Gary Coleman, porn star Mary Carey, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, Huffington Post chairwoman Arianna Huffington, LA billboard model Angelyne, etc., etc., etc. In all, there would be 159 candidates. Rick had big promotional plans for me, and I was ready. I had no political platform, but who cares? More important, I thought this would be huge for my career, and we could milk this for a few months. “Poorman for Governor”? Yeah! So what if I only had one day left to get 100 signatures? How hard could that be?
I left the KIIS-FM studios brimming with confidence. It was time to collect those signatures; the deadline was the next day at 5 p.m. Things started going wrong almost immediately. The producer and his company, who were so gung-ho on nominating me, were suddenly unavailable to help. They were all “busy.” I was left on my own to make it happen. Mind you, I had never run for political office in my life. I had no ambition to do so and knew nothing about politics or, it would turn out, signature collecting.
I was left with no choice but to go it alone. My first stop was a restaurant in nearby Burbank. It took me more than two hours to collect 20 signatures and corresponding addresses. My next move was to head to the friendly confines of my home base in Orange County. For sure, I’d have better luck there. Umm, not quite. I spent about nine hours on the streets near my home in Newport, and after dark, I visited several bars. A lot of people were turning me down, many of them drunk. By the time the bars closed, I still needed another 40 signatures.
Saturday, 10 a.m.: I was desperate, actually sweating. There were only seven hours until the deadline. I ran into my neighbor from across the street whom I barely knew. Mark Norton of Newport Beach decided to help me. “I remember Poorman walking up to my balcony in Newport and asking if I’d sign his petition to be on the ballot for governor,” he recalls. “I said, ‘yes,’ signed it and said I’d help him get more signatures. It was a good lesson in democracy. I also remember that Poorman had no political platform.”
Mark and I spent the next four hours walking around Newport, and we successfully collected the remaining 40 signatures. I thanked him, hopped in my car with the completed petition and sped off to the Registrar of Voters in Santa Ana.
I walked up to the window about 3 p.m. and presented my petition, complete with 100 signatures and addresses. The lady’s reaction was like a slap in the face. Unbeknownst to me, the 100 signatures needed to be from the same political party as mine. She explained that 21 of them were from a different party. Additionally, the people who signed my petition needed their current addresses to match their addresses when they registered to vote; there were 12 addresses that didn’t match. I needed 33 new signatures and addresses with fewer than two hours remaining before the deadline. Basically, I was screwed. I failed to get my name on the ballot.
When I walked into the studio the following Monday morning, I received an icy reception. Suddenly, there was no more discussion about my run for governor, since I wasn’t going to be on the ballot. I did sign up correctly to be a write-in candidate about a week later and got sworn in. It wasn’t the same, since the only way someone could vote for me was to write my name on the ballot. I did receive a bit of publicity with CBS News locally during a Rick Dees live remote broadcast. There was also a Fox-affiliate morning-show interview in San Diego, and of course, we did shoot a “Poorman for Governor” special on Poorman’s Bikini Beach.
And now, what you’ve been waiting for: THE ELECTION RESULTS! There were 159 candidates. Most were on the Oct. 7 recall ballot, but there were a few write-in candidates like me. Gray Davis was successfully voted out of office. And the new governor of California was Schwarzenegger with 4,206,284 votes. Tied for 145th place was Jim “Poorman” Trenton . . . with three votes. Yes, I received a grand total of three write-in votes. The three votes were mine, my mother’s and Mark’s. This election effectively ended my political career, and I have no regrets.
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When Poorman doesn’t have his feet in the sand, you can find him on the air Monday-Friday 7am-10am at KOCI hosting Poorman’s Morning Rush – Orange County’s only morning drive show. His show brings plenty of excitement, and of course, the Poorman’s aura of unpredictability – both good and bad – that has defined his legend! Email Jim “Poorman” Trenton at email@example.com to request a song or submit music.