Jimmy Camp has always been a punk. An outcast. Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown–one of the most powerful Democrats in California history–even called him a “juvenile delinquent.” Now, you can hear his life story (or rather, a version of his life story condensed into about 43 minutes).
Earlier this month, Samantha Dunn–a novelist, journalist, Executive Editor of Coast Magazine, and Camp’s wife–interviewed Camp for StoryCorps, which has so far collected more than 400,000 oral histories. It’s a charming interview, full of political color, punk rock history, and examples of Camp’s lifelong “mischievous” nature.
For nearly three decades, Camp was one of the Orange County Republican Party’s best operatives. He grew up in West Virginia, then moved to the Bay Area with his family when he was a teenager. He was in high school when they moved again to Orange County. By then he was a punk-rock loving skateboarder who loved going to clubs like the Cuckoo’s Nest in Costa Mesa and Linda’s Doll Hut in Anaheim (the story of how Camp met Joe Strummer and later hung out with the rest of The Clash is one of those great only-in-LA things).
In 1988, through a connection from his mother, Camp went to work in 1988 making calls for OC GOP operative Lois Lundberg. His first campaign was the Anaheim Mayor’s race, making calls for $3.75 an hour. In just a few short years, he’d make history.
The Paul Horcher recall was probably his greatest triumph. When Republicans finally won a majority of the California Assembly in 1994 (by one vote), Horcher–who had always been a moderate–voted for Brown instead of Republican Jim Brulte. Camp was in the capitol when it happened, and immediately met with fellow OC operative Mike Schroeder to plan for Horcher’s recall. In his interview, Camp called it his “best” political memory.
“It was a big deal,” he said. “Paul Horcher was a turncoat Republican.”
The recall effort against Horcher was successful (and laid the groundwork for Curt “The Whitest Man Alive” Pringle to become Assembly Speaker in 1996), but it was also nasty. “It was hard fought,” Camp said in his StoryCorps interview. “Both sides. We were going through each others’ trash, stealing each others’ phone messages.” Had they been caught, Camp says now, they likely all would have gone to jail.
But that’s all in the past. In fact, Camp isn’t even a Republican anymore. Donald Trump’s nomination as the Republican presidential candidate killed it for him. “I cried,” Camp said of the day he realized that Trump’s nomination was assured. “This is it. The party is over.”
Not everything in the StoryCorps interview is hard-edged. Camp has a lot of amusing tales from his childhood, as well as the story of how he and Dunn first met. Click here to listen to the entire 43-minute StoryCorps interview.
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.