Bill & Hillary 2020 redux in Elk Grove?

During their 1992 campaign, then-candidate Bill Clinton was asked what role his wife Hillary Rodham-Clinton would have in his administration should he get elected. Clinton famously said Americans that voted for him would be getting a two for the price of one - himself and Hillary.

Critics, conservative Republicans, in particular, pounced. While the influences of spouses in politics has never been doubted - just like at the effect Nancy Reagan had on Ronald Reagan - it was usually done behind the scenes out of the public eye.

Bill and Hillary's acknowledgment of their power-sharing relationship was different and shocking. Many considered it gauche. 

Even though it is common for spouses or significant others to assist their partner in career and business matters, these actions are private matters. Politics, however, is a public endeavor, and it is still one area where people have much less comfort with a power-sharing couple or the perception that a couple might be in such an arrangement. 

Like so much that is different from 1992, that too is changing, and we have an example right here in Elk Grove.

First, in the City of Elk Grove's 20-year history, there have been two types of elected officials as it relates to the interaction of their spouse or significant others and the public. 

The first type of councilmember, which has been the majority through the years, could be described as seen on occasion but not heard. The spouse might show up at swearing-in ceremonies, occasionally be seen at social events, and even show up at a city council meeting on rare occasions if it was something the spousal involvement. 

An example of this was former Councilmember Sophia Scherman and her husband, Lee Scherman. They were involved in Veteran affairs, so when a matter related to this was on a city council agenda, Lee Scherman and several others in his Veterans group would appear at meetings.

Outside of this, Mr. Scherman, like other spouses, was primarily seen at charitable fundraising functions with his wife and was generally not heard in city matters. Politically, Councilmember Scherman was a stand-alone woman, independent from her spouse. 

On the other side of the spectrum as it relates to the visibility of spouses, are current and former city councilmembers, Stephanie Nguyen and Jim Cooper. How many people who follow local politics, more so the public at large, can name their spouses, much less identify them in a lineup?

Very few, if any, we suspect.

But in 2020, we have a new member of the Elk Grove City Council that may break the practices of having a spouse who is seen, on occasion, but not heard. This new power couple could be District 3 Councilmember Kevin Spease and his wife, Angela Spease.

For the last several years, the couple has maintained a high profile in the community through their various civic endeavors. Be it with the Rotary or Elk Grove Food Bank, they were often seen doing things jointly.

Indeed, after Kevin Spease was elected and changed his Facebook page to Councilmember Kevin Spease, at least four said congratulations to Kevin and Angela.

There is a perception with some social media friends, and more in the community at large, that the electoral victory belongs to Ms. Spease as much as it does to Mr. Spease. If they are sharing power, is it wrong?

Conversely, is this an acknowledgment by the public and friends that spouses have always had a significant influence on the political stances of their partners and the Speases are indeed equal partners in all aspects of their relationship like Bill and Hillary, so why not be open about the arrangement? You know, two for the price of one. 

Put another way, if you want to influence Mr. Spease on a matter before the city council, will you have as much success if you lobby Ms. Spease? Or, given Mr. Spease's open acknowledgment that Ms. Spease is the brains of the operation, maybe go directly to her first. 

That is a question that will be worth monitoring, especially if they continue to maintain their joint high-profile social media presence.

If the couple follows the Bill and Hillary path, it will be noteworthy to see how constituents react. Will local conservatives and Republicans who were probably apoplectic in 1992 with the Clintons were open about their power-sharing, blow a fuse if it becomes apparent Mr. and Ms. Spease are power-sharing? 

And for liberals and Democratic Party members who likely defended the 1992 Clintons, if the couple openly practices power-sharing and Ms. Spease has a prominent role in her husband's governance, will you come to their defense? After all, couple power-sharing is an equal opportunity for conservative Republicans like the Speases too.  

Either way, whether they realize it or not, Kevin and Angela might be setting a news power-sharing standard for the Elk Grove City Council.  Call it Billy and Hillary 2020 redux in Elk Grove.  

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Eye on Elk Grove said...

"The legitimate power of government begins and ends with the people." District 3 has a horrible track record when it comes to the first two white male Republicans to hold the seat with that statement.

In my opinion, both felt they owned the seat, could do exactly what they pleased and feed off of their self-aggrandized power. FPPC violations, felony real estate fraud charges, grand jury felony conflict of interest charges, special investigations, threatening citizens, asking for discounts at businesses around town and much more. You know, pulling the "Don't you know who I am" routine to get special treatment. God forbid one had to wait in line for a table at Leatherby's. Those damn kids can wait!

And let's not forget receiving large campaign donations, ski trips, bottles of wine and then championing donors special interest wants.

Kevin Spease says he is going to follow in his successor's footsteps. Let's hope not!

And the people must keep watch!

Eye on Elk Grove said...

Adding a line from The West Wing: When it comes to the previous District 3 council members, "The bar is so low, one could trip over it!"

D.J. Blutarsky said...

I'm confident The new "Class President" and "Homecoming Queen" will be sure to avoid the bad publicity their predecesors threw upon themselves. Besides primarily looking out for their Camden neighborhood, the dynamic duo will largely shine in the more private social gatherings of the Elk Grove elite on Friday and Saturday nights. And when the COVID restrictions are lifted and normal Council meetings resume, I propose the City staff order them a wide leather chair built for-two, and give them a name plate that reads "Councilmembers Angela and Kevin Spease.

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