Just about everyone in California politics knows the name. He once was one of the state’s best known Republican political consultants, and more recently has been one of California’s most widely quoted analysts as director of USC’s Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics.
Now, Dan Schnur says he is "strongly considering" running for political office himself. He is interested in being California Secretary of State. If he does run, he will run as an independent.
Schnur, 50, argues the person who runs the state’s elections should be unaffiliated with either party. He uses a baseball analogy to say why that’s important.
"You don’t want the umpire wearing a Dodgers or Giants jersey," he says. "By the same token, you want the person in charge of the election process to be one who is not beholden to the Democrats or the Republicans."
Schnur’s ties to the Republican Party run deep. He got his start in politics as a volunteer for President Reagan’s 1984 re-election campaign. He went on to be chief spokesman for former Governor Pete Wilson and national director of communications for the 2000 presidential campaign of Arizona Senator John McCain.
He says he switched his registration to "No Party Preference" nearly three years ago to be a more credible advocate for campaign finance reform – another issue close to his heart.
"I’m not naive," Schnur says of the role of campaign cash. "I worked in politics for many years. But I hadn’t remembered money taking up so much time and being such a preoccupation."
In 2010, Governor Schwarzenegger appointed Schnur chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission. He served for about a year, and later launched a website called Fixing California.
He has proposed prohibiting state lawmakers from raising money when the legislature is in session, which is about eight months out of the year.
With the California GOP in disarray, Schnur may have a better chance running as an independent.
Schnur is well connected, having served as an advisor to the William & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Education Foundation, and the James Irvine Foundation. He estimates he'd need to raise at least $2.5 million to be competitive.
Other candidates for Secretary of State include Democratic State Senators Alex Padilla of Los Angeles and Leland Yee of San Francisco. Democrat Derek Cressman, former Vice President of Common Cause, and Republican Pete Peterson, who runs Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy, are also running.
The election is next June.
Correction: This story was updated on Dec. 22, 2013 to reflect the fact that Derek Cressman is also a candidate for secretary of state.