Edward Colton believes his more than three decades of experience dissecting the complexities of the business world give him the unique opportunity to help the state address its financial issues.
He brings a loaded resume into the candidate field in lieu of overwhelming monetary support and the official backing of the Republican Party (that's gone to Donna Lowe of Claremont). Among the highlights of his online-available resume are his roles as president and CEO of Alpha Therapeutic Corporation, an international biological company. He was also the tax and finance coordinator and senior tax counsel for ARCO as well as the foreign tax administrator for Baker International, both Fortune 500 companies. He also has a Juris Doctorate from Southwestern University School of Law and an MBA from USC.
He came up as an "inner city kid" in Los Angeles after his family moved there from New Orleans, where he was born. His father fought in World War II and died in the Korean War. He considers himself a "centralist Republican. I stand on the side of fiscal responsibility. I'm conservative, and thoughtful, and I look at all the issues and make a decision based upon my background and skill set."
Patch interviewed Colton as part of a series of candidate profiles.
The below interview has been edited for length.
What made you want to run for Assembly?
Our state economy needs to be righted. We need to have the right kind of people who are going to be up there who know what they're doing to get us through this economic mess. I've been an executive and a businessman for the last 30-plus years, and I have never run for office. So I looked at the candidates, and I was hoping that there would be a candidate out there that had what I would call the skill set to really take on this job. I just evaluated the candidates across the board and said "Oh my god.' We're going to be doing the same thing the same way, which is the definition of insanity, and expecting a different result.
You've talked about the strength of your background in comparison to other candidates. What is it about your background that gives you the edge over all of them?
I did not see one candidate who had the skill sets, in my opinion, to get into the nuts and bolts of the state's economic problems. My background is in finance, economics, accounting, tax and law. There's not one candidate who comes close to having my skill set to be applied up in Sacramento. In fact, it's just the opposite. We have environmental law attorneys, one who pretends they're a business person (Rusnak). We have Holden, who … I can't figure out what kind of business background he has. He's been a social justice type of guy in Pasadena, a city I have lived in for 29 years. And Donna Lowe, who is the Republican but has the extreme view of the Tea Party, which I think is not going to bode well … it's not going to have the reception in Sacramento that one would hope to have. I think the Republican Party has to realize that we may not be a factor if we keep functioning the way we are functioning and bringing on a very strong far-right individual. The state is just not that type of state. She has no college degree whatsoever, and I can't believe the Republican Party would put someone in that position ... I've been battle-tested. I've been before boards and shareholders, I've been the general counsel for a large pharmaceutical company … I could go on and on, but I'm the most qualified person for the state. My problem is that I don't have the recognition that I need in politics.
Casual voters might see you as an underdog. Other candidates have more money and endorsements. Do you see yourself that way?
Sure! But I'll tell you this … I have asked to go head-to-head in a debate with Donna Lowe, and her campaign chairman said no. I would be happy to go head-to-head with any of the other candidates in any kind of real debate, any kind of real forum, as opposed to these ridiculous forums where you get up there and have to talk about everything you're going to do, your entire background, in one minute. That doesn't connotate to me connecting to the people. Now if I spend as much time as I'm spending with you talking to somebody, I've got them. I've got them locked up. Some people have said I come across as a little too aloof … I'm not really trying to do that, I'm just trying to communicate my skills, and the only way to do that is through talking.
Looking over the state's issues, what are some you'd want to tackle immediately?
No one is talking about how to bring companies to California. They don't care. Their focus is how to cut the budget, how to cut costs, how to be more efficient -- and I am too, don't get me wrong -- but the opposite side of expense is revenue, and once you have the revenue, you have a little bit more flexibility as to what you can do. I am against cutting from education. I think education needs to be reorganized … the administrations at the county level and state level need to be consolidated. I think that the biggest problem facing California right now that no one seems to be pushing on because it's an election year, is that pension plans are breaking every school district, every city, every county and every state. It's the most obvious thing .. people are talking about it and saying 'this is what we should do', but no one's doing anything. It's the most obvious thing to go after, but people are sitting on it because it's politics.
You're also being known as a political outsider. How do you think that either helps, or possibly hinders, your campaign in the eyes of the voters?
It hinders me because my own political party doesn't accept me. I came too late to the party. Their process for selecting their candidate started very early this year. I didn't throw my hat into the ring until March. By that time, they had already in effect determined which candidate to support on the Republican side, which was Donna Lowe. That happened to me when we had our district Republican meeting. The purpose of my being there was to present myself, and Donna was going to present herself … before I even said one word, the people there already said they'd support the other person. But in San Bernardino County, I was allowed five minutes to speak as opposed to two. And I blocked her. She did not get endorsed. I had only got my papers the day before. I have heard over and over that had I started earlier, there'd be no question the Republican Party would be behind me. There are now Republicans who see me and know me who are turning in my direction.
On the other side of the coin, I think the citizens who are voting are not happy with the situation in California. No one should be happy with the Legislature. On both sides of the aisle they have failed our state for a long, long time. As an outsider, I think people are looking for a freshness of someone who hasn't been part of the system, hasn't been part of a political party and yet has the skills that make a lot of sense and can be focused on the issues we need to focus on in the state. I can chew up and evaluate the entire pension plan. I've actually helped create pension and medical plan benefits for my respective companies. I really believe I can help this state.
What are some of the things you would do with an Assembly seat?
When I get up there, I would provide quarterly reports to the constituents of my district to tell them economically, financially … whatever they want, as to what's really going on with the state of California. I will work very closely with the Legislative office and with the Stanford Institute for Economic Planning. I'd work with those two bodies right there to get the ship right and present the data correctly, to show what the real numbers are. I'll do that independent of my own party if I have to, because I know the numbers (Gov. Jerry) Brown's using are not correct.