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Vote SpongeBob SquarePants for California Governor

Democrats need not panic over the runaway train that is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s candidacy for the California governorship. They need only to borrow a page from Hollywood and field their own media-friendly candidate.

So here, forthwith, a list of nominees for the Democratic nod:

Ronald McDonald. Name recognition, Q ratings and positive feedback off the charts. On the financial side, the McDonald’s corporation might retire the state’s crippling debt load in exchange for marketing and promotional considerations. The state’s freeways could be dubbed the “FryWays,” and the Chicken McNugget could be christened as the state bird. And think of the benefits of chad-free Drive-Thru Voting.

The Olsen Twins. Elect one governor, get one free. Sure, their demographics skew below the legal voting age, but a statewide referendum to lower the voting age to 13 and a half would be the coolest ballot initiative ever!

Jed Bartlett. Okay, he’s a fictional character, and might have difficulty relating to the everyday pains and problems of state voters. But name one elected official, inside or outside California, who has shown more empathy for voters, real or imagined? Bartlett is better than an ideal candidate — he’s an idealized candidate. And in a state that prizes direct democracy, he’d hold the distinction of being the first governor to serve via remote control.

Pamela Anderson. While reporters, lobbyists, pundits and backroom politicos duke it out over the nitty-gritty details of state business, Californians could debate the relative merits of Governor Anderson’s latest peek-a-boo dress and hold referendums on whom she should escort to the annual Halloween Bash. She might not understand environmental policy, but she will certainly create a friendlier environment — and that counts for plenty.

SpongeBob SquarePants. This lovable, wisecracking animated porifera will be an icon of good cheer and unflappable optimism, qualities sorely needed given California’s history of natural disasters, car insurance fraud and runaway illegal immigration. That Mr. SquarePants is two-dimensional can’t really hurt — that’s one dimension more than Jesse Ventura and Al Gore.

Wolfgang Puck. The popular restaurateur will rechristen the Democratic Party “The Pizza Party.” Everyone loves pizza. Who’s voting against pizza? Any backlash from lactose-intolerant voters can easily be dismissed by attacking them for their intolerance. Undemocratic, sure, but it will confuse the issue enough to neutralize it by Election Day.

Anthony Robbins. The self-empowerment guru will end all the crying and whining about high taxes, unemployment and the unfairness of breaking into the film industry. Campaign promise: He’ll eliminate all negative thinking by 2005 — or you don’t pay any state income tax.

1965 Shelby GT-350 Mustang. One of the most famous muscle cars in American motoring history. California is the ultimate car state, and no candidate better symbolizes the qualities of the open road, freedom, hard work, sportiness and ingenuity than this amazing pony car. Maybe it will have a hard time making decisions about boring old agricultural legislation, but that’s what handlers are for. And hey, that kind of thing never stopped Ronald Reagan, the original hard-bodied California classic.

Carbon. Number 6 in the periodic table — or “C”, as it’s known to its brother and sister elements — Carbon is the basic building block of life on Earth. Without carbon, there would be no gasoline, no barbecued chicken, no diamonds, no pencils, no stars up in the sky. Carbon is life itself — now there’s a campaign platform. Plus, the symbol “C” will look wonderful plastered across posters and billboards. Carbon: It’s a Natural!

Bruce Stockler, a media-relations consultant and humorist, is the author of “I Sleep At Red Lights: A True Story of Life After Triplets” (St. Martin’s Press).

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