According to the Great Mentioner, an indispensable journalistic source discovered by The New York Times's Russell Baker, a number of politically promising entrepreneurs are currently being mentioned as likely candidates for high office.
Colorado seems to be producing the lion's share of them. Republican Steve Schuck, a successful land developer, has announced his candidacy for governor; while Jake Jabs, another Republican entrepreneur, is trying to beat a deadline rule in filing for the U.S. Senate race. These are memorable names, but the Democrats have one, too: Frank Shorter, the Olympic marathon great who parlayed his athletic fame into a lucrative apparel business and who is now thinking of turning it to political use in a run for governor. Other entrepreneurs being mentioned are: real estate developer Terry Considine, for U.S. Senate or state treasurer; office supply magnate Lloyd Lewan, for the First Congressional seat; and consulting firm founder Hal Krause, for the Fifth Congressional seat. All are Republicans. Not to be outdone, the Democrats may field Louise Vigoda, founder of Hera Investment & Management Co., in the Sixth Congressional District, and Mike Driver, another real estate developer, in the race for the governorship.
Arguably the richest of the entrepreneurs rumored to be seeking political office this past summer was Republican William Farley of Illinois, who is supposed to be "thinking about" a race against incumbent Senator Alan J. Dixon in 1986. Farley is founder and chief executive officer of Farley Industries, which acquired Northwest Industries Inc. for $1.4 billion. But if Illinois seems an improbable state to spawn a superrich "mentionable," Texas is a highly probable one. Two Republican entrepreneurs are said to be considering bids for office: Rob Mosbacher, a Houston oil operator; and Bill Clements, founder of Sedco Inc.
In California, two glamorous entrepreneurial names are being talked about by the G.M. On the Republican side, it is Arthur Laffer, whose famous curve stimulated the new concern for entrepreneurial endeavors: He will try to win his party's approval for a race against Sen. Alan Cranston in 1986. On the Democratic side, it is the co-founder and chairman of ASK Computer Systems Inc., Sandy Kurtzig. When not mentioning her as a good friend of former Governor Jerry Brown, the G.M. has talked about her as a replacement for Ed Zschau.
INC.'s negligible sample of the G.M.'s gossip seems to show that real estate offers the best soil for political ambition. The explanation, says Washington State Republican Party spokesman Brett Bader, lies in two circumstances: First, there is a lot of money being made in real estate. Second, few businesspeople acquire a more intimate, not to say frustrating, experience of governmental red tape, and may be moved to change it. But there are plenty of other business callings that turn up in the G.M.'s chatter: two restaurateurs (Republicans Larry Etheridge of North Carolina and Bob Martinez of Florida), the explosives business (Utah Republican Merrill Cook, who is running for mayor of Salt Lake City), the securities business (Francis "Bud" Mullen, Republican of Connecticut), and fund-raising (Utah's Dave Watson, a Democrat).
Beyond that, there is almost universal applause for the idea of entrepreneurs in politics -- although not always universal success in bringing them out. Colorado's Republican Committee Spokesperson, for instance, enthused: "It's the thing out here: Everybody wants an entrepreneur!" Colorado is getting them. But in Washington State, as Brett Bader sadly reports, "We'd love to have 'em, but they're all tending to business."