From Halls of Ivy to Halls of Government?

Political Science Professor Sandy Muir Runs for Assembly Seat

by Fernando Quintero

Political science professor and Republican candidate for the state Assembly William "Sandy" Muir has been a White House speech writer for Vice President George Bush, an attorney and a consultant to the Oakland Police Department.

His books have been about politics, law, a presidency and the police.

"Nearly every book I've written has been about an institution I worked in," said Muir about his decision to run for office.

"I was doing a book on democracy, and the interplay between good politics and good government.

"I hit the middle part of the book and realized, 'I don't know what the heck I'm talking about.'"

Although running for office will get Muir closer to his subject matter, if we wins he said he will retire from teaching after the fall term.

Asked whether there was a conflict of interest between politics and academia, Muir said he is known as a conservative on campus.

"In political science, we show our biases and try to invoke disagreement," he said.

As to whether his political aspirations conflict with his teaching schedule, Muir said he is teaching only one class this semester.

"Any amateur politician tries his best to strike a balance between his regular full-time job and entry into politics," he said.

"It's not unusual, but you do worry about it."

Muir said he wants to represent the Berkeley-based, heavily Democratic 14th Assembly District because he believes he has the knowledge and leadership needed to address the many complex problems facing the state.

He faces a host of other candidates including Republican Samuel Wallace of Oakland; Democrats Dione Aroner of Oakland, Robert Cheasty of Albany, Mark Friedman of Berkeley, Jim Rogers of Oakland and Carla Woodworth of Berkeley; Hank Chapot of Oakland, a Green Party member; and Viola Beeson of Berkeley of the Natural Law Party.

In sharp contrast to long-time incumbent Tom Bates, the liberal Democrat who must give up his seat because of term limits, Muir's politics are decidedly conservative, with a bit of Berkeley liberalism thrown in.

Muir wants to abolish welfare and affirmative action programs, but he supports stricter gun control laws and a woman's right to choose.

"The overarching reason I'm running is to push welfare reform," said Muir, who teaches a class on prosperity and misery in America, among other subjects.

"We have a system that encourages people not to work. Since 1980, the number of families on AFDC has doubled. We've let that program grow and proliferate.

"People are beginning to recognize the perverse incentives for welfare; to have a child out of wedlock to qualify.

"And once you're on it, it's equivalent to a 40-hour job at nearly $11 an hour," he said.

"Whenever you see the welfare population double during the most prosperous time in California history, you know something has to be wrong."

Muir suggests that California abolish welfare and adopt a system similar to one in Wisconsin, where needy people are given jobs in the private sector or in civil service.

Muir, winner of the Distinguished Teacher Award in 1974, has taught at Berkeley since 1968.

He graduated Magna cum Laude from Yale in 1954 and was struck with polio the following year on his first day in the army.

He later attended Michigan Law School and received his PhD from Yale.

Muir said he strongly supports equal access to higher education, but a higher priority is improving primary and secondary education. He said California schools, generally speaking, are succeeding under challenging circumstances, with SAT scores in the state higher than ever and dropout rates falling.

"Still, too many schools are terrible: no art, no music, no newspaper, no trust.

"They seem to be like leper colonies," he said.

"We need to target these schools and turn things around."

Regarding crime, Muir said the Legislature must pay more attention to it.

"The California Legislature is the finest in the world. It works.

"One problem not being addressed by the state Legislature is violent crime.

"Instead, the issue has been taken up by the public in the initiative process," said Muir.

"The Legislature can bring the best people in the world to talk about violent crime and come up with solutions."

As a short-term solution to growing violence, Muir supports more control over weapons.

He endorses the California Police Chiefs Association's proposals to have mandatory registration of all firearms, mandatory licensing, prohibition of all military style assault weapons, severe restrictions on carrying concealed weapons and mandatory destruction of weapons seized.

On abortion, Muir said to abort or not is a moral dilemma to be thoughtfully considered by the individual woman involved, not by her government.


Copyright 1996, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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