Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, whose term expires at the end of this year, has decided not to run for State Senate, a move that many expected to be the next rung up the ladder of his political career.
Citing a desire to be there for his children’s milestones, Smyth said that he plans to focus his energies on working with his colleagues in Sacramento for the next year and find some resolution to the state’s budget problems.
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“I am choosing not to run,” Smyth said. “First of all, I’ve had an amazing run in these last dozen years, both in City Hall and here in the Capitol, but after talking with my family and friends, we just felt it wasn’t the right time and it wasn’t the right seat.”
Asked if he was looking at another office, perhaps in Washington D.C., Smyth demurred.
“Certainly we will consider other opportunities that will come up in the future,” he said. “I couldn’t commit my family to another four years of this lifestyle.”
The recent passing of his father, Clyde Smyth, who was a former mayor of Santa Clarita and Hart District superintendent, must have weighed in on the decision. Reminiscing about his younger days, Cameron said that his father’s presence at sports practice or on his school campus made a huge difference in his approach to life. He also made a bittersweet note of his father’s required absence at family dinners when meetings or other commitments won out.
Cameron and Lena Smyth have three children; two boys who are of elementary school age and a younger daughter.
“It’s the time away,” he continued. “It’s the milestones in your kids’ lives that you miss. When I was first elected, my boys were still very young and they were able to come up (to Sacramento) every month, and that made it easier. Now they’re both in school and we have another child and it’s different.
“My kids are at an age where they think I’m cool and they want me to be around and I don’t want to miss that,” he said. “I joke that maybe I’ll run when they’re in high school and come back when they’re in college.”
All kidding aside, Smyth said that he never saw himself as a lifelong politician.
“I’m a conservative at heart and never expected to spend my entire career chasing a government paycheck, so I’m not afraid of going back to the private sector when I term out at the end of the year.”
He acknowledged what the rest of the voting public always wonders about during election years – how candidates divide their time between completing the service they were elected to do and ensuring that they would be there the next term.
“I’m going to spend the rest of my term working with my colleagues in the legislature and the Governor trying to turn this state around without worrying about an election campaign. It gives me the ability to focus all my efforts on policy.”
Whether it’s a seat in the Assembly or the Senate, Smyth said that anyone thinking of running for office needs to be well-rounded.
“What I found when I was first elected was the breadth of policies that you must deal with here in California is greater than you can imagine, so it’s important to have someone who can hit the ground running. Even in my situation of holding elected office, working in the legislature, working in the private sector, even with that breadth of knowledge my learning curve was nearly vertical.
“In this era of term limits, you don’t have time to get up to speed,” he continued. “You’ll be making major policy decisions within the first couple of months of your swearing-in. It’s important to have someone with that breadth of experience so they can be effective as quickly as possible.”
Now that the decision has been made, Smyth sounded relieved.
“I’ve had a great run, probably better than I deserved, and I certainly have enjoyed every minute of it. If the opportunity comes back I’ll consider it, but for now, my plan is just to come back home and reacquaint myself with my family.”