Los Angeles Magazine in a new piece up today calls Kevin James "the surprise of the mayor’s race." The story by Gabe Kahn says that while James still a long shot, "the lone Republican candidate has been holding his own against a trio of better-known and better funded political names." Well, holding his own is relative I guess. The story, though, is really about how candidate James has softened the kinds of things he used to say when he was a right-wing talk radio host. From the piece:
During his years as a host on KRLA and KABC, he pounded away on the need for a border fence to stem the “illegal immigration invasion,” mocked global warming as junk science, and railed against any local politician who dared consider raising taxes—for any reason.
That kind of talk still echoes frequently on KRLA, the station where James had a show from 2007 to 2011, and which features prominent conservative voices such as Denis Prager, Hugh Hewitt, and Michael Medved. The station is a part of Salem Communications, which bills itself as the leading purveyor of conservative and Christian radio content.
James concedes that his show might have been overly brash at first. “Part of it was for entertainment value, particularly in the early days,” he told me this week. “Once I got the audience then I was able to do community service.”
Riding the resentment and fear of immigrants, and saying things to keep the audience angry, has always been a big part of the play book on anger talk. James didn't shy away, according to Kahn, and staked out the far right of the immigration issue. But now, he wants to be seen as less scared.
He self-identifies as an “enforcement-first conservative,” and, ahead of the 2008 election, lamented that Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain was out of step and would “never be one of us when it comes to the illegal alien invasion of this country.”
Though illegal immigration was a mainstay of his early radio show, James now says he’s softened a bit on the topic. “There’s a learning process that takes place” on the campaign trail, he says, and that meeting with different communities in Los Angeles helped him understand the issue from “the other side.”
He also went through several training workshops with the advocacy group National Association of Latino Elected Officials, which helped him understand how “broken” immigration legislation was. “When you experience that, people who are working hard to follow our rules and come to this country, and see how insane some of the rules are and the roadblocks are, I think it does give you a sense of the frustration people feel when they want to come to our country,” he says.
Photo: Los Angeles