California punk rocker a staunch Republican operative
Jimmy Camp, a tattooed punk rocker with a history of drug abuse and theft, is one of California's most reliable Republican political operatives, according to a column in Tuesday's Orange County Register.
"Maybe it isn't uncommon for a rock musician to live on the streets of L.A. and San Francisco, to drink to excess, to take a lot of drugs, to rob people out of desperation, to get stabbed in a seedy hotel room, or to disappear for days while loved ones don't know whether you're dead or alive," writes Register columnist Frank Mickadeit. "But it is uncommon among Orange County's in-demand Republican political campaign managers. And that's what Camp is."
According to Mickadeit, Camp has led a life less conventional than that of most political operatives -- one laced with substance abuse and violent encounters. "Drinking heavily and doing drugs, he'd get into fights with the punk-hating surfers. He remembers waking up after one fight to discover he had a smashed eye socket," writes Mickadeit.
Camp is currently monitoring a recount in a supervisor race, but expects to work on Republican Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's California campaign.
While some might consider odd Camp's pairing of a punk rock lifestyle with conservative Republican politics, he isn't the first to do so. Johnny Ramone, the late guitarist for punk legends The Ramones, was known to be a devout Republican and supporter of President Bush. Ramone died of prostate cancer in 2004.
By 1988, he was ready to tone it down. He played in O.C. bands, but he'd stopped the drugs and cut back the booze. During this period, he scored a job working political phone banks for former O.C. Republican Chairwoman Lois Lundberg. He had no interest in politics. He'd never even voted. He took it strictly for the hours – the 5 p.m.- 9 p.m. shift let him play and party late and sleep all day. But something happened. He became a supervisor. Then Lundberg started farming him out to GOP campaigns around the state. He got hooked on politics.
"It's the sport of it. The adrenaline rush," he says. He went to closing down campaign offices as often as he closed down bars. And people like Schroeder, then chairman of the state Republican party, took notice.
"He's one of the great political gym rats," Schroeder says. "If you didn't stop him, he'd work deep into the night." And while unabashedly maintaining his rocker trappings – he still makes his raw, earthy music; he still has the tattoos he collected as a punker; you rarely see him in a suit.
"Some of the more conservative (politicos) are taken aback by the tattoos and leather jacket," Schroeder says, "but that goes away as soon as they realize how good he is at what he does."
LINK TO ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER COLUMN HERE