Phil Wyman never saw an election he didn’t think he could win. More than a few times over four decades, he did. The former state legislator, frequent political candidate and relentless conservative has died.
Phil Wyman never saw an election he didn’t think he could win. And, more than a few times over four decades, he did.
The former state legislator, frequent political candidate and relentless conservative died Friday at age 74, according to his sonin-law, Clint Beacom.
The longtime Tehachapi resident represented portions of the Antelope Valley during his 18 years in the legislature, first as a state Assemblyman from 1978 to 1992, then as a state Senator from 1993 to 1994 and, in something of a comeback, again in the state Assembly from 2000 to 2002.
“Phil was always proud to be (first) elected in 1978, when a good number of conservative assemblymen were elected,” said friend Paul Stine, who served on Wyman’s staff in 1994 when he was a state senator. “They called themselves Prop. 13 babies.”
Wyman ran for state or national office at least 19 times, winning nine — including eight elections in a row at one point early in his career — and losing 10
— including his last six in a row.
Wyman sought political office as recently as three years ago, running in 2016 for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Barbara Boxer. In the June 7 primary, Wyman came in fourth in the overall field, with 247,397 total votes, and thus was the second highest-performing Republican in the field. George “Duf” Sundheim was the top Republican finisher, but he lost to Democrat Kamala Harris that November.
“He believed in what he did and was extremely passionate about it,” Beacom said. “He spent almost nothing and gained mass support throughout the state. He did it because he believed in something.
“He connected people. He didn’t care about their politics. This is why he gained so much support from African Americans and Hispanic farm workers. For a Republican to do that, he was special.”
Wyman ran for the assembly seat vacated by Kevin McCarthy in 2006, facing political newcomers
Jean Fuller and Stan Ellis. He based his candidacy on what he viewed as the No. 1 problem on the minds of voters — illegal immigration. His plan: Create a new state border police force. Fuller won the seat.
As an assemblyman, Wyman got a lot of publicity for backing the claim of some religious conservatives that satanic messages could be heard by playing rock music records backward.
Wyman had legislative achievements to tout despite the fact that his tenure in the Assembly, and briefly in the state Senate, was spent under Democratic control.
He helped pass legislation to require parental notification of teenage abortions, although it was thrown out by the courts and was later rejected by voters.
A big solo legislative accomplishment was his sponsorship of the 1994 law that allows public schools to require students to wear uniforms.
Wyman claimed a large share of credit for passage of a three strikes bill in 1994, although some say his role was largely perfunctory because an identical initiative was already headed for the ballot and passed overwhelmingly.
In 1978 former Gov. George Duekmejian chose Wyman to write legislation reauthorizing the death penalty, according to Stine. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it, but Duekmejian led an effort to override Brown’s veto.
After three decades of incessant campaigns, Wyman developed a love-hate relationship with the Republican Party. He retained a reservoir of fiercely loyal supporters among hardcore conservatives in Kern County.
Outside the county, however, Wyman was able to gather just a handful of outside endorsements from law enforcement and gun-owner groups and a few former state officials.
“Wyman was a smart, wily, conservative maverick who made unforgettable headlines while serving many years in both the Assembly and State Senate,” Bakersfield attorney Brandon Martin wrote in a Facebook post.
Away from politics, Wyman was a rancher and camp operator. He was divorced, with three children.
Wood Family Funeral Service of Tehachapi said Wyman’s obituary and service times would be announced at a later time. In the meantime, condolences can be sent to woodmortuary.net.