Congressman Bono speaks to local Republicans

April 26, 1997


Staff Writer

Sonny Bono, the pop icon and now U.S. Representative from California, didn't sing "I Got You Babe" at the Washington County Republican Central Committee's annual Lincoln Dinner Friday night.

Instead, he told the crowd of about 200 about his crossover from entertainment to politics and his quest to fight bureaucracy.

Few seemed disappointed.

"He's a much better politician than he was a singer," said George Kendall. "I think he's a brilliant man but he's a lousy entertainer."


"I'm glad he didn't sing," said Howard Wiley of Williamsport.

Others had more praise for Bono's talents.

"I used to ride up and down Dual Highway in a '58 Chevy listening to him on the radio," remembered Mike Sponseller of Frederick, Md. "I'm looking forward to hearing him."

State Sen. Don Munson, R-Washington/Allegany, introduced Bono. "When I was a teenager, I used to listen to his music all the time and I know everybody else here did, too," Munson said.

"I've been called a lot of things but I think that's the first time somebody called me a good singer," Bono said.

Bono made fun of his "umpteen" appearances on "Fantasy Island" as a guest star and dismissed his former wife and costar Cher.

Bono said he probably would have stayed in entertainment until "that woman that I used to sing with ruined everything. Much to my surprise I was out of a job and I wasn't on television every week."

"I am a congressman but I am not a politician," he said. "I'm just a guy. I'm not a guy who planned to be in politics."

Bono said he decided to enter politics after dealing with the bureaucracy of Palm Springs, Calif., when trying to get a permit for a restaurant sign and to fix up his house.

"The way bureaucracy works is you can't do anything unless that bureaucracy says `You can do that.'"

After months of waiting for the permits, Bono told a bureaucrat to forget the permits. "I said `I'm going to run for mayor and fire you,'" he said. So he did.

Bono said as mayor he felt constrained by county, state and federal governments and wanted to run for higher office to try and cut down on the unfunded mandates and other burdens placed on local governments.

"That was the biggest joke in California," Bono said. "Sonny Bono running for Senate." But Bono said he was serious. "It's hard to have to be a joke all the time," he said. Finally, he was successful in his bid to become a representative.

"The Constitution has never been more threatened than it is now," Bono said. Bono criticized the Clinton administration's scandals and the "I don't know" responses from the administration to congressional inquiries.

After the speech, audience members said they liked Bono.

"I wish there were more people who felt the way he does. He's doing a job from the heart," said Charlotte Paxton.

Washington County Commissioner John S. Shank was indifferent before the speech. "I don't get excited by these movie stars turned politicians," he said.

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