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Gallagher – Will he be a smashing governor

USF student No. 14059 once let a pack of pigs run wild across campus to protest the university’s food service. It was during the mid-1960s amid sit-ins and love-ins and before students were identified by social security numbers.

The student parked a trailer loaded with a dozen pigs on campus and let them loose near the Phyllis P. Marshall Center and called it a “pig-in.”

The student, Leo Gallagher, a stand-up comic known for smashing watermelons with his “Sledge-o-Matic”, is now running for governor in California.

Gallagher, a USF alumnus, is among 135 candidates who will appear on the California recall ballot Oct. 7.

The state’s $38-billion deficit resulted in a petition with more than 1.3 million signatures to recall Gov. Gray Davis-D. It has been called a “carnival” race and includes candidates such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor Gary Coleman and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt.

Gallagher said the candidates with celebrity status are running for the publicity, but even he admits he wants the attention.

“If the world is going to be so silly to consider celebrities as viable candidates then why shouldn’t I run? Of course they’re not going to make me governor, but it allows me to promote my ideas. I’m 100 percent serious about my platform,” Gallagher said.

Those ideas include singing the national anthem in Spanish, writing obituaries for dead businesses and not talking loudly on cell phones.

Gallagher said he got in the race after he saw the amount of attention Schwarzenegger got in response to his announced candidacy.

“We’re using the media and celebrity status. Why else would Arnold run for governor? I don’t think they’d even elect him for president of a college,” Gallagher said.

California’s budget crisis, Gallagher said, started with the blackouts in 2001. Those blackouts effected up to 75,000 customers in one incident, according to the Associated Press.

“How much would you pay to keep your hospital running? Just look at what it did for businesses in the Northeast. Electricity makes you a hostage,” Gallagher said.

But false claims of workman’s comp and corporate business scandals kept California’s budget sinking, Gallagher said.

“It’s because of selfish, lazy people who have fake claims of workman’s comp. We were extorted No. 1 by Enron,” Gallagher said.

In 2002, federal energy regulators learned that Enron traders increased power prices during California’s energy crisis, according to the AP. Enron’s accounting practices are what eventually drove the company into bankruptcy.

Gallagher added that unemployment contributes to a declining budget for all of America.

“The loss of jobs in the Midwest with Maytag shows that businesses are just as selfish as the citizens of California,” Gallagher said.

In July, a Maytag factory in Galesburg, Ill. was planning to close, while Ralph Hake, chief executive of Maytag, said the company would need to cut about 510 jobs this year to save the company $20 million, according to the Des Moines Register.

“It’s like mosquitoes sucking on a cow. Each mosquito doesn’t think it’s going to do any harm, but as a whole, they suck the fatted calf dry,” Gallagher said.

“California is established like Florida. If people are losing jobs they’re not going on vacation. We don’t seem to have a plan or a strategy,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher plans to take his interest in politics a step up: president in 2004.

“I already ran an ad in the Cedar Rapids Gazette. I listed the ad in the horoscopes under Leo, saying I should be leader. I’ve also announced it on WGN and MSNBC. It’s all, again, to get publicity for these ideas,” Gallagher said.

During Gallagher’s USF days he often used practical jokes, such as the “pig-in”, as ways to gain attention. Gallagher said the main reason behind letting the pigs loose on campus was to protest the food contract provider, Morrison’s.

“One of the board members on the Board of Regents was in the Morrison’s business, so we could see the favoritism there,” Gallagher said.

From 1964-69 Gallagher studied at USF, changing his major from chemical engineering to English literature to avoid the draft. He worked part time as a chemist at Keiser Aluminum Plant and also as an assistant for the physical education chairman to pay for tuition.

“I was signed up as a night student so I could work and so I didn’t have to have an advisor to try to make sense of … (my) education,” Gallagher said.

After he graduated from USF, he got a job working at a chemical plant in Chicago but was later fired.

It was then that Gallagher came up with the idea of the Sledge-o-Matic. The routine became his signature comedy act, where he smashes food, most notably watermelon.

“I was watching a Veg-o-Matic infomercial one night and came up with the routine and sent it to George Carlin and Albert Brooks. When they didn’t hire me as a writer, I thought I’d do it myself. The first routine I thought of was probably the best routine ever written,” Gallagher said.