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Interview With Mike Carona

Aired July 9, 2003 - 20:45   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: The recall is on the front burner, but California politicians are also focused on the regular election cycles, planning races for 2004, even 2006. That's right, it's never too early to recruit a good candidate. And some people think Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona is worth a look for higher office. He became a fixture on state and national television last summer while helping hunt down a child killer in the Samantha Runnion case.

SHERIFF MIKE CARONA, ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: We will hunt you down wherever you are, arrest you, and bring you to justice. If you thought for one minute that I was joking, that we were joking, tonight you know we were deadly serious.


ZAHN: Sheriff Mike Carona joins me now. It's just so chilling to be reminded of the role you played in that case. And I guess I think of the dozens and dozens of years I've been doing this, I've never seen a public official have the comfort level you had in so emotionally reacting to this case.

CARONA: You know, Paula, for all of us who were in the command post when we saw the pictures of Samantha's body, the vast majority of us in there were parents, so the reaction wasn't just from a law enforcement perspective anymore. Samantha became our little girl. And everybody was committed to making sure that we tracked down her killer. Fortunately, there was a lot of emotion behind that, too.

ZAHN: You have been exposed to hundreds of murder cases along the way in your line of work. How did this case change you?

CARONA: Oh, it was a dramatic change. One, because it was a -- I think an awaking call for me all that our children, my son, they're vulnerable in America, and frankly it's a nation that needs to come together to protect our kids.

The other one was that it changed made life because of the publicity that took place. The good news is we were able to get an Amber Alert program in California, and now the president has signed a national Amber Alert program. It's working.

ZAHN: Ah, legislation, president, politics?

CARONA: Could be. ZAHN: Is that what possibly opened your eyes to maybe be interested in running for office?

CARONA: I'm elected as a sheriff of Orange County.

ZAHN: Exactly. But higher political office, broader office?

CARONA: I think it opened up the debate on that. Frankly, before the Samantha Runnion case, there was suggestions that there may be a teaming in California of some Republicans, and I was one of the names that was put forward.

After the Samantha Runnion case, the unfortunate side of it is because of a little girl's death, it put my name out there. Nobody wants to capitalize on that, but it becomes part of the discussion.

ZAHN: And your name certainly is at the center of the discussion. Talk of you possibly running for lieutenant governor. How seriously are you considering that?

CARONA: It's a consideration. It was something that has been looked at for the last year and a half since the reelection of sheriff. And I have only wanted to run for two terms. So there's going to be life after sheriff. Lieutenant governor seemed to be a logical stepping stone. But what happens with the governor's race and what happens in other statewide races is really going to determine whether or not that's a good seat for me to run for.

ZAHN: Well, how about running for governor?

CARONA: Well, I don't think that's in the cards for me, at least not yet. You have some changes that are taking place, obviously the recall that you've talked about. And if that doesn't qualify, then in 2006, you may have a couple of real strong Republican candidates that I wouldn't mind teaming up with as being part of the dream team.

ZAHN: Like the Terminator, for example?

CARONA: The Terminator is one of them.

ZAHN: Could you see him as governor of California?

CARONA: Oh, certainly. I can see Schwarzenegger as governor of California. Condoleezza Rice has been mentioned. You know, there are a couple of really strong candidates, but definitely Arnold could be governor of the state of California.

ZAHN: Have you talked to Ronald -- Ronald? Arnold -- I guess that would Arnold Schwarzenegger about possibly filling out a ticket with him?

CARONA: Well, Arnold and I speak on a number of issues. We worked together on Prop 49 campaign, and we worked together on some national issues. So...

ZAHN: You still haven't answered my question. CARONA: You know, it's because he's my friend. And conversations you have amongst friends stay as friends. And if you want to know whether he's going to run for governor, I think the best thing to do is ask Arnold Schwarzenegger.

ZAHN: Oh, we know that, but we just want to know if he's talked to you about potentially being on the ticket with him if he does run.

CARONA: Arnold and I have talked about our political careers, and that's probably the easiest way for me to duck a really good question that you're asking.

ZAHN: I tried, didn't I?

CARONA: You did.

ZAHN: Sheriff, great to see you. And you just showed such grace and dignity during a very tough time...

CARONA: Thank you.

ZAHN: ... as this nation was riveted with that horrible, horrible case. Good luck to you.

CARONA: Thank you, ma'am.

ZAHN: What do you think of our view tonight?

CARONA: I love your view. You know, I appreciate the fact that you're out in California.

ZAHN: Yes, nice to be here for a couple of days.

CARONA: We're happy to have you here.

ZAHN: I guess we can't get too used to it, can we?

CARONA: Come to Orange County.

ZAHN: Thank you. We love Orange County.


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