Al Checchi

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Al Checchi
Born (1948-06-06) June 6, 1948 (age 68)
Education Amherst College, Harvard Business School
Occupation Businessman, politician
Spouse(s) Kathryn Checchi

Alfred Attilio Checchi (born June 6, 1948) is an American businessman who was a candidate for Governor of California in the 1998 gubernatorial election, losing to fellow Democrat Gray Davis in the June 1998 primary.[1] Checchi finished in second place in the Democratic primary, capturing 12.49% of the vote. He ran as a New Democrat and called for increased spending on education.[2] He set a new record at the time for spending in a California gubernatorial race, spending over $40 million of his personal fortune.[3][4] Checchi had previously enjoyed success in various business ventures, most notably serving as co-chairman of Northwest Airlines. He attended the Harvard School of Business. Checchi is married to his wife Kathryn and has 3 children.[1]

Early life[edit]

Checchi was born on June 6, 1948 near Boston, Massachusetts.[1] His grandfather ran the Elba Fruit Market, a grocery in Calais, Maine.[1] Checchi is of Italian heritage. He was raised in the suburbs of Washington D.C. to middle-class parents where he attended Our Lady of Good Counsel.[1] Checchi's father was the No. 3 man in the Food and Drug Administration from 1946 to 1960, and later ran an investment firm.[1][2] Checchi began to think of running for public office when he was 12.[2] At the age of 14, Checchi saw Martin Luther King Jr.'s I have a dream speech.[1]

Checchi attended Amherst College in Massachusetts because he heard it was the most difficult to get into; he graduated in 1970 with an American studies major.[1] He completed a Master of Business Administration at Harvard School of Business.

Business career[edit]

Checchi first worked at Marriott Corporation where he rose quickly due to clever financing for hotel developments at home and abroad.[2] In his 30's, he helped the Bass brothers of Texas acquire a 25% stake in Disney, earning a reported $50 million in the process.[2] In 1989, Checchi helped organize a $3.65 billion leveraged buyout of Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines, investing about $12 million in the transaction.[2] From 1989 to 1993, he served as co-chairman of Northwest Airlines.[2] Checchi's critics claim he moved the company near bankruptcy, forced $800 million in union concessions, and worked to gain $837 million in state and local bonds, subsidies and tax credits, while earning $32 million for his outside firm.[2] Checchi counters that he protected the company from asset strippers and he helped triple the value of Northwest Airlines stock.[2] He amassed a net worth of around $700 million.[1]

Run for Governor[edit]

Political positions[edit]

Checchi was a New Democrat, liberal on social issues and conservative on fiscal ones.[2] He campaigned on increasing investing on education, making a 10% across-the-board cut in all state bureaucracies to pay for more teachers, computers, books, universal preschool and after-school programs.[2] He called for teachers to be tested every five years and to expand charter schools.[2] Checchi opposed Proposition 187 because it cut benefits to children of illegal immigrants and called for the prosecution of businesses that hire undocumented workers.[2] Checchi wanted to extend the death penalty to cover serial rapists and repeat child molesters, and he wanted a drug rehabilitation programs for the state's prisoners, with release contingent on a drug-free record.[2] Checchi supported regional planning for growth, financial incentives to stimulate housing, and he promised to cut auto insurance rates by 10 percent.[1] Raising California's pupil spending to the national average.[1] He supports abortion rights for women and parental consent legislation for teenagers seeking abortions.[1] He released a 90-page book detailing his policies and political positions.[1]

Prior to his run for Governor, Checchi had voted in 2 of the last 6 elections.[5]

The race[edit]

Checchi spent over $40 million from his personal fortune on his run for governor.[4][6] Checchi's campaign featured numerous television ads and high priced political advisors and included a television ad that highlighted his Italian American heritage.[1][2] Other ads highlighted his business experience.[7] One ad featured children struggling to pronounce his name ("Check-ee").[7]

Checchi ran against Lieutenant Governor Gray Davis and US Congresswoman Jane Harman. Checchi led in early polls.[7] Checchi outspent Davis by $33 million and Harman by $25 million.[4] He set a new record at the time for spending in a California gubernatorial race.[3] Checchi came in second in the Democratic primary held on June 2, 1998 with 12.49% of the vote.

As of 2011, Checchi is a registered independent, critical of both major parties.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Robert B. Gunnison, Chronicle Political Writer (1998-05-28). "Checchi's $30 Million Quest for Career Change". Retrieved 2011-10-13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Can't Buy Me Love?". 1997-12-01. Retrieved 2011-10-13. 
  3. ^ a b SOC Finance Overview Archived September 21, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ a b c "Lt. Governor Wins Primary in California". 1998-06-03. Retrieved 2011-10-13. 
  5. ^ Ken Garcia (1998-05-21). "Checchi's Amazing Arrogance It's his doing that local debate was scuttled". Retrieved 2011-10-13. 
  6. ^ "California Gubernatorial Race". 1998-06-02. Retrieved 2011-10-13. 
  7. ^ a b c "California Governor's Race Gets Tougher". 1998-03-26. Retrieved 2011-10-13.