By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Since primary electorates are usually smaller, and thus often more conservative, than their general-election counterparts, why put Prop. 26 -- or for that matter, any measure that stands to gain from a high turnout -- on the spring ballot? Part of the answer, says Kaufman, is that it’s more economical: “The same campaign in a general election would have been far more expensive,” she says, since higher voter turnout means more campaign mailings. She adds that the presence on November‘s ballot of a school-voucher initiative would make the fight to lower the school-bond threshold even more complex.
No postmortem on this most serious attempt in a generation to improve the state’s schools should omit the role of our self-described education governor -- who proved to be as missing-in-action as the children whose pictures he once put on milk cartons. While elected officials, CEOs and other state leaders took an active role in the campaign for Prop. 26, Gray Davis was glaringly absent. Not until the waning days of the campaign did he even mention the measure; he certainly spent none of his political capital on its behalf. (Indeed, the chief object of Davis‘ fund-raising was -- well, Davis’ fund-raising. In the closing weeks of the campaign, the governor‘s chief electoral activity was to raise money in opposition to Proposition 25, the campaign-finance-reform initiative that would have curtailed his ability to fund-raise for himself.)
So Knight won, and the Duke won, and the Little Marine won, and Howard Jarvis’ crotchety legions held firm. Does this rightward turn in the Golden State mean “that Republicans can rebuild the electoral coalition that once made California a linchpin GOP state,” as GOP consultant Tony Quinn argued in Sunday‘s L.A. Times Opinion section?
Absolutely not. Indeed, the single most remarkable thing about last week’s election returns is how mournful the GOP‘s numbers were, how ghastly the Republicans’ prospects appeared, even with an electorate that was more conservative than any in years.
This was, after all, an electorate in which George W. Bush and John McCain pulled down 51 percent of the vote in the presidential blanket primary, while Gore and Bradley managed to win just 44 percent between them. But even with this electorate, Gore led Bush, 35 percent to 28 percent, in the blanket primary, and, in a hypothetical runoff, by 51 percent to 43 percent in the exit poll of this rightward-leaning electorate. For the other statewide office, that of U.S. senator, this disproportionately Republican electorate voted by a 51-percent-to-23-percent margin for Democrat Dianne Feinstein over Republican Tom Campbell.
Mind you, this was with an electorate that the Times exit poll pegged at 81 percent white (up from 74 percent just two years ago). Come the November runoff, the white component is likely to decline to near 70 percent white, dragging down the electorate‘s conservative quotient correspondingly. Given how well Gore and Feinstein ran with the whiter, righter electorate of last week, does that suggest that this state will be even marginally competitive for Republicans with the darker, lefter electorate of November?
Not entirely believing in his own argument, Quinn goes on to suggest that Bush will have to campaign here if only because abandoning the state will ensure that the Republicans will lose four House seats. But with Bush now narrowly trailing Gore in a series of national polls, allocating scarce resources to California simply to save endangered Congressmen James Rogan and Brian Bilbray would be an exercise in sheer altruism. Nothing W. has said or done suggests that his conservatism is all that compassionate.
Besides, Rogan, Bilbray and their fellow endangered Republicans may be beyond saving. Politically, former House Prosecutor and Grand Inquisitor Rogan looks more and more like a dead man walking. With funding from a direct-mail list of certifiable Clinton haters, Rogan raised and spent $2.7 million on his uncontested primary campaign for re-election in his Glendale-Burbank-Pasadena district. His Democratic opponent-to-be come November, state Senator Adam Schiff, spent a bare $50,000 on his equally uncontested primary campaign. But in the blanket primary of last week, with Bush and McCain pushing GOP turnout to record highs, Schiff nonetheless outpolled Rogan by a 49-percent-to-47-percent margin among all district voters.
Rogan is just one of a number of California Republican congressmen who had trouble pulling down half the vote in their districts last week, conservative turnout or no. In the South Bay, one-term member Steve Kuykendall, who won a less-than-heartening 50.6 percent, faces a challenge from Democrat Jane Harman, who represented that coastal district from 1992 through 1998, when she opted instead to run for governor. In Long Beach, GOP Congressman Steve Horn received just 50 percent of the vote; he now faces a lively challenge from attorney and nurse practitioner Gerrie Schipske.
What should make the Republicans even more nervous about holding these seats is that they’re all located in terrains that by every single measure are shifting Democratic. As recently as five years ago, these were all swing areas represented in the Legislature by Republicans. Today, all these areas are represented in the Legislature by Democrats -- in Horn‘s district, by progressive Democrats. The ethnic recomposition of L.A.’s inner-ring suburbs, abetted by the political mobilizations conducted in many of these areas by the L.A. County Federation of Labor, has transformed all these formerly Republican regions beyond recognition.