May 19 Election: Schwarzenegger, Villaraigosa, Weiss, Bratton, Bass, Go Down in Flames
Even with one key Los Angeles City Council District race still hanging in the balance on the Westside, the political wreckage surrounding some of California's best-known politicians was waist-deep, leaving Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to slog through the recriminations and explanations.
The outcome was widely viewed as a major blow to Villaraigosa's political reach and to his chances at the California governorship. In fact, it was Villaraigosa's second big election loss this year after his controversial Measure B solar energy proposal was rejected by city voters on March 3.
Also on Tuesday, California voters by a huge margin rejected all of Schwarzenegger's bipartisan ballot measures, backed by the California legislature. Propositions 1A through 1E, which included a $16 billion tax hike, a widely-ridiculed government "spending cap" filled with loopholes, and numerous raids on existing or future state funds to meet California's big state deficit, went down by margins of about 2-1.
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The results are a major repudiation of California's political establishment.
The only ballot question that looked as if it might turn into a win for
L.A. City Hall's entrenched political machine was in the Fifth City
Council District race between Paul Koretz, a longtime West Hollywood
politician, and David Vahedi, a new face emerging from the activist
neighborhood council system that's sick of City Hall.
Vahedi-Koretz race was still too close to call, with Koretz ahead by
roughly 300 votes, as of Wednesday morning. The Los Angeles County
Registrar of Voters was still counting an unknown number of
late-arriving absentee ballots and last-minute provisional ballots
(which are generally used by people who have recently moved).
who was backed by hundreds of longtime political insiders in Los
Angeles and who recently finished a stint in California's deeply
unpopular state legislature, faced a very tough race against the
surprise Cinderella candidate Vahedi, who if elected would become one
of the few Iranian-Americans in public office in the area.
A really big winner, meanwhile, was Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley -- and he wasn't even on the ballot.
was a sharp critic of City Councilman Jack Weiss, who had not practiced
law in eight years when he ran for City Attorney on Tuesday, and was
unpopular in his own upscale Westside district for ushering in massive
apartment complexes -- and the resulting traffic. Cooley recruited
Trutanich to run, endorsed him, and helped legitimize him.
Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca also backed Trutanich. Then, negative
campaigning in recent weeks appeared to hurt Weiss far more than
Trutanich, in part because of Weiss' reputation on the City Council for
being arrogant and hard to work with.
Joe Scott, a spokesman for
Cooley with a background in political consulting, immediately posted on his blog an assessment of the election, which probably echoes
Cooley's own views: "While a stunning defeat for
the establishment and labor, the biggest loser was already weakened
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, facing huge budget problems, who went all
out for a weak Weiss while preparing to run for governor this summer."
big loser was LAPD Chief William J. Bratton, who has ruffled feathers
and attracted sharp criticism for repeatedly inserting himself into
ballot races and ballot measures in recent months -- an unheard-of
behavior among police chiefs in L.A. in contemporary times, with the
exception of two controversial endorsements made by Chief Daryl Gates
many years ago.
For reasons Bratton has never fully
articulated, he jumped into Tuesday's city attorney race, which was
held to replace the termed-out Rocky Delgadillo. Bratton joined
Villaraigosa in pushing hard for Weiss, but rather than helping Weiss,
Bratton insted attracted criticism for politicizing the chief's office
and not sticking strictly to his job.
were arguing Wednesday over which guy faced the worst Election Day
wreckage: Villaraigosa, who can't even get a well-known, local
politician like Weiss elected to higher office, and was slammed on the
cover of Los Angeles magazine this week as a "Failure," or the hapless Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Schwarzenegger and the Democratically controlled California legislature lost by a landslide
five of their six ballot measures, all of them said by California
polling experts to be too confusing and filled with fine print and
loopholes that not even the experts could decipher.
expert Mark Baldassare, of the Public Policy Institute of California,
quickly took to the airwaves on Wednesday, as did many other analysts,
all to agree that voters were clearly telling Schwarzenegger and the
legislature "to do their jobs" -- find a way on their own to balance
the budget, and not ask voters to do it.
Now the task of
cutting, or finding, billions of dollars to resolve the huge state
deficit gets tossed back to the governor and Democrat majority leaders
Darrell Steinberg, in Sacramento's State Senate, and Karen Bass, in the
But neither Steinberg, a veteran pol from the
Sacramento area who some say lacks the charisma to persuade his
colleagues to make tough choices, or Bass, an inexperienced politician
from Los Angeles who has gotten caught up in controversies, has been
able to devise a workable, balanced budget to send to the governor.
said it was telling that on Tuesday, the only measure that passed --
and did so resoundingly -- is a fairly weak slap on the legislature's
hand that bans raises for state officials in those years when
California faces a budget deficit.