Dan Walters’ Defense of Arnold Falls Flat

In response to my recent post about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s spite decision to break precedent and not consolidate the SD-15 special election with the fall general election, Dan Walters today defends Arnold’s costly decision as being all the Democrats’ fault:

Cruikshank [sic] complained that calling two special elections on June 22 and August 17 would cost five counties in the 15th Senate District $6.5 million to prepare, receive and count ballots….

Had the Legislature acted quickly to confirm him, Schwarzenegger likely would have called a stand-alone special primary election in the spring and the runoff election would have been consolidated with the June primary, as he did when Republican John Benoit resigned from the Senate.

However, Democrats got greedy. They wanted the second election to coincide with the November general election when voter turnout would be higher and – they thought – their chances of capturing the Senate seat would be better. So they went through the motions of confirming Maldonado, but left him short of votes.

The stall continued until late April, past the date when it would be legally possible for the runoff to be called for November. But Schwarzenegger countered by calling two stand-alone special elections, thus doubling the costs.

Really? It’s the Democrats’ fault that Arnold chose to ignore the pleas of local elections officials to consolidate the special election with the fall general election? I don’t think so.

The fact is that Schwarzenegger and Maldonado failed to convince a majority of the Assembly to confirm Maldonado in February. But with a change of leadership among Assembly Democrats, and better outreach from the governor’s office, enough Assemblymembers did vote to confirm Maldonado last month.

But – and this is a significant fact – the Democrats chose to wait to confirm Maldonado until the SD-15 special election could be consolidated with the November election. Whether Maldonado was confirmed in February or late April, Democrats intended any special election to fill the SD-15 seat to be consolidated. They understood and heard the pleas from the five counties in the district that they didn’t have the money or staff to do a separate special election, and acted accordingly.

Yet it was Arnold Schwarzenegger who chose to break with precedent, ignore the pleas, and schedule the SD-15 special election separately from any other statewide elections. Nobody forced Arnold to do that. He made that decision all on his own, and apparently out of spite. And Walters shows himself quite willing to defend that cynical – and costly – decision.

Walters mentions, but fails to address, the fact that the special election cost of $6.5 million to the five counties of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, will almost certainly mean further job and service cuts in those counties. He also fails to mention that the election dates chosen will disenfranchise many voters, from active duty military to students to the Monterey County Latinos who have filed suit to force a change in the election dates.

None of those costs – financial or electoral – are justifiable. Walters should hold the governor responsible for making that choice, instead of making excuses for it and projecting that responsibility onto someone else.

5 thoughts on “Dan Walters’ Defense of Arnold Falls Flat”

  1. Left unmentioned by both of you is the fact that all of this is just continuing fallout from the disastrous reign of Karen Bass, the worst California Speaker in modern times.

  2. Walters is still trapped in the old conventional wisdom. In his state of mind, there are still two parties that believe in governing, who compromise somewhere in the middle, with a governor and staff who facilitate those compromises.

    That’s just not what’s happening now. Instead we have an erratic egomaniac as governor who governs with contempt for the law, substituting sound bites and deals for any philosophy, and a Republican party that has lost any interest in actually governing.

    Walters may be fundamentally incapable of getting his head around this.

  3. This is an expensive political move by Arnold. I live in SD-37 where Sen. Benoit was appointed late last year as a Riverside COunty Supervisor after the incumbent passed away. Although he was selected in October (I think) , he didn’t resign from the Senate until after December so that the county would not need to schedule a special primary and a special general electon to fill the seat. The Primary was in April and the General is lumped in with Statewide Primary in June. Saves money. I mention this because Arnold did not have a problem with that arrangement, so why is he wasting money on this vote ? Probably because more DEMS will vote in November than at a Special. Sounds like the $6 million Senator to me .  

  4. Walters is a sui generis “centrist.” He’s not even trying to balance the competing claims of those on both sides. At least outside of Sac.

    In SLO County and Santa Maria the local conservatives are pissed about the expense. But Big-Time Walters probably doesn’t bother with us turnip truck yokels… you know, people who live in the district in question.

    If you follow Central Coast news at all, you would know that every cent that the county spends on everything generates a headline. “County Spends 25 cents on trash bin liner” generates a flood of letters to the editor here.

    I think this is because those GOPers on the south end of SD-15 here are under the impression this is a safe seat for Blakeslee to retain. They think I’m bullshitting them when I tell them there’s a Dem registration advantage.

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