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.