Tag Archives: Gray Davis

Davis’ Governorship Ended, So Did GOP’s Future, Thanks to Arnold

(A perspective from one involved in the recall election… – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

A decade ago today, one of the most intense political experiences I had ended in heartbreak.

California’s Recall Election was a political thrill ride unlikely to be matched in my lifetime. While things didn’t turn out well for my candidate on Election Night, I have no regrets.

We now have Democratic supermajorities in the Legislature and no Republican elected to statewide office. We have had two (three if you want to argue) balanced, on-time budgets and things are getting done in Sacramento without the partisan rancor that existed previously.

Listening to Governor Gray Davis’s concession speech that night 10 years ago from the balcony of the Biltmore Hotel — I was the anti-recall campaign’s press secretary, and I was working till the bitter end, corralling cameras so they got the best shots of my guy — I thought this was the Worst. Night. Ever.

(My long suffering wife had done the greatest thing one human being has ever done for another: she booked a Caribbean cruise that departed two days later.)

What turned out to only be a bad day for me professionally, has been a horrific decade for the state’s GOP who once viewed Arnold as their savior.

Schwarzenegger’s legacy is record-low Republican Party voter registration (while Democrats have remained steady), a decimated party organization, no bench, virtual and literal irrelevance in the statehouse and a mountain of debt (okay, Brulte finally managed to clear that).

This is a far cry from the brashness the Republican elite and consultant class expressed in the wake of the Recall. Arnold scared the Legislature to repeal the then-AB 60 and his team was mapping out ways to topple the Speakership of my new boss, Fabian Nunez.

Arnold’s team believed – and with good reason in those first moments where everyone was trying to gauge what voters were trying to say – that the stage was set for a GOP political takeover at several levels.

A side note: A similar, but muted, excitement on the GOP establishment’s part has surrounded Jim Brulte’s coronation as their party chairman. But the best he can hope to be is the right guy at the wrong time. Witness how this past weekend’s GOP State Convention was upstaged by a campaign button.

I’ll admit I am biased, but at the start of the Schwarzenegger Administration, he and his team relied on celebrity and gimmicks to talk to voters.

Their team used tough-sounding phrases like “Let’s them taste steel.” Arnold called Democrats in the Legislature “girlie men.”

Yes, they got the media’s attention, but their ultimate failure was an inability to turn this into votes that would create coattails for Arnold. The year after the Recall, in 2004, not a single one of Arnold’s selected candidates in competitive Legislative races won. And let’s not forget the flameout of ’05, Arnold’s Special Election.

At the same time Republican were busy being heady, groups opposing Arnold’s agenda, like Labor, were putting the skull sweat necessary into building bigger and better ways of communicating with voters in substantive ways.

These efforts helped beat back Prop 75 and later it’s ‘son’ Prop 32, help Jerry Brown retake the governorship, win on Prop 30 and win several elections at the Legislative level.

Much has been written recently on the effects Arnold’s election has on small “d” democracy, climate change and workers compensation reform. There are merits to those notions, but the greatest effect of the Recall has been how Arnold terminated the ability of the GOP to win in California.

After ten years of bitterness, and looking at where California is today, I have one thing left to say: Thank you, Arnold.  

Ten Years On: The Aftermath of the Recall

Election Exacerbated Issues in the Capitol

by Brian Leubitz

In 2002, California reelected Gray Davis to a second term. His future was looking bright, and was considered a possible candidate for president in 2004. But, that all changed very quickly in 2003 as the Enron-manufactured electricity crisis combined with a few budget issues to create havoc in Sacramento.  Soon after the second inauguration, a recall petition gathered steam and then took off when (the farce that is) Darrell Issa dumped a bunch of money into the recall efforts.  

Issa was hoping for the spot himself, but he eventually gave way well before the election. The election itself was a mess and made the state the butt of jokes around the world. The list of candidates included a pornography star, a former MLB Commissioner, Gary Coleman, Arianna Huffington, and a slew of randoms that would never typically make the general  election ballot.

And of course one of those randoms that would never make the general election ballot was the man who became our governor for seven years. Arnold Schwarzenegger, though something of a celebrity Republican, would have severe difficulties getting through a Republican primary in California. While we have a progressive tilt overall, the GOP is just as crazy as any other state.

The immediate impact was clearly in the wrong direction for California, and brought us a slew of reactionary policies.  However, the Governator eventually realized that even he had limits with his beating at the 2005 special election.  At that point, it was easy to think that Arnold was a blip, and that perhaps the net result could be a more progressive governor in 2006. Alas, Phil Angelides was not that governor, nor even that candidate. Schwarzenegger won, but left himself in an increasingly difficult situation with his rhetoric, killing the chance to make any big substantive reform:

Although Schwarzenegger won reelection in 2006, by then the chance was probably gone. Indeed, it may have been gone from the first day, when he canceled the vehicle license fee increase Davis had approved, and thus enlarged the state’s gaping budget deficit by $6 billion by the time he left office.

And in talking like anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist about “starving the monster” of government, and about how spending alone, not revenue, was the problem, he backed himself even further into a political corner. Neither could be solved without addressing the other. As for the rest of his governorship, it was mostly showmanship and glitz.(Peter Schrag @LAT)

Schrag points to the non-partian reforms (redistricting, top-2, etc) and Gov. Jerry Brown’s election in 2010 with his “restrained approach” as the reason for our bounceback from the crisis. And perhaps that is true, but that debate will linger on to let history decide. But what is clearly true is that the 2003 recall was nothing but a temporary blip that brought us the Governator, but left us with very little real reform.

51% of Californians Support Marriage Equality as Majority Wishes a Do-Over on 2003 Recall

This is fairly consistent with numbers that we’ve seen in the past, but PPP has just released their own data showing a majority favoring full marriage equality.

-The tide is turning in support of gay marriage in California. 51% of voters in the state now think it should be legal while 40% think it should remain illegal. It was just a little over 2 years ago that the state passed Proposition 8 but these numbers are reflective of a general liberalization in the views of Americans toward same sex marriage. (PPP)

The numbers get even better when you pull out senior citizens at 53-38.  It is only a matter of time before we have full marriage equality in California and, eventually, the nation.

Oh, and they also tested a retrospective on the 2003 recall, and guess what, Californians wish they hadn’t done that.  By a 42-32 margin, voters would have refrained from recalling Davis.  Too bad we can’t take back the past seven years and the havoc the Governator wrought.

Skelton Sees Recall Folly

Oh, the heady days of 2003; there was a perfect storm brewing that Gray Davis could do nothing to stop. Darrell Issa was busy tossing around his car security cash around in order to be elected governor in the recall election.  Of course, that never happened, as Arnold Schwarzenegger jumped in to the race, and the rest is history.  But what is the CW on that?

Well, if there is a source of Sacramento CW, certainly George Skelton is your man.  And today, he declares that the recall was folly:

One thing should now be evident as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger packs up his office: It was a mistake to recall Gray Davis.

Davis didn’t deserve it. He had just been reelected the year before. He would have been out of office in three years anyway.

Schwarzenegger wasn’t an improvement except for, briefly, providing entertainment. He didn’t make the state’s money mess any better. In fact, it has gotten worse. (LA Times)

Of course, seeing where he is now in the polls, and the position the state is in right now, this takes no great source of conventional wisdom.  During the last seven years, Arnold made some pretty important moves.  But, ultimately, he was a failure because he didn’t understand the system, and his only attempts to change it were at the margin where it is safe and cuddly.

He billed himself as a reformer, and the only reforms he could get through were do-nothing reforms like redistricting and Top 2.  He billed himself as somebody who could sweep away the debt and deficit, but really, he was in no position to do either.  And he never even seriously tried to work for real change on the budget system.  He was content to further aggrandize the Big 5 system, making the system even more closed than it was in the past.

Gray Davis got rolled, but as we learned from Prop 8, the voters of this state can make mistakes.  Some they learn quickly, and others it takes a few years.  It seems with the Mistakinator, it took about 6 years.

Arnold Wants California to Fail

I will be on KRXA 540 AM at 8 to discuss this and other topics in California politics

George Skelton runs hot and cold in terms of the usefulness of his observations, but today he starts to get closer to the truth by exposing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s complete failure of leadership on the budget mess. As the state moves to the edge of total meltdown, it’s becoming undeniable even to California’s centrist Villagers that instead of being some post-partisan strong leader, Arnold is just a failure:

Californians haven’t been prepared by their political leaders for the one-two punch. Sure, the public has a vague idea of what’s coming, but too many people aren’t certain it’s necessary — especially the tax hikes during a deep recession.

That’s not just my view. It’s also the observation of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s predecessor, the governor he ousted in the 2003 recall election: Gray Davis.

Gray Davis told me: “People are going to get hit with major tax increases and program reductions and no one is preparing them. Part of leadership is not just doing the job, but explaining to the public why a certain action needs to be taken. Why it needs to happen and how long it will remain.

“You have to bring people along with you. President Obama is a master of selling the public on why his programs make sense — in contrast to the deafening silence coming out of Sacramento.”

Of course, Davis isn’t quite right here – there has been more than “deafening silence” coming out of Sacramento. Arnold and his Yacht Party allies have been pretty vocal about the crisis – they believe government is the problem, and have been telling the public that at almost every opportunity. “Economic stimulus” is defined by them not as job creation (which is how Obama, the Congress, and virtually every economist see it) but as rolling back environmental and labor regulations and gutting spending.

Arnold has been consistent in pushing an anti-government message, so is it any wonder that is what the likely outcome of all this will be? Democrats speak of the 2/3 rule, as do we on the blogs, but the media centrists like Skelton rarely see fit to mention it. The public then looks at Sacramento and says “you suck” without really understanding what the problem is – a Republican filibuster intended to cram Grover Norquist’s agenda down our throats. Like Rush Limbaugh, these wingnuts weaned on talk radio want California to fail.

Arnold spent the first 5 years of his time as governor telling Californians they could have it all – a growing economy, the public services they want, and the low taxes they feel are a birthright. He sold that message so well that when he tries to turn around and say that tax hikes are necessary, nobody is listening to him.

This budget and economic crisis has many fathers, but none more prominent than Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. When the state issues IOUs next week they will be his true legacy to California – a governor who failed so completely that the state had to print funny money to meet its obligations. The honorable thing to do would be to admit failure and resign. Unfortunately we’re stuck with him for two more years.

Clueless Bipartisan Fetishists Ruining The State With False Equivalences

It’s very rare to hear the problems of the state’s budget and cash crises discussed correctly, particularly in the wider media.  The journalistic fetish of “balance” and making sure the only valid opinion is perfectly situated in the middle of any argument means that the go-to “experts” for the traditional media are always these Solomon-like High Broderists with advice like “the legislature should just get together for drinks more often.”  Thus the breadth of opinion on a show like Warren Olney’s ranges from California Forward to a beat reporter.  And the problems of the state are always ascribed to “the legislature.”  Not the fact that we have a majority vote for elections but a 2/3 vote for any tax and budget issue, making it literally impossible for the elected representatives of the state to do the job entrusted them by the voters.  No, that would be too simple.  It must have to do with Democrats and Republicans not drinking together enough.

Two more examples of this today.  First, the California Alliance for Jobs, which actually helped lead the fight for Prop. 1A’s high-speed rail bonds, has a couple radio spots out today with “funnyman” Will Durst blaming “the legislature” for stopping all those infrastructure projects and hurting the state.  The MP3 is here.  Amazingly, Durst spoke for 60 whole seconds and didn’t make a Monica Lewinsky joke.  But he also failed to make clear in any way that any particular political party is responsible for budget gridlock.  Durst says that we need a responsible budget with cuts and revenues, without mentioning that the Democrats have PROPOSED AND PASSED that.

Then wet noodle Gray Davis offers his wisdom on the crisis:

“It’s deja vu,” Davis told a cluster of reporters after listening to Schwarzenegger’s somber address. “California has experienced feast-or-famine budgeting as long as I can recall, and (it) will go on for all eternity until the people pass a genuine rainy day fund.”

Yes, THAT’S the problem.  Not having revenues too closely aligned to the boom-and-bust cycle.  Not ratcheting down property taxes so corporations pay less for their space than an average suburban couple in Nebraska.  Not Yacht Party obstructionism.  It’s all about that rainy day fund (which, by the way, was PASSED but which the Governor has continually raided).

The sad thing is that Davis knows he’s lying, but he’s either unable to or incapable of admitting it.  And so the bipartisan fetishists say “can’t we all get along” without recognizing that their rhetoric, which doesn’t assign blame or give any citizen a roadmap to what the problem really is, sends the state careening into disaster.  I have nothing but contempt for these people, even more than the Yacht Party in many ways, because they so blithely abuse their own power.

Denham Recall: The Slip Starts Showing

The intellectual inconsistencies are impossible to miss in this story on the Denham recall.  It’d be a lot more effective to cry and whine about a power grab and unfair tactics, for example, if you DON’T tip off that you’re planning on doing it yourself.

Jon Fleischman, vice chairman of the California Republican Party, said Perata was misusing the recall process, which is meant to boot people from office for serious misconduct. Fleischman and other activists in Orange County said that if the Denham recall succeeds, a similar campaign might be launched against Lou Correa, a Democratic state senator from Santa Ana.

Actually, the right answer is to reform the recall process, not to vow to “misuse” it again, if you want to remain on the intellectual and moral high ground.  

But that’s not surprising, of course, since the same people whining about the recall today are the ones who benefited from it in 2003.

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who supported the budget Denham refused to vote for and even traveled at the time to Denham’s district to pressure him, has disparaged the recall that’s on the June 3 ballot.

“Obviously, it is political,” Schwarzenegger said when asked about the effort at a recent Sacramento news conference, adding that the budget vote as “a reason for recall I think is ludicrous.”

Riiiight, because Gray Davis wasn’t recalled because of a budget deficit.

Like Fleischman, Denham says Perata was abusing the recall process, which is meant to remove from office people who act illegally. But backers of the recall effort note that Denham contributed $17,000 in 2003 to the Republican-led effort to recall Gov. Gray Davis, who was under criticism for the budget mess but had not been accused of criminal conduct.

It’s just so hard to keep things straight, and figure out which are the RIGHT recalls and which are the WRONG ones.  So good that we have honest brokers like Jon Fleischman and Jeff Denham to set us straight.

It’s also a bad thing, we’re told, that people in Sacramento and abroad are telling the good people of the 12th District what to do.  Good thing there’s none of that happening among Denham supporters:

Denham has raised $1.1 million to fight the recall. Major contributions include $50,000 from the Los Angeles Casinos Political Action Committee and $25,000 from the Pechanga Band of Mission Indians, which has a casino in Temecula.

Most of the members of the Los Angeles Casinos PAC, we all know, live in Stanislaus County.

The Invisible Governor

The Governor has continued to assert, and the people largely believe him, that he is somehow removed from the financial troubles that face the state.  And he got an assist from an unlikely source today – former Governor Gray Davis.

So why is California suddenly faced with a $14-billion budget shortfall? Is it because the governor (or the Legislature) did something terribly wrong?

No, the governor of a nation-size state like California can affect the economy, but only on its margins. The reason this deficit is looming is because no one can repeal the business cycle. Just as night follows day, expansionary times will be followed by recessionary times. And yet the overwhelming impulse in Sacramento is to spend every dollar on the table. If a booming economy has the state coffers flush, Democrats say: “There will never be a better time to expand programs than right now.” Republicans counter: “We have too much money. Let’s reduce taxes.” […]

Believe me, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t want to close 48 parks, reduce education funding or release prisoners. Like all governors, however, he is required to bring expenditures in line with revenues. I don’t agree with all of his suggested cuts, nor do I endorse all of the critical responses from the Legislature.

There is a significant reform suggested by the governor, however, that I fully endorse. It is a constitutional amendment that would require putting aside a portion of surging revenues in good times as a buffer against painful cuts in bad times. I called for such a “rainy day” fund while in office — and recently former Gov. Pete Wilson also spoke in favor of this idea.

Gray Davis is showing the political acumen that made him the most reviled governor in recent California history.  He’s also being massively dishonest.  Schwarzenegger repealing the Vehicle License Fee’s return to 1998 levels had an undeniable impact.  Furthermore, so did his borrowing through bonds, which costs the state billions of dollars per year.

Are Arnold and the California GOP to blame for this? Who else? Nobody put a gun to their heads and forced them to respond to our last crisis with nothing but a toxic combination of demagoguery and tax-cut jihadism. They did it all on their own. I understand the desire to roll up our sleeves and stop sniping about the past, but let’s not actively rewrite history to pretend that our latest crisis “just happened.” It didn’t. Arnold and his party, despite plenty of warnings from nonpartisan budget analysts about what they were doing, deliberately bequeathed it to us.

And, contrary to Schwarzenegger’s belief, he has a great deal of control over state spending, including a line-item veto.  Trying to fault the legislature for “runaway spending” when he has to sign the document is just completely absurd.  The legislature didn’t go on a “spending spree” on its own, nor did they use revenue only for the purpose of spending; there were billions in tax cuts thrown in as well.

The Governor, and his predecessor, are writing a history of government in California that doesn’t have an executive branch.  This is a falsehood that can only be met with laughter.

Presidential Election Reform Act and Gray Davis Recall

The similarities between the 2003 recall and the current electoral vote swindle are quite stark (and not only because it is the same people using the same language about a right-wing power grab in an election where nobody knows the turnout). So let’s compare the benchmark testing by Field Poll in each race, among all registered voters.

46% Yes
43% No

47% Yes
35% No

Keep in the recall passed with 55.4% of the vote. Want some more numbers?

Recall Among Democrats:
28% Yes
61% No

PERA Among Democrats:
41% Yes
42% No

Clearly, we are in far, far worse shape initially with Democrats than we were when we lost the Governor’s mansion.

Recall Among Unaffiliated:
45% Yes
39% No

PERA Among Unaffiliated:
43% Yes
34% No

Again, opposition is softer initially.

Recall Among Republicans:
69% Yes
22% No

PERA Among Republicans:
57% Yes
28% No

Ouch. Comparing the two initiatives’ benchmark polling, the only good news is that the GOP isn’t yet salivating over this to the degree they were in the recall.

In short, if we do what we’ve done we’re going to get what we’ve got. The unique advantage that we have in this race over 2003 is that progressives are using the internet to work as a team.

Join us!

Garry South

I want to follow up on Todd Beeton’s article on the fake John Edwards whine. Todd already took down the piece, but of course Carla Marinucchi went to the go-to wanker:

Democratic strategist Garry South, who advised Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman during his bid for the party’s 2004 nomination, said “there’s always a danger when you’re running for public office that a pattern of behavior starts to emerge. And it might be utterly unfair to draw conclusions when things add up to a pattern — but that’s what people do, and that’s what the media does.”

If you want a pattern, let’s talk about Garry South destroying the (all once-bright) futures of Gray Davis, Joe Lieberman, and Steve Westly. It is literally like he won’t hire a client without potential to be on the top 10 list of the biggest losers in the Democratic Party this millennium. There are plenty of reasons for the Open Letter to Garry South.

And can we finally retire the term of him as a “Democratic strategist” after all the evidence the Democratic Party rejects him everywhere he goes? He’s a “Connecticut for Lieberman” strategist and has the record to prove it.