Tag Archives: Prop 93

Howard Rich goes on the attack

You may or may not remember Howard Rich, but I have had many opportunities to grow to despise the man. He seemingly funds every bad government deform proposition on our ballot.  He funded the term limits measure back in the 90s, and still heads US Term Limits. Oh, and despite the fact that he doesn’t even live in California, he provided almost all of the funds to get Prop 90 on the ballot. That measure, you may recall, would have required that the state pay for any little regulation of property in the state.

Well, Howie Rich has a new fun activity: harassing Democratic donors by accusing them of the murky charge of “voter fraud.” Matt Stoller acquired a copy of the letter, which you will find over the flip.

The part that is most interesting to me is that this comes from the guy who won’t reveal the donors to US Term Limits, despite the fact that the body gave $1.5 million to fight Prop 93, citing privacy or other such nonsense.  I suppose it is ok for him to threaten donors, but not the other way around.

Of course, Rich can’t actually do anything legally to these donors, but he is probably doing a fair job of scaring a few donors away.

Howard Rich Letter

California’s Early Primary Was a Bad Move

Given that George Skelton has written the opposing view in today’s L.A. Times, I thought readers would enjoy my opinion about California’s early primary.

Remember when California moved up its presidential primary from June to February – so that we’d have a “bigger impact”? We ended up sharing February 5th with 21 other states – and so had almost no effect on the nomination.  Barack Obama lost to Hillary Clinton because he didn’t have enough time to introduce himself to voters in such a large state, but made up for that loss by racking up huge victories elsewhere.  Now California has a state primary on June 3rd – where turnout is expected to be very low, so the right-wing Proposition 98 to end rent control could pass.  If we had kept the primary at a later date, we would have affected the nomination – and Prop 98 would have gone down in flames.  But the Democratic leaders in Sacramento pushed a February primary to extend their term limits – in a gambit that failed.

The case for moving up California’s primary had its valid points – such as why does Iowa get to hog so much attention from presidential candidates every four years, who then are forced to take a position on ethanol?  As the largest and most diverse state in the nation, California deserves its place in the spotlight.  Candidates must be held accountable on issues that matter greatly to us like immigration, suburban sprawl, education funding, affordable housing, public transportation and levee repairs.  But despite moving up our primary, these issues did not play a prominent role in the campaign.

That’s because California didn’t act within a vacuum.  The Democratic National Committee said that states could move up their primaries to February 5th without losing delegates, so a lot of states had the same idea.  We ended up sharing Super Duper Tuesday with Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, North Dakota, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Idaho and Alaska.  Presidential candidates didn’t spend much time in California – because they were too busy elsewhere.

California got some attention on Super Tuesday, but we were competing with 21 states just ten days after the candidates had duked it out in South Carolina.  With the cost of running a statewide campaign here, Clinton and Obama spared their resources – and devoted more attention to states on the East Coast, Midwest and in the South where a little money could go a long way.  Obama lost California, but his campaign also figured out the math on winning delegates – focus on the small states and rack up huge victories.

Could Obama have won California if he had spent more time here?  Maybe.  Clinton still won by a nine-point margin, but she was ahead by over 20 points a few weeks earlier.  Obama needed time to get acquainted with California voters – especially Latinos – and a more systematic effort in the Golden State could have been successful.  Bear in mind that he practically tied Clinton among voters who went to the polls on Election Day.  But with California’s early absentee balloting, Clinton blunted his momentum.

What would have happened to the nomination fight if California had not moved up its primary to February 5th?  Obama would have emerged from Super Tuesday as the clear winner – but Clinton still won enough states (New York, New Jersey, Arizona) to keep the race going.  Obama would have racked up a wider lead in the delegate count earlier, but Clinton would have refused to back out – insisting that the race must be decided in California.  By June, California would have been viewed as her “make-or-break” state.

It’s interesting to see how much attention Pennsylvania got in this race – because they weren’t greedy like the other states that moved up their primary.  California could have had that same privilege if we had just been patient – allowing each candidate to come here, address our issues and earn our support.  Obama will be the Democratic nominee, and it will be no thanks to California voters.  By trying to have a bigger impact, we ended up making ourselves practically irrelevant.

Some argue that a February primary was good – because it boasted a high turnout.  That’s good for democracy, but the unintended consequences may devastate our state’s future.  A subsequent statewide primary on June 3rd will see a very low turnout – where the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association is pushing Proposition 98 to abolish rent control.  Polls show Prop 98 trailing, but we still don’t know exactly who will vote.  If renters and Democrats don’t turn out, the right-wing agenda will prevail.

In fact, the President of the Jarvis Association has admitted that a very low (and conservative) turnout will help them on the June ballot.  They started planning over a year ago to gather signatures for Prop 98.  When it looked like they were going to qualify for the February ballot, they actually stopped gathering signatures – and then resumed after it was too late.  Make no mistake about it: they put it on the June ballot for a reason.

Of course, having more of an impact in the nomination process was not the real agenda for a February primary – it was just the “official” reason to get Californians to support it.  Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Don Perata – who were about to step down because of term limits – wanted to pass Proposition 93 to allow them to stay in power for another term.  They could have planned ahead and put it on an earlier statewide ballot, but instead wasted our money with a February initiative.  The voters ended up rejecting Prop 93 – so Perata and Nunez will have to step down anyway.

In order to prove that the February primary was not a waste of time and resources, Perata and Nunez must now make the defeat of Prop 98 a top priority.  Defeating Prop 98 won’t take back the money that the state spent on another election (which could go towards education, housing and transportation), won’t bring back California’s relevance in the presidential nomination process – but at least it will help save rent control.  And right now, it’s the only thing that Perata and Nunez can do about it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In his spare time and outside of regular work hours, Paul Hogarth volunteered on Obama’s field operation in San Francisco. He also ran to be an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

Let the Races Begin

In the aftermath of the failure of Prop 93 on Tuesday, most attention seemed to be focused on the leadership contests in Sacramento. But Prop 93’s failure has sparked a whole series of contests to replace outgoing lawmakers. With the June primary four months away, potential candidates are scrambling to get their names out there in the public eye, raise money, and rally supporters. These contests will help determine the future of the Democratic legislature and progressive politics in the state, and so it’s time we looked at some of these in greater detail.

Here in the Monterey Bay area, in AD-27, we’re faced with the task of replacing the incomparable John Laird, one of the most knowledgeable legislators on the budget and a strong progressive. The Yes on 93 campaign won Santa Cruz and Monterey counties with an effective “Yes on 93 – Keep John Laird” appeal, but it wasn’t enough. Laird’s future is uncertain – like the equally talented Fred Keeley, who represented the district before he was termed out in 2002, Laird does not live in SD-15, the long coastal state senate district currently represented by Republican Abel Maldonado. Most of us here would love Laird to move a few miles east and run in SD-15, one of the most winnable Senate districts in the state (Dems now have a lead in registration), but Laird has not announced his intentions.

Five candidates have declared for the Democratic primary here in AD-27. Emily Reilly is a member of the Santa Cruz City Council and last year served as the city’s mayor. She’s visited Calitics before – in December she wrote an excellent piece attacking the “design-build” concept that Arnold is so much in love with, and I personally support her in the race to replace Laird. She has strong progressive credentials on issues from health care to sustainability and climate change, and has also demonstrated significant fundraising prowess – she raised nearly $120,000 from over 300 small donors in Q4 2007, even before it was known whether she would actually be a candidate for AD-27 (she, like most in the race, promised to withdraw if Prop 93 passed).

Bill Monning is another experienced entrant into the race. Monning is a Monterey attorney, and has challenged for this seat before – in 1994 he was the Democratic nominee, but lost to Bruce McPherson in that year’s Republican tide. Monning, like Reilly, emphasizes his strong progressive credentials, and is especially interested in action on climate change. According to the Monterey Herald Monning has $60,000 in the bank, but plans to raise $480,000 for the primary.

Over the flip I discuss the other announced candidates for the seat…

Barbara Sprenger is an activist from Felton in Santa Cruz County, and like Reilly and Monning has a strong commitment to progressive ideas – her website explains her support of single-payer care, student loan reform, and green jobs. Sprenger also helped organize the town of Felton’s public buyout of a private company that had controlled their water supply. According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel she had already raised $60,000 as of early January.

Stephen Barkalow, a Monterey doctor, emphasizes the need for health care reform (though does not explicitly call for single-payer) as well as action on education, environment, and affordable housing.

Finally there is Doug Deitch, of Aptos in Santa Cruz County. He doesn’t have a website yet his website is here, but he is running as a one-issue candidate – focused on water. Deitch believes that the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency should have its state-delegated powers stripped because, in his eyes, the agency has given too much groundwater to farmers. Interestingly, Deitch was going to run in the primary even if Prop 93 had passed.

Overall it’s a strong field, and each one will be bringing a good set of progressive values to the campaign. Of course, with the state budget issue dominating all else in CA politics, and given that these candidates are vying to replace the legislature’s acknowledged budget genius, they’re going to need to explain to voters how they will help provide long-term revenue solutions to the budget, instead of going for short-term fixes and crippling spending cuts. My advice to the candidates is to take leadership on the budget, and show voters how that squares with the candidate’s other progressive positions.

That’s good advice for any Democrat running in the June primary, and I invite your comments on other races.

The State Budget Dominates the Props

As Brian noted below, the propositions are pretty much a done deal. 92 lost (though by a much closer margin than earlier in the night, suggesting Obama supporters went for 92), as did 93. The Indian gaming compacts all won by healthy margins.

The common factor that explains all six outcomes is the state budget deficit. It now looms over state politics like nothing else. Sure, there were reasons specific to each measure that influenced the outcome, but looked at as a whole, voters appear to have seen these ballot measures through the lens of the state’s dire fiscal situation.

Prop 92, which was seen by some as squeezing the budget to help community colleges, failed. Props 94-97, which the barrage of ads claimed (questionably) would raise $4 billion for the state, passed. And Prop 93, which would have reformed term limits and given current legislators more time in office, failed – voters seem to have held them responsible for the budget crisis.

The lesson here is that it is long past time for state legislators to help craft a permanent budget solution. A 30-year succession of one-time and short-term fixes haven’t gotten us any closer to a stable budget, or to fixing the structural revenue shortage. As a result, community colleges are now facing budget cuts without any protections, four of the state’s largest casinos now can operate without strong unionization rules, and 120 legislators are looking at an early end to their terms in office.

Add to that toll the Núñez-Schwarzenegger health care plan (which I opposed, but was still primarily a victim of the budget crisis) and the possibility of future programs getting axed, like the high speed rail bonds on the November ballot, and it should now be clear that the state budget crisis isn’t just a fiscal problem but a major political obstacle.

Term limit reform will be back. We likely haven’t seen the last battle over Indian gaming and labor rights. Public education at all levels is still hurting and growing less accessible. The health care crisis continues, and we badly need 21st century, sustainable transportation solutions. But until the state budget crisis gets a permanent solution, it’s going to be very difficult to move forward on any of that.

That is where our focus must now turn.

Polling, Turnout, The Presidency and the Props

Tomorrow, we’ll get the numbers that really matter, but for today we are awash in polls, polls, and more polls. We have national polls, which might actually have some meaning this time around as around half the nation will be going to the polls today. We have state polls, and they all seem to vary a lot.

I have a hunch about this. Turnout will be mysterious this election cycle.  Field and other pollsters are used to presidential elections, used to primary elections, but this is different. This is the first time that there will be real GOTV operations trying to get people to the polls. There were doubts about past and present Field Polls overestimating Latino vote or underestimating youth vote, yada yada. The thing is that this is mostly an experiment in guesswork. Sure, I think Field has played these kinds of games before, especially with the 2005 special election, but this is all still educated guess work. In fact, if you dig down in my archive (Diary # 199 to be exact, we’re over 5000 now) you can find some data on the 2005  election accuracy.

Let’s look at the presidential candidates first. Zogby has Obama with a 46-40 lead over Senator Clinton. That’s just barely within the margin of error, but quite different from Field who has Clinton leading by two points. Rasmussen has Obama leading by 1: 45-44. What does this mean? Well, if I’m running either campaign, I’m going all out on GOTV efforts, especially in the odd-delegate districts where you can pick up an extra delegate.

One more word on how this is going to work for us, delegate wise. And, I’m completely open to correction if you think I’m wrong, as it’s entirely possible. But as I understand it, the big pot (around 130) of statewide delegates get doled out based on proportional voting statewide. Then the Congressional Districts all have between 3 and 6 Delegates depending on the Democratic turnout in the district. But, any candidate who gets 15% gets one delegate. To get a 3-1 split in 4-delegate districts, the winner would need well over 60%.  So, the odd # districts are going to be crucially important.  Strange stuff.

And to the propositions, (Brian’s Disclosure)  well, the polling is all over the place on those too. The Field poll just came out with No leading on 93 and Yes on 94-97, but just last week, the LA Times came out with their poll showing 93 up 50-46. (They didn’t poll 94-97, methinks).

We’re going to be dealing with this election for a while because of the Diebold issues, but it will be nice to have some real numbers. After the election, I’ll compile lots of the polling data and see how the pollsters did. Until then, you have your choice of burying yourself in polls or doing GOTV work for your favorite cause or candidate. Have fun!  

Field Poll: 93 Losing, Gaming Compacts Winning

The latest Field Poll is out and though the news is not good for Prop 93 supporters or opponents of the gaming compacts, the most important thing may be the number of voters still undecided here on the eve of the election. In the table numbers in Parentheses are early Jan #s and December #s.

Prop/Response Prop 93 Props 94-97
Yes 33 (39 50) 47 (42 39)
No 46 (39 32) 34 (37 33)
Undecided 21 (22 18) 19 (21 28)

And 80% of voters have heard of Prop 93, compared up from 65% earlier in January and from 25% in December.

Interestingly, the recent Field presidential poll also showed a substantial number of voters still undecided. But for 93 to pass and 94-97 to fail, those undecideds will have to break heavily in one direction. And the trendlines are not favorable for 93 supporters and 94-97 opponents.

Kevin Drum: Yes on Prop 93

(Brian’s Disclosure – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Kevin Drum, the progressive blogger extraordinaire at Washington Monthly, yesterday endorsed Proposition 93 in his Political Animal blog. In his brief post he called Prop 93 “one of those rare initiatives I’m in favor of.”

From my point of view, there’s an easy one and a hard one. The easy one is Prop 93, which changes our term limits law. Currently, you’re limited to 14 years: three terms (6 years) in the assembly and two terms (8 years) in the senate. The problem with this is that a limit of three terms in the assembly, for example, means that the Speaker of the Assembly never has more than four years of experience before taking over the top spot. This is dumb. Prop 93 PresserThe point of a term limits law should be to prevent people from making careers out of a single political office, not doing away with experience altogether.

The new law is simpler: it limits service to 12 years total, in either house. This is how I would have written the law in the first place, and it’s a good compromise between limiting legislative service while still allowing politicians to gain enough experience to know how to run things. This is one of those rare initiatives I’m in favor of.

In addition, the campaign organized a press conference at the LGBT Center here in San Francisco with (L->R) Mark Leno (who stands to lose 4 years if Prop 93 is passed) and Asms. Ruskin, along with SF Democratic Party Chair Scott Weiner.

Incidentally, the “tough one” for him was 94-97. He seemed to lean towards yes, based primarily on his feeling that the legislature and the governor should get to run the state.

Some Interesting Yes on 93 Editorials and other 93 News

In the last few days, Prop 93 has gotten a bunch of surprising endorsements. In the past few weeks, besides the Governator, Prop 93 was endorsed by such varying personalities as Chris “Darth” Norby and Fred Keeley. You don’t get much different than those two. However, as I’m loath to link to something from the John and Ken Show, I’ll go with former Asm. Keeley:

By making this modification, voters would be re-establishing the balance of powers among and between the three branches of state government. It would also retain the best aspects of term limits, while improving the utility of this tool for problem solving. Of course, for our community it would permit our outstanding Assembly member John Laird to remain in the Assembly for a bit longer. (Santa Cruz Sentinel 1/20/08)

These endorsements are not isolated, as people are gradually able to separate distinct arguments and look at the details of Prop 93. Recently, the Desert Sun endorsed Prop 93 on fairly similar ground

Proposition 93 is needed because:

• The Legislature lacks experience. In our attempt to move away from powerful career politicians, we now have a Legislature where one-third of the members are termed out every two years.

• Voters should recognize that there is a learning curve when new lawmakers join the legislature. Lobbyists spend years in Sacramento. Our representatives come and go so quickly, they hardly have what it takes to stand up to such power.

• We want new, fresh ideas in the legislature, but we also need experienced leaders representing us on complex issues like water, healthcare, global warming, schools and the budget. (Desert Sun 1/20/08)

Proposition 93 strikes the balance the California Legislature needs. The Term Limits and Legislative Reform Act would reduce the number of years members serve in the Legislature from 14 to 12. But all the time can be served in one house or the other, or a combination of the two.

Conservative and progressive editorial boards are echoing a similar statement: Prop 93 is better than the status quo.

Prop 93 moves up in the polls

The latest poll out, the LA Times poll released today, shows Prop 93 leading 50%-46%. Obviously, this is still a close race, in fact, a “toss-up” as the LA Times calls it. However, Prop 93 has been gaining momentum as the campaign nears its crescendo

After the recent rash of endorsements, a rise in polls should be expected. This was highlighted in the most recent Prop 93 ad, which featured endorsements from the LA Times, California Common Cause, and the California Small Business Roundtable. Oh, and some guy with an Austrian accent:

With a week left to go, there are still plenty of viewpoints out there. You can find opinions in every direction. But the underlying question that voters should be asking themselves should be whether California is better off after this reform. But taking the long view, this reform enables better governance for California, or, as jsw puts it, even ugly babies need love


Whatever Happened to the “Out of Iraq” Referendum?

I wrote this for today’s Beyond Chron.

Remember when Democrats were pushing George Bush on the War in Iraq?  Remember when presidential candidates were getting heat for having supported the War – or their being wishy-washy about getting us out?  With California’s presidential primary in just two weeks, we were supposed to have a Proposition on the February ballot – making it official policy that the people of California support withdrawal.  State Senate President Don Perata championed the issue and the legislature voted to put it on the ballot, but then Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed it.  If Democrats were serious, however, they could have gathered signatures to put it on the ballot – regardless of what Arnold did.  Doing so would have boosted Democratic turnout, kept the issue alive and held all presidential candidates accountable.  Instead, we have allowed Iraq to slip from the consciousness of politicians – eluding a golden opportunity to help end this quagmire.

It’s no secret why Senate President Don Perata wanted to put this measure on the ballot – the same reason why he and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez championed moving up California’s presidential primary to February.  They want to extend term limits to keep their jobs longer – and Proposition 93 has been their priority all year long.  If a high-profile issue like the Iraq War were on the state ballot, it would boost Democratic turnout.  Most of these voters were inclined to support Prop 93.

Four months ago, the two Democratic houses of the state legislature passed SB 924 – which calls upon the people to vote on whether the President should get our troops out of Iraq.  It was technically an “advisory measure”- but putting it on the same ballot as the presidential primary would have had a political impact.  California voters strongly oppose the War, forcing the issue on the mind of candidates.  San Francisco voters passed a similar measure in 2004.

In September, Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it – so it failed to get on the ballot.  Not that his veto was much of a surprise.  The Republican Governor has always supported the War, and SB 924 passed the legislature on a party-line basis.  The California Constitution says that state propositions can either be placed on the ballot: (a) by the state legislature and the Governor, or (b) by collecting signatures from a certain percentage of voters.  If the Governor’s veto was predictable, why wasn’t the latter option pursued?

Of course, Arnold’s veto gave Democrats a chance to do some political grandstanding.  “The self-proclaimed ‘People’s Governor’ owed nothing less to the people of California and our troops overseas,” said State Party Chairman Art Torres, “than to let the voice of the voters be heard on this disastrous war in Iraq.”  But besides that, they just let the issue die.  Now we continue to hemorrhage American lives, American dollars and America’s standing in the world every day – when California had the opportunity to speak loudly.

Granted, it costs a lot of money to gather the necessary signatures to put a proposition on the ballot.  But it can be done.  Community college advocates put Prop 92 on the ballot by petition signatures.  Unions put Props 94-97 on the ballot by petition signatures, in order to repeal the anti-labor gaming compacts.  And the Democratic leadership – yes, the same people who said they want us out of Iraq – put Prop 93 on the ballot by petition signatures.

Nunez and Perata were willing to put in the money to collect signatures for a proposition that will extend their terms in office – but would not do the same for an albeit symbolic measure that would keep the most important issue facing America today in the minds of politicians who want California’s support.  Polling for the measure was sky-high: Californians supported it by a 2-1 margin, and among Democrats it was 10-1.

In April, when Perata and Nunez were still trumpeting the idea of putting this on the ballot, all the Democratic presidential candidates came to the state party convention.  Iraq was on everyone’s mind, and we had the time to hear from candidates about how they will get us out.  But now that they’re coming back to ask for our vote, it is less of an issue.  Beltway pundits are now proclaiming that the presidential race is less about Iraq, and more about the economy.

Why was this not a priority?  Could it be that Nunez and Perata, along with U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and the bulk of California’s Democratic establishment, have endorsed Hillary Clinton?  Senator Clinton voted for the Iraq War Resolution in 2002 while Barack Obama opposed it – and if Iraq becomes the central issue for California Democrats when they pick a candidate, she could be in trouble.  Maybe they just didn’t want to embarrass Clinton, and lose patronage in the next Democratic Administration.

Our leaders in Sacramento told us that an early California primary meant that we would have more “clout” in picking the next President.  In the minds of most voters, that would mean holding candidates accountable on issues – like the War in Iraq – where Californians are more progressive than the rest of the nation.  But it seems like their true motivation was Prop 93 – so that if it passes in February, some of them can run for re-election in June.

The Democratic leadership put their money where their mouth is – by paying to gather signatures for Prop 93, but not for a “Get Out of Iraq” referendum.