Tag Archives: Special Election 2009

Analyzing the May 19 Framing

You don’t typically see the media analyzing the spin and framing work done for their behalf. But Steven Harmon of MediaNews does just that today. And, to this point, the Governor is winning…

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first move after the May 19 special election was to immediately tamp down any thoughts of raising more taxes, claiming voters had sent a “clear message” against taxes in rejecting five of six ballot measures.

In striking quickly against the idea of more taxes, Schwarzenegger was trying to take ownership of the political landscape before opponents could craft their own response, political observers said – and he was laying the groundwork for upcoming negotiations as lawmakers seek to resolve a projected $24 billion deficit.


Democrats have countered with a muddled response. Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, conceded immediately after the vote that she saw little chance of going back to Republicans for more tax hikes, saying, “It’s really going to be about devastating cuts.”

Since then, she has backpedaled some, saying that all options – including taxes – are on the table. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said that he is also bracing for “deep and painful cuts.” But, he added, “there is not $24 billion to cut in a way that would be acceptable to Californians. So, we’re going to begin with cuts, certainly. And we are going to look for every opportunity to use the crisis to fix the structure of government because it doesn’t work. (Media News 5/31/09)

Harmon goes on to talk about the yeoman’s effort put up by the coalition behind the No on 1A campaign (that I worked on), including SEIU and AFSCME.  In the Binder poll that has been discussed around here frequently, we saw strong evidence that Californians support paying for the services they value. Without rehashing all of the details from the poll, suffice it to say that we have the data on our side.

However, we don’t have the framing on our side. It has always been easy to cast the May 19 election as some sort of referendum on taxes. But the fact is that the special was far more than that, or far less depending on your point of view. It was about the failed communication between representatives and constituents. It was about voters growing weary of the constant hiding of the ball and failure to address our structural problems. Sure, it was about the spectre of Jarvis’ ghost, but just as much as the failure to have a consistent fiscal policy since 1978 as the tax aspects.

Yet, like Harmon points out, Democratic elected leaders are losing the framing battle to (faux Democrat) Susan Kennedy and her gang of merry thieves in the Horseshoe. In the short term, we need our current elected leaders to stand up for government and for our values.  In the long term, we need to work to ensure that those who are elected to Sacramento understand why we sent them there. When term limits create open seats, we need to put not just Democrats in those seats, but progressives who will shape the caucus into a body that can fight the Republicans obstructionism.

Are we going to break the record for lowest turnout?

The answer? Yes, or almost certainly yes.  The record, according to John Wildermuth, is 28%:

In the state’s nonpresidential primary last June, nearly 60 percent of the votes came in by mail but total turnout was only 28 percent, the lowest ever for a statewide vote.(SF Chronicle 5/17/09)

From early turnout results, the numbers have been shockingly low. The last numbers I’ve heard had LA at 6% turnout, even with some municipal elections going on. Those numbers will certainly climb with the post-work rush, but I’m not expecting anything huge.

So…Congratulations Arnold, I’m sure you are very proud of that record.

UPDATE: I meant to include a few resources. Here is the SoS results page. The mobile version here. And if the site goes down, you can check the results on Twitter.

And, more evidence of low turnout. From the LA Times:

By 4 p.m., voter turnout in Los Angeles County was 11.57%. In a comparable statewide election in 2005, turnout had reached 27% by the same time.(LA Times 5/19/09)

UPDATE 2: The thing about this extremely low turnout is that it says that the voters aren’t all “enraged” about tax revolution. They just want the politicians to do their job, and they want the Governor to show some real leadership. In other words, they want a functioning government.

Field Poll Reveals SHOCKING Data on Approval Numbers

Figure Group Approve Disapprove No Opinion
Arnold All 33 55 12
Arnold Dems 32 56 12
Arnold Reps 30 57 13
Arnold Other 36 52 12
Arnold LA 26 67 7
Arnold SFBay 45 43 12
Leg All 14 74 12
Leg Dems 19 69 13
Leg Reps 11 83 6
Leg Other 12 71 17
Leg CV 12 80 8
Leg SFBay 20 66 14

Ok, shocking might not be the best word for it, perhaps “completely expected” would work better. The latest bit of data to come out from the good folks at the Field poll is approval data (PDF) on our elected officials.  And let’s just say it ain’t all that pretty. The Legislature is sitting at a sparkling 14% approval rating and the Governator is at 33%.

I included a couple of the breakouts here by region.  Interestingly, the San Francisco Bay region seems to be a bit more sympathetic to the elected officials. For both the Governor and the Legislature, approval numbers were highest by the Bay.  On the other hand, the LA area pretty much hates Arnold, and the Central Valley feels the same way about the Legislature.

I think one question that wasn’t answered here was how Californians feel about their own Legislator. Typically those numbers are far higher, after all it’s harder to hate somebody you’ve met and voted for several times than the nebulous “Legislature.” Nobody votes for the “legislature” so there is no ownership of that body by the voters. On the other hand, over 50% of the state voted to re-elect the Governator.

Also interesting, but unsurprising, was that Arnold is now officially more popular with Democrats than Republicans. Congratulations on that Arnold. Your party officially hates you.

It’s clear that the elected leaders will not be featured prominently in any commercials in the next three weeks. Well, not if the Yes campaigns want to win.  Although, if there was an ad about Prop 1C (lottery), perhaps a wonkish politician might help. I was thinking John Chiang, but I don’t know his official position on the issue, and I doubt that he would want to be associated with this stinker of a special election.

Progressives Struggling with the Props while Field Shows Californians Want Something for Nothing

I am working for the No on 1A Campaign, however, I am not working for any other No campaign. My opinions should not be construed to be those of the campaign, especially when it comes to the remaining measures.

As the California Democratic Party endorsements showed, progressives are struggling with the May 19 elections.  On one side, you see some pretty progressive elected officials, like Bass and Steinberg, and organizations, like the California Teachers Association. Yet, it is clear that none of these fronts are really unified.  Not all of the legislators are supporting the May 19 props. Asms. Sandre Swanson and Warren Furutani are opposing Prop 1A.  And the education community is not unified either:

“It’s not comfortable to be in the position of disagreeing with our state organization,” said Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Association, which represents about 2,800 teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians in the city’s public schools.

Still, Olson-Jones said, “We really cannot, in all good conscience, support any measure that would cap and cut vital social services, because they are needed by our students.”(OakTrib 4/29/09)

In fact, Bay Area Progressives seem to be a major problem for the Yes on 1A-F campaign.  The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, a large and active bunch, went no on the whole lot, and the San Francisco Young Democrats went No on A, C, D, and E. And yesterday, the SF Bay Guardian, the progressive newspaper of the Bay Area, went no on all 6 measures. They make similar points to the Calitics endorsements, specifically that the measures will “lock the state in a fiscal straitjacket.”

We’ve listened to both sides, researched the measures in depth, and concluded that the best choice for Californians is to reject Propositions 1A through 1F. The proposal may address (most of) this year’s budget woes and keep the state running for a while, but it will create a fiscal straightjacket on the order of Proposition 13 that will damage California and undermine any progressive policy hopes for many, many years into the future. If the voters accept this deal today, they’ll come to regret it. (SFBG 4/29/09)

The Guardian also acknowledged the growing progressive discontent with the measures. It was on full display at the CDP convention, and doesn’t look to be quieting down. The Prop 1A spending cap just makes the package a difficult pill to swallow, and the Props D & E cuts to vital services don’t  endear themselves to progressives either.

UPDATE: This Field Poll (PDF) on the fact that Californians don’t want more taxes but don’t want cuts is quite relevant to the discussion. Of twelve subject areas that Field asked about, Californians only support cuts to prisons (59%…oh, me too!) and state parks (51%).  Other spending programs are widely supported, with law enforcement cuts (23%) and education cuts (25%) being the least popular.

Somewhere along the line, Californians have come to believe that we can have our cake and eat it too. That we can have impossibly low taxes and yet still provide the services that our state needs.  Where, oh where, could they have heard that.  Oh, right, that’s pretty much the Bush Administration in a nutshell, and how Arnold came to power in 2003 with his “car tax” rhetoric. The negative effects of the constant tax-cutting message of people like Arnold and those on his right flank has come home to roost.  And we as Democrats have been shy about telling any other story.  The poll bears this out by reporting that about 70% of Californians support the 2/3 majority for taxation.

California is in an impossible situation, the voters expect everything, and expect to pay nothing for it. I’m beginning to think that Treasurer Lockyer wasn’t really that far off when he said that higher ed institutions might not open up next year.  That might not even be the worst of our problems if Californians don’t begin to conceptualize how government actually works.

Another Poll Shows Trouble In Special Land

The No on 1D/E Campaign, which recently merged, have released an internal poll (PDF) from Tulchin Research.  The data is consistent with a previous PPIC poll. Prop 1D (First 5) is slightly ahead 48-42, and Prop 1E (Mental health) is down 44-46. More spin details from the No campaign:

   *  A solid majority of voters describe the measures as “deceptive” (56%).

   * Nearly half of the voters are concerned they will “cut funding for children and the mentally ill” (45%).

   * There are nearly twice as many voters who strongly oppose Props 1D & 1E.

   * The voters most likely to cast a ballot are more likely to vote NO than less likely voters.

   * “Definite” voters reject Proposition 1E (42% Yes – 48% NO).

   * “Definite” voters split their opinion on Proposition 1D (46% Yes – 45% NO).

   * Nearly 1 in 5 voters (18%) believe that Props 1D & 1E hurt programs and services, particularly for children and the mentally ill.

   * 16% of voters describe the initiatives as “deceptive” or “dishonest.”

Either way, being below 50% at this point is just a really bad position. It is possible to make up some grouund with a ton of money, but the yes campaign will be swimming upstream from the general drift towards no.  In a low-turnout special election, that drift is likely to be more visible.

All I’m saying is that if I were on the “Budget Reform Now” campaign, I’d be getting pretty nervous right now.

The May 19 Special Election Ballot

Here it is folks, the propositions qualified for the May 19 Special Election, thanks to a tweet from our Secretary of State.  I take not position yet on any of these, as there is still a lot of research to be done. So we have the following:

Prop 1A: Very Complicated Spending Cap/Rainy Day Fund

Prop 1B: Education Finance Reforms

Prop 1C: Securitization of the Lottery

Prop 1D: Raiding First 5, Prop 10 of 1998

Prop 1E: Raiding Mental Health Services, Prop 63 of 2004

Prop 1F: No State Elected Official Raises During Deficits

Prop 13: Changes to the taxation of Seismic Retrofitting