The importance of down-ticket

Today’s news focuses on just how we got to where we are today, with the once seemingly untouchable Schwarzenegger in free-fall, his ill-conceived special election right along with it.
Both the L.A. Times and the San Jose Mercury take a look at the role State Attorney General Bill Lockyer has played, which has been quite significant. Experts say Lockyer has not even come close to stepping outside the bounds of his elected office. But that doesn’t mean Republicans aren’t trying to stymie him.

Lockyer – who under state law is required to review voter initiatives – has prompted complaints about what Republicans see as a liberal bias in his actions on four initiative efforts this year.
In the most recent case, a judge ordered a Schwarzenegger-backed redistricting measure off the ballot after Lockyer sued over a procedural flaw. His actions also have prompted the governor to delay his planned overhaul of the pension system for public employees and spurred the threat of another lawsuit by backers of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.
In accusing him of bias, Republicans say Lockyer all but conceded the point last week by agreeing to rewrite a legal summary of the governor’s budget spending cap initiative. GOP lawyers had complained that Lockyer’s original summary of Proposition 76 contained errors and misrepresentations.
Lockyer said he is just doing his job: giving factual information to voters, enforcing the law and removing “propaganda” from the initiative process.

But while the mainstream press is focusing on how this fits in with Lockyer’s recently announced plans to drop his bid for Governor in ’06, progressives should take it as a lesson in the importance of all of our statewide officers, who don’t always get the attention they deserve around election time. We should have learned this lesson as we watched in horror at what happened in Ohio during the 2004 presidential election, or in Florida during 2000. But still, statistics show a sizable drop-off in statewide elections between the votes cast for Governor and votes cast for what are called “down-ticket” races.
While Lockyer really is just doing his job, one can honestly question whether someone who didn’t share our values would be taking these issues so seriously or pursuing justice so aggressively.