While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.2 No. 4

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento

For the week ending February 9, 2008

Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the

Past week and beyond

With Super Tuesday all but a dim memory in the fast-paced world of Presidential campaign politics, Speak Out California will try to provide a summary of what happened, why and what it means for the near future of our state and nation. While such prognostications are often supplanted within days as the “conventional wisdom” shifts with each passing event and hour, we think there are enough interesting tidbits to provide at least some kind of guideline for the historic election we have just witnessed in our state.

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So just what did the California electorate have to say this past week?

Remembering that we moved our primary election up to be “relevant” in the presidential selection process, it is somewhat ironic that the results of “Super Tuesday” have not clarified the race much at all. With Hillary Clinton taking the grand prize of California by an impressive 10% margin, having received 52% of the votes cast to Barack Obama’s 42.4%, the candidates are still neck-and-neck in the all-important delegate count heading into the August convention, where the final candidate selection will take place.

What was striking to many of us watching the polls up to election day was the size of Clinton’s win. With Obama clearly gaining momentum and reducing what had once been a 35% margin for Clinton, the press would have had us believe that Obama might even score a huge upset victory in California and all but sew up the election battle. As major endorsements came in from the famous and glamorous, racking up big media coverage for Barack, he seemed almost unstoppable. Oprah, Maria Shriver, Ted and Caroline Kennedy came to UCLA for a boisterous rally which was well-covered throughout the national press. University students came out en masse. Clearly, Obama was gaining traction in the Bay area, in coastal districts and with our young voters. So just exactly how did this all turnout at the end? We may not know for awhile actually, since there are estimates that over one million ballots that have yet to be processed. It is unclear how many will actually be counted and the outcome will not be affected, since some are provisional ballots of questionable validity.

For a full count of results, the best place to look is the Secretary of State’s website here. Included are all the results from both parties- Clinton for the Dems and McCain for the Reps. One of the more interesting statistics is just the sheer numbers of votes cast in the Democratic primary (over 4.3 million to the Reps 2.5 million ballots). Keeping in mind that independent voters were allowed to vote in the Democratic primary, but the Reps would not allow them to vote in their “closed” primary, there were still over 1.7 million more votes cast in the Democratic race. We don’t know if this portends anything in November’s general election, but it’s a pretty good bet that many of those voters will stick with the candidate they voted for in the primary — a sort of loyalty element that can become a factor in an election. If that theory does hold, it’s a pretty sure bet that California will continue its “blue” ways and put 55 big electoral votes on the Democratic side. Of course, politics is nothing if not fluid, so don’t go to the bank on that one yet…

Some of the more interesting, albeit wonky discussion on the outcome of the California primary revolves around the various voting blocks — Hillary handily took the female vote (according to CNN’s exit polls) with 59% of women voting for her and 34% voting for Obama. She also took the large Latino vote (which represented 30% of the Democratic voters) by 2-1. Barack cleaned up with the white 18-29 year old vote at just about 2-1 and the African-American vote by an even larger percentage.

An interesting and slightly different take on the results has been opined by Joe Mathews of the LA Times. While many of us have scoured the obvious demographics such as gender, age, ethnicity, etc., Joe examined the presidential primary results from the geographic perspective. His theory is that Barack may have carried the wealthy coastal areas, but Hillary scored big in California’s “heartland”. Click here for his interesting analysis in this LA Times article.

The real winner in all this, though, is the enormous increase in voter registration and voter participation this year. Whether it’s the excitement of a new generational leader emerging or the chance of electing the first woman, there is no doubt that more people, particularly first-time voters, are paying attention and participating in the electoral process. This is great news, no matter what the outcome. And for Dems, it’s particularly interesting to note that new voter registration far outweighed those signing up on the Rep side. For those of us desperate to see new leadership and new ideas in Washington, this kind of groundswell can only be a good thing.

So, after all the hoopla, where does the Presidential election stand? We know for the Reps that John McCain has emerged from what appeared to be certain extinction to be the all-but-selected Republican nominee. The story on the Dem side is far from clear, however. For a current scorecard on the all-important delegate count, click here for CNN’s report.

How the ballot measures fared?

There were really no surprises here, as the polling and pundits called this portion of the election pretty accurately, although the numbers weren’t quite as some of the later polls had predicted.

Props 91 and 92: While having little in common in terms of subject matter, both went down to clear defeat with 41 and 42% of the vote respectively. Prop 91, dealing with transportation funding had lost the support of its sponsors. In spite of having no organized support, it still managed to get 41% of the vote. While Prop 92, which would have clarified Community College funding, had a campaign and some support, it was able to generate only 1% point more than the transportation measure without support. The poor showing of the measure might create some ominous consequences in the coming budget fight. With such poor public support, the failure of Prop 92 could be interpreted to mean that the community colleges don’t have much political juice when it comes to protection in these very difficult budget negotiations.

Prop 93: The interesting aspect for political wonks was the closeness of Prop 93’s defeat. Although it lost convincingly, at 53% in opposition to 47% in support of the proposed term-limits revision, the Field Poll released just days before the election found it at only 33% popularity. A loss is a loss, of course, and as a result both Fabian Nunez and Don Perata will be out of the Legislature in January 2009. But the question is: how did such a respected pollster come up so off in his prediction on that measure? We really haven’t gotten much in the way of explanation, so it’s purely conjecture at this point. The reality is, though, that Sacramento has already been in overdrive to replace the fallen leadership. In keeping with the old adage, “The King is dead, long live the King!” the Senate has already announced the selection of well-respected nice-guy Darrell Steinberg as Perata’s replacement at the end of the legislative year. On the Assembly side, the positioning is well underway to replace Nunez, who has taken responsibility for Prop 93’s loss. A vote of the Assembly membership is already set for March 11th if one candidate emerges with enough support to take the crown as Speaker.

With term limits reform now off the table, the scuttlebutt is that it will only reemerge if it is coupled with redistricting reform. Ever-ready for reform, Governor Schwarzenegger has announced he will support a redistricting reform initiative if it qualifies for the ballot. Although it’s now too late for the 42 members of the Legislature who will term-out in November, California needs an honest and rational discussion of the entire term limits concept without fancy bells and whistles and self-interest that have distracted us from having this most important discussion.

Props 94-97: As predicted, the Indian gaming measures overwhelmed the rest of the ballot in terms of money spent. The compacts were approved by large margins, with the tribes standing to benefit spending approximately $22 for each yes vote. A staggering $80 million went into the winning side on this, but the expected return for each winning tribe is expected to make the investment more than worthwhile. What the state will benefit from these compacts is yet to be determined, but clearly the promise of assistance in these difficult budget times was a forceful and compelling draw for many who voted “yes” to confirm the deals approved by the Legislature and Governor last year.

Local money measures

One of the more interesting results of the February 5th election is the number of new tax measures that passed throughout the state. While many went down to defeat, with the often insurmountable 2/3 requirement, a surprising number of measures found success this year. With new and younger voters adding to the rolls, this may be the time that other such measures emerge for voter consideration in November. For more on this story, click here for the LA Times piece.

The Rest of the Story

Our blogging offerings for the week:

Primary Election Day–

Still Counting

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Until next week,

Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team