Archive for May 2010
64% of those primary initiatives were actually approved by voters (as opposed to a 49% approval rate in general elections).
So with five initiatives set for a thumbs-up or -down in two weeks, and history telling us that three-fifths of primary initiatives succeed, the question is: which three measures on this year’s ballot will get a thumbs-up, and which two will receive a thumbs-down?
Let’s assume that Proposition 13 passes. It stipulates that construction to seismically retrofit buildings won’t trigger reassessment of property-tax value. Sounds simple enough.
Let’s assume that Proposition 17 passes — if for no better reason that it has a clever, deliberately semi-informative/semi-nebulous title (“Allows Auto Insurance Companies to Base Their Prices in Part on a Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage”), not to mention at least $10 million to spend thanks to one California insurer.
So far: two initiatives yea, one initiative nay.
If Prop 16 fails, it would be one of the epic financial upsets in state history.
At last count, Pacific Gas & Electric had invested more than $44.2 million to amend the California Constitution so that a two-thirds vote is required before a local jurisdiction can provide cheaper retail power than PG&E.
Meanwhile, the anti-16 campaign has managed to scrape together only $36,000 — making for dollar disparity of roughly $1,227-$1.
So if Prop 16 passes, does that mean Prop 14 is a goner?
1) The most recent Public Policy Institute poll has the measure ahead, 60% to 27% lead, with independent voters also strongly behind it, 67% to 19% — and independents stand to play a strong role in state politics this year than they have in previous election cycles.
2) The last time primary reform was up for public discussion (1996′s Proposition 198), it received 60% of the vote.
3) The best hope of defeating Prop 14 would be rallying both parties’ faithful — the ones who care not for a ‘top-two” primary system. Problem is, turnout may be low among Democrats, what with Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer facing token opposition. And the prevailing negative tone of the Whitman-Poizner primary may convince some GOP loyalists that it’s time to do things differently.
Republican candidates now hold an eight-point lead (44%-36%) over Democrats in the latest edition of Rasmussen Reports’ Generic Congressional Ballot.
It’s the GOP’s largest lead since the third week of April, when the spread was 10 points. And it ends a springtime narrowing between the two political parties.
According to Rasmussen, a solid plurality (41%) of non-affiliated voters now prefer the generic Republican candidate, while only 20% prefer the generic Democrat.
The last time the Democrats led in the generic head-to-head was June 2009 (a 41%-39( edge). Since, only once (in October) has the power-in-party cracked the 40% barrier.
As for the Republicans, they’ve never fallen under 40% since that June poll. But only once, in the first week of April of this year, did they surpass 46%.
FYI, the generic Democrat enjoyed a double-digit lead in most every survey conducted in the home stretch of the 2008 congressional election. The Dems picked up 21 House seats and 8 Senate seats amidst that anti-Republican smackdown.
But before you’re convinced that this is an exact science: don’t forget 1994′s generic congressional ballot.
The smart people, that year, said the vote was trending in the Democrats’ direction. ABC had the Dems picking up 6 points in the final week, for a 1-point over Republicans. Gallup had it 51-44 Republicans, with a four-point swing toward the Democrats in the final week. NBC gave the GOP a 46-35 lead, with a two-point pickup for the Dems in the final two weeks.
The final results: Republicans gained 54 House seats, 8 Senate seats – and control of both chambers of Congress, much to the chagrin of the first-term Democratic president.
No, it’s not a typo.
A new Daily Kos/Research 2000 survey has Tom Campbell leading the Republican Senate primary at 37%, followed by Carly Fiorina at 22% and Chuck DeVore at 14%.
In general election match ups, Sen. Barbara Boxer leads all three challengers. She’s 7 points ahead of Campbell (47%-40%), and 9 points ahead of both Fiorina and DeVore (respectively, 48%-39% and 47%-38%).
This doesn’t jibe with last week’s PPIC poll, which handicapped the race as Fiorina 25, Campbell 23 and DeVore 16.
Although, interestingly, Daily Kos/Research has Meg Whitman leading Steve Poizner, 46%-36%, in the GOP gubernatorial primary. And that’s in line with PPIC, which has Whitman ahead, 38%-29%.
Granted, we’re talking about the decidedly liberal Daily Kos, which understands conservative Republicans about as well as W.C. Fields understood the virtues of temperance. Still, it underscores the mystery in this particular three-way freeway.
California’s GOP gubernatorial primary couldn’t be simpler: will a late surge carry Poizner to an upset win, or does Whitman have the right blend of strategy and organizational mechanics to fend off her rival?
But the Senate primary’s a different animal. Can Campbell, a veteran of Senate runs in 1992 and 2000, count on name recognition as a difference maker? Will Fiorina’s financial advantage put her over the top at this late stage? Or will DeVore benefit from an unseen/unanticipated Tea Party surge?
Meanwhile, we wait for the other big poll — Field — to come out. Back in the 2006 primary, it appeared just four days before the Angelides-Westly vote (for the record, the findings were off base: Field had Westly leading by 1%; he ended up losing by a shade under 5% — a little nugget the Whitman-Poizner runner-up most likely will point out).
btw, whoever this candidate “Undecided” is, he/she is running a helluva campaign.
31%, or second place and seven points behind Whitman . . .
36%, or first place and an 11-point lead on the Senate side.
Somewhere, in the Great Beyond, Al Shugart must be wishing that he had another crack at the “none of the above” ballot option.
This much we already know about California’s $19.1 billion budget shortfall.
Spending cuts alone won’t be the final answer — never have a California governor and state lawmakers agreed to cuts of that dimension, and certainly not in one budget cycle.
Nor will tax cuts alone settle matters. Again, the state has never pulled off a tax increase, on that level, in one fell swoop. To do so in this political environment wouldn’t encourage a mere tea party — but it might inspire an outright storming of the Sacramento Bastille, aka the State Capitol.
So what’s the answer?
Most budget-watchers will harken back nearly 20 years ago, to the salad days of Pete Wilson and Willie Brown and their budget fix (btw, with one of three dollars missing, a bigger hole percentage-wise than this year’s exercise) — a fix that was equal parts spending cuts and higher taxes.
Allow me to float a scenario, to solve the $19 billion dilemma, and it goes something like this:
1) $6.3 billion in spending cuts;
2) $6.3 billion in temporary tax and fee increases;
3) a $6.3 billion bridge loan from Washington.
There’s actually precedent for item # 3. It’s called the New York City Seasonal Financing Act, which 35 years ago extended a $2.3 billion line of credit to the Big Apple (that’s about $13 billion in today’s dollars). Washington didn’t just give away the money — the loan had to repaid within a year it was made, at a 1% higher rate than Treasury’s borrowing rate, which returned $40 million to the federal coffers.
New York City, then, was a lot like California today. During the decade leading up to Washington’s intervention, the city’s expense budget—$11.8 billion during the 1974-75 fiscal year—had grown at an annual rate of 12%. However, tax revenues had increased only 4%-5%.
And, like the current situation in Sacramento, New York’s political ruling class was running out of options. Higher taxes already had driven businesses to the suburbs. Nearly half of the city’s budget (44%) was propped up by state and federal aid. The city got by on short-term borrowing that, in very little time, had blown a large hole in its budget (NYC’s short-term debt exploded from $747 million in 1969 to $6 billion by early 1975).
At first, the Ford Administration shot down the idea of helping NYC void bankruptcy, prompting the New York Daily News’ infamous “Drop Dead” headline.
Actually, Gerald Ford was neither anti-city nor anti-Gotham (remember, Ford wasn’t all that conservative of a Republican, and he’d appointed Nelson Rockefeller, formerly a New York governor, as his replacement vice president).
But, by drawing an early hard-line and ramping up the pressure on city leaders to get their act together, Ford succeeded in getting a far more balanced deal — albeit, one with a lot of moving parts.
New York’s municipal workers’ unions were talked into contributing to the fix from their pension funds. The city’s banks did their part, by agreeing to refinance city notes and municipal bonds. Meanwhile, city government cracked down on spending and wayward programs.
And the city got tough on spending and wayward programs. For example, new eligibility forms were mailed to the city’s 338,000 welfare-check recipients, with the choice of verifying their eligibility within 10 days or facing benefit elimination.
Obviously, much has changed in the past 35 years – especially, the last two years. After bailouts to big banks and auto giants, not to mention at least one European nation, would politicians have the nerve to make a similar move in California’s direction and take the subsequent heat?
Then again, I can think of one politician in particular who could benefit from such a power play: Barbara Boxer.
In the political fight of her life, and trying for a fourth term in Washington, Boxer sorely needs to show she’s relevant to California’s well-being – in other words, that she can deliver for her constituents. And she has to show she’s a senator of substance in Washington – a trait that seems lacking as she takes a back seat to fellow Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman on the cap-and-trade debate, even though the bill is germane to her environmental committee.
Here’s how Boxer could pitch the California bailout: (1) it’s not bailout but a temporary loan, with the federal government making money off the interest; (2) the interest will be invested in something that benefits all 50 states — say, infrastructure improvements, green technology or school grants; (3) at $6.3 billion, it’s still half-a-billion less than America’s share of the Greek bailout; (4) if my conservative opponents disagree with me, are they saying that California, the world’s 8th economy, matters less than Greece, which doesn’t even make the top-30 of world GDPs?
Will any of this see the light of day? I doubt it. California bailout was briefly floated last year, and it didn’t take long for the White House to shoot down the trial balloon.
Still, it’s fun to speculate.
As with New York in 1975, the Obama Administration would have to wait until October, right around the World Series and trick-or-treating, when Sacramento’s urgency is giving way to panic. And it would require moving mountains in Congress, where a lot of reluctant members either: (a) care little for California, or (b) care even more about the current anti-incumbency streak brought on, in part, by bailouts and exorbitant federal spending.
Oh, and other minor detail. For all he did in bringing New York City back from the brink, Gerald Ford lost the state, the following year’s presidential election, to Jimmy Carter.
So Barack Obama might have little interest in California’s fiscal plight, especially if it brings him only a New York minute’s worth of good will.
An interesting article in the San Jose Mercury News on Governor Schwarzenegger’s determination to pull off public pension reform in this, his last year in office.
Arnold’s opening salvo to legislative Democrats: work with me to cut back on state workers’ pension and trim current employees’ salaries, or brace yourselves for the unavoidable snip-snip-snip of the public safety net.
The temptation is to dismiss this kind of tough talk (Arnold calls it a “Sophie’s Choice” between reform or cuts) as just so much bluff and bravado — the opening round of a budget dance that’s all but certain to go beyond the July 1 deadline, through the rest of the summer, and perhaps well into the fall.
But if you consider the larger dynamics at play in Sacramento, it’s a smart ploy by the Governor.
First, it’s his last budget. Better to take his time and get it right, and not bull-rush a lousy product sometime in late July or early August. The longer the Governor takes, the more pressure he puts on the Legislature — the guys and gals with the far worse approval rating, and the ones whose names are on the ballot (unlike the Governator).
Second, Arnold has leverage in any deal regarding pension reform — leverage that didn’t exist that in the 2005 special election and last time he got into a slugfest with public employees.
That difference: it’s called the public’s growing exasperation with story after story of generous retirement benefits and pension obligations devouring city (and, soon, the state’s) budgets - not to mention the Legislature’s inability to deal with the growing crisis.
Ironically, it’s a reversal of how Schwarzenegger entered office. Back in the post-recall heyday, with a big man flexing not only big muscles but soaring approval ratings, the Legislature feared initiative showdowns with the new governor.
Schwarzenegger knew this, and he used it to his political advantage. Take the case of one of the big tickets in his recall campaign: workers’ compensation reform. Given the choice of working with Schwarzenegger on workers’ comp, or settling their differences via the ballot box, lawmakers caved (for the record, Arnold got the support of 110 of the 116 lawmakers who cast a vote on SB 899, his workers’ comp package).
Schwarzenegger could attempt the same ploy this fall, assuming the budget goes deep into extra innings: pitch lawmakers on working with him to pass pension reform, or convince them he’s serious about taking matters straight to voters in the form of a ballot proposition.
Why would Democrats do this, given the Arnold’s approval rating hovers somewhere in Gray Davis Country? They just might – if the choice is (a) working with Arnold and getting a compromise deal (btw, probably a better deal than they’d get with Meg Whitman or Steve Poizner), or (b) being forced to spend millions in an initiative battle, and having to defend a pension system that’s becoming ever more indefensible.
Leverage, it’s a funny thing. And in politics, it comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes — even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s.
Meanwhile, here’s a new set of numbers to chew on, courtesy of M4 Strategies of Costa Mesa, which polls for the Small Business Action Committee.
Meg Whitman 49%, Steve Poizner 31.5%.
In February, the same poll had Whitman leading, 60%-12%.
Bottom line: both campaigns will spin the numbers their way – for Whitman, a less alarming double-digit lead; for Poizner, a narrowing divide.
Some more poll math:
Whitman’s favorable rating was 54.5%; her unfavorable was 26.8%.
For Poizner, it’s 38.5% favorable; 33.8% unfavorable.
At first glance, you might wonder why Steve Poizner’s campaign decided to dredge up the issue of Meg Whitman’s spotty voting record. In a new tv ad, he claims she didn’t bother to vote for 28 years — an allegation Team Whitman denies.
It’s not as if Poizner is breaking entirely new ground here. You might recall that she was raked over the coals, over the very same topic, at last fall’s state party convention — a bad press conference that turned into several days of more bad coverage as the Whitman campaign tried to sort through her voting past (or lack thereof).
“I was focused on raising a family, on my husband’s career, and we moved many, many times,” she told reporters at the time. “It is no excuse. My voting record, my registration record, is unacceptable.”
Does this signify a fork in the road — that Team Poizner has run out of ammo, with nearly a month to go until the June 8, is serving warmed-over leftovers?
No, just the opposite, a very smart (and, btw, politically unaligned) friend of mine explains.
The thinking goes like this: Poizner deliberately reintroduced the Whitman voting record literally at the very same moment absentee ballots are arriving in voters’ mailboxes. Not coincidentally, those are the same voters probably most motivated by this issue — they read their voter information guides word for word, they put serious thought into their ballots, they’re offended by the thought of a candidate taking a voting siesta for 28 years.
Poizner probably knows that. Let’s assume he’s also smart enough to know that the Whitman campaign can do precious little other than argue his attack ad’s specifics. By claiming she was too busy to vote, Whitman risks offending middle-class voters who live a far different lifestyle — not to mention every woman who takes pride in her multitasking. By taking it up with the press, she risks turning her voting record into a multi-day story, which is what occurred last September when the candidate and her campaign couldn’t get their facts straight.
At this point, Whitman supporters may want to cry foul — or, at least, double standard. I don’t remember Governor Schwarzenegger catching this much heat, back in the 2003 recall race, over his inability to exercise his democratic right (reporters did their digging and discovered that Arnold hadn’t voted in 5 of the previous 11 statewide elections).
But Schwarzenegger had something going for him back then, as a newcomer, that Whitman doesn’t in this go-round. By the time of that first gubernatorial effort, he already had sponsored a statewide initiative (the after-school Proposition 49, in November 2002 election). And, in the year leading up to that contest, Arnold had privately and publicly flirted with the idea of challenging Gray Davis — to the point where a Schwarzenegger candidacy in 2006 was more expected than not.
The point is: Arnold’s voting record, like Whitman’s, was a liability. But he had an activist record to fall back on (after-school programs, Special Olympics, President’s/Governor’s Councils on Physical Fitness. She doesn’t. And, coupled with the vast personal fortune she’s invested in her candidacy (another $5 million this week, pushing the total to $64 million), and that makes her campaign look all the more mercenary.
Any guesses how Whitman will counter Poizner’s latest attack?
In case you missed it, the three Republicans vying to unseat Sen. Barbara Boxer took part in a face-to-face debate last night — significant in that it was the first time all three were in the same room, on the same stage, at the same time.
Part of me wonders: what do Californian Republicans have against ice hockey? Last Sunday’s gubernatorial debate coincided with the second game of the San Jose Sharks/Detroit Red Wings series (literally, down the street, as both events took place in downtown San Jose). Last night’s Senate debate coincided with game four of the series, in Detroit.
Think this has something to do with the healthcare? Republicans hate Obamacare and Canadian healthcare . . . so, by default, they must hate Canada’s favorite past-time.
Or maybe it’s as simple as unfortunate timing — and a good argument for getting a DVR (not that the Senate debate was televised anywhere last night; it will be aired Sunday statewide on local ABC stations).
As for the GOP primary, the emerging this week was electability, at the expense of ideological purity.
First there was there the California Pro-Life Council’s surprise endorsement of Carly Fiorina — a surprise in that the choice wasn’t the more conservative Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.
The rationale: ”Our duty is to elect pro-life candidates,”said CPLC board member Mike Spence. “The world ‘elect’ is as important as the word pro-life.”
Translation: we’re tired of losing to Boxer, and we think Fiorina has a better chance of changing that.
But what to make of Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Fiorina, which occurred thisweek? The former Alaska governor chalked it up to Fiorina being “a commonsense conservative that California needs and our country could sure use in these trying times.”
Translation: unclear, as it’s such a benign statement.
Still, I wonder if Palin’s decision not to go with DeVore shows that the right — well, at least one of the leading voices of the right — is willing to settle for a little less purity in its litmus tests if it means better results come November.
If so, this is a huge advantage for Fiorina, in that “electability” is not a great message for a candidate in an ideological primary — given the choice of winning or sticking to beliefs, a great many conservatives will take the Goldwater road.
But by having third parties such Palin and the CPLC put the issue in play, it bolster’s Fiorina’s candidacy — and allows her to stay out of the tall weeds of absolute ideological rigidity that GOP candidates oft-times find hard to navigate.
With only a month until votes are cast, none of the three candidates has much of a television presence — nothing remotely close to the big-bucks shootout between Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner. So endorsements like these, plus whoever of the three contenders has the resources and organization to make a final push, could be the difference.
And that bodes well for Fiorina.
The bottom line in this less visible primary: one of these three candidates has a chance to go to Washington and serve in the United States Senate.
The other two contenders also have a future in Washington: teaching the FBI a thing or two about witness protection.
If Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina emerge at the top of the California Republican ticket, you can expect more stories like this one in the San Jose Mercury News — about Silicon Valley’s formal arrival in state politics.
The piece mentions two SV candidate who don’t get much ink — Chris Kelly, a tech attorney and former Facebook executive now running in the Democrats’ AG primary, and clean-tech venture capitalist Josh Becker, who’s running in 21st Assembly District (the same seat Steve Poizner sought in 2004).
And it tries to answer: why the influx in entrepreneurial candidates from south of San Francisco?
Are they driven by their revulsion to the state’s reckless spending? Is is simply a case of wealthy people with the kind of money that makes a political campaign possible?
Here’s my theory: look at age and hyper-ambitious personalities.
Meg Whitman turns 54 in August. She’s five months older than Poizner, and two years younger than Carly Fiorina. Kelly and Becker are, respectively, only 39 and 41. Highly successful people such as these, once they’ve scaled the business heights, wonder: what to do with the next 30, 40 or 50 years of my life?
But why run for office? In part, there’s the attraction of conquering a separate mountain having nothing to do with the corporate world, yet requiring MBA -like skills of organization, branding and marketing.
Let’s also assume that ego and defiance: people say you’re nuts to do something, you want to prove them wrong. Just ask Governor Schwarzenegger, whose story is one of : 1) bodybuilding is a dead-end pursuit; 2) musclemen can’t be leading men; 3) action heroes can’t do comedy; 3) Hollywood icons aren’t synonymous with public statesmen.
But today’s Silicon Valley candidates could be a result as natural evolution.
Sixteen years ago, it was a big deal when Bill Clinton landed the endorsement of Apple’s then-CEO John Sculley, a Republican and something of a Silicon Valley philosopher king.
Six years later, Proposition 211 sparked a new level of political activism in Silicon Valley — Republicans and Democrats banding together to kill a measure that would have left tech firms vulnerable to securities class-action lawsuits.
That unity wouldn’t last long, as Republican and Democrat tech leaders championed their various horses and causes (Bush, Gore, clean technology, stem-cell research, etc.).
It would seem inevitable that, after two decades of the valley’s flirtation with the political process, young and restless tech execs would choose to enter the arena.
A note: we’ll see if the Silicon valley “phenomena” continues after this cycle, especially if Whitman doesn’t win the big prize.
Will another tech leader likewise try to parachute onto the top of the pyramid? Will we see more tech types build from the ground up — i.e., legislative and lower-profile statewide office?
Or, will tech executives shun the idea of public candidates (and the accompanying headaches from all the exposure) and, instead, limit themselves to initiatives, contributions and behind-the-scenes kingmaking?
The big political news today in California was Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner’s teleconference — the one where he unveiled an internal campaign poll claiming he’s now within 10 points of rival Meg Whitman in the GOP gubernatorial primary.
That’s 10 points, with still a month to go (Poizner’s pollsters — the same ones who did Scott Brown’s upset win in Massachusetts – had the race at 59-11 in February; today’s numbers were 38-28).
So, is this to believed?
I’m not sure if I entirely buy off on the poll — not until I see a similar set of numbers.
But I do buy into the concept of a tighter primary.
First, campaign-produced polls are exactly that — campaign products. Not that they’re dishonest, but they’re not neutral, either, with the client (i.e., the candidate) having a vested interest. So read them with a grain a salt. And, if you’re a political junkie, study the sampling and the methodology — see if the results are straightforward or “pushed”.
That said, if I were Team Poizner, I’d press Team Whitman day-in and day-out to show its internal numbers (Whitman’s camp says it has a poll in the works, but isn’t offering a release date).
Why? Because Poizner has a two-in-three chance of getting a good news story out of said release. Assuming Whitman’s numbers don’t show her lead expanding from that earlier 22-point spread, then Poizner can claim: (a) the race is indeed closing, as Poizner’s long maintained; or, even better, (b) look it, her numbers are little different from mine — game on.
Besides, I think Poizner gained more out of Sunday’s debate than did Whitman, so he should be on the prowl for polling numbers done as close to possible to the post-debate “bounce” period — not a week later, when the debate’s effect may have cooled off.
(btw, Poizner’s internal poll was done from May 2-4 – the best time possible to catch a bounce).
(a second btw: this makes the timing for the sampling of the next mainstream polls — Field, PPIC and LA Times/USC — all the more important).
Now then, why would the race be tightening?
I’ll credit a friend of mine down in the Southland, who has lot more experience in Republican primaries than I do, with this one.
In a word: the issue is passion.
If you watched Sunday’s debate, you couldn’t miss Poizner’s intensity — especially on the topic of illegal immigration. Whitman said she would not have signed the Arizona law, but does support the concept of an economic fence against illegal immigration.
Sensible, but not exactly an applause line.
Poizner said he would have signed the law, and even deploy the California National Guard to the border if need be.
In conservative Republican circles, that’s an applause line.
You can argue that this might not play well for Poizner in a November contest — fiery candidates usually have an easier go of it in ideological primaries than more centrist general elections.
But we’re talking about a June primary and a smaller universe of Republican voters. And in that universe there exists a void — a void beginning in the aftermath of the 2005 special election – in which conservatives have waited for a candidate with heat and expressed frustration on matters important to the right.
In hindsight, perhaps this explains the current state of the race.
Whitman’s campaign is measured and cautious, already looking past June to November — classic frontrunner strategy. Poizner, in addition to finally establishing himself on the airwaves, has zeroed in a message that works with the diehards. Thus the bump for him; the slide for her.
Can Poizner keep up the momentum for ride his way to one of the biggest upsets in modern-day California politics? Let’s put it another way: if the Whitman campaign wasn’t concerned, then why did they just release this 30-second-spot?