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Archive for the ‘Proposition 187’ Category



Untold Story: How the Latino Vote Hit Critical Mass

Monday, November 15th, 2010

By Richie Ross
Special to Calbuzz

Back in 1992, the first “year of the woman,” both Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein were on the ballot for election to the United States Senate.  They both won.  The Los Angeles Times exit poll calculated that they each received 52% of the Latino vote.

In 1994, then-Governor Pete Wilson put Proposition 187 on the ballot.  It was the nation’s first anti-immigrant initiative.  The hallmark of the campaign was the famous television ad with images of undocumented people running across the border.  The announcer intoned, “They keep coming.”

If he only knew!

In the just concluded election, Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer captured 65% or 80% of that vote (depending on which exit poll you believe). More importantly, it was a bigger pie – 3 times larger than back in 1992. It was one of the major factors that kept the red tide out of California – and a factor that will only get bigger.

Here’s the story of how that happened…

Beginning in 1994, California began to change.  The numbers of immigrants who became citizens grew exponentially each year.  According to the Department of Homeland Security’s statistics, prior to Proposition 187, the number of new citizens in California each year had been a steady 50,000 to 60,000.  In 1994, the number jumped to 118,567.  In 1995, it was 171,285.  In 1996, 378,014. You get the idea.

Also in 1994, a husband and wife team, Miguel Contreras the leader of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and Maria Elena Durazo, then the leader of the Hotel Workers in Los Angeles (now Miguel’s successor at the Labor Fed) began something new: they linked organizing immigrant workers to organizing immigrant voters.  And they hired a young immigrant-rights firebrand, Fabian Nunez, as he protested Proposition 187 by carrying the Mexican flag down Broadway in Los Angeles.

Nunez served as L.A. Labor’s political director and eventually became the Speaker of the Assembly.

The campaigns we developed broke new ground, organized new union workers, and increased the political impact Latino voters have had on California politics – simultaneously tripling their number of registered voters, increasing the Democratic share of that vote by 50%, and doubling the percentage of the total votes cast in California from Latinos.

Through the rest of the 1990′s our campaigns focused on legislative races in Los Angeles.  We succeeded.  But it was all small.

In 2000, Maria Elena pushed for something bigger…

In 2000, our message was controversial (until it worked).  “If you want to make a difference, voting isn’t enough.  Don’t bother voting unless you sign our pledge to get 100% of your family to vote.”  Latino turnout rose… and accounted for 14% of the votes cast according to the State’s voter registration and voting history records.

In 2005, over dinner with some friends, Maria Elena heard a successful Latina businesswoman bemoaning the low Latino turn-out for Antonio Villaraigosa in March of 05. The woman told Maria Elena that it was “Imperdonable” (Unforgivable).

The City’s voting records show that the L.A. Labor Fed’s “Imperdonable” campaign increased Latino turn-out in the Mayoral run-off by 50%.

In May this year, Maria Elena called us together.  Her message was clear.  Latinos would end up voting for Jerry Brown.  That would be easy.  The challenge was how to motivate them to vote at all.

Fortunately, the Republicans in Arizona wrote a new law.

When we conducted focus groups, people brought the issue up to us.  When we polled it, we found 93% of California Latinos knew about it, 84% said it was more about profiling than immigration, and 73% thought it could happen in California. That view became more  believable when Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner in the Republican primary tried to outdo one another as anti-immigrant politicians.

So instead of a campaign where our candidate was a 72-year-old white guy, Maria Elena and the L.A Fed ran a campaign on behalf of “Tuesday” – Martes – and against an opponent – Arizona – that research told us Latinos were motivated to defeat.

And Fabian?  After he met with Maria Elena this summer, he decided to fund the “Martes Si, Arizona No!” television ad campaign. [Which not coincidentally included a pitch in favor of Prop. 25, the measure for a majority vote on the state budget -- Ed]

Latinos accounted for 22% of the votes cast in California.  None of us know how much bigger this trend will be.  We do know that Pete Wilson’s TV ad got one thing right… they keep coming… to the polls.

Editor’s note: For more on labor’s 2010 mailings to Latinos, including prayer cards of Jerry Brown with Mother Teresa and Cesar Chavez, check this out.

GOP Liveblog: Right-Wing Whacks eMeg Early

Friday, August 20th, 2010

SAN DIEGO — Even before Meg Whitman stepped up to address the Republican state convention here, leaders of the party’s grassroots right wing sharply criticized her stands on immigration and the environment, warning that many conservative voters might sit out the election if she takes their support for granted.

Top officials of the California Republican Assembly and Young Republican Federation of California told reporters covering the convention at San Diego’s Manchester Grand Hyatt that the GOP nominee for governor is making both an ideological error and a serious strategic mistake by moderating her earlier positions on illegal immigration, California’s climate change law and taxes, among other issues.

“There’s almost nothing left of the primary Meg,” said former CRA and GOP chairman Mike Schroeder.  “It’s time for the Republican Party to be officially concerned about whether or not Republicans are going to turn out for this ticket . . . if there’s no enthusiasm a lot of people don’t turn out at all.”

“Republicans are unified in their support for Meg Whitman both here at the convention and across the state,” replied Brian Seitchik, spokeman for the GOP.  Immigration and other issues will not fragment the party, he said. “The party is unified behind Meg because she has a plan to create jobs and that’s going to be the central issue in November.”

Despite assurances from Whitman loyalists in the party apparatus, the tone and substance of the comments by the conservative leaders showed that her brazen shift to the political center after portraying herself as a movement conservative in the primary is deeply upsetting some of the most loyal Republican voters.

Calbuzz asked this question: Do you think she is taking the conservative wing of the Republican Party for granted?

“Yes,” said Schroeder. “I think she assumes that people will look and say, ‘Well, the alternative is Jerry Brown.’ But that’s not true. The alternative to Jerry Brown is not voting at all, or voting for the Libertarian or somebody else. And that’s what a lot of the conversation is becoming.”

Because a state party convention is a kind of ideological hothouse, it is not clear whether the comments from the right-wing leaders represent an actual threat to Whitman’s chances in the general election against Democrat Jerry Brown, or more a intramural scuffle for the hearts and minds of the activists who populate these conventions. The CRA endorsed Steve Poizner, eMeg’s rival, as the preferred conservative in the GOP primary.

It didn’t help relations between the two sides, however, that the CRA was denied access to the official GOP press room and was forced to hold forth in a lobby.

The CRA is sponsoring a resolution, which they are trying to bring before the convention, that would put the party squarely on record in favor of both California’s Proposition 187 and the controversial Arizona law aimed at illegal immigrants. Whitman has said she would have opposed 187, if she was living in the state in 1994. And she has said that while the Arizona law is OK for Arizona, it’s impractical in California.

“That’s nonsense,” said Celeste Greig, president of the CRA. Greig said she is not  concerned that pushing Whitman to the right on the issue could backfire on her in the general election. “We are trying to help her. We want her to win. We want her to be successful. But we also want her to come aboard with the issues that we care about. We want her to stand strong on what she campaigned for in the primary election.”

As a political matter, however, the flap between Whitman and the right-wing overshadowed what Team Whitman had hoped would be the message of the day. Earlier in the day, her campaign produced an elaborately staged media event at a solar company in San Diego that was intended to showcase her alleged plan for dealing with California’s 12.5% unemployment; it was no accident that her convention speech was scheduled for late Friday evening, when it might be too late to get on TV news, and would get relatively short shrift in the poorly-read Saturday papers.

Even before the CRA news conference, eMeg managed to step on her own story in advance, when she told reporters at a press gaggle that, if elected governor, she would support a legal appeal by supporters of the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, a position Gov. Schwarzenegger has refused to take.

But it’s Whitman’s waffling stance on illegal immigration (along with her refusal to endorse Prop. 23, overturning California’s climate-change law) that has her party’s right wing worried.

Adam Abrahms, president of the GOP youth federation said he’ll vote for Whitman but she’s not sure he can bring masses of cohorts along. “It’s a matter of enthusiasm. And I want all of our candidates to go out there and say the things and do the things that are going to help energize our base . . .  In 2008 I had a very difficult time motivating people to do something with  Mr. McCain. There was a big problem. They didn’t trust him,” he said.

Of course, McCain was Whitman’s candidate. After her first choice — Mitt Romney — fell by the wayside.

Meg’s Goal at GOP Convo: Don’t Get Burned in Effigy

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Here’s what won’t happen this weekend at the California Republican Party State Convention in San Diego:

Meg Whitman won’t speak Saturday morning when the Resolutions Committee takes up the proposal from Celeste Grieg, president of the knuckle-dragging California Republican Assembly, backing Arizona’s law empowering police to ask suspected illegal immigrants for their papers.

And since the GOP already endorsed Prop. 23 – the measure to suppress California’s pioneering climate-change law – and since eMeg says she’ll probably vote against it, she’s not likely to speak much about that Friday night when she tosses red meat to the delegates at dinner.

These are a couple of the not-bloody-likely situations Whitman will be at pains to avoid when she breezes in and out of San Diego, spending just enough time to toss off her talking points and rip into Jerry Brown (Will she meet with reporters? We don’t know yet) before booking town.

Usually, when a candidate for statewide office prepares to speak to a Republican convention, political writers and pundits blather on about how the candidate’s challenge is to “energize the base, drum up enthusiasm and rally the troops.” Your faithful Calbuzzers once dished just this kind of  hackneyed drivel.

Not this time. Looking at eMeg’s challenge facing the GOP conventioneers in San Diego this weekend we see just one basic goal: get in and out of town without getting tarred and feathered, burned in effigy or booed or heckled, although the latter might be tactically clever (see below).

Of course, she could probably make all her troubles go away by just doling out another $255,860 to various Republican organizations, including the CRP itself ($239,750). Amazing what a little walking around money will do to buy some love. And it’s not as if she needs the GOP for much: she’s paying for everything herself and running a media carpet-bombing campaign, not a grassroots insurgency.

But in the absence of buying off noisy critics, it’s hard to see what Whitman can get out of the convention. As one savvy Republican told us, “There’s nothing she can do this weekend to motivate the base that doesn’t give her a problem with swing voters.”

Although getting booed by telling right-wingers what was wrong with Prop. 187 or why she won’t vote for Prop. 23 or can’t support Arizona’s SB 1070 would be a nice touch, reminiscent of Dianne Feinstein in 1990 when she got booed by the Democratic Party convention for supporting the death penalty.

“I suspect her campaign wants to create the appearance of GOP unity. But with her missteps on illegal immigration and with (Steve) Poizner and (Tom) McClintock still holdouts, the story is likely to be the opposite, with emphasis on discord between her and GOP base on the immigration issue,” said one Republican strategist. “She would’ve been better off citing another scheduling conflict and avoid it and send a surrogate.”

Except for delivering a screed against Brown, repeating her three-part mantra (jobs, education, budget cuts) and issuing a stirring call for Republican unity, anything Whitman can get from a gathering of hard-right GOP activists will hurt her among independents and Latinos in the general electorate.

But as one Meg insider put it, “We’re not looking to be the belle of the GOP ball.”

 

Of course, if she has decided to forget about the Latino vote, she could endorse the CRA resolution on Arizona’s “papers please” law. As Greig said in her letter to fellow Republicans:

Is the Republican Party for the Rule of Law?  Pass my resolution and it will show it does.  Kill it in committee or on the floor and the Republican Party will look no different that the Democrat (sic) Party.  That will harm all of our candidates, the media will say if it fails, that the CRP can not be counted on by those that want to stop the illegal alien population growth in California, that we are in fact, siding with the illegal aliens.

Or she can come out for Prop. 23 (which Senate candidate Carly Fiorina declined to do on Tuesday) and dig herself into a bigger hole with independent voters than she’s already in. Or she can switch her support for abortion rights to align herself with her party’s anti-choice position. Or come out for more offshore oil drilling.

Don’t hold your breath. Meg’s people figure it this way: Republicans will vote for Whitman because she’s not Jerry Brown and if the convention cave people pelt her with pebbles, that’ll make her look more reasonable to independents and moderates.

The most curious intrigue seems to be around internal Republican Party politics.

According to Mike Spence, former president of the arch-conservative CRA, Meg’s people have been organizing proxies for the convention, but to what end is anyone’s guess. Maybe she plans to quash anything controversial in committee or on the floor. Spence asks:

Does the Whitman campaign want headlines from political reporters about how her proxies were used to beat up conservatives? Or headlines favoring conservatives over moderates?  . . . Would reporters and maybe John and Ken wonder if Whitman’s proxies were used to kill the [CRA Arizona law] resolution? Or did she use them to let it pass?

Or could it be that Meg’s not crazy about seeing the GOP move toward a caucus system for picking presidential candidates, or whatever rules are being cooked up for party caucuses to pick an official GOP candidate in advance of open primaries, or some wing nut becoming chairman of the state party if she gets to be governor. Who knows?  Who cares?

We know one thing: Meg and her staffers are bolting town before the most important event of the weekend – the invitation-only Calbuzz Dr. Hackenflack Dinner.

Conservative Yakkers: eMeg “Lying” on Immigration

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

The ferocious pounding that high-profile conservative talk show hosts John and Ken delivered to Meg Whitman over the L.A. airwaves this week clearly shows that her blatant untruthiness isn’t playing any better on the right than it is on the left.

“If she’s going to lie to us during the engagement process then the hell with her,” said John Kobylt, one half of the dynamic duo featured on the “John and Ken Show.”

“Schwarzenegger did it after he was elected twice and then he screwed us over on taxes… She’s lying about immigration already.”

Broadcast with partner Ken Chiampou, the popular 2-7 p.m. weekday show on KFI-AM 640 is a loud megaphone for hardcore conservative views, and a Southern California touchstone for right-wing true believers. Mindful of offending the base of the party, Republican candidates of all stripes, including eMeg, covet the political blessing of the frequently entertaining, if ideologically reflexive, pair, who routinely savage GOP apostates by calling for their “heads on a pike.”

This week, their own heads exploded over the recent spectacle of Her Megness gussying herself up as some kind of moderate on immigration issues, mounting a lavish, Spanish language multi-media campaign to woo Latino voters with kissy poo noises after portraying herself in the GOP primary as the fiercest scourge of illegals since Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

John and Ken’s outrage over Whitman’s transparent, 180-degree pandering was the focus of verbal assaults from them and their radio callers this week, as they also festooned their home page with a huge “Stop the Pandering” headline above a call to action for listeners to contact the Whitman campaign and “tell her not to take your vote for granted and to stop pandering to the open borders crowd!”

Worse for Whitman, the pair sputtered their splenetic outrage on the evening newscast of mainstream KTLA-TV, where they also have a regular gig. In the episode, which the Brown campaign posted on its You Tube page the yakkers railed at eMeg for trumpeting her opposition to Prop. 187, for claiming in a Spanish language op-ed that she and Krusty are virtually identical on immigration – “Jerry Brown is for amnesty!” – and for running away from the tough stances she struck in competing for right-wing support against the vanquished Steve Poizner in the GOP primary. Said John:

She’s saying one thing in Spanish and the exact opposite in English…She is going to lose white, black and Asian votes and she’s going to lose a lot of conservative and independent votes, if she’s acting as if she’s two-faced, and she’s acting like she’s two-faced…You can’t believe the anger coming out of the phone lines.

Said Whitman spokeshuman Sarah Pompei:  “Meg is the best candidate for Californians who want to see the laws enforced and our borders secure.”

Up next: eMeg unveils new $2 million ad buy charging John and Ken, Calitics and the CNA are conspiring to stop her – She refuses to be stopped! – from letting California fail.

Three dot lounge: Interesting to note that Carly Fiorina’s sudden flip flop on unemployment insurance legislation in the Senate comes the same day a new Field Poll shows that 53 percent of her supporters – not to mention 71 percent of independents – agree with Roe v. Wade, which the Hurricane has promised to undo. Must be getting kinda’ lonely out there on the far right, despite what horse’s ass George Will sez about how mainstream she is…

You know you’re in trouble when the New York Times enlists recalled governor Gray Davis to give you advice on how to save your sinking presidency…News to us that you can still watch the great Watergate-era newspaper show “Lou Grant” in reruns. Where the hell are Rossi and Billy when you need ‘em?…Kudos to Coco Timesman Steve Harmon for flying the MSM flag  on calling eMeg to account for her Pinocchio prevarications.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Major bust for minor blockbuster.

Wannabe Gov eMeg: No Truth, No Consequences

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Meg Whitman’s shape shifting versions of exactly what happened when she angrily forced a subordinate out of a conference room at eBay in 2007 reflects an increasingly clear and familiar pattern in her bid for governor: she just can’t keep her stories straight.

Time and again, usually on the rare occasions when she ventures outside her costly campaign bubble, eMeg enmeshes herself in thickets of conflicting statements, contradictions and clarifications as she tries and fails to explain not only her position on policy issues but, more troubling, events in her personal history.

The latest example followed the New York Times June 14 disclosure that as eBay’s CEO, Whitman “forcefully pushed” out of an executive conference room communications staffer Young Mi Kim, with whose performance she was unhappy. eBay stockholders later paid for a secret legal settlement in the matter worth about $200,000, according to the story.

Responding to the report, Team Whitman described the incident as a commonplace workplace disagreement: “A verbal dispute in a high-pressure working environment isn’t out of the ordinary,” her press secretary said.

eMeg herself used virtually the same characterization during a radio interview a few days later which, as we reported , challenged the fundamental accuracy of the Times account.

But last week, when Whitman had one of her infrequent question and answer sessions with reporters at a campaign event, she changed her story: from a not “out of the ordinary” conflict, the episode became, in her own words, an “anomaly,” an outlier act at sharp odds with her normal demeanor and behavior. Moreover, after 10 days in which she and her handlers insisted it was a “verbal dispute,” eMeg admitted for the first time that she had “physically escorted” the employee out of the room.

As a practical matter, there’s a big difference between a cranky boss who raises her voice and one who manhandles a staff member, just as there is between a business executive for whom such behavior is typical and an anomaly: say about a $200,000 difference.

Still, as a political matter, eMeg’s multiple explanations for the Young Mi Kim episode might represent little more than a minor blip – except for the fact that it’s one of more than a half-dozen examples of the candidate providing shaded, even kaleidoscopic versions of the truth, which for Whitman at times seems less a factually-based fixed point than an amalgam of easily evolving explanations and excuses.

Routinely hidden behind the extraordinarily expensive marketing campaign that masks her private self and crafts her public image, Whitman to date has paid scant political price for this behavior. But the central meme being pushed by Democratic rival Jerry Brown – his authenticity vs. her artifice – seeks to define the campaign as largely being about trust.

In the effort to frame the contest, look for the Brown camp to point to  other examples of eMeg’s veracity-challenged statements and positions:

When did she vote and when did she know it? Whitman’s biggest stumble to date came during a two-week stretch last year when she tried to simply account for, let alone explain, her dismal record of not voting.

The lowlight came during her now-infamous embarrassing performance during a press conference at the Republican state convention  and, while the issue has since subsided, Whitman has still not provided satisfactory answers to some lingering questions about the matter.

When did she live here and when did she know it? In her very first campaign ad, Whitman broadcast a glaring factual error about what would seem to be a rather simple fact: how long she has lived in the state she plans now to govern. It wasn’t until the SacBee blew the whistle that her campaign hurriedly changed the text of the spot.

What’s in her ads and when did she know it? In the home stretch of her successful campaign for the Republican nomination, Whitman tried to soft peddle the cynical turn to the right she’d taken on the illegal immigration issue, brazenly and falsely insisting to a Politico reporter that she had never – never! – used an inflammatory image of the fence at the Mexico-U.S. border, when anyone with eyes knew she had.

The dust-up over the ad reflected a broader effort on Whitman’s part to talk out of both sides of her mouth on the immigration issue: she first used Prop. 187 sponsor Pete Wilson to provide cred for being tough in the primary (after she’d earlier voiced support for a path to citizenship for undocumented workers) then completed the triple somersault after the nomination was hers with new ads wooing Latinos by stating her purported opposition to Prop. 187.

Goldman Sachs — The two faces of eMeg: Whitman’s close financial, personal and political connections to the scandal-tainted investment bank Goldman Sachs have been the focus of much dissembling.

Among a series of misleading statements, she repeatedly claimed that she left the Goldman Sachs board – or “fired them,” as she likes to say – because she “didn’t like the culture (and) the management”; in fact, she quit the board the very day the SEC announced a settlement with banks outlawing the conflict of interest practice of stock spinning, from which eMeg reaped rich profits.

Waiting for Godot – and eMeg’s tax returns: Whitman, whose $1 billion personal wealth includes reams of complex investments, including offshore funds, has given a moving target series of statements about when, if and how she would release her personal tax returns.

At the GOP state convention in March, she said she would release 25 years worth, a position she changed a few days later when she said she would only release summaries; not long after that, she said she would only release hers when Brown released his, but after Brown promised to do so in a proposed agreement put forth by the Mercury News, eMeg has produced nothing but excuses for not doing the same.

Drill, baby, drill – or not: As with other matters, Whitman has serially switched her position on drilling for oil off the coast of California. When she stumped for John McCain in the 2008 presidential race, she backed his call for more drilling because advanced technology allegedly made it safe, a stance she repeated in the early months of her campaign for governor; after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, she told Calbuzz she had changed her mind and now opposes offshore drilling, then insisted to other reporters that she has always opposed the policy.

It doesn’t matter what you say about the other guys: Whitman has consistently misrepresented the records of her opponents on spending and tax issues.

During the primary, she frequently accused Poizner of sharply increasing spending at the Department of Insurance, even after the Bee debunked it after examining the claim in depth and detail; in her race against Brown, she routinely accuses him of supporting higher taxes, a charge for which she has produced no evidence, while also accusing Brown of massive tax increases during his first term as governor, a charge shot down by Joe Mathews, among others.

Perhaps the most graphic and revealing incident about Whitman’s relationship to the truth came on March 10, when she staged a Potemkin “Town Hall” meeting which was purportedly an open and public exchange with interested voters, but was in fact a phony set-up featuring planted questions, a pre-screened audience, the exclusion of video cameras and several participants re-asking questions so the candidate could revise her answers, a shameful spectacle that a Poizner press aide accurately described at the time as “the actions of an out-of-touch billionaire trying to buy the election and fool voters.”

As Calbuzz used to say back in the day when we covered races for the Roman Senate:  caveat emptor.