Archive for the ‘Proposition 25’ 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.

California Voters Turn Back the Angry Red Tide

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives, pounding Democrats in states throughout the South, Midwest and Northeast, but the raging red wave that swept across the country crashed against the Sierra Nevada and washed back, as California voters rejected Meg Whitman for governor and Carly Fiorina for U.S. Senate.

The crushing victories of Democrats Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer in the nation’s largest and most diverse state –with an electorate that is increasingly younger, more Latino and more non-partisan — represented a counterpoint to the Beltway notion that America is in the throes of a massive and structural shift to the ideological right.

As of midnight, when Calbuzz first posted this report based on exit polling and partial vote counts, neither Whitman nor Fiorina had yet conceded. But as Brown told his supporters at the Fox Theater in Oakland: “They haven’t got all the votes in yet but hell, it’s good enough for government work. So it looks like I’m going back again.” (Whitman conceded a few minutes after midnight.)

Despite the most expensive race ever run in any state, Whitman, 54, the former CEO of eBay with the platinum resume and gold-plated consultancy was unable to overcome a crusty, former two-term governor who, at 72, will be twice the age he was when first elected in 1974.  At the last accounting, eMeg had spent more than $160 million, including $142 million of her own fortune, while Krusty the General had raised $32 million, supplemented by $25 million spent on his behalf by labor and other Democratic interests.

With his bare-bones staff and his flinty resolve not to start spending money until after Labor Day, Brown accomplished the one political challenge that eluded his father, the late Edmund G. “Pat” Brown — a third term. Pat Brown lost an attempt for a third term to a political newcomer in 1966: Ronald Reagan. (Term limits were adopted after Jerry Brown had already served twice.)

Brown’s “knowledge and know-how to get California working again” proved a compelling argument to voters who saw in the Attorney General and former mayor of Oakland, a candidate with both a hard head and a soft heart. Whitman, who fired her illegal immigrant housekeeper and ran a relentless barrage of negative ads against her opponents, was seen as hard-headed but hard-hearted, too.

Speaking to supporters Tuesday night before Whitman had conceded, Brown talked about the impulses, honed in his long-ago training to be a Jesuit priest and his study of theology, that drives him back to Sacramento.

“I take as my challenge forging a common purpose, but a common purpose based not just on compromise but on a vision of what California can be . . . We’re all God’s children and while I’m really into this politics thing I still carry with me my sense of kind of that missionary zeal to transform the world and that’s always been a part of what I do,” he said. “So I understand the political part but I also understand what it’s all about – the vision. And I’m hoping and I’m praying that this breakdown that’s gone on for so many years in the state capital and we’re watching it in Washington – that the breakdown paves the way for a breakthrough.”

And Fiorina, 56, who clutched as tightly as she could to the same policies and politics that carried conservative Republicans to victory in smaller states, was unable to dislodge 69-year-old Boxer, one of the most durable liberals in the Senate.

“The Giants beat the Texas Rangers and we beat the Texas polluters tonight,” Boxer told her supporters as she claimed victory before the final votes were tallied.

Certainly, the elevation of Tea Party favorites like Senator-elect Rand Paul in Kentucky – who said we are “enslaved by debt” and will have the singular power to plunge the world economy into darkness by filibustering raising of the U.S. debt ceiling limit – is a resounding victory for the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

But the anger propelling the Tea Party is less a positive vote for any Republican agenda than it is a vote to punish President Obama and the Democrats for the perceived failure to bring about the change they promised in 2008. It’s a vote to “just say no.”

Whether the new members of Congress and the Senate — which remains under Democratic control — will be rewarded for obstructionism or not remains uncertain. But as they seek re-election, Obama and the Democrats will now have the recalcitrant Republicans to blame for gridlock in Washington – an argument that Bill Clinton and his party made in 1996 with considerable success after their losses two years earlier.

The biggest loser among California Democrats, of course, is soon-to-be-former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, who oversaw a crushing defeat that cost her the leadership mantle she had historically claimed in another mid-term just four years ago. Along with her, House committee chairs like Representatives Howard Berman and Henry Waxman were reduced to minority status by the Republican sweep that rolled through other states.

On the other hand, Southern California Republican Congressmen Darrell Issa, Buck McKeon and Jerry Lewis are in line to become chairmen of powerful committees in the House under speaker-presumptive John Boehner of Ohio. Issa, the conservative car-alarm magnate who lost the GOP nomination for Senate in 1998 and who has dedicated himself to opposing Obama and his policies, was all over TV Tuesday night promising a new era in Congress.

The weepy Boehner along with Eric Cantor of Virginia, Issa and other triumphant Republicans spoke over and over Tuesday night about “the message sent by the American people.” Apparently Californians, who represent one-eighth of the nation’s population, aren’t included among the American people.

Democrats in California and their progressive allies also won two important victories by rejecting Prop. 23,  which would have overturned the state’s ground-breaking law to roll black greenhouse gas emissions and by approving Prop. 25, which will reduce to a majority, from two-thirds,  the vote required in the Legislature to approve the California budget. These represented huge political statements by the voters on behalf of the environment and in favor of streamlining the budget process in Sacramento.

As expected, Prop. 19, the measure to legalize personal use of marijuana, went up in smoke.

Although Democrats and their progressive allies did not carry every office or measure,  the Brown win at the top of the ticket, which came despite high unemployment and despair about the direction of the state, suggested that voters have grown tired, at least for now, of divided government in Sacramento as they rejected Whitman’s mirror-image candidacy of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s just four years ago.

[Updated 7:30 am] The only Republican statewide candidate who appeared to have a chance for victory early Wednesday morning was Steve Cooley who was slightly behind Kamala Harris in the race for Attorney General. Gavin Newsom was well ahead of Abel Maldonado in the race for Lieutenant Governor; Debra Bowen was crushing Damon Dunn in the race for Secretary of State; John Chiang was way ahead of Tony Strickland in the race for Controller; Bill Lockyer was cruising to victory over Mimi Walters in the race for Treasurer, and Dave Jones was crushing Mike Villines in the race for Insurance Commissioner.

LAT/USC Poll: Climate Change Bites eMeg’s Backside

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Long ago, Calbuzz suggested that Meg Whitman made a strategic blunder during the Republican primary when, in an effort to look conservative enough to beat Steve Poizner, she came out swinging against AB 32, California’s pioneering greenhouse-gas reduction law. Our point was simple: she had alienated independent and moderate voters who tilt the balance of power in California because, for them, protecting the environment is an important cause.

Whitman tried to soften her outspoken objections to AB32 as a job killer by meekly coming out (after much dithering and poll-taking, we suspect) against Prop. 23 – the Texas oil-company sponsored measure to essentially kill AB32. But the gambit didn’t work.

According to the LATimes/USC survey, which finds Brown leading Whitman 52-39% among likely voters, Prop. 23 is losing 32-48%. And there is, USC Political Science Professor Jane Junn tells the Calbuzz Green Eyeshade Division, a significant correlation (.37) between a vote on the measure and a vote preference for Jerry Brown. We can’t say for certain whether the dog is wagging the tail or if the tail is wagging the dog, but look at this:

Of voters supporting Prop. 23 – that is, who want to kill the state’s climate change law – 32% are voting for Brown and 57% are for Whitman. But among those opposed to Prop. 23 – the much larger group that would retain the law — 69% are for Brown and 25% are for Whitman. An opponent of Prop. 23 is nearly three times more likely to vote for Brown than for Whitman.

Likewise, among Whitman voters, Prop. 23 is winning 46-31%. But among the much larger group of Brown voters, Prop. 23 is losing by a crushing 20-64%. A Brown voter is more than three times more likely to vote against Prop. 23 than for it.

The only voters in favor of Prop. 23 are Republicans (43-34%), conservatives (51-29%) and those Whitman voters. Every other major demographic bloc is opposed to the measure, with independents (29-55%) and moderates (24-53%) looking a lot like Democrats (23-58%) and liberals (15-73%) on the issue.

Prop. 19, which would legalize marijuana for personal use, appears to be going down in flames, training now 39-51% in the LAT/USC survey. The only people for it are Democrats (51-41%), Independents (48-37%), liberals (66-27%) and – lo and behold – Brown voters (52-42%). Of course, younger voters favor the measure more than older voters, but there aren’t enough of them to affect the outcome.

Too bad for Brown. Those who favor the measure prefer Brown over Whitman 66-25% while those opposed to Prop 19 favor Whitman 50-41% over Brown. “Dope Smokers for Jerry”  hasn’t yet gotten off the ground, despite Democratic Party Chairman John Burton’s prediction that pot would be the key to Democratic victory. Maybe that’s partly due to the fact that the Attorney General opposes the measure.

The LAT/USC survey also finds Prop. 25, which would lower the threshold for passing the state budget to a majority from two-thirds, is well ahead – 58-28%. That’s almost certainly due to the add-ons like denying legislators their pay and per diem every day a budget is late. But no matter, it appears in strong shape – winning in every demographic category, including a slight lead among Republicans and conservatives.

BTW, according to Professor Junn, Prop. 25 also correlates significantly with a vote for Brown (.35) as does Prop. 19 (.28). We just can’t say for certain which is the driver and which is along for the ride.

The Democratic firm Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner and the Republican firm American Viewpoint conducted the poll for the Los Angeles Times and the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, calling landlines and cellphones Oct. 13-20.  A random sample of 1,501 California registered voters were called, including an oversample of Latino respondents for a total of 460 Latino interviews. The survey identified 922 likely voters for whom the margin of error is +/- 3.2%. The margin of error for Latinos is +/- 4.6%.

To be included in the likely voter sample, respondents must have voted in 2006 and 2008, said they were “almost certain” or “probably” going to vote in 2010 and rated their enthusiasm about voting as 5 or higher on a 10-point scale. Those who registered since the 2008 election were included if they met the enthusiasm standard and said they are “almost certain” to vote this time around. Likely voters also included those said they have already have voted by mail — about 7% of voters surveyed.

PS: For an important update on how California voters regard immigration, see Cathy Decker’s article in the ByGodLATimes. For the Times report on the propositions, click here.