Archive for the ‘Proposition 8’ Category

Friday Fishwrap: Gay Marriage Wars and More

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Gay Blades Come Out Again: The cultural war over gay marriage has suddenly re-emerged nationally, setting the stage for volatile political developments in California when the Prop. 8 decision comes down between now and June.

Last Friday’s decision by the Iowa Supreme Court that found unconstitutional a state ban on same-sex marriage was followed within days by enactment of a pro-gay marriage law in Vermont and passage of another in the District of Columbia. All this could push the issue directly before Congress, as similar measures move ahead in New York and other states.

The flurry of activity triggered an all-hands-alert among religious foes of gay marriage, led by an outfit called the National Organization for Marriage, which rushed to air in California and other key states a dubious TV spot that uses paid actors to mouth lines of supposedly real people whose purported lives are about to be allegedly disrupted by “The Gathering Storm.” (And for a good spoof of the ad, try this.)

Foes of Prop. 8 meanwhile are sniffing defeat in court and planning mass demonstrations if the California Supremes uphold the initiative ban on gay marriage passed last November. The court has until June 3 to issue its ruling.

All of which complicates the lives of the candidates for governor. After months of mouthing platitudes about the green economy, as all-recession-all-the-time stories blanketed the news cycle, wannabes now face the unpleasant prospect of getting whipsawed between two highly motivated enemy camps: ardent progressive and gay activists demanding civil rights for all versus impassioned conservative evangelicals and other churched groups, fiercely intent on protecting their most sacred values from doom.

SF Mayor Gavin Newsom may be buffeted the most. In a Democratic primary in which liberal voters have an outsize influence, the marriage issue may help Newsom, whose biggest claim to fame to date is ordering S.F. bureaucrats to issue marriage licenses to gays. It also reinforces his strength with younger voters who are bemused by all the fuss their elders make about who sleeps with whom.

But just when Newsom is trying to introduce himself in Southern California as a model of innovative and effective leadership, he once again will be associated with a polarized issue that promptly reinforces his political roots in a city known for its ultra-liberal values. Much worse for him, though, is the now-famous “whether you like it or not” clip, which shows him as an arrogant young man, blithely dismissive of the 50% of Californians who disagree with him. Net effect: Negative.

Jerry Brown, who used his powers as attorney general to oppose the voter-approved Prop. 8 before the Supreme Court, thereby blunts any major gains Newsom might otherwise reap from the issue in the primary. Beyond that, anybody who’s strongly against gay marriage isn’t bloody likely to be for Jerry Brown in any case. Net: Wash.

Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman, two moderate Republicans trying to masquerade as true-believer conservatives to court right-wing GOP primary voters, will both come under new scrutiny and pressure to bow to the Christian right on this and other social issues.* The whole exercise will underscore for California Republican Assembly types that they don’t yet have a real horse in the race. Net: Negative.

As General-Governor-Mayor-Chairman-Secretary Brown told us when we asked him about the issue: “Politicians don’t like 50% issues – they’re looking for 80% issues” . . .

Big Foot Watch: You know your home state governor’s race is gonna be fun when the New York Times lets one of its best, brightest and sharpest writers journey west to gather string for a piece on the future of politics in California. That’s wussup with our old pal Mark Leibovich, formerly of the San Jose Mercury News, who’s coming to the Golden State soon. In case you aren’t familiar with Mark, he’s the guy who so deftly filleted Hardballer Chris Matthews, ex of the S.F. Examiner, in the NYT magazine that Chris himself dined out on the piece . . .

Hacks to Flacks: The list of California political journos fleeing newspapers to jump to the other side is growing. Latest is Mary Anne Ostrom, who hangs it up after 21 years at the Merc News to work as an adviser to Whitman for “policy, communications and online outreach.” She tells calbuzz that it’s “not just the dire state of newspapers. I crave a change (and) I’ve always been curious about the inner workings of a campaign.” Ostrom joins ex-S.F.Chronicle WashBuroMan Zach Coile, who jumped ship to mouthpiece for US Sen. Barbara Boxer . . .

We’re just sayin: First challenge for our old colleague Mary Anne: Do something about the insipid “Ask Meg” clips on the campaign’s slick web site, which include fluff like eMeg saying that the secret to fixing education is to “set ourselves a goal of being No. 1 again.” Or maybe do something about Meg’s vapid Tweets (“In Silicon Valley working today!”). Like make her stop, already.

* Although, as we have noted before and Bill Bradley notes in his comment, Whitman strongly opposed Prop. 8 during the campaign

Jerry Brown: After Prop. 8 Decision, What’s Next on Gay Marriage?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

We listened in on a conference call with Attorney General Jerry Brown Monday night about what’s next after Proposition 8. It was hosted by Courage Campaign, an online organizing hub for progressive Californians that claims a network of 700,000 people.

Brown did an adequate job of explaining his position that the right of any two people to marry is a “fundamental core liberty” that shouldn’t be able to be “swept away” by a simple majority of voters. But we thought it was weird to hear Brown say that the presentation against the anti-gay marriage amendment made by his own AG staff before the California Supreme Court wasn’t all that he thought it should have been. It was, after all, HIS staff.

We didn’t get a chance to ask Brown whether, as governor, he would lead a drive for a ballot measure to guarantee that marriage between two consenting adults is a fundamental core liberty in the California Constitution, if the state Supreme Court upholds Prop. 8. (How about it Jerry — would you?) He was a bit cagey about what the next steps ought to be for gay-marriage proponents, suggesting that repealing Prop. 8 might be more feasible than approving an affirmative measure.

He said a constitutional convention would be “hard to pull off” because the Legislature would have a crucial role. He warned against protests, suggesting rallies and celebrations, instead – so as not to stir up further antagonisms. And he said it would be a “sad day if this court abandons its pioneering role in protecting fundamental rights” although he’s not giving up on California’s supremes just yet.

We’re not sure if Brown is positioned to capture the majority of gay voters in a Democratic primary (since San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has something of a corner on the market). But he has aligned the Office of the Attorney General of California with gay rights. And that’s not insignificant.

Newsom: San Francisco Values an "Advantage" in Governor’s Race

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom not only has to beat a batch of better-known rivals in the Democratic primary for governor, but also must overcome the Curse of Sunny Jim.

James “Sunny Jim” Rolph, Jr. was the last person who served as mayor of that city to be elected governor of California. The longest-serving mayor in San Francisco history — 1912-1930 -– Rolph was also the last sitting S.F. alcalde to be governor.

Since he died in office in 1934, three other big-name mayors of the town tried and failed to duplicate the feat:

Joe Alioto’s 1974 effort was skunked by Jerry Brown (who liked the experience so much he’s trying it again 35 years later).

George Christopher, the last Republican to be S.F. mayor, couldn’t overcome some guy named Reagan in the 1966 GOP primary (Christopher also has the footnote distinction of running for lieutenant governor in 1962, when Richard Nixon was humiliated by Jerry’s dad in the governor’s race and promised – falsely – that we wouldn’t have him to kick around anymore).

And Dianne Feinstein, the Hamlette of the 2010 governor’s race, got tripped up in 1990, three years out of the mayor’s office, when Pete Wilson’s mean machine used her San Francisco-centric words and deeds on issues like affirmative action, illegal immigration and gay rights to run over her.

Now Newsom, who’s best known for being the state’s most visible advocate for gay marriage – “whether you like it or not,” as he famously crowed in the best pro-Proposition 8 ad of that winning campaign last year – thinks his San Francisco connection will give him a boost in the campaign for governor.

In a recent interview, we posed this question to Newsom: How will you overcome the negative associations many Californians have about your city and San Francisco values?

“It’s an advantage right now,” Newsom replied. “We’re outperforming the rest of the state in many ways –- we have fewer job losses, we have a budget reserve, our bond rating was upgraded, we’ve passed universal health care, which is a top-of-mind issue –- these are all rather transcendent issues right now.”

As for gay marriage, Newsom told us that the weight of the recession and economic decline have made the polarized issue of same-sex unions a second-tier concern. “People…have moved on,” he said. Uh, except for that whole Prop. 8, Supreme Court thing.

Before a town hall event this week in Santa Barbara, calbuzz’s World Marketing Headquarters, Newsom said that as governor he would:

– Fight to change the two-thirds vote requirements for passing a budget and raising taxes in the Legislature, to end the GOP’s minority veto. Government by Twitter: Newsom said he had favored a 55-percent requirement, but a recent “firestorm” of comments to his Twitter account convinced him to rethink a 50-percent-plus-one standard.

– Consider an amendment to Proposition 13 establishing a split roll property tax assessment system, relaxing limits on annual increases for commercial real estate while leaving intact restrictions on residential property raises, a change that would generate billions for government. Prop. 13 long has been the third rail of California politics, but Newsom said that voters he has met “want that to be on the table.”

– Rule out future increases in state income tax rates, but might support a plan to “modernize” the state sales tax, lowering the rate but extending it beyond sales of goods to a range of services.

– Oppose any expansion of offshore oil drilling in California. Newsom said he was “disappointed that Obama changed his position on that.”

– Support efforts, as a matter of public safety, to permit illegal immigrants to have drivers’ licenses. Newsom pointed with pride to a widely inclusive system for public identity cards in San Francisco, calling it “a national model.”

Jerry Brown’s Double Bind in Running for Governor

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

We’ve been through this movie before: candidate with superior experience runs for high office arguing that he or she has what it takes to manage the government from day one.

This was Hillary Clinton’s strategic mistake. While Barack Obama was campaigning as the candidate of change, Clinton kept saying she had the experience. But Clinton’s message made the very case that Obama wanted voters to take away: She represented the past, the status quo, while he represented the future.

This is Jerry Brown’s challenge, too. He was always ahead of the curve. They called him “Gov. Moonbeam” because he proposed that California should have its own communications satellite — not so far out in hindsight, was it?

But he was ahead of the curve when huge numbers of today’s voters weren’t yet born. The more he emphasizes his experience, the more he looks and sounds like a flash from the past.

Or as Garry South, Gavin Newsom’s consultant, puts it indelicately: “The more he babbles on about how cutting edge he was in the ’70s, the more he makes himself a relic.”

We’re not sure anyone can make Brown look old school. He’s the most adaptive, chamelon-like changeling California has ever witnessed. Paddle on the left, paddle on the right. Oppose Prop. 13, support it with all your heart. Oppose Prop. 8, vow to enforce it, argue against it in the Supreme Court.

But he’s in a political double bind and arguing about all the wonderful things he did three decades ago won’t make him the next big thing.