Voters on Tuesday dealt a stinging rebuke to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, soundly rejecting all four of the initiatives he was backing for his "Year of Reform" agenda.
In the costliest election in state history, voters also overwhelmingly defeated two prescription drug discount measures, handing a victory to pharmaceutical companies that had spent millions to defeat the stronger of the two propositions. They also rejected a consumer initiative to re-regulate the state's electricity market. A measure requiring doctors to notify parents before performing abortions on minors also went down to defeat.
The election results are a major blow to the actor-turned-governor. In January, Schwarzenegger tried to go around the state Legislature by calling for a special election. But his popularity plunged after months of concerted attacks from public employee unions and Democrats.
As the magnitude of the defeat was becoming clear late Tuesday, a chastened Schwarzenegger told supporters he would work with the state's Democrat leaders to address the state's problems.
"As soon as this is over, I will be back in Sacramento, working together with the Democrats to move our state forward," he said in a brief appearance before supporters at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.
Schwarzenegger said he planned to hold a "Big 5" meeting on Thursday with legislative leaders: Senate President Don Perata, D-Oakland; Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman, R-Fullerton; Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles; and Assembly Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield.
"I'm going to leave for China on a trade mission right after that," he said. "When I return from Asia, we will get down to business. We've got to rebuild our infrastructure. So much is needed. We need more roads, bridges, more schools, nurses, firefighters. We also need more bipartisan cooperation to make this all happen. Californians believe that state is on the wrong track. We need reform."
Locally, L.A. area voters gave a thumbs-up to a $4 billion school facilities bond measure for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Voters on L.A.'s Eastside sent school board member Jose Huizar to the L.A. City Council; Huizar won more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff with former Councilman Nick Pacheco. Huizar will fill the seat vacated by Antonio Villaraigosa when he was elected mayor.
On L.A.'s south side, former Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson coasted to victory, defeating two political novices to win election to the City Council seat vacated by Martin Ludlow, who took over the county's top labor post in July.
Voters in four other L.A. area cities rejected new or increased taxes. In three of those cities Baldwin Park, Sierra Madre and Signal Hill the taxes failed to garner majority support; in the City of Commerce, a proposed hike in the hotel bed tax did get more than 50 percent but fell short of the two-thirds majority.
L.A.-area voters sent a mixed message on open space preservation, overwhelmingly approving such a measure in Calabasas, but rejecting one in Hermosa Beach. And in an advisory vote, Calabasas residents rejected a move by the city to annex land now proposed for the development of the Malibu Valley Inn and Spa.
Statewide turnout was 43 percent; in Los Angeles County, turnout was 41 percent. Both figures were at the higher end of predictions. Schwarzenegger and his Republican and business allies backed a special election in the hopes of a lower turnout dominated by more consistent Republican and conservative voters.
All told, more than $260 million was spent by all sides in the special election campaign, making it the most expensive in state history. The election itself cost local governments an estimated $50 million.
At the center of this election were the four initiatives endorsed by Schwarzenegger as part of his "Year of Reform" drive that began with his State of the State speech in January. These included:
- Proposition 74: This would have extended the teacher tenure threshold from two years to five years. It was defeated by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.
- Proposition 75: This would have required public employee unions to get written permission from their members before they make political contributions. After taking an early lead, the proposition ended up losing by a margin of 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent.
- Proposition 76: This would have given the governor power to cut spending when revenues fall below projections. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the measure by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent.
- Proposition 77: This would have changed the way legislative districts are redrawn. It, too, was resoundingly defeated, losing by a margin of 59.5 percent to 40.5 percent.
All four of these measures in some way targeted public employee unions or their Democrat allies. A fierce and effective counterattack from public employee unions has helped drive down Schwarzenegger's poll numbers. A year ago, Schwarzenegger's approval rating stood at nearly 70 percent; today, it's roughly half that, with virtually all Democrats and Independents abandoning their support.
Schwarzenegger's approval ratings were so low at the end of the campaign that he was forced to adopt a more conciliatory tone in his advertisements.
Public employee unions and their Democrat allies raised more than $120 million to defeat these measures, including $60 million from the California Teachers Association. Schwarzenegger and his business allies raised more than $60 million.
But the biggest spenders in this election were pharmaceutical companies, which raised and spent more than $82 million to back Proposition 78, a voluntary prescription drug discount plan and opposed Proposition 79, which requires pharmaceutical companies to provide discounts or lose lucrative state Medicaid contracts.
The spending paid off for the drug companies as both measures were overwhelmingly defeated. Proposition 78 lost 58.5 percent to 41.5 percent, while Proposition 79 was trounced 61 percent to 39 percent.
Another hotly contested measure was Proposition 73, which would have required physicians to notify the parents of minors before those minors could obtain abortions. After an early lead, the measure failed 53 percent to 47 percent.
Rounding out the state ballot was Proposition 80, which would have re-regulated portions of the electric utility industry, banning the ability of large companies to choose their electric providers. It was trounced by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent.
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