Thoughts from Post Election Conferences

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

I participated in a couple of post election conferences last week, one sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce and the other by the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA. The Cal Chamber panel was on November’s initiatives; the Pat Brown Institute panel discussed the top-two primary and redistricting reform.

On the governor’s success with Prop 30, I commented that I, too, bought into the argument during the campaign that his slow start hurt his chances for success. In fact, I offered that a Democratic political consultant, who shall remain nameless, told me in early October that by not starting the campaign in earnest in August, Prop 30 would lose. Another miscalculation—I thought all the time the governor spent on college campuses urging students to vote would not make a major difference. Apparently, I was wrong on both counts.

I did, however, see the trend in Prop 30’s favor toward the end. The internal poll conducted by the No on 30 campaign was trending in Prop 30’s favor the last week before the election. And, the poll testing the ballot label never showed Prop 30 behind. In fact, on election night in the Green Room at LA’s Channel 5, when the first numbers appeared on Prop 30 showing it behind, I told my fellow commentators that the numbers would be reversed and Prop 30 would win based on the trends I had seen that week. None agreed until they saw the numbers reverse.

As to the positioning by the business community, I noted that certain industries stand against direct attacks when they are individually threatened (consider the success against Prop 29’s tobacco tax and Prop 37’s labeling measure) but it is disappointing when businesses don’t come together when major reforms to improve governance in the state are on the ballot. Despite business leaders telling me they thought Prop 32 would help improve governance in California and that the Prop 30 tax policy was not the best reform, business, disappointingly, generally stayed on the sidelines.

While the jury is still out on the value of the top-two primary and redistricting reforms, I thought there were some positive results that would not have occurred under the old system. One example: Congressman Pete Stark had probably overstayed his welcome, yet as a Democrat in a Democratic district, he would have waltzed to victory under the old system. However, he received a solid challenge from Democrat, Eric Swallwell. Stark had to defend his record and Republicans helped make a change in that district.

The top-two primary also showed its strength with the apparent success of the “outside” candidates in the Levine vs. Allen and the Bloom vs. Butler Assembly races. The Speaker supported the incumbents in both cases, yet the outsider succeeded with the help of business-oriented Independent Expenditures from the agriculture community. As Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee, who was also on my panel, noted later, neither Levine nor Bloom will owe allegiance to the Speaker on close votes when supermajorities might be needed.

One final, lighter note: standing around at a reception at the CalChamber event, I said to Seema Mehta of the LA Times that given the governor’s success, the fact he likely could win re-election easily as we look at the landscape now, and if, an important if, the economy comes back, Brown might consider another try for the presidency in 2016 even at age 78. Mehta tweeted the comment and the governor’s top political aide, Steve Glazer, standing with us just rolled his eyes!

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

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