Is Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee’s first place finish in the Senate District 15 special election an omen for what might come in the November battle over suspending AB 32, the greenhouse gases law? Ironically, on the same day that Blakeslee pulled off a comfortable victory over former colleague John Laird – although not decisive since Blakeslee just missed 50% necessitating a runoff — the initiative to suspend AB 32 qualified for the November ballot.
Blakeslee missed capturing outright the senate seat vacated by new Lt. Governor, Abel Maldonado, by winning 49.71% of the vote. Millions of dollars was poured into this race because a Democratic victory would leave Democrats one vote short of the two-thirds vote necessary to pass the budget and taxes.
But, the election was heavily influenced by the Gulf oil spill. The Laird campaign tried to splash the oil spill crisis all over Blakeslee, reminding voters he used to work for an oil company, and that he supported a form of off-shore drilling. The images of the destruction caused by the Gulf oil spill certainly have an emotional pull.
Blakeslee countered offering his own environmental credentials and emphasized his stance on job creation and improving the California economy.
Admittedly, taking one special election vote – not even a final result since there is a runoff – that can turn on campaign efficiencies and candidate personalities and voter familiarity with the candidates is not a solid way to predict the future. However, the AB 32 initiative campaign will be fought over the same message of jobs and the economy. In fact, both sides will emphasize the jobs issue.
Those promoting the initiative will argue that too many jobs will be lost to a plan that will make little change in global warming; those opposed will cite new, green jobs that will follow if AB 32 is implemented sooner than later.
The stress on the California economy is being felt here and now. The California unemployment rate is intolerable. By emphasizing the jobs crisis and the economy, Blakeslee pulled off a first round victory that many were not expecting.
Sifting through the entrails the day after the special election and the qualification of the AB 32 initiative, one might speculate that the jobs issue will be a powerful message come November.