Special Election 2005: Off And Running

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The worst-kept secret in Sacramento became official today: there will be a special election, and Governor Schwarzenegger has hit the streets to gather signatures for three ballot initiatives.

The three initiatives he endorsed: pension reform, teacher pay reform, and redistricting reform.

So what else happened? Well, since you asked...

* Is That Thing Street Legal? The governor's news conference at the Capitol was only the beginning. Most "photo-worthy", however, was his decision to drive himself and some young volunteers in a convertible military-style Humvee down I-80 to the Sacramento suburb of Natomas. With a CHP escort, the dark sunglasses-wearing governor cruised down the road under sunny skies, pulling up at an Applebee's restaurant to shake hands and gather signatures. By the way, there were no license plates on that Humvee... and the governor was wearing his seatbelt.

* A Mixed Reception: Speaking of the restaurant extravaganza, opponents of Schwarzenegger's policies also got wind of where he was headed. Greeting him outside were both cheers and jeers-- and enough jeers that one of the governor's aides could be seen running towards the door and screaming to security officers, "Move him! Move him!" And inside, the advance team may have not recognized one table of diners, who were all from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA). Several reporters interviewed CCPOA President Mike Jimenez, who is no fan of Schwarzenegger's attempts at state employee pension reform.

* Democrats Playing Defense: Both Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata held news conferences before the governor, and both offered a few comments that seemed to belie the sense of frustration at having to again play the political game on the governor's turf.

Nunez, who time and again reminded reporters that Assembly Democrats are focused on the budget deficit, was asked about the pace of negotiations over the government reform proposals. With a slight chuckle, he sarcastically replied, "We're in a hurry. We're anxious, governor, to negotiate how you're gonna screw all of our constituents. We're not gonna do that."

Perata, commenting on polls that show redistricting reform may be under 50% approval at this point. "If you start at 48 [percent approval], you end up somewhere [in election returns] at somewhere, you know, like 8 [percent]. So that's just a freaking waste of money."

So now the race begins to gather signatures, in as little as 6 weeks, on a myriad of ballot measures.

What makes this so unpredictable is that neither the governor-- nor his opponents-- can control what makes it to election day, because any interest group with enough money can get the signatures it needs to get something on the ballot. In other words, the special election may not be just a campaign on government reforms-- it might also be a campaign about the state's minimum wage and parental notification before minors can have an abortion. Initiatives on both issues, plus many more, are already in the works.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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