Toys, Travels, Teabags?

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On this day before the big special election, there's a pretty noticeable quiet around the state Capitol, as California's budget needs will soon (and somewhat) be in the hands of the voters.

Until then, a few odds and ends related to the six proposition extravaganza are worth a mention...

* Tom and Steve. And That's It: There wasn't much news to report out of today's noontime 'debate' between GOP gubernatorial rivals Steve Poizner and Tom Campbell. The two appeared jointly at the monthly luncheon of the Sacramento Press Club to ostensibly talk about their differences of opinion on Proposition 1A, tomorrow's spending limit/reserve fund. Instead, it was more of a 'What I Would Do If I Were Governor' conversation.

The event was a result of Poizner's challenge to both Campbell and potential rival Meg Whitman to debate their proposition positions. Whitman declined, which led Poizner to spend the time since then accusing her of ducking a public discussion. Funny, then, how these little trinkets just happened to be handed out at today's event.

Once inside, attendees watched Poizner, the state's incumbent insurance commissioner, and Campbell, the former congressman/state lawmaker/budget director/business school dean, engage in a wonky hourlong discussion. Campbell used a whiteboard to sketch out some of the numbers in his just announced $15.4 billion deficit solution. Poizner then plopped down two large binders on the table which he said were a full printout of the February budget... asking if anyone even knew what was in it.

From there, it continued to wander away from Prop 1A (Campbell supports it; Poizner opposes it). Poizner came prepared to talk about his hopes to "streamline" state government, and gently jabbed at Governor Schwarzenegger and his now famous pledge to 'blow up' the boxes of bureaucracy. "This is not an action movie," he said.

But Poizner fended off reporter questions about what specifically he would cut, at one point saying it was "distasteful" to talk about cutting government without first using a "process" to identify the best places for cuts.

Campbell also took small jabs at his former boss, though a little more subtly. He said that if state spending had just stayed on course from the era of former guv Gray Davis, the state would be in a much less dire fiscal predicament. And he said governors need to wield the veto pen more forcefully than it's been used in recent decades.

But in the end, there was scant actual news, though some drama when Poizner said that GOP Sen. Abel Maldonado "sold his vote" during the budget process. Campbell said Poizner should retract the comment; Poizner refused.

* Mailing It In: Not that it will probably matter, but Governor Schwarzenegger will not be in the Golden State tomorrow as voters head to the polls. He'll be in Washington, DC. Gubernatorial spokesman Aaron McLear confirms the guv will be back east, with others reporting that the Obama administration is prepared to roll out a federal auto emissions standard that takes its cues from the California law. "It's important for the governor to go to this event," said McLear, who noted that Schwarzenegger will also be meeting with administration and congressional officials to make California's case for some assistance on the issue of budget cuts that might jeopardize federal stimulus dollars. McLear says the governor voted by mail today.

* Tea Time: Speaking of absentee ballots... if what's going on in Solano County is a way of 'reading the tea leaves' on tomorrow's election, it might not be pretty. Elections officials there report that some voters are mailing their ballot backs with tea bags included in the envelopes. Apparently these are folks who are too angry to wait for the next big rally against taxes and government spending. No word how much extra postage it takes to mail back a ballot stuffed with tea bags.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new 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. In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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