Election 2012

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Young Voters Sound Off in Silicon Valley

(Photo: Stephen Pottage)

Participants in the focus group were vocal about their support for education. (Photo: Stephen Pottage)

With the national conventions behind them now, Republicans and Democrats say they’re all fired up and ready to go — sprinting toward the November election.

Four years ago Barack Obama marched into the White House beside an army of young volunteers. How are voters under 30 feeling about politics now?

As President Obama was giving his acceptance speech Thursday night, a group of younger citizens in Silicon Valley discussed their feelings about the election. Those focus groups are part of KQED’s campaign season series “What’s Government For?” — a joint project with the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California.

“But just about everybody wanted government to do more to improve schools and to make college more affordable.”

While the PPIC does public opinion polling, they also are conducting these smaller conversations to take the pulse of Californians this election year. KQED has already participated in Contra Costa, Fresno and Los Angeles. On Thursday night, 20 young adults — ages 18 to 29 — gathered to talk about their views on government and politics. The group was a mix of Republicans, Continue reading

Food Corporations Spending Big to Defeat Proposition 37

Proposition 37 would require food labels to indicate genetically modified ingredients. (Judy Baxter: Flickr)

New campaign finance data shows millions of dollars pouring in to fund November ballot battles. In two closely watched issues this election season, the California Teachers Association dumped another $7 million against Proposition 32. It would block unions from using payroll deducted funds for political purposes, among other things.

Food giants ponied up another $3 million to take down Proposition 37, the ballot measure that asks voters to decide if foods with genetically modified ingredients should be labelled. If Prop 37 passes, California would be the first state to require such labels.

In the “no” camp on Prop 37 are people and companies who do not want to label genetically modified foods. They’re spending big — outspending the “yes” camp 10 to one.

Over the last few days companies such as Ocean Spray, Sara Lee, Kraft and Godiva Chocolates have spent big to stop GMO labels from appearing on packages. The “No on 37″ campaign is spreaheaded by biotech giant Monsanto and has raised $28 million so far. “Yes on 37″ which backs labeling is supported by organic food makers among others, it’s raised less than $3 million to date.

For a visual on all campaign spending, visit MapLight. While its numbers are a bit behind the Secretary of State, MapLight has easy-to-read charts.

Finally, KQED’s Amy Standen has a great explainer about Proposition 37 — who’s for it, who’s against it and why.

Analysis: Gov. Brown’s ‘Gun to the Head’ Campaign For Higher Taxes

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown hopscotched around the state, making sure at each stop to make a pitch for Proposition 30 and threatening multibillion dollar cuts to education if voters don’t approve the initiative’s temporary taxes this November. I interviewed longtime state-government observer John Myers, political editor at KXTV in Sacramento, about Brown’s campaign.

Edited transcript:

RACHAEL MYROW: You recently blogged that the governor’s campaign reminds you of the infamous January 1973 cover of National Lampoon: “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.”

JOHN MYERS: Yeah, and I also wrote that it may be a little over the top to make the comparison. But the point is that when you look at the way the governor has rolled out this campaign in the early stages — and he’s now had an event in Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco — it’s very much a campaign geared towards what happens if Proposition 30 fails. He hasn’t talked a lot about all the great things that will happen if it passes. And that’s typically what you have in a ballot measure campaign. People say “Vote for us, because great things will happen.” This has been a campaign of saying, “If you don’t vote for us, doomsday comes.” And doomsday in this case, is the $5 billion to $6 billion in automatic spending cuts to schools that were written into the state budget if Prop 30 fails. That’s a very different kind of political campaign.

MYROW: This week USC released a poll that offers a couple of interesting insights. First, and this is probably the part Gov. Brown likes, a majority of those polled would vote for Proposition 30.

MYERS: They would. If you look at this poll, and if you look at all of the polls that we’ve seen in the last few weeks, the governor’s measure, which, again, would temporarily raise income taxes on the wealthiest and sales taxes on everyone, it has always polled in the low 50s, which of course is a majority of those being polled. But historically in California, if you’ve got a measure that polls below the 60 percent threshold in the early going, they don’t fare too well on election day, and so this is actually a low number.

MYROW: I was quite taken by another interesting tidbit from this poll: people ranked school funding fifth as a spending priority. This is after the economy, after jobs, after the state budget deficit and wasteful government spending.

Historically in California, if you’ve got a measure that polls below the 60 percent threshold in the early going, they don’t fare too well on election day.

MYERS: Yeah, it’s interesting, one of the folks from USC who were talking to reporters about this poll made the comment that they really feel as though voters are in a triage mode. The economy has been tough, unemployment has remained high, and voters’ historic priorities about spending and government may be shifting somewhat, or at least temporarily shifting. And clearly there’s an issue of wasteful government spending — they asked these folks in this poll about things like high-speed rail, the ongoing controversy about the hidden money in the state parks bank accounts, and the governor has tried to insist that these things have nothing to do with Proposition 30. But this poll does raise some questions about whether voters feel as though government is mismanaging the money it has, and maybe they don’t want to give any more money to government.

MYROW: This week the governor argued a state as big as California should be able to pursue more than one funding priority at the same time. “We have to be able to jump rope, chew gum and do five other things. Otherwise, we’re not going to make it,” Brown said.

Audio: Jerry Brown defends Prop 30 in a minute-and-a-half flat

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Now it appears that he sees himself in a fight to the political death with Pasadena attorney Molly Munger, who has spent millions pushing Proposition 38, which would raise taxes to fund K-12 and makes a point of saying, “This money doesn’t go to Sacramento. It goes to your local schools.” But I wonder, is this really an either-or situation, the way the governor seems to be presenting it. Why not presume voters could approve both propositions?

MYERS: People who I’ve talked to, election law experts, say, “Yes, the voters can approve both of these measures.” But, whichever one would get the most “yes” votes would probably be the only one that would go into effect. And, if in fact, Ms. Munger — the wealthy civil rights attorney — her measure went into effect, with tax revenues only for schools, then those schools could still suffer a $5 billion to $6 billion automatic trigger cut, because that’s what was drawn out in the budget if Prop. 30 fails. So, there’s a legal problem there.

But but there’s a political argument, too, that’s difficult. Which [is] if you’re the governor, are you telling people to vote for both? They don’t like taxes, but hey, here’s double taxes, in a way. And we should point out the polling is that Prop. 38, this Munger K-12 tax measure, does not have majority support in any poll I’ve seen. It is below the 50 percent threshold, and at this point it could just be a political argument. The voters really may not say ‘yes’ to that.

Primary’s Lesson: Every Vote Counts

Primary Voters in California

Flickr/Old Man Lee

Two weeks after the June 5 primary, county elections officers are still hard at work counting ballots. There are still more than 300,000 absentee and provisional ballots yet to be processed around California. And lots of races hinge on those votes.

For starters: the fate of Proposition 29, the state tobacco tax hike. Support for the measure still lags, but the gap is narrowing. As of late Tuesday afternoon, the “Yes” votes were 17,571 behind the “No” votes. That’s a tiny fraction of the five million votes cast. And the margin against Prop. 29 has been shrinking steadily.  On June 12, it was 28,000, down from 63,000 votes the day after the election. And 337,977 ballots are still to be counted.

In addition, five congressional races and ten state assembly races are too close to call… with margins of less than two percent between the second and third vote-getters (only the top two will advance to the Nov. 6 general election).

In Congressional District 2, which stretches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border, Democrat Norman Solomon trails Republican Daniel Roberts by 1,241 votes. The winner will face off against Democrat Jared Huffman in November.

In Congressional District 8, in the sparsely populated region east of the Sierras, three Republicans and one Democrat are all within about 900 votes of each other. The candidate currently in third place is just 215 votes shy of second place.

In Congressional District 21 which runs from south of Fresno down to Bakersfield, Democrat Blong Xiong trails Democrat John Hernandez by 492 votes. The winner will face Republican David Valadao.

In Congressional District 38, in Los Angeles County, Republican Jorge Robles is 632 votes behind Republican Benjamin Campos in a fight to take on Democratic incumbent Linda Sanchez.

And in Congressional District 52, in San Diego County, Democrat Lori Saldana is just 713 votes behind Democrat Scott Peters in a race to take on incumbent Republican Brian Bilbray.

In all those races, there are still thousands, if not tens of thousands, of ballots still being tallied.

The moral of the story? Your vote COUNTS!

Two thirds of California’s registered voters didn’t make it to the polls on June 5. But just a few hundred more votes in any of these close races could have swung the outcome. By voting — or staying home — you’ve had an impact on the election.

“Whatever It Takes,” Says Munger on Campaign

Molly Munger addresses reporters.

Molly Munger, author of a proposed tax increase earmarked for K-12 schools. (Photo: Nicole Nguyen/KQED)

Attorney and education activist Molly Munger says she will spend as much of her personal fortune as needed to run a statewide campaign for her tax initiative to help K-12 schools.

“We are totally committed to spending whatever it takes to let the people of California know they have this opportunity this year,” said Munger in an extended interview in Sacramento on Friday.

Munger later said when pressed that this could, in fact, mean her fully bankrolling a fall political campaign.

The interview was for a coming radio profile of the 63-year-old wealthy Pasadena attorney, a chat in which she talked about the roots of her passion for improving schools and why she thinks that her proposal — a 12-year proportional income tax increase on the vast majority of the state’s taxpayers — can win.

But for the political insider world, there’s likely to be some notice of Munger’s newly firm promise to keep the dollars flowing beyond just the qualification stage of an initiative campaign.

The “we” in her answers, Munger said, refer to the resolve of both her and her husband, Stephen English. “We have the resources and we’re going to spend them.”

Just what resources she’ll need to hand over is pretty hard to guess, given the increasing likelihood of multiple tax initiatives on the ballot and a very long list of other initiatives that will likely also have a spot in front of the voters. The last tax hike proposal was the failed 2009 effort by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders for a temporary tax extension to help balance the state budget. That was admittedly a very different campaign, and state records show the effort cost just shy of $16 million. Private musings by political experts seem to suggest that a 2012 tax initiative, one coming in the midst of a crowded general election campaign (2009 was a special election) could cost close to double that amount. And even then, it may not win.

In public comments last month, Munger said that the effort would not be relying only “on our own resources,” but that others would be relied on, too. But on Friday, she admitted that she may end up being asked to go it virtually alone when it comes to the millions needed to run the campaign ahead.

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Californians to Have Say on Death Penalty

On a recent afternoon outside a San Francisco grocery store, paid campaign workers are on the hunt for voter signatures.

Among the dozens of ballot measures now gathering signatures in California — is one seeking to repeal the death penalty and replace it with life sentences without the possibility of parole.
It’s chief proponent is Jeanne Woodford.

“I’m arguing for ending the death penalty because it doesn’t serve us” says Woodford. “It’s not a public safety tool.”

You might say Woodford is an unlikely opponent of the death penalty. As warden of San Quentin Prison, she presided over four executions.

“I tell people at the end of every execution someone on my staff would ask ‘Did we make the world safer tonight?’ And we all knew the answer was no,” said Woodford.

Today, Woodford is director of Death Penalty Focus, a non-profit fighting capital punishment. Woodford thinks deliberately killing inmates is immoral. But her main arguments against it: The death penalty doesn’t deter crime, it costs too much and it doesn’t help victims’ families move beyond their horrible loss.
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