10.26.2004

SHAWN STEEL SAYS "VOTE NO ON 62 OR THE PARTY'S OVER"




By Shawn Steel
Immediate Past Chair CRP
Director California Club for Growth


In a few days the California political world may erupt. A key purpose of Prop 62 is to reduce the conservative influence in the Republican Party. Moreover, Californians face the permanent destruction all minor parties, marginalization of the major parties and an evisceration on political activists.

In November, California voters will decide whether to adopt a radical scheme to fundamentally change our electoral system in this state.

Prop 62 financed by Dick Riordan and a host of super rich power brokers who are seeking to end the contest of ideas in political primaries. Originally promoted as an "open primary" election initiative, fortunately that that deceptive language was taken off the ballot by Judge Judy Hersher. In reality it would impose a "Louisiana-style" non-partisan voting process in California.

The Louisiana primary election law was devised by former Governor Edwin Edwards, a Democrat, in 1975 as a means of throttling the growth of a then-emerging Louisiana Republican Party. The notorious Edwards went on to beat corruption charges in 1987, but was convicted in 2001 of racketeering, extortion, and fraud and sentenced to ten years in prison.


To use Edwards' Louisiana system as a model for elections in California is outrageous. Louisiana has long had a reputation for corrupt "Banana Republic" politics and the state's primary election law permitted extremists like David Duke and Edwin Edwards to be finalists for governor in 1991. Louisiana voters were forced to choose between the Klansman and the crook.

Some 10 billionaires individuals helped pay for signatures to qualify this Louisiana-style primary to be on the California November ballot. They include Haim Saban [Mighty Morphine Power Rangers], Eli Board [Broad & Kaufman major developers], Don Bren CEO Irvine Co. and John Chambers CEO of Cisco Systems.

This ballot proposition is not an "open primary" or even the "blanket primary" proposal adopted by Californians as Proposition 198 in March 1996. It is a radical scheme that will destroy the role of political parties in our state.

If this initiative is adopted there will be no official party nominees for any office. Primaries are literally abolished. There would be no official Democratic candidate and no Republican candidate, or any other party candidate.

This will allow wealthy self financed candidates to dominate elections for generations. Inevitably this will create on going personality cults. Instead of facing party activists, wealthy candidates will massage the public with pabulum messages.

In this radical system, candidates' names would appear on a primary ballot randomly placed. Listing party affiliation would be up to the parties. All voters, including those not affiliated with a political party, would receive the same ballot and would be allowed to vote for any candidate regardless of the candidate's party affiliation. The two candidates receiving the highest number of votes regardless of their political party would appear on the November election ballot.

To a large extent, the two candidates qualifying for the November election will depend on the field of candidates running in the primary. In statewide races, if the primary field consists of three or more Republicans and two Democrats, the November general election would likely be between two Democrats. Similarly, if the field consisted of three or more Democrats and two Republicans, the run-off would likely be between two Republicans. These whimsical outcomes are anti-democratic.

Former Congressman Tom Campbell, author of Prop 198, observes that in his 1992 senate race, the two candidates qualifying for the November run-off both would have been Democrats, if this Louisiana-style primary had been in effect.

Adoption of the Louisiana plan will have a devastating effect on small parties. With run-off elections involving only the two top vote-getters, it will be a very rare instance when a Green Party or Libertarian candidate's name would appear on the November ballot.

This system will result in perpetual internal warfare where two members of the same party vie for election in November legislative run-offs. How is a political party run "ground game" for their all their candidates if the party is at war with itself? How can there be genuine diversity of ideas if all partier are effectively disenfranchised?

In many coastal urban counties, Republicans and other parties will no longer compete. The same is true for Democrats in suburban and rural areas. Political diversity will suffer when parties will be totally eliminated from the November ballot.

There is probably no more important political proposition in the last
10 years than Prop 62. If passed it will marginalize all parties, reduce introduction of new ideas in the political process and allow wealthy personality cults to dominate California politics for decades to come. Its unfair to minor parties, its anti democratic and will have huge unintended consequences.

Thankfully we also have Proposition 60 which will provide constitutional protection for the right of political parties to have their candidate on the November ballot. Prop 60 trumps Prop 62.

The solution is clear: Vote No on Prop 62 and Yes on Prop 60.

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