Our View- Californians need to focus on state elections

When it comes to state politics Californians never cease to complain about their governors. Whether it’s recalling Gray Davis or simply whining about Arnold Schwarzenegger, California’s electorate has become increasingly efficient at criticizing their elected officials.

Unfortunately, this sentiment is not reflected in the state’s voting habits, where numbers show Californians not demonstrating their dissatisfaction at the ballot box.

In 2004, roughly 12 million Californians voted, awarding the state’s 55 electoral votes to John Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts. Similarly, in 2008, 14 million Californians voted, 8 million of which cast their vote for another intrastate senator, Barack Obama.

While California’s voter turnout in national elections continues to lag behind other states, the electorate’s turnout is dismal with regard to state elections. In 2006, roughly 9 million Californians voted for governor. That’s a 40 percent turnout compared to 60 percent in 2008 and 55 percent in 2004.

Really California? We understand that a national election may seem more important than a state election, but change starts at home. It’s a state’s senate, assembly and governor that have the most effect on a voter.

We realize a state election will never attract the number of voters a national one will. However, at the same time, we hope that some Californians will realize that it shouldn’t be that way.
In the spirit of this year’s gubernatorial election we will introduce the three leading candidates, Jerry Brown, Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman, with hope that this will encourage our readers to participate in this year’s state election.

Jerry Brown

At age 71, Brown has had a long political career. He was elected California’s 34th governor in 1975, serving two terms. Before that he was California’s secretary of state. Brown was also elected the mayor of Oakland in 1999, where he served until he was elected as the state’s attorney general in 2007. He even attempted a run for president in 1980.

Brown, a notable opponent of California’s Proposition 8, refused, as attorney general, to defend the law when it was challenged in state courts.

Under Brown’s governorship, voters passed Proposition 13, which cut the property tax. Some claim that his mishandling of a state revenue surplus was impetus for the passage of this crippling proposition.

During his governorship, Brown championed environmental and labor issues. He established collective bargaining for teachers as well as other public servants. He also established the country’s first building and appliance energy efficiency standards.

Brown is the Democrat candidate for governor.

Steve Poizner

Poizner is California’s insurance commissioner. Before his involvement in politics, Poizner was heavily involved in the technology industry. In 2000, he sold SnapTrack, which dealt with embedding GPS receivers in cell phones, to telecommunications company Qualcomm for $1 billion.

Poizner is an ardent critic of illegal immigration. In an editorial published in the Los Angeles Times, he wrote, “The state needs to confront the problem in a way that is fair and decent but also unapologetically aggressive.” Poizner wants to “beef-up” border security and stop “taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal aliens.” He cites in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants as one of these benefits.

Poizner is currently behind in the polls.

Meg Whitman

Whitman was president and CEO of eBay, the popular online auction Web site, from 1998 to 2008. In January, Harvard Business Review named her the 8th best performing CEO of the past decade.
What Whitman brings to the table in business know-how, she lacks in political experience. Unlike Poizner and Brown, Whitman has yet to hold political office.

Whitman has focused her campaign on three issues: creating jobs, cutting spending and fixing education. She wants do this by implementing tax cuts in order stimulate job growth, capping state spending and directing more funds to education.

Whitman also plans to suspend California’s Global Warming Act of 2006, a law which requires California’s greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. The candidate for governor wants to study this “overreaching environmental regulation.”

The former CEO’s campaign is mostly self-funded. The Los Angeles Times reports she has spent $46 million of her own money since joining the race. According the Los Angeles Times this is seven times more than either Poizner or Brown.

Whitman will face Poizner in June’s Republican primary election. She currently leads in the polls, ahead of both Poizner and Brown.


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