Election Predictions

by Randy Shaw on November 7, 2005

Although tomorrow’s special election was not announced until August, Governor Schwarzenegger planned it back in January. Those were the days before he promised to “kick the nurses’ butts,” and when Arnold felt that “the people” would side with him against teachers, firefighters, police, and the Democratic Party that dominates the Legislature. It’s payback time in California, and voter anger at Schwarzenegger and Bush is about to hand Republicans a major defeat. Here’s our predictions for local, state and key national races.

Normally, this election cycle is quiet in San Francisco, with minor local offices and few initiatives. While this cycle once seemed ripe for conservative ballot measures taking advantage of low voter turnout, recent elections have shown progressive benefiting from such turnouts; as a result, neither side feels comfortable putting important initiatives on November off-year ballots.

The only real suspense for San Francisco initiatives tomorrow is Prop D, the measure that gives the Board of Supervisors three appointments to the seven- member Municipal Transportation Authority Board. Sponsored by Supervisor Tom Ammiano and supported by a Board majority, Prop D emerged in response to the MTA Board’s inept and elitist handling of the MUNI fare increase earlier this year.

Past elections show voters prefer that appointments to key bodies be split between the Mayor and Board, rather than maintain a mayoral monopoly. In 2002, voters approved split appointments for the Planning Commission and Board of Appeals, and in 2003 gave the Board three appointments to the Police Commission despite a major campaign against the initiative by the Police Officers Association.

In that latter campaign, opponents sent mailers saying that the measure would give Supervisor Chris Daly control of police affairs. Although that strategy failed, opponents of Muni reform hit mailboxes on Friday with a piece saying that Prop D would give Daly
control of MUNI.

When the San Francisco Democratic Party followed Mayor Newsom’s lead and endorsed No on D, I felt the measure could be in trouble. The local Party’s lack of money has limited the impact of its endorsement, but groups paid by the state Democratic Party to do voter outreach are including No on D in the materials they hand out.

When a race looks as close as Prop D, I fall back on the voter question, believing that even in multi-million dollar campaigns many voters decide based on their reading of the question. Here, the question addresses the mixed appointment process, which voters like.

Prop D is also the only MUNI reform measure on the ballot, and voters clearly want reform.

I believe D wins narrowly.

As for the other local initiatives, Prop A should prevail despite City College’s failure to spend prior bonds passed by the voters as they promised. There simply has not been enough of a campaign against A to defeat it, with taxpayer groups going overboard in their desire to hand Prop B (bond for street improvements) a landslide loss.

The lesson of Prop B: don’t ask taxpayers to use bonds for services that they believe should be paid for with general fund dollars. After years of posting signs saying “Your tax dollars at work” next to road repairs, voters assume that’s where taxes are going.

The gun control measure, Prop H., was entirely off the radar screen until both the Chronicle and New York Times did Saturday stories on it. Prop I, College not Combat, has also received little publicity, and should also prevail.

It’s worth noting that Chronicle Editorial Page Editor John Diaz wrote yesterday that the paper opposes the war in Iraq but urges the rejection of Prop I because it “was a mere ‘policy statement’ against military recruitment in public schools.”

That sure makes sense. The Chronicle believes people who oppose the war should send a message that San Francisco sees no problem with military recruiters enticing students, disproportionately of color, to risk their lives in that immoral conflict.

If the definition of a liberal is someone who supports progressive goals but never the means to attain them, Diaz fits the bill.

By the way, Editor and Publisher reported today that the San Francisco Chronicle’s daily circulation is down 16.5% in the past year,to 400,906 copies, a huge drop. Sunday circulation fell 13.5% to 467,216.

The Chronicle’s circulation decline is nearly double that of any other daily newspaper in America.

The other local race of interest is the Ting-Sandoval contest for Assessor.

I wrote back in August that a Sandoval victory depended on the Governor following through on calling a statewide special election. This would mobilize Sandoval’s labor base, and offset Ting’s advantage as a Newsom appointee who would do well on the Westside.

But little did I suspect that as a result of mayoral politics, unions like Local 2 and Local 250(both of which are involved in labor disputes for which they have requested Newsom’s support) that would be expected to go with Sandoval instead endorsed Ting. And the SF Labor Council went big for Ting even though Sandoval’s wife is a former Local 250 organizer and he has been a consistently pro-labor vote on the Board.

With the Assessor’s race drawing little interest, many brought to the polls carrying labor slate cards will follow the recommendations down the line. This means Ting could well win the labor-oriented vote despite Sandoval’s history.

Sandoval tried his best, but he will not be able to overcome labor’s defection to Ting. I see Ting prevailing by at least a 52%-48% margin.

At the all-important state level, Props 75, 76, and 77—which form the essence of Arnold’s right-wing agenda—are headed for huge defeats. The only question is whether victories for Props 73 and 74 will enable the Governor to frame a massive defeat as a split decision.

Although polls show Prop 73 losing, my concern is the same as noted above: people who make up their minds by reading the ballot question could think it reasonable for kids to get their parents approval before having an abortion. If enough voters have turned off from the deluge of campaign ads and have not paid attention to the many No on 73 arguments, this terribly destructive measure could pass.

I’ll bet on No on 73 winning, believing that the message of “No!” will ultimately decide the race. But it will be close, and don’t be surprised if Prop 73 prevails.

Polls show Prop 74 with the best chance of winning. The reason, I think, is that few knew prior to the initiative how many years a teacher had to work before getting tenure so that lengthening the period to five years does not seem like a big deal.

The chief reason that Prop 74 is not far ahead in the polls is its connection to Arnold’s other measures. But the measure, whose chief impact will be to deter quality people from becoming public school teachers, may seem innocuous enough to pass.

Props 78, 79, 80 will all fail. Someone needs to tell the energy reformers to stop putting initiatives on the ballot that are unaccompanied by a grassroots electoral campaign.

I’ll have a full analysis of the meaning of the state results on Wednesday.

As for other races of national interest, the biggest outside California is the Virginia’s Governor race. This race is to succeed Democrat Mark Warner, who must leave after one term and may mount a campaign for the presidency in 2008.

Republican Jerry Kilgore has argued that Democrat Tim Kaine “would not give Adolph Hitler the death penalty,” and engaged in the type of Karl Rovian character assassination that has brought Republicans success. But it is hard to believe that voters in the shadow of the nation’s capitol want to give the Bush Administration a boost, and Warner will pull out all the stops to ensure his hand-picked successor prevails.

Kaine should win, in the second most important race outside California.

Finally, New York City’s Mayor Blumberg will easily win re-election, and likely merits this following a first-term where he displayed the politics of the liberal Democrat he has long been. But if he’s so popular, why must he spend $50 million on his campaign?

The heralded McCain-Feingold campaign finance law has done nothing to prevent Blumberg’s obscene spending, nor our Governor’s raising $16 million in a single week for his initiative drive. Those who argued that McCain-Feingold would do more harm than good by giving a false sense of progress have been proved correct, with public financing of elections the only true solution.

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