10 PM UPDATE: New Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll now off embargo.
Schwarzenegger by 18 over Angelides in the governor’s race. Schwarzenegger’s lead has gone up by one point in the last month. The big bipartisan infrastructure bonds are on the bubble. More in the comments section and tomorrow in the AM leader.
DESPERATE MOVES ARE NOT PAYING OFF for California’s most powerful statewide offices. Former Governor Jerry Brown easily fended off a legal gambit by backers of distant Republican challenger Chuck Poochigian to block the counting of votes for the Oakland mayor as attorney general. And Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides finds himself trailing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, 53% to 35%, in a new Democratic poll.
Angelides touched on gun control yesterday as what his advisor Steve Maviglio called a “silver bullet” issue. It’s the latest in a string of “silver bullets” which turn out to be blanks. Nothing has worked for Angelides. This one won’t, either. In fact, although Maviglio blogged that Angelides had raised the issue yesterday, the treasurer actually shied away from it in a Sacramento coffee shop appearance. Perhaps he sensed that quarreling with Schwarzenegger over two very technical bills would not detract from the former action superstar’s standing as a gun control supporter. Or perhaps he realized that his past support for a ban on handguns could quickly become problematic for him.
In any event, the string of stunts indulged in by the Angelides campaign has availed the former state Democratic chairman not at all. He trails Schwarzenegger by a whopping 53% to 35% margin in a highly credible private Democratic poll. His new biographical TV ad has not worked. The millions spent by the Democratic Party to tie Schwarzenegger to unpopular President George W. Bush did not work. The millions more spent by the Alliance for a Better California public employee union coalition, attempting to stir the embers of anger over Schwarzenegger’s 2005 special election, did not work.
As a result, with two weeks until the official postmortems begin, Angelides is headed for a landslide defeat, in what has seemed to be one of the most Democratic states in the nation, in the midst of a very good year for Democrats nationally.
Also proving that desperate moves to torpedo rivals and curry favor are best practiced by desperate housewives is state Senator Chuck Poochigian, the Republicans’ badly trailing candidate for state attorney general.
As negative as the Angelides campaign has been to such little avail, the Poochigian campaign has been even more negative. The entire campaign has been about an unremitting attack on Jerry Brown. While Poochigian himself has been largely off-stage, his campaign has issued an endless stream of nasty missives about Brown, as well as a series of ads that have diminished as money has run out. In that respect, the Poochigian campaign has been more focused than the Angelides campaign, which flits from issue to issue, theme to theme, and slogan to slogan (four or five so far).
Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang noted the position of country registrars of voters and the California Secretary of State that the relief sought by the plaintiffs — disqualifying votes cast for Jerry Brown — would be extraordinarily disruptive of the election and, even were it possible, would be more costly to taxpayers than the alternative, plaintiffs having argued that taxpayer concerns were at the core of their complaint.
In fact, during the hearing, the plaintiffs’ lawyer withdrew the request that votes not be counted for Brown. Which was the entire point of the move, other than an attempt for publicity. The request for an injunction failed, as did the effort to expedite matters. Plaintiffs’ lawyer was left agreeing the suit would require major amendments if it were to continue.
The lawsuit had other odd aspects. California’s secretary of state, who oversees elections, should have been named in the suit because his office certified Brown for the ballot. But he was not. Indeed, Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, a Republican appointed by Schwarzenegger, petitioned successfully to become a party to the suit, supporting Brown’s position that the remedy sought by the plaintiffs be dismissed by the court. As did current state Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
The chief named plaintiff, Contra Costa County Republican Chairman Tom Del Beccaro, was not on hand. Poochigian himself was 175 miles away in Fresno, revisiting his endorsements by some Central Valley law enforcement figures.
At the core of the issue is whether or not Brown is qualified to be state attorney general. The Yale Law School graduate has been a member in good standing of the California Bar since 1965, admitted to practice before the state Supreme Court, for which he once clerked. Legal experts view this standard of admission for five years prior to election as the standard of eligibility.
However, Brown has for most of his tenure as mayor of Oakland, in which it would be improper for him to practice law, saved on high bar association fees by going from active to inactive membership. Backers of Poochigian, who by all measures is headed for a big loss in the election, seized on this inactive status to argue that Brown is not qualified. Had Brown wanted to practice during his inactive Bar membership status, all he would have to have done is fill out a form and pay additional membership fees and his active status would have returned automatically and immediately.
I heard of this ploy weeks ago, looked into it at the time and determined it had no merit. Of course, a serious legal bid to disqualify Brown would have taken place months ago, before ballots were printed and systems for the election set in place. This legal bid took place at the last minute, with Poochigian having taken his shot at Brown and failed, trailing by a huge margin in private polls in both parties.
Hoped for independent expenditure (IE) campaigns for Poochigian also, as reported here, have not materialized, with the smart money recognizing that even with a big win looming for Schwarzenegger, the possibility of defeating Brown approached the vanishing point.
So the IE action on the Republican side is with other candidates; namely controller nominee Tony Strickland and lieutenant governor nominee Tom McClintock.
Big casino tribe money is flowing to the aid of Strickland, as reported here over the weekend. And Intuit, the tax software giant (TurboTax), is also helping Strickland. His Democratic opponent, John Chiang, has been supportive of efforts by Controller Steve Westly to simplify taxes for some taxpayers by allowing them to use a state estimate of their obligation. The program, called Ready Return, is popular but was killed in the Legislature under the weight of heavy lobbying on behalf of Intuit.
Labor, which has been focused on propping up Angelides, is responding by “reprogramming,” as one senior Democrat puts it, money for IEs to help Chiang and John Garamendi, the longtime major Democrat locked in a very tight race for lieutenant governor with McClintock.
But Republicans have gotten the jump on the Democrats here. It remains to be seen if the late-breaking Democratic effort will work.