November 9, 2005

California Rejects Schwarzenegger Reform Measures

By Adam Tanner

SAN FRANCISCO -- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lost his bid to push through a broad package of government reforms in a special off-year election on Tuesday that he called in an attempt to flex his political muscles.

With more than 85 percent of the votes counted, Schwarzenegger trailed on all four of the initiatives he had championed, and four other measures also appeared to have lost.

As a result, the most expensive special election in California history -- at least $300 million including advertising and administering the poll -- appeared to have failed to change public policy and left the Republican governor wounded a year ahead of his reelection bid.

Facing a slate of disappointing numbers, Schwarzenegger appeared before his supporters in Beverly Hills and pledged to work with Democratic leaders in Sacramento.

"I also recognize that we also need more bipartisan cooperation to make that all happen. And I promise that I will deliver that," he said. "The people of California are sick and tired of all the fighting and they are sick and tired of all those negative TV ads."

He said he would meet legislative leaders in the state capital on Thursday before a planned trip to China.

"We are going to go and find common ground. We are going to talk about reforms," he said.

Analysts say that working with Democrats, the state's dominant party, will prove key to the moderate Republican's political future. As recently as Monday his aides predicted the governor win at least three of his four propositions.

"Usually politicians can find some silver lining. There is no silver lining tonight for Arnold Schwarzenegger," said Tony Quinn, co-editor of the California Target Book, a publication tracking state campaigns. "Arnold was completely repudiated by the people of California."

Yet even opponents said Schwarzenegger could regain his balance ahead of next year's vote.

"He will probably be very flexible now," Warren Beatty, the liberal actor who campaigned against Schwarzenegger's initiatives, told Reuters early on Wednesday. "He'll be very adroit in his attempt to win popularity."


Schwarzenegger was soundly beaten on two of the most substantive of his policy measures: Proposition 76, which would have limited increases in state spending, and Proposition 77, which would take power to draw legislative districts away from legislators and give it to a panel of retired judges.

His strongest showing came on Proposition 75, a bid to curb the influence of public-employee unions over state government by requiring union officials to seek permission from members before spending their dues on political causes.

But with 86 percent of the precincts reporting, the measure was trailing narrowly and many votes in liberal Los Angeles were yet to be counted. Schwarzenegger's endorsement of the measure had triggered a furious and sustained attack on the governor by the unions, who outspent him 2-1 in the campaign.

Schwarzenegger, who contributed more than $7 million of his own money to promote his ballot items, also campaigned for Proposition 74, which would require teachers to wait an additional three years before earning tenure. That measure also trailed by a sound margin.

The governor has seen his approval ratings drop sharply in the past year in the face of furious attacks by his big labor foes.

Also on the ballot were an initiative that would require doctors to notify parents before performing an abortion on girls under the age of 18, two measures regulating prescription drug prices, and Proposition 80, which would repeal provisions of 1996 electricity deregulation. The abortion measure was still close but losing, and the other three items were all widely trailing.

(Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles)