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John Campbell

John Campbell (R-Irvine) is an Assemblyman representing the 70th District in Orange County. Mr. Campbell is the Vice-Chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee. He is the only CPA in the California State legislature and recently received a national award as Freshman Republican Legislator of the Year. He represents the cities of Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Costa Mesa, Tustin, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Woods and Lake Forest. He can be reached through his Assembly website and through the website for his California Senate campaign.

Another Earthquake Coming
And it’s a good thing too...
[John Campbell] 8/27/03

California, of course, is known for its earthquakes. These notable earthquakes do include such ones as Northridge and Landers and Loma Prieta. But the earthquakes to which I refer are ones like the reform movement of Governor Hiram Johnson in the early part of the last century or the Proposition 13 taxpayer revolt of the late 1970’s. These were earthquakes of public opinion. Political ground was moved by the sheer force of a populace disgusted with the status quo and unafraid of significant change. Voters caused an upheaval of the establishment in government.

In each case, what started here in California spread across the nation. We have always been a state to start trends, not follow them. That can happen in politics as much as in industry or in culture.

This state has been quiet for a while. But, it's 2003 and all the seeds of a new political earthquake have been sown. Taxpayers are up in arms because they pay so much and get so little for it. Voters feel disenfranchised and unrepresented. Incompetence and corruption run rampant in Sacramento. Businesses are overburdened with valueless costs and regulation imposed by an abusive and unaccountable government. And they are all nearing the boiling point and ready to rise up.

“Oh come on Assemblyman” some of you may be saying. “People aren’t happy but calling it an earthquake is simple hyperbole”. I don’t think so. Here are 5 pieces of evidence that we are experiencing something more than just cyclical voter unrest:

The Recall: Recall attempts have been organized against every Governor since the recall was added to the state constitution in 1911. None ever came close to qualifying for the ballot until this one. As one of the first elected officials to endorse the recall and a state co-chair, I have been privy to focus groups and polling on the effort. Voters understand that you should not recall someone simply because you disagree with their policies. They want Davis recalled because they believe he is incompetent and untrustworthy. They also believe he is bought and paid for by special interests (primarily unions and trial lawyers) and that he has been elected 5 times to statewide office and has been Governor for 5 years and he will not change. Nearly 1.8 million people signed the recall petition over about a 90 day period. The Secretary of State found only 1.3 million to be valid because not all were submitted in time and some were invalid addresses, etc. The point is that fully 30% of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election chose to sign the recall petition. Random samples indicate that 30% of the signers were registered Democrats. No this recall is no small thing. An enormous volume of people were involved, and they understand the gravity and historic nature of their actions.

State Budget: The state budget has been in “crisis” for 3 years now. As a result of these last 3 budgets, we are guaranteed to be in “crisis” for at least another two. The debt service and rollovers and shifts of the last few budgets will ensure that even a robust economic recovery will not dig the state out of the hole in which it finds itself. So, although taxes have now gone up for 3 years in a row, people will still be concerned about funding shortages for local schools and colleges and roads. We pay a lot and get very little for it.

Squawk Box Incident: Democratic Legislative leaders having a secret strategy meeting in Sacramento inadvertently left on microphones which broadcast their conversations all over the capitol. Tapes of these conversations show that Democrats planned to hold up a budget agreement and cause people to “feel pain” in order to benefit “Democrats in the recall” and their initiative to lower the voting threshold for tax increases to 55% (inaptly named Budget Accountability Act). Voters are rightly disgusted with these blatant attempts by very powerful officials to “win” politically whatever the cost, consequences or means.

Wrong Direction: The recent Field Poll shows that only 18% of registered voters believe that California is heading “in the right direction”. 75% believe we are headed on the “wrong track”. These are the worst scores in 10 years. The Approval ratings of the Governor (23%) and the Legislature (18%) are the worst ever measured. People are more than unhappy. They are dissatisfied with their government at historic levels.

Voter Registration: In the last 3 months, of new voters in Orange County, only 8% registered with the party that is in complete control of state government in California and which controls both the U.S. Senate and Congressional delegations to Washington D.C. from this state. Minor parties registered almost the same number of voters. That’s unbelievable! For the party in charge (Democrats) to have such an abysmal showing means that the public is nearly universally seeing them as the cause of our problems and bereft of solutions for them. Republicans registered 5 times as many which was a good showing. But still more registered under no party. That means they are disgusted with the majority Democrats and are not yet sure about the minority Republicans, but want to vote because they know things must change. Oh, you say, this is only Orange County and this is a Republican area. But the trends around the state are similar even in Democratic counties.

I submit to you that even if you think that any one of these factors is no big deal, in concert they are significant. They are indications of a public that is unhappy with government, mistrusts that government and its motives and is ready to accept radical changes that heretofore would have been considered frightening. The fact that this is happening while Democrats are in unprecedented control of our state government does not bode well for the fortunes of their party. Whether or not Republicans are the main beneficiaries of this unrest will hinge on whether our party can provide leaders and a vision that the people can embrace. I believe we will.

This is not a one day earthquake. This unrest is so deep and so broad that it will take 3 years to fully play out. Voters are ready to change the way their elected officials are chosen and the terms under which they serve. Taxpayers ready to ensure that less of their money is taken, and that that which is taken is spent wisely. People are ready to make government more accountable, and to put in safeguards against the excesses of another Gray Davis. Parents want to see their local cities and schools have more control over their own resources.

How high on the Richter scale will this earthquake measure? I’m not sure. But it is ready to happen. And its affects may be felt all across the country.


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