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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. [go to Campbell index]

Election Thoughts
Some lessons to be learned from March 2...
[John Campbell] 3/24/04

So another election has passed.

With the recall having been just a short five months ago, and the general election coming up eight months from now, it almost feels like we are in a continual campaign season. This allows political junkies to get a nightly fix of politics on the cable news channels. For many average citizens, it can be too much too soon.

But for those of us in the business of politics and government, there are lessons whenever the people speak, and I think there is much to learn from the election of March 2:

Special Interests

Gov. Schwarzenegger ran in the recall at least partially against the "special interests" in Sacramento. Both George Bush and John Kerry are accusing the other of being in the pocket of special interests. Why? Because the people clearly don't like the idea that their elected representatives are wholly owned subsidiaries. This sentiment is not new, but angst about this does ebb and flow. Clearly, the people's angst in this area is now high.

March Primary

In 1996, the California primary was moved from June to March to put California "in play" during presidential elections. For the third consecutive presidential primary, California did not influence either the Democratic or Republican nominations. And even though John Edwards was still in the race until about 6:00 Pacific Time on Election Day, neither he nor front-runner John Kerry spent much money or time here because it was too expensive to contest and probably already decided.

In fact, the last time California really mattered in presidential primaries was in 1968 for the Democrats (Robert Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey, et al) and clear back to 1964 for Republicans (Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller).

So let's face it, our early primary hasn't made us any more influential than the June one did. But the March primary makes elections here much more expensive because of a year-long campaign season. It makes campaigning and fundraising almost never ending and the turnouts lower. It's time to go back to a June primary.

Turnout and Voter Trends

Seventy percent of the voters turned out for the recall and only 39 percent on March 2. Why? This was caused by a combination of the primary being in March, there being no hotly contested races for president or governor and some hangover from too much election activity lately because of the recall. People were angry at the condition of the state at the time of the recall. Now, even though Gov. Schwarzenegger has been in office only 100 days, people have confidence that he will fix the state's ills. Therefore, they feel less anxious about the state's economy and less motivated to run to the polls.

Another interesting trend is the absentee voter. Thirty percent of votes cast in the recall were absentee. Most experts expect that number to be even higher for this past election. In fact, most absentee voters cast their ballot weeks before Election Day. That means that the candidate or issue that hopes to move the electorate on the weekend before the election may be missing a third of all voters. So does that mean that campaigns will need to be more continual over a 30- to 45-day period in advance of Election Day in order to influence all voters? Or does it mean that the last-minute bombshell will be less effective? Maybe. And maybe that's a good thing.

Orange County Hotbed

Orange County was ground zero in this past election. There was one heated congressional primary, one major state Senate primary, five hot Assembly primaries and a contested supervisorial seat. Voters received wheelbarrows of mail with accusations and accolades galore. You would think that this barrage of marketing in the millions of dollars would have inspired voters to go to the polls to make their choices. But the turnout in Orange County was 2 percent lower than the statewide total. Did the negativity of some of the mail turn voters off rather than on? So-called negative campaigning is used because it works. What if it's not working as well anymore?

The Voters Don't Want Tax Increases

After Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor, he was asked if he would consider tax increases to solve the budget crisis. He pointed out that some of his opponents had campaigned in favor of tax increases. They lost. He won. So, the people don't want them.

The resounding defeat of Proposition 56, which would have made it easier for the Legislature to pass taxes and spending increases, is the same message again. The people again have said no to tax increases. Are you listening Phil Angeledes? CRO



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