In a stinging
rebuke from voters who elected him two years ago,
California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's efforts to
reshape state government were rejected during a
special election that darkened his prospects for a
second term. The Republican governor and former Hollywood
actor, who likes to say he can sell anything, on Tuesday saw
all four of his signature ballot proposals rejected.
The election pitted the once-dominant Republican
governor against two of California's powerhouse
political forces—public employee unions and
Democrats who control the legislature.
The unions spent millions of dollars to beat
Schwarzenegger's propositions to limit the use of
their member dues for political purposes, cap state
spending, redraw legislative districts, and restrict
public school teacher tenure.
It was a sobering evening for a man once
considered among the most popular politicians in the
United States. The contest represented the biggest
test yet of a faltering Schwarzenegger leadership.
"The governor's strategy of vetoing marriage
equality legislation and supporting restrictions on
reproductive rights in an effort to turn out
right-wing voters for his ballot measures not only failed,
it backfired," said Geoffrey Kors, executive
director of gay rights group Equality California.
"By aligning himself with the extreme right on social
issues, the governor mistakenly believed he could gain
support for his package of propositions dealing with
redistricting, spending cuts, teacher tenure, and
labor unions. California voters soundly rejected that strategy."
Voters overwhelmingly defeated Proposition 76,
the governor's centerpiece proposal to slow the growth
of state spending. Proposition 77, which would have
redrawn legislative and congressional districts, was knocked
down by a similar margin. Failing by slimmer spreads were
Proposition 74, a plan to make teachers work longer to
achieve tenure, and Proposition 73, which would have
restricted political spending by public employee unions.
Poll after poll showed it was an election that
Californians didn't want, with a total lineup of eight
initiatives that didn't connect with everyday issues
such as gas prices, housing costs, and the war in Iraq.
Union leaders and Democrats who opposed the
governor chanted "Sweep, sweep!" at their Sacramento
victory party. "I'm very grateful to Arnold
Schwarzenegger for really working people up," said Deborah
Burger, president of the California Nurses Association.
supporters at a Beverly Hills hotel after learning that
at least two of his initiatives had failed, a smiling
governor did not concede defeat. "Tomorrow, we begin
anew," Schwarzenegger said, his wife, Maria Shriver,
beside him. "I feel the same tonight as that night two
years ago.... You know, with all my heart, I want to do the
right thing for the people of California." (AP,