Prop 14 could reshape California politics

May 18, 2010 7:20:54 PM PDT
California's primary is June 8 and on the state ballot is a proposition that promises to break through the political log jam in Sacramento.

But Proposition 14 could do much more than that; it could reshape California politics. The way we elect our state and congressional representatives now is first with a primary and then a general election. If approved, Proposition 14 will change that.

In the governor's race, Republicans Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner are running against each other. The winner will face Jerry Brown along with third party candidates that have qualified to be on the November ballot.

But Prop 14 would put everyone on one primary ballot and the top two vote getters would advance to the general election.

"I believe Proposition 14 will allow greater participation and will allow people to get elected who are open-minded, reasonable and pragmatic," Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado said.

Maldonado is pushing Proposition 14, saying it will lead to the election of more open minded legislators willing to compromise, because to get elected they will have to appeal to both liberals and conservatives.

But the chair of the state's Democratic Party calls Prop 14 a tool of big business.

This is just really the Chamber of Commerce and the business community in effect trying to have their way," John Burton said.

Burton says voters should look at the contributions in support of Prop 14 -- the big contributors are business interests and the governor's ballot measure committee. Also, $3 million raised in favor, compared to $50,000 against.

Business friendly and socially moderate, that is what business interests believe would be a winning combination in California, says ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain.

"As long as they produce economically conservative and socially conservative candidates, they're never going to get control of the state of California," Cain said.

Social conservatives appeal to the party base, but Cain believes California business interests want to wrestle control away from the right wing and get candidates who share a business agenda in office.

"Namely low taxes, low regulation but sort of social moderation," Cain said.

In Southern California, the non-partisan Center for Governmental Studies has analyzed Prop 14's likely impact.

"I think Prop 14 is going to make running for office in California more expensive," Director of Political Reform Jessica Levinson said.

Levinson says primaries will be more expensive if candidates have to appeal to voters from both parties.

"The other thing that we found is it's going to be a lot harder for third parties, I think, to get to the general election," she said.

Under Prop 14, the top two candidates might both be Democrats, or they might both be Republicans, but the Center for Governmental Studies found it is very unlikely that a minor party candidate could make it onto the general election ballot, which explains why third parties are strongly opposing the measure.


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