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Jan 24, 2007 - 02:15 PM

Another Special Election

by Jamie Court & Carmen Balber
Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to mend his ways after the '05 extra election debacle. Didn't he want to tell the "Terminator to travel back in time to tell Arnold not to have a special election?" Now he is promising another "special" election that could cost taxpayers $90 million.

A February presidential primary will in fact be extra as envisioned by Schwarzenegger, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nez, and Senate President Don Perata. Previous early March primaries in 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2004 were not extra elections because voters decided state legislative primaries as well as ballot measures. The presidential primary election envisioned by Sacramento's power trifecta would leave the legislative primaries for another election in June with a whopping taxpayer cost. What gives?

The power elite purportedly want to make California relevant in presidential primary politics. Yet in 2004 Schwarzenegger signed a bill that moved California's primary from March to June because the earlier date didn't make a difference in turning California from a presidential candidate's ATM to a campaign stomping ground. If a February presidential primary is needed to preserve California's political ego, then legislative primaries should be then too. If 9 months is too long for legislative campaigns, then we should leave the whole thing in June. Three elections a year at a huge cost to taxpayers only makes sense for the careers of termed out legislators and the Gov.

Sacramento tipsters tell us the deal struck between the Gov and legislative leaders would place a term limits initiative on the February ballot allowing even Schwarzenegger a shot at a third term. Accompanying the measure would be a seemingly publicly palatable pill like campaign finance reform. The second primary in June, assuming the term limits measure passes, would give the termed out Sacramento legislators a chance to keep their jobs in November without missing a pay check.

If Arnold is sincere about being a reformed man, he won't hold an extra election to give termed out legislators and himself a job extension. Term limits may well be worthy of reconsideration, but coupling the issue with a self-serving extra election at a $90 million taxpayer cost is wrong. We'll see if Arnold really learned his lesson as developments unfold.

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