Are Conservatives to Blame?

Sacramento morning talk show host (and my good friend) Eric Hogue spent much of last week on a tirade blaming conservatives for not showing up to support Governor Schwarzenegger’s reform initiatives. Well with all due respect to my good friend, the facts tell a much different story.

In his blog post entitled California’s Black Tuesday- What happened to the ‘turnout’ in conservative counties..? Eric writes:

If conservatives weren’t interested in the Gov’s propositions, then what’s the excuse for allowing the historic proposition defending ‘parents rights’ and slowing death in the womb? We still had to pull teeth to get the conservative voters to the polls.

The statewide average turnout was near 42%. Most of the Northern Conservative Counties performed well, like Placer County (52%), and El Dorado County (51%).
Once again, we are scratching our heads over Orange County (38%), Imperial County (30%), San Bernardino County (36%), Stanislaus County (30%) and Riverside County (37%); renowned conservative counties with very low turnout to support the governor.

Nearly “one million register voters” in Orange County did not vote Tuesday.

Liberal counties like Marin County (36%), Monterey County (36%) and Alameda County (41%) under-performed as well. Nearly “2.5 million registered voters” in Los Angeles County didn’t vote. People were telling me on the show today that the conservative vote did perform on this ballot. If that is true, then ‘a conservative good showing’ cannot trump the liberal’s simplest efforts. If that is true, we (conservatives) are in serious trouble for the future.

So let’s take a deeper look at the numbers!

According the Secretary of State’s Office, the 10 counties with the most registered voters (in order) are:

Los Angeles 3,842,887
Orange 1,491,009
San Diego 1,383,513
Riverside 776,962
Santa Clara 762,551
San Bernardino 753,616
Alameda 704,036
Sacramento 629,847
Contra Costa 492,656
San Francisco 427,539

In six of these counties, Democrats outnumber Republicans (Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Alameda, Sacramento, Contra Costa and San Francisco) and total about 6.9 million voters. In four of these counties Republicans outnumber Democrats (Orange, San Diego Riverside and San Bernardino) and total 4.4 million voters. As a matter of fact, the number of voters in the Democrat controlled Los Angeles County alone is more that the top three Republican counties.

Now let’s compare these to the counties with the greatest number of voters who actually turned out to vote (in order):

Los Angeles 1,575,665
San Diego 640,499
Orange 573,340
Santa Clara 340,787
Alameda 302,348
Riverside 287,827
San Bernardino 273,370
Sacramento 269,372
Contra Costa 244,206
Ventura 179,613

As you can see, the counties are almost identical the ones on the previous list. The only difference is that Republican leaning Ventura County has swapped places with San Francisco County (which happens to be 11th on this list). And once again the number of actual voters out number those is in the top three Republican counties (San Diego, Orange and Riverside) put together.

What these numbers show is that contrary to Hogue’s assertions, turnout in large Republican Counties was about what it should have been. When you actually look at the numbers, the number of voters who turned out in large Republican counties was proportional to the number of registered voters in those counties. Was turnout as good as we would have hoped? No, but it was no worse than should have been expected.

In addition, Eric refers to Imperial County (54% Democrat to 27% Republican) and Stanislaus County (40% Democrat to 42% Republican) as “renowned conservative counties…” According to what numbers?

Then he goes on to link to an article by Dan Schnur, a moderate who was a key advisor to former California Governor Pete Wilson, and refer to it as additional proof that conservatives were to blame for the failure of the special election.

In his piece “Governor, You Win California By Being…You!” Schnur states:

With the benefit of hindsight, an initiative package that included measures that appealed to both the conservative and moderate sides of his wide-ranging constituency would have been much more consistent with the Arnold they voted for in the recall campaign. Paycheck protection, in other words, looks much less threatening if it’s paired with a reconstituted ban on off-shore oil drilling. And budget reform would have been balanced nicely by a companion initiative on early childhood education or health care. Could the unions have demonized a governor campaigning for kids and coastal clean-up? Perhaps, but it would have been a much, much harder sell.

It sounds to me like he is saying that the Governor didn’t do enough during the campaign to reach across the isle or to entice swing voters to support his agenda. And to a certain degree he is right.

From the very beginning, Republicans and Democrats made it clear that this election was a referendum on Governor Schwarzenegger. Republicans were hoping to ride popularity and “star power” to victory, just as they had in the 2003 Recall and the 2004 elections. Democrats on the other hand used it as an opportunity to get away from discussing the actual merits of the Governor’s reforms and instead make his personal integrity the issue. Needless to say the Democrat’s plan was much more effective.

They accused the Governor of breaking his promises to schools and cutting education. They charged him with excessive fundraising; declaring that he was filling his campaign coffers with special interest money. They made it look like he was personally attacking teachers, firefighters and nurses. And they were successful in beating down his approval rating amongst all voters; conservative and swing voters alike.

But it was the conservatives who stood up for him. Senator Tom McClintock traveled the entire state pushing Prop. 76, the Governor’s “Live Within Our Means Initiative”. Assemblymen Ray Haynes and Tim Leslie, arguably the two most conservative members of the legislature wrote editorial after editorial defending everything from the Governor’s budget to his reform agenda. As a matter of fact, Tim Leslie’s was the only legislative district that delivered on the Governor’s agenda 100%.

But having said all that, there is plenty blame to go around. Moderates, conservatives, legislators, party leaders, activists and yes even the Governor’s administration dropped the ball in their own way. Rather than looking to blame others, each of us should take a look at how we could have done better; realizing that next time we will have to do better.

This special election has brought together an unlikely and powerful coalition of special interest groups. They have large numbers and deep pockets. And heading into the 2006 elections, they have caught the scent of blood in the water.

I would suggest that we, rather than make 2006 a referendum on one man, make it about our principles. We must get back to the principles that have led our party to dominance across the country- fiscal responsibility, smaller government, national security and traditional family values. Moderate or conservative, we must support the candidates who support these principles.

Craig DeLuz

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