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Election 2012: Winners and Losers
The California Democratic Party -- Why have California Democrats outperformed Democratic results nationwide for the second election in a row? Four words: The California Democratic Party. Under the leadership of Chairman John Burton and Executive Director Shawnda Westly, the Party ran a sophisticated coordinated campaign second to none. The CDP team made smart strategic funding decisions, ran a "Battleground California" war room that mobilized activists and volunteers in every corner of the state, raised record funds, and made sure that every Democrat in the state had Yes on 30/No on 32 engrained in their minds. The CDP made the difference in just about every close race in the state outwitting and outworking the skeletal remains of the California Republican Party.
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez -- There was no bigger surprise on Tuesday night that the achievement of a super majority in the California Assembly. Speaker Pérez and his team -- including a new generation of campaign pro's that included Eric Bauman, Greg Campbell, Jim DeBoo, and Michael Wagaman -- did the unthinkable, taking a bad redistricting deal and upping their majority to 54 seats. The stealth capture of an additional seat in Orange County was the real shocker, though Pérez navigated tough races in the Central Valley, South Bay, and the Sacramento suburbs as well. The California Assembly was the only legislative body in the nation in 2010 to pick up seats; this year's achievement for the Speaker was equally remarkable.
Governor Jerry Brown -- Two weeks before election day, Democrats were ngrumbling that the Governor wouldn't be able to pull off Prop 30, just as they doubted his slow starting gubernatorial campaign against Meg Whitman. But never underestimate Jerry Brown & Co. The campaign stuck to its simple message of preventing school cuts, fended off Molly Munger's Prop 38 on the left, and successfully painted Charles Munger Jr. and then the Arizona "bandits" as the enemies of education. It was a huge win that will allow Brown to prevent the S.S. California from sinking into the budget abyss.
Sutter -- Cuddly Sutter Brown was a huge media (and volunteer) draw as he made his rounds around the state under the guidance of Humane Society wunderlobbyist Jennifer Fearing. Call it corny, but Sutter brought energy and interest to the campaign.
Labor -- Organized labor flexed its muscles at every level of the California ballot this cycle. The Prop 32 assault fired up labor like nothing else could. Under consultant Gale Kaufman's leadership, labor found a crack in the "Special Exemptions" Act and exploited it for all its worth. Unions mobilized their members like never before, with an extraordinary united efforts (and funding)by CTA, CSEA, AFSCME, SEIU, CFA, PORAC, CPF, The California Labor Federation and many others. Indeed, California is not Wisconsin.
Education -- Want to win an election in California? Put a teacher on the airwaves, talk about cuts to schools, and get the backing of CTA. Whether it was Prop 30 or local tax measures, backers of public education scored record victories.
The FPPC -- The state's political watchdog agency had fangs this cycle, teaming with AG Kamala Harris in pursuit of disclosure of funds used against Prop 30 and for Prop 32 from beyond the state's borders. The FPPC says this case isn't over. Let's hope it continues its pursuit of the mystery donors.
Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg -- Redistricting was kind to the State Senate, giving Steinberg the opportunity to achieve the two-thirds majority he has long wanted. Mission accomplished for Steinberg, as candidates like Fran Pavley and Richard Roth won hard-fought campaigns in tight districts.
Tom Steyer and Chris Kelly -- The backers of Props 39 and 35 respectively had good nights at the polls. Steyer is now 2-0 on ballot initiatives, having defeated Prop 23 last time around. Kelly's win redeemed his loss in the AG primary two years ago. Both are rumored to be angling for future political office. Their wins keeps them in the game.
Gloria Romero -- The former Senate leader, still bitter from her loss in the Supt. of Public Instruction race two years ago, did a Benedict Arnold to many of her former labor backers. Her harsh videos and ads against Prop 32 had zero effect on the results and has left permanent scars with former colleagues and friends.
Molly Munger -- Munger's Prop 38 wasn't popular since the day it appeared. But Munger plowed ahead anyway -- never mind the polling, nudges from the Governor's office and leading educators, and common sense. Her political advisors are guilty of political malpractice, but are no doubt laughing all the way to the bank. Munger, on the other hand, will have to work hard to overcome her disastrous entry into the political world in the future.
Charles Munger Jr. -- Proving that money really can't buy you love, the "other Munger" spread his wealth around the state with mixed results. His attempt to torpedo Prop 30 and boost Prop 32, however, was a massive flop. Worse, it put the publicity-shy Munger in the spotlight -- and not in a good way.
The California Republican Party -- You can't make stuff like this up: Registration numbers at a record low. Colossal losses in the Legislature. Incumbent members of Congress who didn't (or barely) survived. Zero ground game. Millions blown on a referendum for no reason. Just when you thought the California Republican Party couldn't be more hapless, this cycle proved that it was possible. The circular firing squad will no doubt reconvene shortly to see how they can further lower their favorability with California voters.
The Top Two Primary -- Millions were spent on inter-party squabbles (such Berman/Sherman on the Dem side and Miller/Dutton for the GOP). But to what end? In nearly every case, candidates were on the same ideological page and there were only minor overtures to the other party for votes. At the end of the day, the Top Two has produced only a couple "moderate" candidates -- hardly worth the significant experience lost in the California Congressional delegation or the ugliness of party infighting. Not to mention the anti democratic impacts of forcing a Democrat to choose between two poor GOP choices (such as in the Gaines/Pugno Assembly race) and the lack of third party candidates.
California Forward -- The unwieldy Prop 31 was a miserable failure, losing by a 39-61 margin after being abandoned by its billionaire financial banker. Now the "good government" group has some 'splaining to do to the foundations that keep it alive. Board members have resigned, and the organization is visionless and no longer a player. Time to call it quits?
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