November 7, 2004


How Prospects for Prop. 66 Fell So Far, So Fast: Three-strikes revamp looked likely till Pete Wilson, the governor and a billionaire joined to defeat it. (Joe Mathews, November 7, 2004, LA Times)

Jeff Randle, one of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's political consultants, was working in a hotel room near LAX on the night of Oct. 21 as he grabbed his cellphone. Who, Randle wondered, could be calling him at such an hour?

Pete Wilson was on the line. The former California governor had just clinched an agreement that, only 12 days before the election, would mean the collapse of Proposition 66, a measure to limit the state's three-strikes law.

Henry T. Nicholas III, an Orange County billionaire whose sister was slain in 1984, had just promised Wilson a donation of $1.5 million for the campaign to defeat the initiative. That money would allow its opponents to broadcast TV commercials for the first time.

"My message on that call was: OK, you've got the money, so let's go," Wilson recalled last week. "This was the cavalry coming over the ridge."

The day before Wilson's midnight call, Californians appeared ready to pass Proposition 66. A Times poll showed it leading 62%-21% among registered voters. Less than two weeks later, after a media blitz financed by Nicholas, Proposition 66 lost, with 53.2% of voters against it. A final tally will not be available until all absentee and provisional ballots are counted.

"We've seen steep declines before," says Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, which recorded a 65%-18% lead for Proposition 66 in early October. "The very late-breaking nature of this decline, I think, is unprecedented."

The story of that turnaround highlights not only the power of money and the volatility of initiative politics, but also the continuing political partnership between the state's two most recent Republican governors.

In many ways the scariest number for the Democrats--even worse than how close he came to winning PA, WI, & MN--has to be that George Bush got 44% of the vote in CA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 7, 2004 9:43 AM

Certainly that 44% number is what's the scariest to me about the election. I'm not looking forward to the left coast going red. Fortunately, many California republicans, like our current Governator, are fairly liberal on social issues.

Posted by: Bret at November 7, 2004 10:36 AM


Don't worry. California won't be going conservative anytime soon, but it seems as though it is heading in that direction even on social issues.

Posted by: Vince at November 7, 2004 11:27 AM

When Jeb gets 50% of the CA Hispanic vote and 20% of the black it'll be Red.

Posted by: oj at November 7, 2004 11:32 AM

I was very impressed by Bush getting 44% of the urban vote. He won the suburbs and rural areas.

Posted by: pj at November 7, 2004 11:37 AM


What makes you so sure Jeb Bush will get 50% of the California hispanic vote?

Posted by: Vince at November 7, 2004 12:00 PM


Posted by: oj at November 7, 2004 12:24 PM


Republicans have been saying the same about blacks, but inevitability seems to have surrenderred.

Posted by: Vince at November 7, 2004 3:23 PM


That's inevitable too. The next Repoublican nominee will get 25-30%

Posted by: oj at November 7, 2004 3:36 PM


Not if it is Rudy Giuliani. The blacks consider him racist for how he ran New York City. Al Sharpton would make his campaign a living hell.

Posted by: Vince at November 7, 2004 7:44 PM

Maybe so Vince, but he is a demigod in the suburbs and that would more than compensate.

Posted by: Bart at November 8, 2004 7:29 AM

LA Times (all genuflect and burn the pinch of incense before their altar) got scooped again.

The John & Ken Show (KFI 640 afternoon drive-time in LA) had been flogging No on 66 since they first heard of it, putting on DAs & crime victims and telling the real story of how 66 came to be. (Rich dadsie buying his widdle baby pwecious darwing out of jail.) Henry T Nicholas III came on board, opened his checkbook, and pulled all-nighters (and called in every favor he had) from then until Election Day running the No on 66 *because* he heard about it on the John & Ken Show.

Posted by: Ken at November 8, 2004 12:51 PM
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