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Bob Mulholland: Schwarzenegger isn’t the first actor-turned-politician to try an end-run around the Legislature – and fail.

Gov. Ronald Reagan was re-elected to a second term in 1970, beating Jess
Unruh by 500,000 votes-a lot closer than his first win over Pat Brown. And
like some governors before him and some since, Reagan started to think he
could make end runs around the Legislature.

On March 12, 1973, Reagan proposed a state spending cap to the Legislature,
boasting that it would be the “proudest accomplishment” of his second term.
But it was way too complicated and the Legislature rejected it.

Meanwhile, a proposition was moving forward that would put “constitutional”
limits on state spending. The author of that proposition was a right-wing
ideologue by the name of Lewis Uhler. At Uhler’s urging, Reagan decided to
get behind that proposition and called a special statewide election. Reagan
and the Republicans thought it was a brilliant political move, and in
November 1973, Governor Reagan had Proposition 1 on the ballot.

The staff around Reagan, the Republican pundits and much of the press corps
thought it would pass. About a week before the election, a reporter asked
Reagan if the average voter could really understand the proposition and
Reagan replied, “No. He shouldn’t try. I don’t either.” Reagan’s own
state Finance Director, Verne Ore, even came out against Proposition 1.

Californians voted over 53 percent “No” on Proposition 1. The Los Angeles
Times proclaimed, “Governor Reagan lost his first major election in
California, and he wasn’t even a candidate.”

Reagan did not blame the loss on Proposition 1’s complexity or that the
majority of voters did not want the type of “reform” he had proposed;
instead he blamed the loss on a “well financed, well-organized opposition.”
Actually, Reagan outspent the opposition, had the majority of newspapers’
support and also had what pundits called Reagan’s “salesmanship.”

Later in a National Review article, Reagan wrote, “When people are confused
about an issue, many will vote No.” (December 7, 1973)

Fast forward thirty-two years, and we have another special election, and
this time a Republican governor has four propositions he’s pushing for
“reform.” And like with Reagan’s Proposition 1, Schwarzenegger and his
political team have been operating like the political consultants’ Keystone
Kops.

Proposition 75 (Paycheck Deception) was brought to Schwarzenegger by none
other than Lewis Uhler. Like that horror movie about the evil doll Chucky,
Uhler is back!

At the recent Walnut Creek Special Election forum when Schwarzenegger was
asked why he is pushing Proposition 75, he said, “I did not sponsor this
particular initiative. Next year when the other one [corporate
contributions] comes on the ballot, I also, will support that.”

Sure, and I have a bridge in London to sell you.

In November 1993, Pete Wilson also got snookered into calling a special
election. The Republican voucher Proposition 174 on that ballot went down
in flames by 70 percent.

Schwarzenegger had the image two years ago of being able to sell ice to
Eskimos, but after he has made so many personal attacks on so many,
including nurses, teachers, firefighters and others, now he can’t even sell
two-by-fours to carpenters.

And on November 8, Schwarzenegger is going to be taught a lesson just like
Reagan and Wilson were – don’t overstep your bounds.


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