Proposition 93, the measure to weaken terms limits on the Super Tuesday ballot, didn’t only lose — it was defeated handily by voters.
The secretary of state reports the final tally at 46.3 percent in favor and 53.7 percent against — a victory for the No on 93 team of 7.4 percent. In raw numbers, Proposition 93 lost by well over a half-million votes. In the end, the measure lost in 51 of California’s 58 counties, including Los Angeles County, the home turf of the measure’s proponent, Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez.
But shouldn’t Proposition 93 have passed? After all, thanks to the hyper-aggressive fleecing of those with business before the Legislature by Speaker Núñez, his career-extending plan ended up with a 2.5-to-1 spending advantage for the measure, spending over $16 million! Let’s also not forget that Núñez also coaxed the governor into breaking his pledge to uphold the current limits, and then the governor appeared in television commercials that aired heavily throughout the final days of the campaign. Then there was what we call “The Big Lie” — wording by Attorney General Jerry Brown in the title and summary of the measure that would make an unknowing voter think that 93 would make term limits stricter in the Golden State.
Still, with all of this, the voters for the fourth time have made it clear that they support term limits, including passing Congressional term limits in 1992 (that were subsequently tossed by the Supreme Court), passing Proposition 140 in 1990, and rejecting Proposition 45 in 2002. Here is a staggering number: Between Propositions 93 and 45, special interest money was spent to the tune of almost $30 million to try to pass them.
A lot has already been made about the contributing role that the hubris of Speaker Núñez had in the doom of his own career-extending measure. After all, Núñez walked away from meaningful redistricting reform. Cynically looking to extend his own career, Núñez wouldn’t even consider an honest policy discussion and reforms that would only affect new legislators. Finally, the stories of his “living large” made for fodder that turned even the most liberal newspaper editorial boards against 93.
The citizens of California can be extremely thankful for the leadership and moxie demonstrated by Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Defying the governing “political class” in the Capitol, he boldly stood up and said that Prop. 93 was simply poor public policy, and deceptive. He then put his time and considerable resources behind those words, and led the coalition to stop the measure.
The defeat of Proposition 93 was truly a David vs. Goliath story, given that the resources for the Yes on 93 side were so massive compared to that of the No on 93 side. I think it is important to give recognition to the people I saw on the No on 93 team who really did amazing things, starting, of course with Poizner. U.S. Term Limits, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the New Majority all get kudos for their major financial investment in maintaining our current term limits. Also very involved in the victory were Kevin Spillane, Wayne Johnson, Brian Seitchik, Robert Molnar, Bob Adney, Marty Wilson, Beth Miller, Julie Westlake, Amy Thoma and Brandon Powers.
Of course special mention needs to go to Jon Coupal and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association for their vocal opposition to 93, as well as to Lew Uhler and the National Tax Limitation Committee, California Republican Party and to the California Chamber of Commerce. Last, but certainly not least, were those state legislators who stepped up to oppose The Big Lie, led by Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa.
I will be sad in some regards to see Fabian Núñez retire at the end of the year. After all, nothing has attracted readers to the FlashReport more than our reporting of the antics and lavish lifestyle of the Assembly speaker. While in some demented sort of way it has been fun to share the tales of “Louis Vuitton,” I think that I can safely say that Núñez ultimately became “bigger” than his office, and that term limits, functioning as it does, is naturally ending the term of a politician who otherwise would simply accumulate absolute power.
Hopefully after the failure of this latest attempt to weaken term limits, Sacramento politicians will stop trying to get around them and instead learn to live with them. After all, it is clearly the will of the people.