- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

LOS ANGELES After a brief burst of hope on election night, California Republicans saw their dreams of a party revitalization melt away by dawn yesterday as Democrats seized all the top offices.
Despite his poor approval ratings, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis won a second term over Republican businessman Bill Simon by a margin of 47 percent to 42 percent. The loss was widely expected, thanks to Mr. Simon's disorganized and mistake-prone campaign. Nevertheless, the defeat was a major disappointment to Republicans, who had been sensing an upset for more than a year and had hoped to use the race to reverse a decade of decline in power in the state.
More unsettling for the Republican Party, however, was news that the Democrats captured every other statewide office in Tuesday's elections from lieutenant governor to insurance commissioner leaving Republicans for the first time since 1882 with no one holding executive office in the state.
Republicans had hoped to pick up three of those offices and appeared to be on track to win at least one as the clock wound down on election night.
"The Republicans and their lost opportunity," former Republican strategist Allen Hoffenblum said with a sigh.
"If Gray Davis could win with only a 5 percent [margin] against the worst-run political campaign in history, then imagine what [Republicans] could have done if they had run just a mediocre candidate," said Mr. Hoffenblum, now publisher of the nonpartisan political journal Target Report.
Republican strategist Arnold Steinberg agreed, saying the dismal Republican showing was the direct result of Mr. Simon's inability to define himself and offer voters a reason to go to the polls.
"To beat Davis, you simply had to have an adequate campaign, not even brilliant," he said.
Voter turnout was around 43 percent, the lowest in recent history.
Democrats yesterday said the state Republican Party was in a political crisis.
"The Republican Party in this state has basically thrown gasoline on itself," said California Democratic Party spokesman Bob Mulholland.
Republicans, however, said they were unbowed, despite their disappointment over Mr. Simon's defeat. The party picked up two state assembly seats the first Republican victories in hotly contested local races since 1994. Republican officials also said they were heartened by the small margin of victory for Mr. Davis and most of the Democrats to the executive offices only Attorney General Bill Lockyer managed to garner more than 50 percent of the vote.
"The good news for Republicans the bad news for Democrats is that Gray Davis spent $70 million and couldn't get half the vote," Mr. Steinberg said. "This was obviously a dismal performance for Davis."
But Democrats were having none of it.
"If your horse didn't come in first, it didn't come in first," Mr. Mulholland said. "The fact is there will not be one Republican on the streets of Sacramento on January 6 during all the swearing-in ceremonies."
In other California races:
Voters in Los Angeles decisively turned back two efforts to break up the nation's second-largest city. Secession movements in both the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood lost badly.
Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger scored his first political victory as the sponsor of a successful ballot question designating more than $400 million for after-school programs. The measure was widely seen as the Republican actor's first test for a run for governor in 2006.
Voters in San Francisco approved a nonbinding measure asking the city to get into the business of growing and selling marijuana for medical purposes. The measure is a reaction to raids by federal authorities on medical marijuana buyers clubs and cooperatives. The raids have outraged state and local officials, who say the clubs and co-ops were operating peacefully and within the state's 1996 medical marijuana law.
Voters in the San Joaquin Valley elected Democratic state Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza to replace scandal-plagued Democratic Rep. Gary A. Condit, who lost in the spring primary election.
Democratic Rep. Lois Capps beat back a strong challenge by Republican businesswoman Beth Rogers, who had hoped to use her fluency in Spanish to appeal to Hispanics living in the district, around Santa Barbara.

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