- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Ward Connerly, who successfully spearheaded ballot initiatives abolishing race-conscious policies in public hiring and admissions in California and Washington, said yesterday that he will begin similar efforts in several other states.

“We are exploring a number of states right now,” said Mr. Connerly. “Michigan is solid, and has already begun. Over the last year, we have been vetting language and working with local groups in Utah and Colorado, and prior to that, in Arizona.”

The initiative proposed by Mr. Connerly, a California businessman and a regent with the University of California, would ban race-based policies in public education, contracting and hiring. His goal is to have it on the other states’ ballots for the November 2004 elections.

Mr. Connerly on Tuesday announced the Michigan initiative at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His announcement trails by two weeks the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold racial preferences in college admissions at the university.

Polls in Michigan indicate the majority of residents oppose affirmative action.

“These will have the same language as the measure approved by voters in California and Washington,” Mr. Connerly said. “In Michigan, where voters have already said they disapprove of affirmative action, it will require a massive effort by the intelligentsia, the academics and the politicians to persuade voters that they should like racial preferences.”

In his speech at the University of Michigan this week, Mr. Connerly lamented the recent Supreme Court decision that essentially upheld the principles of affirmative action while knocking down the school’s use of a point system favorable to minorities for undergraduate admissions.

“With that ruling,” he said, “the Supreme Court confronts the American people with some rather basic questions: Is the principle of equality so devalued that we are willing to brush it away without a moment’s hesitation and on the whim of five people?

“Do we not believe in the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment? Are we not obligated to comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964?”

Mr. Connerly’s opposition traditionally has come from the left, but the announcement this week in Michigan was met with disappointment from some Republican corners.

“I fear that this proposed ballot initiative would only serve to further divide people along racial lines, which would be entirely counterproductive,” Betsy DeVos, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, said in a statement.

To put forth such an effort in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling is unwise, added Alvin Williams, president of the conservative Black America’s Political Action Committee.

“This timing is way off on this idea,” Mr. Williams said. “People are very sensitive to the Supreme Court’s ruling, which is the law of the land. And I don’t think that Republicans are going to be able to support this at this point.”

Another opponent, this one from the left, said the measure is a political bomb that will find opponents on both sides of the political aisle next year in any state.

“There has been a bipartisan consensus on the Supreme Court on affirmative action,” said Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way. “In his past effort, both Democrats and Republicans have felt he was a divisive figure.”

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