- The Washington Times - Monday, May 17, 2004

A proposed California ballot measure aimed at cutting services to illegal aliens has died after failing to garner enough signatures for the November ballot, and a similar Colorado initiative is teetering on the brink.

Only a third initiative, Protect Arizona Now, the Arizona version, appears headed for approval after a massive volunteer campaign that has collected more than half the signatures needed to put the measure before the voters Nov. 2.

Ten years after California’s Proposition 187 won a resounding victory by promising to discourage illegal immigration by restricting public services, Save Our State attracted fewer than 500,000 of the 598,000 signatures needed by the April 29 deadline.

Ron Prince, director of the Save Our State campaign, said the campaign was crippled from the start by the state Republican Party, which opposed the measure and discouraged conservatives from donating to the effort.

“The Republican Party in California was vocal in its opposition and not supportive,” said Mr. Prince, who led the Proposition 187 campaign. “Behind the scenes, it was pressuring people not to support this.”

Other reasons cited for the measure’s defeat include an activist base exhausted by last year’s recall of Gov. Gray Davis, and a reluctance by the electorate to revisit the highly charged issue.

Proposition 187 was ultimately struck down by the courts, but not before it was assailed by immigrant-rights groups who credit the measure with invigorating Hispanic voters and transforming them into a powerful political force.

“It would have been thrown out in court again. It wouldn’t have had any impact, and it would have angered Latino voters again,” said Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. “[They] win a symbolic victory, but nothing would change. And then they get killed politically.”

Authors of Save Our State argued that the new version, which had been revised and coupled with federal immigration law, would have passed judicial muster.

The California defeat leaves Arizona and Colorado as the only two states with Proposition 187-style initiatives aiming for the November ballot, although the Colorado initiative could soon fall victim to political maneuvering.

Leaders of Save Colorado Now are weighing whether to continue their campaign after losing valuable time to court challenges. The initiative’s language was ultimately approved last week by the Colorado Supreme Court, but organizers worry that it may be too late to mount an effective campaign.

“Our opposition was very good at taking two months and three days out of our schedule,” said William Herron, a retired engineer who is leading the effort. “Our language was totally cleared, but now our money people aren’t sure we can do it in that amount of time.”

The measure’s organizers have less than three months to collect the nearly 68,000 signatures before the Aug. 2 deadline. The plan had been to raise $200,000 to spend on petition circulators, but now the group’s financial backers are having second thoughts, Mr. Herron said.

The campaign is expected to make a decision in the next few days as to whether to go forward. If the effort fails, Colorado law would prohibit backers from another attempt until the November 2006 ballot.

The Arizona campaign was begun last summer, and the extra time has made the difference. Organizers built a 2,000-volunteer force and had gathered more than half the required 122,612 signatures when the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) ponied up $100,000 for professional petition circulators.

“People want to sign — that’s not the problem,” said Randy Pullen, an Arizona FAIR spokesman who has gathered 1,300 signatures himself. “At the end of the day, however, you have to buy signatures, because it just takes so much time to gather them.”

Arizona organizers have also tangled with top Republicans over the issue.

The state’s Republican congressional delegation opposes the initiative, but delegates to the Arizona Republican Convention bucked the leadership in February to endorse the measure.

“We’re going to make it, but it’s going to be down to the wire,” said Kathy McKee, director of Protect Arizona Now. “Getting it on the ballot is only half the battle. We want to win, too.”

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