- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2005

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took one on the chin Tuesday when voters rejected his slate of ballot initiatives, but he wasn’t alone.

Voters dealt setbacks all around, defeating all eight measures on the special-election ballot, including two initiatives heavily supported by Democrats.

Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times online headline said it all: “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.”

“Clearly there has been severe ballot fatigue,” said Republican strategist Ken Khachigian. “This is the fourth election since the [2003 gubernatorial] recall. If [Mr. Schwarzenegger] had to do it all over again, he might have decided to wait.”

Still, the election was viewed primarily as a defeat for the Republican actor-turned-governor, who had staked his political prestige and millions of his own dollars in his bid to reform state government by stripping power from the Democratic legislature and labor unions.

His foes portrayed Mr. Schwarzenegger yesterday as “deeply damaged” after the loss of the four initiatives on his reform agenda. The measures would have capped state spending, taken redistricting out of the legislature’s hands, limited union campaign contributions and made it more difficult for teachers to win tenure.

“The governor owes all Californians an apology,” said Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association, which led the anti-Schwarzenegger campaign. “He wasted $50 million on a special election that no one wanted to simply give himself more power. But voters saw through his attempt to create a ‘phenomenon of anger’ against teachers, nurses and firefighters.”

Organized labor spent more than $100 million in a do-or-die effort to defeat the initiatives by tarring Mr. Schwarzenegger as an enemy of teachers, firefighters and the working class.

Analysts, meanwhile, say Mr. Schwarzenegger committed multiple political errors, among them his refusal to counter his opponents’ attacks. He overreached by larding the ballot with too many measures. His campaign was too scripted and relied too heavily on “cheesy one-liners” such as “I’ll be back,” from his hit movie “The Terminator.”

“Schwarzenegger either got some very bad political advice, or he received good counsel and rejected it,” said Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters.

For his part, Mr. Schwarzenegger refused to dwell on the election results, instead promising to “find common ground” with Democrats in Sacramento and looking ahead to his 2006 gubernatorial re-election campaign.

“In a couple of days, the victories or the losses will be behind us,” Mr. Schwarzenegger told supporters Tuesday night.

Despite the setback, Mr. Schwarzenegger remains the front-runner in next year’s gubernatorial contest.

“This election will have zero effect on his re-election chances,” said Mr. Khachigian, who helped steer the re-election bids of former Republican Govs. Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian. “Wilson and Deukmejian were cut and bleeding in the years before their re-election campaigns, and they went on to win massive landslides.”

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