Friday, November 5th, 2004

ELECTION WRAP-UP II: California State Politics

  • Voters Part Ways with Governor Schwarzenegger on Health Care, Legislature
  • Potential Health Care Champions in New State Legislature
  • Health Care Issues, Including Prescription Drugs, Used Positively in Campaigns
  • Results on Prop 64 & 72 Cause Concern for Health Care Consumers
  • Also: Governor Appoints New Finance Director Tom Campbell

Despite the narrow loss of Proposition 72 (and still narrowing, as a million more votes continue to be counted), health care advocates have reason to be comforted by the results of the election in California, even as the national policy environment looks bleaker. Despite campaigning by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Democrats maintained their majorities in the Assembly and the Senate, often using health care issues, such as the cost of prescription drugs, in their campaigns. The new composition of the legislature will contain a sizable core of health care champions and supporters. Governor Schwarzenegger’s failure to unseat several legislators, and his loss on some propositions, shows the limits of his personal popularity and political power.

A separate wrap-up of Proposition 72 was distributed earlier, and is available at the Health Access website, along with other updates, at:

CA LEGISLATIVE RACES: California Democratic legislators kept their majorities in the Assembly (48-32) and the Senate (25-15). All incumbents won, including several Democratic legislators that were targeted by the Republicans and the Governor, including Senator Michael Machado (SD5) and Assemblywoman Nicole Parra (AD30). In fact, the closest margin of the night was that of Republican Assemblywoman Shirley Horton (AD78), who won by less than two percentage points. In the seats vacated by termed-out legislators, the parties held onto those seats.

SCHWARZENEGGER FAILS TO CHANGE LEGISLATURE: These results were a significant blow to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who fundraised and campaigned for several Republican candidates. Many political observers were predicting that the personal popularity of the Governor would be a factor in these races, and that the Democrats could lose five or six seats. The fact that legislative Democrats withstood his assault should give them the political will to counter the Governor’s policies when they disagree, especially on budget cuts and health care and other issues.

HEALTH ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Advocates know they are truly successful when they not only they pass legislation, but when politicians run on their issues. This year, many candidates ran on health care issues, most notably on the cost of prescription drugs. The bills to facilitate the re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada (which Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed) were featured in many campaign mailers and materials.

None of the Democratic incumbents, who all voted for SB 2, lost. Despite the $16 million of scare tactics spent against SB 2 and Proposition 72, Democratic legislators and candidates proudly defended their positions in newspaper articles and media coverage, and achieved a good election-night result. Unlike the aftermath of the Clinton health care effort, the issue seemed to help, not hurt, the legislators and candidates who supported health reform.

THE NEW MAKEUP OF THE LEGISLATURE: The California state legislature next year will include many new committed voices for health care consumers. While health advocates will miss the loss of such leaders as Senator John Burton and Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg in budget and policy fights, there are new potential champions for our issues.

Health advocates need to start educating these newly-elected members about the issues they will confront, including Medi-Cal redesign, the California Performance Review recommendations, and other policy issues. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez has already announced that health care issues will be a central component of his caucus’ budget and policy agenda next year.

GRIM NEWS ON PROPOSITION 64: Besides the narrow defeat of Proposition 72, health care consumers should also be deeply concerned about the passage of Proposition 64. Funded by a full range of corporate interests including HMOs, health plans, hospitals, and drug companies, Prop 64 will now restrict the ability of consumer and advocacy groups to sue to enforce public health, environmental, and consumer protections. This vote is a major setback for health advocacy and the consumer movement as a whole, both here in California, and nationally.

THE GOVERNOR AND THE PROPOSITIONS: Without any legislative changes over which to declare victory, Governor Schwarzenegger is pointing to his work on various ballot propositions. He claimed that voters followed his lead on 11 ballot propositions. However, many of those positions were already favored to win, including “no” votes on his two biggest priorities,

Propositions 68 and 70, on Indian gaming issues. Other ballot measures on his list that he recommended support for did not have significant opposition, such as measure 1A, on local government funding. Other ballot measures he opposed were already abandoned by their supporters, such as Prop 65.

His campaigning did seem to have an impact on Propositions 66, to modify the “three strikes” law, which he opposed with the bipartisan group of former governors. And he was quoted in the television commercials against Proposition 72, which failed but only by a narrow margin, the tightest race on the ballot. Despite over $16 million of scare tactics, over 4.5 million Californians voted for health care reform and Proposition 72. More Californians voted for Proposition 72 than voted for Governor Schwarzenegger in the recall election, in both percentage and in raw numbers.

Voters rejected the Governor’s advice on three measures, and two of those measures were on health care. Voters defeated the Proposition 62 open-primary measure, but approved Proposition 61, a $750 million bond for children’s hospitals, and Proposition 63, a tax increase on millionaires for funding mental health services.

THE GOVERNOR’S HEALTH PROBLEM: The victory of two health-related propositions that the Governor opposed, and the closeness of the vote on Proposition 72, suggests that voters place health care as a high priority and will part company with the Governor over health policy. Legislative candidates’ use of health care issues, such as the cost of prescription drugs, to blunt his attacks against them, also suggests that the Governor has political liabilities on health issues.

This is important, since Governor Schwarzenegger is poised to push some major changes in health policy, through his January budget, a proposed “Medi-Cal Redesign,” and the California Performance Review restructuring of health programs and departments.

On health care consumer issues, his record to date has been abysmal, including his previous budget proposals to cut access to health coverage for children and people with disabilities (which were ultimately withdrawn), and his vetoes of a range of health consumer legislation, on maternity coverage, prescription drugs, and hospital overcharging. But more than these actions, perhaps his biggest fault is the lack of attention or priority to improving access to health care, especially as hospitals and emergency rooms close up and down the state, the number of uninsured increase in California, and the health system seems ready to collapse. In opposing Proposition 72, Governor Schwarzenegger opposed the only solution that was on the ballot, and has yet to propose anything as an alternative, or even pretend to address the problem. All of these political developments and policy factors indicate that unless he changes his outlook on these issues, health care could be the Achilles’ heel of this Governor.


As health advocates await the January budget, Governor Schwarzenegger has appointed Tom Campbell, a former Republican congressman, as the state director of finance.

At the announcement of his appointment, he qualified his reputation as a social moderate: “My record in Congress and in the state Senate is one of a quite conservative positions on fiscal matters, against the growth of big government, as much government as we need but no more than we need…The governor makes the policy, but I will tell you my advice to the governor will be to not have any increase in taxes.”

Regardless, the new appointment is seen as a dramatic shift from the former finance director that resigned last month, Donna Arduin, the right-wing finance director who came from Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s administration with a reputation for a budget axe.

Here’s the description of Dr. Campbell from the announcement on the Governor’s website, at:

“As Finance Director, Dr. Campbell will serve as the Governor’s chief policy advisor and work to ensure responsible spending in the state budget. Campbell, a former US Congressman, has served as the Bank of America dean and professor of Business at the Haas School of Business, at the University of California, Berkeley since 2002. Before assuming the deanship at the Haas School, he was a law professor at Stanford University for nineteen years. Campbell was a member of the California State Senate from 1993 to 1995 and a United States Congressman representing the Silicon Valley from 1989 to 1993 and again from 1995 to 2001.”

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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