March 5, 2004

Editorial:

Time to Give Credit, One Huge Surprise, and Disappointment

It was through the sheer will power and political savvy of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that Prop. 57 and 58 passed this week. Prop. 57, a $15 billion bond, and Prop. 58, a balanced budget proposal, met with early resistance, but the Governor was able to put together a broad based coalition of politicians and groups to take what seemed to be a close race to an overwhelming victory.

We have to give credit to Governor Schwarzenegger for this victory. Apparently, the back lots of Hollywood and the mega star success that he enjoys takes political savvy in of itself, which Schwarzenegger learned well.

The huge surprise in this election was the victory by Lori Saldaña over her more, well-heeled Democratic opponents in the 76th Assembly race. This just reaffirms the fact that running for political office is not a science, but an art.

In the 76th, Vince Hall, who was perceived as the front runner, and Heidi von Szeliski, a political consultant, took turns throwing dirt at each other while Saldaña went about doing what she had been doing for the past year, going out and shaking hands. Saldaña was considered the longest of long shots. As an avid environmentalist and an educator, her message resonated with the voters. Voters have grown tired of dirty politics, and when presented with a choice, they choose the high road. In the 76th District, which goes from Clairmont to the beach and south to the City of San Diego, environmental issues are important.

Saldaña will now face the Republican representative, Tricia Hunter, and the Libertarian candidate, Jennifer Osborne, in the general election in November. Saldaña starts out with the upper hand in that the district was carved out as a district of Democrats.

The biggest disappointment of this election cycle was the inordinate number of races that went unopposed or with per functionary challenges to the incumbents. For example, of the three races for County Board of Supervisors, only one candidate faced a challenge, which in reality was not much. For the County Board of Education, the story was the same. This theme was repeated often throughout the county, leaving the voters with no choice at all, and no choice is a disservice to the public.

The lack of candidates challenging for political office is a reflection of the public’s disdain for the political process. It’s no longer about representing ideas and goals, but about raising money, selling your vote to the highest bidder and continuing this process once elected. It is a reflection of the degradation of campaigning itself. Campaigning is a process of digging up as much dirt as possible and tearing down your opponent. Lies are told, misrepresentation is spread through mailers, and third party dirty politics is a part of the process.

In spite of this, for all the candidates who had the courage to put themselves forth, to exchange ideas, to fight for what they believed in, we congratulate them. Running for office is not for the meek, it takes personal courage, thick skin and high ideals.

Now, we face the long road to the November General Elections.

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