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California ballot is full of interesting characters, initiatives

By Sandhya Somashekhar

Voters in California head to the polls Tuesday to choose their nominees for governor and U.S. Senate, and we'll know soon enough if former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina are the victors in those respective, closely watched races.

But as usual, the California ballot is a lively thing, filled with interesting characters and noteworthy voter initiatives that can have dramatic consequences for the state.

One down-ballot race to watch is the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. The front-runner is Gavin Newsom, the telegenic young mayor of San Francisco, who is best known for allowing hundreds of homosexual couples to marry on Valentine's Day 2004 in an action that gave momentum to the gay-marriage movement nationwide.

The decision has in some ways haunted him. The move made him a gay rights hero and boosted his name-recognition, but opponents used his defiant public statements in their successful campaign to pass a statewide ban on same-sex marriage four years later. And he's struggled to expand his brand, despite his efforts on the environment, the city budget and health care. (He's also struggled publicly with his private life. During his divorce in 2005, reports emerged that he was having an affair. He has since married actress Jennifer Seibel and had a child in September.)

Newsom faces Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn for the nomination. Lieutenant governor is a largely ceremonial post that kicks in only when the governor is out of pocket, but it could position its holder for a gubernatorial run down the road. Lieutenant governor wasn't the job Newsom initially wanted. In the fall, he abruptly abandoned his bid for governor, surprising observers and leaving the way for former governor Jerry Brown to easily lead the pack the Democratic nomination in Tuesday's primary.

Also on the ballot are a number of California's famous propositions. The most closely watched will be Prop 14, which would overhaul the state's primary election system in hopes of bringing more moderate politicians into the mix. The Post's Dan Balz has more on how it would work and what it might mean in his Sunday Take.

Prop 14 is the brainchild of the state's current lieutenant governor, Abel Moldanado (R). When he was still a state senator, Moldanado last year cast a crucial vote in support of the Democratic budget plan, but his support came with a catch: That the legislature agree to put Prop 14 on the ballot. The initiative has since polarized the political establishment but enjoys the support of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a majority of voters, according to recent polls.

Another ballot initiative, Proposition 15, would allow the state to try out public financing of campaigns by experimenting with the next secretary of state race. And Proposition 16 -- backed almost exclusively by Pacific Gas and Electric -- would require towns to get voter approval to buy power from anyone other than the electricity giant.

By Sandhya Somashekhar  |  June 8, 2010; 7:55 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Next: Arkansas Senate race a close call

Comments

No vote from Vietnamese community of 500,000 people for pro-communist gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, who, as governor of California in 1975, strongly opposed Vietnamese refugees settling in California while supporting amnesty to illegal immigrants from Mexico. In fact, he works for the interests of unions and illegal immigrants only, not for California. Worst still, Brown sided with notorious Cuban dictator Fidel Castro demanding a lift of U.S. embargo on communist Cuba for its human rights violations during his visit to Cuba in July 2000 to formalize the relationship between Brown's city of Oakland with its sister city Santiago de Cuba.

Posted by: TIMNGUYEN1 | June 8, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

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