Voters are pissed

Sorting out the results of a primary election that showcased a restive electorate


By Guardian News Staff

After spending more than $70 million, two big corporations failed to convince Californians to vote their way. After spending nearly $70 million, the former head of a big corporation easily convinced Californians to vote her way. And that outcome is not as schizophrenic as it sounds.

On one level, the outcome of the June 8 election was a sign of the anti-corporate anger seething through the California electorate. "BP, Goldman Sachs, PG&E — anything that seems connected to a big corporation is in serious trouble right now," one political insider, who asked not to be named, told us.

Yet two candidates who were very much corporate icons — Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina — won handily in the Republican primaries and now have a real chance to become the state's next governor and junior senator. What's happening? It's fascinating. The voters in the nation's most populous state are pissed off — at big business, at government, at the oil spill, at 10 percent unemployment, at Washington, at Sacramento, at Wall Street. It's an unsettled electorate, uncertain about its future and looking for something new, and definitely despising power.

There's a populist fervor out there, and it's going to define this fall's expensive, dirty, and high-stakes battle for California's future.



Addressing a crowd of supporters gathered at Yoshi's San Francisco on election night, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom — who easily beat opponent Janice Hahn to claim the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor — said he was excited to be part of a crucial political year for the Golden State.

"We're very proud to be in a position to be the Democratic nominee and to work with the other Democratic nominees," Newsom told supporters. He lavished praise on the Democratic nominee for governor, Jerry Brown — the man who just last year he was trying to beat in a primary — telling stories about his father's long relationship with the former governor and expressing his admiration. "I couldn't be more proud to quasi- be on a ticket with Jerry Brown," he said.

The race for lieutenant governor may prove one of the most interesting this election season — and not just because a victory for Newsom would transform San Francisco politics. Newsom's opponent is Abel Maldonado, a moderate Republican who enjoys popularity among the growing, influential Latino community, and who Newsom's team said will be a formidable challenge.

The campaign could revolve around an intriguing question. At a time when the Republican Party has been taken over by virulent anti-immigrant politicians — Whitman and Fiorina have both made harsh statements about illegal immigrants and vowed never to support "amnesty" (that is, immigration reform) — will Latino voters go for a white Democrat over a Latino Republican?

"You talk to them about all the same issues you talk to all voters about: jobs, education, and health care," Newsom political strategist Dan Newman said when asked whether Newsom could win over Latino voters. "Latinos, like all voters, will appreciate someone with a proven record of success."

Pollster Ben Tulchin also downplayed the trouble Newsom could encounter in winning the Latino vote. "With what's going on in Arizona, they are very wary of Republicans," Tulchin said, but then added: "We don't want to underestimate the challenge we have. There's never been a moderate Latino on the statewide ballot."

Newsom sounded another alarm. If Whitman decides to help Maldonado, the race will get even tougher. "We're running against Meg Whitman's checkbook," the mayor said.

"Expect to see Meg and Abel together a whole lot in the next few months," one consultant predicted.