Final Arguments in 19th District State Senate Race

Hannah-Beth Jackson and Tony Strickland Headed for a Photo Finish

The total tab for the slugfest between Hannah-Beth Jackson and Tony Strickland for the right to represent the Central Coast’s 19th State Senate District is $7 million-and rising by the hour.

In the final, frenzied days of the contest, six-figure special-interest contributions for so-called independent expenditures-a recent $208k check from state real estate agents to benefit Strickland and $173k from the trial lawyers for Jackson offer a sense of the scale and sources- are pouring in with tsunami force. Because the 19th District is California’s number-one targeted partisan race, both parties are flooding the zone with ground troops, many of them Sacramento staffers on “temporary leave.”

Seven million dollars can buy a lot of bushwah in a campaign, as the free-swinging rivals have ably demonstrated. Their 30-second spots are more ubiquitous on cable TV than Arianna Huffington, if you can imagine that, and, as a registered independent living in the district, I’ve personally received enough direct mail from the two of them-“Taxin’ Jackson!” “Strickland’s Toxic Record!”-to encircle the globe with full-color brochures, oh, three or four times.

Amid a recession and daily, scary headlines about the world economy, Timm Herdt, the Ventura County Star’s indefatigable man in Sacramento, noted that the cost of this race is more than that of campaigns for the U.S. Senate (!!!) elsewhere in the country. The daily fusillades of falsehoods, fibs, and fish stories (Strickland’s brazen reinvention of himself as a guru of green energy and Jackson’s feigned amnesia about an outrageous, secret budget confab of liberal Democrats during her Assembly years come to mind) offer a case study of why tit-for-tat politics turn off many voters.

But if the spectacle of alleged grown-ups spending the equivalent of a small nation’s GDP to fund nonstop, nyah-nyah attacks is, on one level, obscene, the Los Angeles Times editorial page offered a more optimistic perspective. In its October 24 endorsement of Jackson, the paper applauded the competitive political geography of the 19th District, contrasting it with California’s widespread “gerrymandered districts, in which voters from one party or the other dominate so completely that the election is over in the primary. : So it’s good luck, though a bit of an oddity, that Senate District 19 : has a real race,” the editorial said. “This is exactly the kind of race California needs.”

It’s a point well taken, despite the tiresome negative tone of the Jackson-Strickland battle.

Come Tuesday, voters have a chance to act on it by ending the modern era of gerrymandering. Proposition 11, a goo-goo proposal backed by Gov. Terminator, would curtail the long-running conflict of interest with which state lawmakers protect their incumbencies by drawing the maps for their own districts during the once-a-decade process of reapportionment.

Regardless of one’s view on abortion rights, the public policy question raised by Prop. 4 is a three-time settled issue in California, and it’s absurd that we’re voting on it yet again.

HIRAM JOHNSON CALL HOME: If there was ever a glaring example of the abuse of California’s initiative system, it’s Proposition 4. The measure would require physicians to notify the parent or guardian of a pregnant minor before performing an abortion that the teen requested. Regardless of one’s view on abortion rights, the public policy question raised by Prop. 4 is a three-time settled issue in California, and it’s absurd that we’re voting on it yet again.

Consider: In 1953, the Legislature and Gov. Earl Warren enacted a law that gave teenagers in California the same access to birth control services as adult women. More than 30 years later, in 1987, Sacramento lawmakers and Gov. George Deukmejian passed and signed a bill requiring “parental notification” before abortions could be performed on pregnant teens younger than 18. Under legal challenge, it never took effect and was tossed by the state Supreme Court in 1997. Next, anti-abortion advocates, led by two conservative Catholic millionaires-winemaker Don Sebastiani and San Diego publisher James Holman-financed parental notification initiatives on the statewide ballot in 2005 and 2006; both were voted down.

Now, just two years later, Sebastiani and Holman are back again, pushing the matter onto the ballot for the third time in four years. Why? Because they can-they’re wealthy enough to afford it. When the state’s highest court has rejected a policy on constitutional grounds, and voters have rejected it twice, however, enough is enough, already. The money that Planned Parenthood and its allies are forced to divert into battling rear-guard campaigns sponsored by zealots could be much better used providing healthcare for women.

Don’t forget to vote.


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