Legislation called for by Gov. George Deukmejian to require candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run as a team on their party's ticket was pronounced dead Wednesday by top Senate Democratic and Republican leaders.
The GOP governor issued the call in his State of the State address to the Legislature in January and implied that in exchange he would support a Democratic-backed bill to advance the California presidential primary election to March.
Senate leader David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) said he believed the Senate Constitutional Amendments Committee delivered a bipartisan fatal blow to the "team ticket" legislation by rejecting it on a 2-3 vote Tuesday.
"It's dead for this year and it may be dead forever," agreed Senate Republican floor leader Ken Maddy of Fresno. He noted that the author, Sen. Leroy Greene (D-Sacramento), had introduced similar proposals twice before.
Greene himself declared the proposal finished and indicated he would not introduce it again. "I wouldn't bother with it anymore," he said.
Deukmejian's office, however, held out hope that the legislation could be revived if the governor and legislative leaders put it on their agenda for negotiations. A spokesman conceded that the governor had not lobbied on behalf of the bill.
"(But) the governor remains committed to going forward with a proposal for a joint election of governor and lieutenant governor," said deputy press secretary Tom Beermann. "It is not a dead issue."
Another bill that would have implemented the Deukmejian-backed ticket concept was shelved last week by the Senate Elections Committee. That bill was sponsored by Sen. William Campbell (R-Hacienda Heights).
Supporters of the ticket concept say it would assure governors that if they died or left office in mid-term, they would be succeeded by someone from the same party and presumably the same political philosophy.
One member of the Constitutional Amendments Committee who voted against the Greene measure, Sen. Dan McCorquodale (D-San Jose), noted that public opinion surveys have shown Californians prefer electing their governors and lieutenant governors separately.
A sampling by the California Poll last February found that by a margin of 56% to 37%, voters wanted the current system, a virtual replay of the results of a 1985 sampling.
Deukmejian has said he refused to run as George Bush's vice presidential nominee last year because it would have meant leaving state government in the hands of Democratic Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy. In January, Deukmejian told the lawmakers that running as a team for governor and lieutenant governor "is long overdue."
In his January speech, Deukmejian indicated to legislators that if his team ticket proposal was approved, he would be willing to support a bill long sought, especially by Democrats, to advance the state's presidential primary election from June to early March.
Democrats and some Republicans have complained that by the time the presidential primaries reach California in June, the nominee often has been selected at much earlier contests in the East and Midwest. This leaves California virtually impotent in the selection process.
A bill by Assemblyman Jim Costa (D-Fresno) to move the presidential primary to early March and still retain June for statewide, local and legislative elections is pending in the Ways and Means Committee.
While supported by many Democrats in both houses of the Legislature, Roberti said he has yet to be convinced that the Costa bill is best for Democrats at election time.
"I'm all for advancing the primary as long as we don't have three elections in one year," he said. "I don't understand Democrats who want to have three elections when they know very well that our voters start getting tired of voting. So we would have lots of influence in (an advanced) primary in selecting a President, who will never be elected."