In an election full of surprises, San Fernando Valley voters displayed little of the venom that characterized their balloting in 1994. But neophyte politicos and returning incumbents alike should be warned not to abuse the graciousness of voters. Term limits and retirements dramatically reshaped the Valley's various delegations, but the only clear mandate from voters is that they expect results. That may be harder than it sounds. With a rebounding economy, the attention of the electorate has turned inevitably to issues that are easier to stump on than to solve, from concerns about crime to cleaning up government.
Addressing the perceived rise in crime figured prominently in campaigns from state Assembly to the House of Representatives. From juvenile boot camps to a swifter death penalty, candidates promised to get tough with miscreants and keep the streets safe. But it will be harder to deliver. Even as crime rates decrease in most areas, the fear of crime seems to be increasing inversely. Changing perceptions requires a lot more than building more prisons or locking up teenagers. While rampant crime does indeed hold some neighborhoods in a tyranny of fear, most of the voters who most fear crime are less likely than ever to be victimized.
In the same way, candidates who promised to clean up government may find when they assume office that much of government works fairly well. Excess exists, to be sure, and government depends on careful scrutiny to stay efficient. But unprepared candidates will no doubt find themselves frustrated by the often schizophrenic attitude of voters who hate taxes but growl when their services or benefits are threatened. Fixing a system like that demands sacrifices few are willing to make.
Yet that's what local voters expect. Many of those who cast ballots Tuesday are more concerned with results than the party line, picking pragmatism over flash in most of the races. The election of Democrat Brad Sherman to Congress demonstrates that. An accountant, one of Sherman's strengths is his ability to analyze the complex--and often tedious--details that can make the difference between policies that work and those that don't. His expertise will be useful as the Congress tries to ensure the long-term solvency of Medicare and Social Security. On the other side of the political divide, voters also sent conservative Republican James Rogan to the House. That sort of balance typifies the Valley's delegations to Sacramento as well. The message from voters is clear: They want Results, not politics.