Good Luck Getting That Knife Near Electoral Pie

Times Staff Writer

Assemblyman Tom Harman is the first to admit that his bill to toss out California's winner-take-all allotment of presidential electoral votes has a snowball's chance in Needles of making it out of the Legislature.

"To quote John Burton, the chances are slim and none, and slim just left town," said Harman (R-Huntington Beach), referring to the newly termed-out Senate president pro tem.

So why lunge headlong into sure defeat? Harman, who co-wrote the bill with Assemblyman John Benoit (R-Palm Desert), believes that just discussing the apportionment of electoral votes by congressional district may capture the public's imagination.

And that, he hopes, could lead to a ballot initiative to force the change before the 2008 presidential campaign.

Only two states -- Maine and Nebraska -- divide up their electoral votes by congressional district.

Colorado voters last month rejected a proposal to split that state's nine electoral votes by the percentage of popular vote each candidate wins.

If California's 55 electoral votes were in play, rather than assumed to be won by the Democratic candidate, it would ensure that the candidates paid proper attention to the nation's most populous state, Harman said.

If Harman's system had been in place Nov. 2, California would have delivered 35 electoral votes to Sen. John F. Kerry (for winning the vote in 33 House districts plus two votes for being the statewide winner) and 20 to President Bush.

"That's the same number of votes Bush got in Ohio," Harman said.

"The campaigns used California as an ATM machine to carry on their campaigns elsewhere."

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This Lawmaker Is No Moonlighter

Hip is not a word generally attached to Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), who heads the House Policy Committee. So how to explain track 22 -- "Chris Cox Megamix" -- on the new Britney Spears greatest-hits CD, "My Prerogative"?

Sorry, there's no juicy back story.

The song was created by remix artist and DJ Chris Cox, a Grammy nominee who has worked with Cher and Janet Jackson.

The musical Cox said he became aware of his conservative doppelganger after friends asked if he'd gotten into politics.

"I can't think of anyone in a more opposite position in life," said Cox, who lives in North Hollywood. "While he's potentially being groomed for the White House, I'm playing house music at parties for Playboy, porn stars and some of the biggest gay circuit events in the world."

Friends of the congressman were amused by the cosmic connection. "As a longtime supporter of Congressman Cox, all I can do is hope he'd be willing to do a duet with Britney on a Dick Cheney-Li'l Kim Christmas special," quipped Republican political consultant Dan Schnur.

The congressman's spokesman, Bailey Wood, declined to comment, saying the office responds only to "serious issues."

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How Politics Is Like a Cartoon

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton, at his monthly press briefing last week, said politics in Los Angeles reminded him of a cartoon. "It is a Looney Tunes town," he opined. "One reason the term 'Looney Tunes' was born here is because a lot of Looney Tunes things go on here."

His remarks came as he fends off criticism from some mayoral candidates for his decision to put about 70 to 80 training officers on the streets until year's end and cancel nonessential training to lower the crime rate during the Christmas season.

"Only in Los Angeles would a chief of police be criticized for putting more police back on the streets," Bratton said.

Mayoral candidate Bernard C. Parks, a councilman and former police chief, has also been battering Bratton over the LAPD's 12-hour-a-day, three-day workweek. Bratton held up a Daily News cartoon showing Parks flogging a dead horse.

"I think the cartoon tells it all," the chief said, beaming. "Give it up. Give it up. It is not the best schedule in the world. It is not the worst schedule in the world. But without it we would not be able to hire officers competitively."

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The Art and Duf Road Show

Civility is back in vogue now that the election's over, at least for the chairmen of the state Democratic and Republican parties. Democratic Chairman Art Torres, a former state senator who has led the party since 1995, and GOP Chairman Duf Sundheim, an attorney who took the helm in 2003, have traveled the state, appearing at 10 election postmortems, including one last week at the Orange County World Affairs Council.

There were moments of gentle disagreement.

Sundheim said he'd work to make illegal immigration and border security a bigger issue for the national party. That prompted Torres to respond, "It's hard for us to understand, as Latinos, why Jeb Bush signs a driver's license bill while Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoes one." Bush is Florida's governor and a Republican like Schwarzenegger.

Torres, in turn, demurred when asked whether he'd support former presidential candidate Howard Dean for national party chairman. He gave a much more thorough reply when explaining his opposition to a possible special election to take redistricting power from the Legislature.

That prompted Sundheim to retort: "The longer Art's answer, the more he's dancing."

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Paging the Governor

State Treasurer Phil Angelides is taking a page from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- and wants everyone to send the governor a page, too.

Angelides is the force behind Standing Up for California, a group formed this fall to promote policy issues and ballot measures, much like Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team.

Standing Up for California raised about $1.7 million from Oct. 1 to the Nov. 2 election. Of that, the group gave $150,000 to Yes on Proposition 72, the failed measure to require businesses with 50 or more employees to provide healthcare coverage, and $50,000 to Yes on Proposition 71, the successful measure authorizing $3 billion in bonds to pay for stem cell research.

The group's push now is for Californians to sign and send Schwarzenegger a one-page petition protesting the governor's support for President Bush's policies.

The petition accuses Schwarzenegger of "turning your back on the values that built California: economic fairness, broad opportunity and fiscal responsibility."

Need it be mentioned that Angelides, a Democrat, is likely to run for governor in 2006?

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Points taken

* January will mark the final edition of California Journal, the magazine of state government and politics that has published for 35 years. The Journal's nonprofit foundation said it couldn't cover the magazine's $850,000 annual budget. "This is a decision taken with great regret," said author Lou Cannon, the magazine's president and chief executive.

* A forum on the 10-year anniversary of Orange County's historic bankruptcy will be held at 7 tonight at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda. The event is sponsored by the county's own Chicken Little Who Was Right, current Treasurer-Tax Collector John M.W. Moorlach. His warnings about then-Treasurer Robert L. Citron's risky investments were dismissed -- months before the county lost $1.6 billion.

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You Can Quote Me

"We can be thoughtful and methodical like last year in meeting with the governor -- the Michael Corleone style -- or we can do the Sonny Corleone style and go to the mattresses and make it a big public fight for nine months."

Edward Headington, press secretary for Gil Cedillo, referencing "The Godfather" on the state senator's renewed drive for a bill allowing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.

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Contributing this week was Times staff writer Richard Winton.

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