Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is spending $2 million to send a 12-page mailer to about 5 million California voters over the next several days, urging them to follow his lead on the “most important” measures on the Nov. 2 ballot -- but notably not taking a position on the high-profile stem cell research initiative.
The mailer comes as the governor is featured in television ads opposing two gambling-related measures on the ballot, at a cost of up to $5 million.
Though all governors offer their views on ballot measures, none until now has launched so extensive an effort to influence an election.
Political experts say that, given Schwarzenegger’s popularity and the many measures on the ballot -- one of the longest in state history -- his mailer could have significant impact. The effect could be greatest on the measures that attract little attention or money for television advertising, they said.
“There are people who sort their way through complicated initiative ballots who will be favorably inclined to listen to what he says,” Democratic consultant Bill Carrick said. “It will work more effectively on initiatives where there is not much information.”
The glossy mailer, being paid for and sent by the California Republican Party, will go mostly to registered Republicans. But at least some of the mailers will go to independents and Democrats, Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman said.
And although the Republicans are paying for the pamphlet, the governor’s stand differs from that of the party on three measures: the stem cell proposition and two competing initiatives, Propositions 60 and 62, involving California’s primary election system. On each of the three, Schwarzenegger takes no position.
The Republican Party opposes the stem cell measure, Proposition 71. Both sides in the debate over the initiative have been wooing the governor and predicting that he would eventually side with them. Though Schwarzenegger still could announce a position, the absence of an endorsement in the mailer would limit the impact of any future move.
Proposition 71 would require the state to sell $3 billion in bonds to finance embryonic stem cell research. If the measure wins voter approval, California will spend far more on such research than the federal government and all other states combined. The grants would be given out to stem cell researchers over the next decade.
Supporters of the proposition say research using embryonic stem cells could lead to cures for many serious ailments. The funds are needed, they say, because of President Bush’s decision in 2001 to sharply limit how federal money could be used to pay for such research.
Some opponents of the measure disapprove of research using human embryos on moral grounds. Many also say the proposition would cost the state too much, with no guarantee that promised cures would be found.
“There are compelling arguments for it and against it,” Stutzman said when asked about Schwarzenegger’s position. The governor’s final stance “is to be determined,” he said.
Backers of Proposition 71 have raised more than $20 million. It has been endorsed by actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’s disease; Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates; and former Secretary of State George Shultz, one of the state’s most influential Republicans.
The Republican Party also opposes Proposition 62, which would change California’s primary system. Under that measure, voters could choose among all candidates on the primary ballot, regardless of party, and the top two vote-getters would run against each other in the general election.
Backers of the measure, who include several Schwarzenegger supporters, say it would produce more centrist candidates by eliminating party primaries. Opponents say that in many districts, the result would be general elections featuring two Democrats and no Republicans, or vice versa.
The Republican and Democratic parties both back a competing measure, Proposition 60, that would keep the current voting system in place.
The governor’s mailer will arrive as voters’ mailboxes become filled with political pieces, including letters for and against legislative candidates and no fewer than 40 slate cards urging voters to take stands on ballot issues.
The mailer, a version of which is displayed on Schwarzenegger’s campaign website, www.joinarnold.com, focuses on Schwarzenegger’s opposition to Propositions 68 and 70, two initiatives that would expand gambling in the state.
The governor calls Proposition 70 a “special-interest proposition designed to expand casino gambling throughout California without giving taxpayers their fair share of revenues.”
Yes-on-70 spokesman Bill Rukeyser dismissed the governor’s arguments, saying: “It is unfortunate that he hasn’t read the proposition. If he had and understood what 70 does and doesn’t do, he would not make claims that are fantasy.”
Proposition 70 would authorize tribes to expand their casinos on existing reservations.
Rukeyser noted that Schwarzenegger earlier this year approved a compact to permit the state’s first urban casino, in the Bay Area town of San Pablo.
If the compact had not stalled in the Legislature, the casino, with 5,000 slot machines, would have been among the world’s largest.