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Schwarzenegger pleads for passage of ballot measures

Battling anger and indifference on the part of California voters, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger implored them Sunday not to make the state “the poster child for dysfunction” by defeating a host of measures on Tuesday’s ballot that seek to restructure the state’s bleak finances.

The governor’s visits to three African American churches in Los Angeles came as proponents and opponents of the ballot measures marshaled the last of the millions of dollars they have collected for the special election. Schwarzenegger said Sunday he had been told that about 25% of voters are expected to show up, a paltry percentage that underscores the difficulty of the quest for reliable voters.

Schwarzenegger, accompanied by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and other officials, sought Sunday to summon a strong turnout by a voter bloc traditionally concerned about cutbacks in government programs of the sort the governor has threatened if the measures are defeated.

“We are at a crossroads,” he told congregants at West Angeles Church of God in Christ. “Do we want to go . . . down the road of financial disaster or do we want to go and get up, dust ourselves off and slowly march back toward prosperity? That is the question on Tuesday.”

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But even among the church crowds who listened to the official pitch there was skepticism about the proposals. Jo Evelyn Payne, 62, a retired loan servicing assistant who lives in Inglewood, said she was wavering over the package. She said she had little faith in California ballot measures and also mistrusts Schwarzenegger.

“I’ve never been able to see the money go to where they say it’s going,” said Payne, clutching a Bible outside the newly renovated Second Baptist Church, where Schwarzenegger also spoke. “I’m not entirely convinced that if we pass it, that the money’s going to go where they say it’s going to go.”

Judith Younger, 49, a Santa Monica resident who works at LAX, said she had been leaning toward supporting at least Propositions 1A and 1B but changed her mind after reading “the fine print.”

“I was discouraged and felt betrayed,” she said between spoonfuls of yogurt on the church’s front steps. “I don’t think it’s going to help.”

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The sheer complexity of the ballot measures was only one of the reasons that polls showed most of them lagging among voters likely to cast ballots. With employment and savings plummeting, voters forced to tighten their own belts were responding angrily to a demand from state officials for more money. And many voters appear to be throwing up their hands at the constant call to the polls.

Schwarzenegger and other officials were trying to tamp down those sentiments. “We understand that anger,” the governor said. “We understand that frustration.”

But, he added in a brief news conference after he spoke at First A.M.E. Church, “The people should know that this is about California’s legacy, this is about California’s future, because I think that we should not become . . . the poster child for dysfunction. We should be known as the state where everything is possible.”

Even without a highly organized, money-heavy campaign or many rallying events, the opponents of the ballot measures were confident they had voters on their side.

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“We’ve got our Internet networks up and we’re cranking out last-minute information, but we’re doing it on the cheap and it’s been effective so far,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Assn.

The ballot measures were the product of a budget deal earlier this year between Schwarzenegger and lawmakers. Proposition 1A would boost the state’s rainy day fund, invoke a spending cap and trigger the extension of recent tax hikes for up to two years. Proposition 1B would begin to restore cuts to schools if 1A is also approved. Proposition 1C would allow officials to borrow $5 billion in state lottery money for general purposes. Propositions 1D and 1E would transfer money for budget use that currently is set aside for children’s and mental health services. Proposition F, the only one that polls show voters leaning toward approving, would ban raises for legislators and state officeholders in years when California runs a deficit.

The propositions not only have been complicated for voters to understand but also fragmented the state’s typical electoral architecture. Republicans were forced to choose whether a spending cap that they have long sought outweighed a temporary extension of taxes. Democrats were pinched between a spending cap they have abhorred and the fact that if it fails, the money taken in the past from education would not be repaid. Labor groups that have marched in lock step for years, often against Schwarzenegger, were suddenly split, with many of the more prominent ones allied with their former foe.

Amid it all, money poured into the campaigns. Between Schwarzenegger and the California Teachers Assn.'s fundraising efforts, more than $25 million had been raised by the weekend, and $3 million more had been raised by backers of Proposition 1C, the $5-billion lottery measure. Among the contributions in recent days were $340,000 from the state Democratic Central Committee and $150,000 from SEIU Local 99, the Los Angeles City and County School Employees Union.

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“Some people say it’s too late, but we’ll leave that to the voters to decide,” said Bob Mulholland, the Democratic Party’s senior advisor.

SEIU’s financial decisions testified to the unusual tenor of the campaign. Though Schwarzenegger and his allies were begging for a straight yes vote on all the propositions, SEIU and its locals were the biggest donors to 1C but also contributed $1.3 million against Proposition 1A, the second-largest amount given to that campaign.

Along with the statewide measures on the special election ballot are several local matters. In Los Angeles, voters will decide the new city attorney and the District 5 City Council member. Replacement elections are also being held for the 26th state Senate and 32nd Congressional districts, whose incumbents have moved on to new jobs.

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cathleen.decker@latimes.com

michael.finnegan@latimes.com

Times staff writer Eric Bailey contributed to this report.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The election at a glance

Voters will decide statewide propositions and local contests in Tuesday’s special election. Here are some of the most important races.

STATE PROPOSITIONS

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* Proposition 1A: Requires legislators and the governor to boost reserves from 5% of the general fund to 12.5% and put in new restrictions for using the money. It would allow the governor to cut as much as 7% from many state operations and cost-of-living adjustments. It also would trigger an extension for up to two additional years in recent sales, income and vehicle tax hikes to bring in billions of dollars extra.

* Proposition 1B: Restores $9.3 billion to schools on the condition that Proposition 1A passes. Payments to kindergarten-through- 12th-grade schools and community colleges would begin in 2011.

* Proposition 1C: Authorizes state officials to borrow $5 billion that would be repaid by profits from a revamped state lottery.

* Proposition 1D: Uses about $1.7 billion from childhood development programs over the next five years to help balance the state budget.

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* Proposition 1E: Takes about $460 million during the next two years from a mental health program that voters established in 2004. The money would be used to fund screening, diagnosis and treatment services for Medi-Cal patients under age 21.

* Proposition 1F: Bans raises for legislators and state officeholders in deficit years.

LOCAL RACES

Los Angeles city attorney

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The race pits attorney Carmen Trutanich against Westside City Councilman Jack Weiss. The two men have sparred over who has the most legal experience. Weiss, who worked for six years as a federal prosecutor, has taken issue with Trutanich’s clients, including firms accused of environmental crimes. Trutanich has refused to disclose them all. Trutanich, a former deputy district attorney, has characterized Weiss as a “legal novice” beholden to developers.

L.A. City Council

District 5

Former Assemblyman Paul Koretz and neighborhood council member David T. Vahedi are running to replace Weiss in his largely Westside district. Koretz has received endorsements from labor and many elected officials. Vahedi has portrayed himself as an outsider who will shake up City Hall.

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26th District,

state Senate

Three candidates are vying for the seat. Democratic Assemblyman Curren Price Jr. is favored to win. Other candidates are Republican Nachum Shifren, a rabbi; and telephone technician Cindy Varela Henderson of the Peace and Freedom Party.

32nd Congressional District

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Twelve candidates are running in the San Gabriel Valley race to replace Hilda Solis, who was appointed U.S. Secretary of Labor. Leading candidates are state Sen. Gil Cedillo and Judy Chu, a member of the state Board of Equalization, both Democrats. Also running are Democrats Emanuel Pleitez, a political newcomer; filmmaker Stefan “Contreras” Lysenko; Francisco Alonso, former mayor of Monterey Park; Benita Duran, former deputy to Solis; kitchen designer Rafael F. Nadal; and attorney Nick Juan Mostert. Republicans running in the strongly Democratic district are restaurant owner Teresa Hernandez, Monterey Park Councilwoman Betty Tom Chu and business owner David A. Truax. Also running is Libertarian Christopher M. Agrella. There will be a runoff July 14 if no one wins a majority.

For more information, go to latimes.com/may19 and latimes.com/electioncentral

-- Compiled by Jeff Gottlieb

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Information for voters

Voters on Tuesday will decide a mix of state budget measures and local contests.

A special election will be held on statewide propositions and to fill vacancies in the 32nd Congressional and 26th state Senate districts. Municipal elections will be decided in Los Angeles and Palmdale.

In Los Angeles County, voters can cast ballots early by going to the Registrar-Recorder’s Office, 12400 Imperial Highway, Norwalk, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.

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Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Locations can be found on the back of the sample ballot mailed to voters, on the registrar-recorder’s website, www.lavote.net, or by calling (800) 815-2666. That number also can be used to report problems at polling places.

Orange County voters can call (714) 567-7600 or check the registrar’s website, www.ocvote.com.

Voters can get updates on the state contests by signing up on the micro-blogging website twitter.com/ CASOSvote.

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For Los Angeles County races, go to twitter.com /lacountyrrcc or click on the Twitter icon on the county’s website.

Orange County voters can sign up at twitter.com /ocregistrar, or by going to www.ocvote.com and clicking on the Twitter icon.

After the polls close, election results can be found on the Los Angeles County website and on the California secretary of state’s website, www.sos.ca.gov.


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