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THE REAL LOSERS : Deciphering The Election : Political Forecast : Politics: Did California start something?

November 11, 1990|MAURA REYNOLDS | Forecast interviews were conducted by Maura Reynolds, a staff writer in The Times' Washington bureau.

California voters began the tax revolt when they passed Proposition 13 in 1978. The Times asked ten political observers: Will the results of the 1990 California election again influence political debate in national and state elections in the next few years? Why? Norman Ornstein,senior fellow, American Enterprise Institute:

Is California a harbinger of things to come? In this election, we saw a reflection of politics as they are being played nationwide as much as leadership in trends.

But California's politics this time will still have a profound impact on the nation's politics in 1992. Money was a factor everywhere in 1990, but no place more so than in California. And we ain't seen nothin' yet. Sen. Pete Wilson's gubernatorial victory means two Golden State Senate seats will be up that year. Add to that seven new House seats, massive redistricting of state legislative and congressional districts, turmoil caused by term limits and many Assembly and state Senate members having to run for other offices, a more significant presidential primary, and 33 other U.S. Senate seats up--and the demand for money in politics will be far more intense than usual.

Politicians everywhere will be obsessed with money in 1992, and especially with money from California. They'd better hope the California economy is strong. Patricia Schroeder,member of Congress (D-Colo.):

What I saw coming out of California looked schizophrenic: On the one side, the same anger with government and incumbents that we saw in Colorado, and on the other side, voters reverted to the biggest incumbent--Wilson--the person most familiar, like an old bedroom slipper.

Maybe this is an election in which for the first time other states might have led the way. To see Ann Richards beat the quintessential cowboy down in Marlboro country, to see a woman win in the Kansas heartland, to see someone win in Florida who wouldn't accept more than $100 from anybody and no political-action-committee money--I think California has lost its edge. To find the direction the political wind is blowing, now you'd want to look to Florida, Minnesota and Texas for the kind of populist campaigns that were run in those places. Edward J. Rollins,co-chairman, National Republican Campaign Committee:

Tuesday's election results in California sent a strong message to the rest of the nation that unless government is more responsive to the needs and concerns of the people, it will be changed.

The approval of term limitations for California legislators is an issue that was closely watched by the entire nation. By overwhelmingly approving Proposition 140, California will be the standard to which other states, including the federal government, will look on the issue of limitation of terms.

California also reaffirmed its strong anti-tax stand. Both through ballot initiatives and the victories of candidates opposed to increased taxes, the California message is clear. Tax is controversial at all levels of government and will continue to be debated by all political parties into the 1990s. Hal Bruno,senior political analyst, ABC News:

On a few things, California will have influence. Certainly, term limitations are going to catch on, even though there was no sign of anti-incumbent fever. But other results--the environmental initiatives, the alcohol tax--were so peculiarly California that I'm not sure that the rest of the country will pick up on them.

Last June, when California passed the referendum to build more highways, some people jumped to the conclusion that the anti-tax fever that had begun with Proposition 13 was starting to wind down. That certainly is not true. If anything, the anti-tax fever that began in California a dozen years ago is stronger than ever. Peter H. Hart,Democratic pollster and political consultant:

If 1978 sent a message about how we were going to deal with fiscal matters in the 1980s, then California in 1990 is sending a similar message to the rest of the nation in terms of incumbency, term limitations and how we view our representation in government. There is a new expection and a new set of relationships between the people and those representing them in Washington, and in that I see California as very much a trend state.

But on the environment, we would make a major mistake to conclude that Americans are rethinking their commitment to environmental protection. There is too much other evidence to the contrary. Based on the polling data I have seen, California is still a state that is willing to invest in itself. I honestly believe that, at the end of the 1990s, the entire country is going to be much more demanding about improving our environment. Susan Carlson,regional program coordinator, National Audubon Society:

It is clear that the economic downturn was a major determining factor in the defeat of Big Green and Forests Forever. This is not a hopeful trend for Audubon as we look to funding other critically needed environmental programs.

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