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Let's Try to Do This One Right : California needs a gubernatorial campaign that's worthy of this challenging and crucial moment in the state's history

July 03, 1994

Rarely in the 143 years since California joined the union has this state needed strong and creative leadership more than it does now. Decades of breakneck growth and continued immigration, combined with the punishing recession of recent years, have shaken the very underpinnings of the Golden State, now home to nearly one of every 10 Americans. We stand at a critical juncture in our history.

From the beginning, California has stood as the ultimate American symbol of hope and renewal, of dreams fulfilled. Now we risk pointing the way to an American future of despair. We enter a governor's race whose outcome could well spell the difference between a prosperous 21st Century and one of continued decline of our quality of life and environment. We call on the two main candidates, Gov. Pete Wilson and his Democratic challenger, state Treasurer Kathleen Brown, to make this election a true referendum on the future, to give us campaigns that join the real issues and abjure the sort of shallow sloganeering and smearing so typical of modern-day politics.

In truth both Wilson and Brown have a lot to offer--if they follow their better instincts. Wilson is a tough fighter and a dogged worker in whose wake are strewn the political corpses of opponents who underestimated this San Diegan's durability and intelligence. Brown, the daughter of one California governor--Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Sr.--and sister of another--Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr.--is a thoughtful politician who brings new perspectives and fresh energy to the sometimes tired practice of politics.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday July 7, 1994 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 6 Column 2 Letters Desk 2 inches; 49 words Type of Material: Correction
Prop. 13--Sunday's editorial on the gubernatorial race mistakenly stated that Prop. 13 could be repealed by a two-thirds vote of the people. In fact, Prop. 13 could be repealed by a simple majority by either initiative or referendum. But a referendum first would require a two-thirds vote of both houses in the Legislature to be placed on the ballot.

THE WILSON QUESTION: But where is the Pete Wilson so many Californians once admired, the pragmatic Republican centrist--once a superb and progressive mayor--who could bring together opposing forces? The one who had the courage to support abortion rights, to advocate raising taxes when that notion was so unpopular, to promote preventive health programs for the poor and, after resisting, to eventually sign a gay rights bill? California needs that person more now than ever. Having turned back the Republican right to get the nomination, he has the chance to prove himself a moderate and responsible leader. Now is the time for him to say that the original "three-strikes" crime legislation was hasty and ill-conceived, that we need a more sensible alternative. Now is the time for him to take a more nuanced approach toward illegal immigration and relations with Mexico. In his heart of hearts Wilson, we believe, agrees with these thoughts. But one would never know it by the campaign so far.

THE BROWN QUESTION: Treasurer Brown is intelligent and informed. It was thus disheartening last year when she announced her opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which offers such promise in the relationship between Mexico and the United States, and especially between Mexico and California. And it will be depressing if she chooses to campaign on the basic theme that Wilson is somehow to blame for everything bad that has happened over the last 3 1/2 years. Whatever Wilson's powers and charms may be, preventing the awesome worldwide recession that has humbled even powerful California is not among them. So let's cut the baloney and let the voters see the innovative Kathleen Brown--not some campaign stereotype concocted by back-room campaign strategists.

THE FEARED CAMPAIGN: We suspect that the political advisers to each candidate are now plotting out campaigns aimed at pushing all the hot buttons. Wilson will be advised to hammer on the illegal immigration issue, as if that were the main cause of the state's problems; Brown will be counseled to harp on the idea of Wilson the Heartless, as if any Democratic governor would have had more tax revenues these past few years to play around with. If the advisers have their way, the campaign will feature too many words and a lot of hot air about the death penalty--a matter that is irrelevant because the law requires whoever is governor to carry it out. End of discussion, please. We believe that Californians are looking for something better--that the winner will be the candidate who is seen to have taken the higher road.

What would be better?

THE BETTER CAMPAIGN: Wilson and Brown should develop their views on some key issues, such as:

1. Is the California Constitution an impediment to the state's success?

For more than a year The Times and others have been campaigning for the impaneling of a constitutional revision commission. That finally has happened, and the very quality of its members promises that this effort could be something very special. That commission needs to not only propose immediate changes in the Constitution (already many times longer than the federal Constitution and thus cumbersome) but also to propose longer-range, even more politically courageous reforms.

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