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GOP Takes Stand on State Initiatives

August 09, 2004|Robert Salladay | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — California Republicans voted Sunday to oppose a November ballot initiative that would fund $3 billion in stem cell medical research and to join Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to work against two ballot measures that would expand gambling at Indian casinos, card rooms and racetracks.

The three-day Republican convention, which ended Sunday, was billed as a working meeting in part because it did not feature any big-name speakers or Schwarzenegger himself. The Republican governor is scheduled to speak in prime time at the national convention in three weeks.

With recent polls showing President Bush trailing U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry in California, and with Democrats dominating the Legislature and every statewide office except the governorship, the meeting was mostly designed to energize the grass-roots party faithful.

"This is a turning-point election and we cannot allow ourselves to be spectators in the process," state GOP Chairman Duf Sundheim told several hundred delegates at the Manchester Hyatt Hotel in San Diego.

In voting Sunday, the party said it would oppose Proposition 71, the stem cell research initiative. State Sen. Jim Battin (R-La Quinta) implored the convention audience to reject the initiative as creating a "bizarre super-bureaucracy that through many exemptions of current law skirts accountability to almost everyone."

The proposition would allow the state to sell $3 billion in bonds to fund stem cell research for new drugs and treatments. The issue has divided some in the Republican Party because stem cell research offers hope to treat serious diseases but requires the destruction of human embryos.

It also may put the governor in opposition to his own party. Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the initiative, but while appearing on "Good Morning America" following the death of former President Reagan, the governor said: "I support stem cell research. And I think it is very, very important that the whole nation pulls together -- on the federal level and the state level."

Schwarzenegger's father-in-law, Sargent Shriver, is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

Republicans and the governor agree, however, on opposing two gaming initiatives that would allow six racetracks and 11 card rooms to operate up to 30,000 slot machines and give Indian tribes unlimited expansion of slot machines in exchange for the tribes paying an 8.8% corporate tax. Republicans voted to oppose both Proposition 68, the card room and racetrack initiative, and Proposition 70, the Indian gambling expansion.

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