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Villa Park, GOP Bastion, Sold on Gov.'s Bailout

The most Republican city in O.C. was a bigger-than-average backer of Props. 57, 58.

March 05, 2004|Jeff Gottlieb | Times Staff Writer

There was one reason Marie Young voted to support Propositions 57 and 58, and his name is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"I love that man," she said Wednesday after finishing lunch in a Villa Park restaurant the day after the two measures were approved by voters statewide. "I have a ton of faith in him."

Villa Park, with 69% of its voters registered with the GOP, is the most Republican city in Orange County, the party's California heartland.

True to their roots, voters in the affluent community turned down a state school bond and a state initiative that would have made it easier for the Legislature to pass budgets but also raise taxes. They also voted overwhelmingly against bonds for the local school district.

But when it came to the governor's double-barreled plan to temporarily rescue the state budget, Villa Park residents jumped to Schwarzenegger's side in numbers proportionately greater than the state as a whole. About 69% of Villa Park voters cast their ballots for Proposition 57, which allows the state to borrow as much as $15 billion to balance the budget. Statewide, 63% voted for it.

About 76% voted for Proposition 58, which restricts future borrowing to cover deficits, versus 71% for the whole state.

"I truly think it's because so many of us voted to put him in there to begin with," said Villa Park Mayor Patricia L. Bortle. "Normally, when you vote someone in, you stand behind them."

Villa Park is a small town in the age of suburbia, with City Hall tucked into the corner of its only shopping center, just past the Ralphs and the Villa Park Pharmacy, where an old-fashioned soda fountain is the main attraction. Its population is barely 6,000, of whom three-quarters are white. The median household income is $116,203.

Many of those interviewed after the election said they trust Schwarzenegger more than other politicians, even if he is less conservative than they are. Many look at the former actor as someone with no agenda other than pulling the state out of its economic pit.

Young said she preferred that the state cut spending to fix the budget, rather than borrow money, and that if another politician had been pushing the ballot initiatives, she would have been skeptical. But she decided to follow Schwarzenegger's lead.

"He's truly trying to save California," she said.

Wendy Delgado, 39, said she usually votes against bonds and higher taxes, which is why she opposed the Orange Unified School District's bond measure. But the governor's lobbying on the propositions persuaded her.

"He needed to do this to balance the budget," she said. "I have confidence in him that he'll do the right thing. Arnold has good people behind him, and they are leading him to make the right decisions. I've got to follow his lead."

Schwarzenegger's influence wasn't enough for some Villa Park voters. Donna Plesh, who backed conservative state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) in October's gubernatorial recall election, said she votes against anything that gives politicians more money to misspend.

And even a charismatic former actor turned GOP governor couldn't persuade her to change.

"I'm really concerned about fiscal management," she said. "It's too easy to spend someone else's money. I looked at Proposition 57 as getting a new credit card to pay off the old one."


Times staff writer Ray F. Herndon contributed to this report.

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