GOP revives electoral initiative

The intent is to change the winner-take-all rule in California, giving the party an important edge in the presidential race.

October 23, 2007|Dan Morain and Joe Mathews | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — Veteran GOP consultants said Monday that they were relaunching a drive to change the way California allocates its electoral college votes, aimed at helping the 2008 Republican presidential nominee capture the White House.

Political strategist David Gilliard said he was taking over the ballot initiative campaign, along with strategist Ed Rollins and fundraiser Anne Dunsmore. Consultant Mike Arno will oversee the signature-gathering effort.

"Our budget is going to be whatever it takes to make the June ballot," said Gilliard, who played a key role in getting the recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis onto the 2003 ballot.

The proposed initiative would change California's method of allocating its 55 electoral votes from a winner-take-all basis, which favors Democrats, to a congressional district-based approach. Republicans hold 19 congressional seats, so presumably the GOP nominee could win a similar number of electoral votes.

The effort stalled last month when its original organizers failed to raise the $2 million needed to place the initiative on the June ballot.

Until recently, Dunsmore oversaw fundraising for Rudolph W. Giuliani's presidential campaign -- prompting Democrats to charge that the former New York mayor was behind the initiative drive. A major Giuliani benefactor, Wall Street mogul Paul E. Singer, donated $175,000 to fund the original effort.

Giuliani's campaign has denied any involvement. Gilliard said he was not associated with any of the presidential campaigns and predicted that donors to all of the major Republicans would chip in for the initiative drive.

On Monday, Democrats were gearing up to battle the measure.

"Republicans seem to be pursuing a strategy where they will lose at the polls and, along the way, define the GOP as the party of electoral fraudster," said Chris Lehane, a former Clinton White House aide who was organizing the opposition.

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has set Nov. 13 as the deadline for submitting signatures to place the measure on the June ballot. Backers must gather 434,000 valid signatures of registered voters. Because many signatures are typically deemed invalid, circulators will probably seek at least 650,000. The initial campaign had gathered about 100,000 signatures.

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