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Split primary's 2nd act set to begin

June 01, 2008|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Californians head to the polls Tuesday to choose between two competing ballot measures promising to protect property rights and to decide primary races for the state's 53 congressional seats, all 80 seats in the state Assembly and 20 seats in the state Senate.

The balance of power in Washington and Sacramento may not be much affected by the outcomes. But in Los Angeles County, a contest between two political heavyweights to succeed Yvonne B. Burke on the Board of Supervisors could either bolster the board's union-friendly reputation or move it in a more pro-business direction.

The field of nine candidates in the 2nd Supervisorial District is led by state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles), who has significant support from organized labor, and Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who has strong business backing and Burke's endorsement.

A runoff will be required in November if none of the supervisor candidates wins more than 50% of the vote Tuesday.

This will be the first time since 1940 that the state presidential primary and the state legislative primary have not been on the same ballot, so voter turnout throughout California may be lower than it might have been without a split primary, some experts said.

"There is some voter fatigue to overcome, and a feeling that we had our presidential primary already," said Mike Shires, an associate professor at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy.

One statewide contest to be decided involves Propositions 98 and 99, which has featured dueling television and radio ads.

Proposition 98 would prohibit government agencies from using eminent domain powers to force the sale of residential and commercial properties, farms and churches to be transferred to private developers.

It would also phase out rent control in California, lifting limits on rental increases as apartments and mobile home spaces are vacated.

"If people are at all concerned about property rights in California, they need to vote for Proposition 98," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. "It will protect property owners from having government take their property and give it to someone else."

Proposition 99 is sponsored by the California League of Cities, the California Redevelopment Assn. and tenant-rights advocates. A narrower measure that does not address rent control, it would bar government agencies from using eminent domain power to force the sale of owner-occupied homes for private development.

Supporters of Proposition 99 say the attack on rent control is the real agenda behind Proposition 98.

They note that a majority of the $5.5 million raised in that campaign has come from real estate interests, including owners and managers of apartment buildings and mobile home parks.

The main campaign committee against Proposition 98 has raised about $7.5 million.

"If people want to see rent control and environmental laws and land use laws maintained, they should vote no on Proposition 98," said Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, a Los Angeles-based tenant-rights group.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also opposes Proposition 98, saying he is concerned that its limits on the use of eminent domain could delay and add to the cost of important public works projects such as new water facilities, freeways and government buildings.

"California voters strongly support rebuilding our transportation, housing, education and water infrastructure, so it would be irresponsible to support a measure that would prevent the state from accomplishing our goals," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

The congressional primaries are expected to produce little suspense Tuesday, largely because of well-entrenched incumbents in many districts.

One exception is a contest near Sacramento, where state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) is battling it out in the GOP race with Doug Ose, a former congressman. McClintock, who is running for a seat hundreds of miles from his Senate district, has had to fend off charges of carpetbagging while accusing Ose of not being conservative enough.

Incumbent Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Roseville), who is facing a federal corruption investigation, decided not to seek reelection.

Another California congressional district without an incumbent on the ballot is in the San Diego area, where Duncan D. Hunter is one of four Republicans vying along with two Democrats to fill the seat being vacated by his father, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine).

In state legislative elections, a quarter of Senate districts and 30% of the Assembly districts will have no incumbent on the ballot, resulting in dozens of contested primary races.

One is in the South Los Angeles area, for a seat being vacated by state Sen. Edward Vincent (D-Inglewood). Candidates to replace Vincent include state Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton) and former Assemblyman Roderick Wright, also a Democrat.

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