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Pulling out all of the stops

Candidates and activists use phones, the Internet and their feet to reach voters.

November 01, 2010|Seema Mehta and Michael J. Mishak

In church pews and at dinner tables and everywhere in between, California voters were beset Sunday by candidates and activists scrounging for lingering votes just two days before an election that could remake the state.

At West Angeles Cathedral in South Los Angeles, Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer was acknowledged as a special guest. At Keedy's Grill in Palm Desert, her Republican opponent, Carly Fiorina, talked to youngsters about Halloween plans as she asked for their parents' votes. At a rally in Burbank, GOP gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman predicted victory. At gatherings in Northern California and elsewhere, Democratic nominee Jerry Brown talked about his family's deep California roots.

All of it was geared toward Tuesday's election featuring a U.S. senator, a California governor, several statewide officeholders, legislative and congressional seats and nine ballot measures, up for grabs in a year with more than the usual share of volatility. Polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

As the candidates sped around the state, thousands of volunteers used telephones, the Internet and their feet to try to reach voters, motivated by the potential for surprise on Tuesday.

Seeking to boost Democratic candidates, the California Labor Federation reached out to millions of union voters and sympathetic non-union workers. The Service Employees International union aired Spanish-language ads and knocked on half a million doors. Leaders of its home healthcare workers local said they registered 14,000 new voters in Los Angeles County alone, many of them African Americans, as they pushed for Democratic candidates.

"If we don't turn out the African American vote in this election, there's a good chance that folks our members don't support could win," said Laphonza Butler, president of United Long Term Care Workers, the largest SEIU local in the state.

Republican get-out-the-vote efforts were resting mostly on the shoulders of Whitman's volunteer army, although other candidates also had legions of supporters making entreaties. Campaign officials said almost 41,000 of Whitman's supporters had already made more than 2 million phone calls for Republicans and had knocked on 260,000 doors seeking votes. Fiorina said she had tens of thousands of volunteers doing the same.

"This is a very important election. It is a battle for the soul of California," Whitman said in Burbank.

Campaign rhetoric aside, the election results will determine whether Democrats continue to dominate elective office in California or whether wealthy candidates can break the jinx that has denied them success in the past. Propositions on the ballot also could upend the state's treatment of marijuana use, determine the fate of its global warming measure and, perhaps most strikingly for the next governor, alter future budget negotiations by determining whether the current two-thirds legislative approval requirement drops to a majority vote.

A Field poll released Sunday showed the measure to legalize marijuana, Proposition 19, trailing 49% to 42%. Proposition 23, which would delay the state's global warming measure, was down significantly, losing by 15 points, while the budgetary measure, Proposition 25, was outdistancing its opposition, 48% to 31%.

Like the candidates, opponents and supporters of the ballot measures were out in force over the weekend. The targets for the proponents of the marijuana initiative were reliably liberal voters.

At the Yes campaign's Los Angeles headquarters on Saturday, Boomer Shannon, a 23-year-old activist from Rancho Cucamonga, told volunteers not to waste time arguing with opponents.

"It's a get-out-the-vote push," he said. "We're not trying to change minds right now."

That, too, was the mind-set of the candidates Sunday. At several stops in Northern California, gubernatorial candidate Brown spoke optimistically about the state's future and shared stories of his family's stagecoach-era arrival. Both Brown and his father, Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Sr., served two terms as governor. The younger man is eligible for a third because his service from 1975 to 1983 predate the state's term limits law.

"We have to create more good feeling among people of different groups and backgrounds," he said at an appearance in Samoa, in Humboldt County.

"We gotta pull more together, we gotta invest in our people, and we gotta invest in innovation and the new ideas."

Later, in Riverside, he urged hundreds at a bar and grill to vote Tuesday and pledged, if elected, to bring the major political parties together.

"I'm ready on Day 1 to get this state working together, Republicans and Democrats," he said. "While we're here today as Democrats, enthusiastic, we know we can't make anything work unless we think also as Californians first. We gotta bring everybody together to get the best out of our Legislature, our people, and we can make the jobs."

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