County casts confounding votes at polls
Voters in Nevada County gave Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger their stamp of approval in the 2003 recall election, and from the looks of county voting trends on Tuesday, many voters here are maintaining that support. Of Schwarzenegger’s four reform proposals, Nevada County passed three.Proposition 74, which would have increased the waiting period for teachers seeking tenure, passed in most Central Valley and mountain counties, and by 55 percent in Nevada County. Opposition came mainly from the larger and traditionally more liberal Bay Area precincts. “If you look at the [2003 special election, and this year’s special election], you can see the conservative nature coming out [of our region],” said District 5 Supervisor Ted Owens. “I suspect that most rural counties would not be dissimilar to Nevada County, but the power exists in the major metro areas.”Fifty-six percent of Nevada County voters also supported Proposition 75, which would have required union employees consent to political contributions made with their dues. “I expected that 74 and 75 would pass in Nevada County because they make sense to a lot of people,” Owens said. But Owens also noted that an imbalance between Democrats and Republicans who turned out Tuesday and the amount of money spent on the ballot measures were factors in their failure to pass statewide.”The unions pulled out all the stops and spent more than $100 million on their campaign,” he said. And then there was Proposition 77, the constitutional amendment that would have allowed judges to redraw political districts. It received 51 percent of Nevada County’s vote, but received a 59.5 percent “no” vote statewide, with 49 of California’s 54 counties opposed. Along with Nevada County, one of the few other counties that voted in favor of the proposition was historically conservative Orange County. The other three were El Dorado, Sutter and Placer.”I would expect that the question here is how is it possible to create fair districts in rural California,” Owens said. In a county that traditionally leans to the right, it might not be surprising that voters here supported 74, 75, and 77. Even proposition 76, the only one of the governor’s reform initiatives that lost locally did so by a 2 percent margin. “I think that 76 made sense to a lot of people for a long time. But the most campaign money is spent in the final two weeks,” Owens said. “I would argue that our region is conservative and that money wasn’t spent here because we’re not significant.”Nancy Doyle, head of hospitality committee for Truckee Tahoe Republican Women Federated agreed, noting that her party did little advertising to advocate the proposition, which sought to cut state spending and set school funding limits.The puzzling twist to Nevada County’s conservative streak came with Proposition 73, the measure that would have amended California’s constitution to require that parents be notified before the termination of a minor’s pregnancy. Prop 73, which was not part of Schwarzenegger’s reform package, passed by 56 percent in Nevada County. And the county was also essentially the only one in the Sierra Nevada that passed it. The reason might have been turnout. Conservatives are the majority in Nevada County, with nearly 10,000 more Registered republicans than Democrats, according to Tony Gilchrease, chairman of the Nevada County Republican Central Committee, but a very limited number of that force actually made it to the polls. “I am very disappointed in the Republican turnout,” Gilchrease said. “Other counties were the same. The Democrats didn’t want this election and they got their people out. Had we gotten our base out, we would have passed 73 too.”And then again, perhaps 73 didn’t come down to political affiliation at all, but rather a desire to keep issues such as women’s rights off the political playing field all together. “California voters realize that no new law can mandate parental involvement,” said Pat Elzy, legislative affairs director for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, which covers Central and coastal California. “Voters are smart and saw through the scare tactics. They voted to put the health and safety of their teens first, and respected women’s constitutional rights.”
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