Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Maybe It's Not Such a Riddle

As you are likely to know, under the top-2 primary system of yesterday's election, in the fall Jerry Brown - who will certainly win - will face Republican Neel Kashkari.  There was considerable interest in whether Kashkari or Tim Donnelly - a tea party candidate - would take the number two slot.  The GOP business establishment felt that Donnelly would be such an embarrassment that he would hurt Republican candidates in California and even outside the state. 

In the San Francisco Chronicle, political columnist
asks why Gov. Brown did not put resources into "selecting" his November opponent.  The article references the strategy of then-Governor Davis in 2002 who put money into TV ads in the GOP primary aimed at weakening former LA Mayor Richard Riordan.  The column treats Brown's seeming agnosticism about the fate of GOP candidates as a kind of riddle.  Of course, Brown, unlike Davis, knows he will trounce his opponent in November.  But he might care about legislative candidates.  Democrats had a 2/3 majority in the legislature on and off until various scandals brought down three state senators.  Wouldn't the governor like to have 2/3 again?  Wouldn't he like to have Donnelly turn away enough votes for GOP legislative candidates so that the 2/3 would again be achieved?

The answer to the riddle may be that the governor is happier with a strong Democratic majority but one that falls short of 2/3.  Absent 2/3, the legislature can't pass taxes or put constitutional amendments on the ballot - including those which the governor may not like (without GOP support).  Democrats can't override a gubernatorial veto (without GOP support).  On the other hand, budgets can be passed by a simple majority.  Basically, a less-than-2/3 Democratic majority in the legislature tilts authority toward the governor and away from legislative leaders.  Maybe there is no riddle.

The Chronicle's column is at

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