California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's name will not appear on the special election ballot on Tuesday, when California voters go to the polls to consider initiatives he says are crucial to reshape state government.
But the special election he called is as much a referendum on the governor himself as it is about the "year of reform" agenda he is asking voters to support. Its outcome is likely to set the stage for the next chapter of his unconventional political career.
If Schwarzenegger's early days in office were characterized by his celebrity status and bipartisan governing style, the past year has been defined by his launch of this divisive special election and the fallout from that decision.
A recent poll found that just 36 percent of voters want to see Schwarzenegger re-elected next year, with 55 percent opposed.
Schwarzenegger was elected as a moderate Republican in a Democratic state, but veered to the right to promote his reform initiatives, which target Democratic lawmakers and public-sector unions. He has paid a price for that gamble, losing support from large numbers of Democrats and independents, who constitute more than 60 percent of the California electorate.
Whatever the outcome, political experts said the governor must work to repair the damage to his image brought on by the special election, which will cost the state US$52 million to US$55 million. Whether he can do so will determine his ability to govern next year and the strength of his reelection bid.
"If all the initiatives go down, partisan Democrats will say `We beat him today, now let's go beat him next year," said political analyst Allan Hoffenblum.
But Hoffenblum, who is a former Republican campaign consultant, said Schwarzenegger can reclaim some of his lost stature and position himself for re-election if he absorbs some important lessons.
"He needs to reconnect with soft Democrats and independent voters, keep the rhetoric and jokes down, and come up with some good ideas," Hoffenblum said.
Schwarzenegger already appears anxious to move in that direction, especially as polls show none of his four initiatives with majority support. He wants to reform teacher tenure laws, limit state spending, change the way legislative districts are drawn and reduce the ability of public employee unions to raise money for political campaigns.
Voters also will decide on Tuesday between two competing initiatives aimed at reducing the cost of prescription drugs; a constitutional amendment requiring doctors to notify the parents or guardians of underage girls seeking abortions; and an initiative on whether to reregulate the state's electric utilities.
In recent days, Schwarzenegger has talked about plans to tackle several of the state's major problems next year, including traffic congestion, children without health insurance and underperforming schools -- the kind of issues critics complain his ballot measures did little to address.
In an interview last week, Schwarzenegger said he planned to work closely with legislative leaders despite their differences over the special election.
"No matter what the outcome of the election, we have to talk," Schwarzenegger said. "This place is ready to boom. It could be another Gold Rush here. So let's start putting a program together for infrastructure that's really big thinking -- like landing a man on the moon kind of vision. Big."
North Korea yesterday made a rare mention of dissenting votes in recent elections, although analysts dismissed it as an attempt to portray an image of a normal society rather than signaling any meaningful increase of rights in the authoritarian state. The reclusive country has one of the most highly controlled societies in the world, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un accused of using a system of patronage and repression to retain absolute power. Reporting on the results of Sunday’s election for deputies to regional people’s assemblies, the North’s state media said that 0.09 percent and 0.13 percent voted against the selected candidates
‘SYMBOLIC ATTACK’: Ukraine said it downed 74 of the Iranian-made drones, but five people were wounded in Kyiv, as people marked Holodomor Remembrance Day Ukraine on Saturday said it had downed 74 out of 75 drones Russia launched at it overnight, in what it said was the biggest such attack since the start of the invasion in February last year. The Ukrainian army said Russia had launched a “record number” of Iranian-made Shahed drones, the majority of which targeted Kyiv, causing power cuts as temperatures dipped below freezing. The drone attack came as Ukraine marked Holodomor Remembrance Day, commemorating the 1930s starvation of millions in Ukraine under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. “The enemy launched a record number of attack drones at Ukraine. The main direction
Ecologists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico on Friday relaunched a fundraising campaign to bolster conservation efforts for axolotls, an iconic, endangered fish-like type of salamander. The campaign, called “Adoptaxolotl,” asks people for as little as 600 pesos (US$35) to virtually adopt one of the tiny “water monsters.” Virtual adoption comes with live updates on your axolotl’s health. For less, donors can buy one of the creatures a virtual dinner. In their main habitat the population density of Mexican axolotls has plummeted 99.5 percent in under two decades, scientists behind the fundraiser said. Last year’s Adoptaxolotl campaign raised just more than 450,000
CLAIMS: The North Korean leader reportedly inspected images taken by his new spy satellite of Pearl Harbor and a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Busan State media yesterday said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reviewed images taken by his country’s new spy satellite of a US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and “major target” sites across South Korea. Pyongyang said it put a military spy satellite into orbit this week, but Seoul said it was too early to determine if the satellite was functioning as the North claims. Experts have said putting a working reconnaissance satellite into orbit would improve North Korea’s intelligence-gathering capabilities, particularly over South Korea, and provide crucial data in any military conflict. Pyongyang previously said, within hours of the