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Schwarzenegger celebrates open primary victory

A day after California voters approved a system of open primary elections, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other supporters predicted the change will transform state politics and make it easier to solve its pressing problems.

"I think their message was loud and clear to Sacramento," Schwarzenegger said of voters. "I think they wanted to change the dysfunctional political system and get rid of the paralysis and the partisan bickering that’s going on in Sacramento."

The approval of Proposition 14 by 54.2% of voters continues reform started two years ago when voters approved Proposition 11, taking from legislators the power to draw their own legislative districts, Schwarzenegger said at a news conference at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Jeannine English, state leader with AARP, said the ability of voters to cast ballots for any primary candidate, regardless of party affiliation, will change the face of the Legislature.

"This is critical to California’s future," she said. "For too long, running for office in California has meant pandering to your party’s narrow base, and it’s just to win that primary and then you are basically a shoo-in. And what have Californians gotten for this pandering to the extreme wings of both parties? The answer is: elected officials who are locked into inflexible ideological positions that make it impossible for them to work together for solutions to get California back on track."

Gary Toebben, the president and CEO of the Los Angeles chamber, said allowing the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, to face each other in the runoff will ensure "a more moderate and efficient state legislature."

State Democratic Party Chairman John Burton disagreed that the measure will transform California.

"It ain’t going to solve the problems," he said in a phone interview Wednesday morning. Burton said the measure passed because supporters spent a lot of money and were able to craft a ballot title that made the measure attractive.

The measure still might end up in court.

"Is it legal or illegal? That’s something for somebody to look at," Burton said.

The California Green Party is forming a legal team to go to court over the measure, according to Derek Iverson, a party spokesman.

"We are definitely moving forward on the legal front to challenge Proposition 14," he said. While he was uncertain what the final challenge would look like, he said "it has the potential to interfere with the ability of a party to select its own candidates."

-- Patrick McGreevy

 
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