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Soda taxes rejected in two California cities

November 7, 2012 |  6:42 am

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

Voters sharply rejected sugary-drinks tax measures in two California cities.

In El Monte, 76.8% of voters rejected the tax.

The measure would have charged a one-cent tax for every ounce of sugary drink sold within the San Gabriel Valley city. But it drew fierce opposition from the beverage industry, which spent more than $1 million to defeat it.

Voters in Richmond, Calif., rejected a similar measure.

El Monte was facing fiscal problems, and it has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the state, so backers thought the tax made sense. But then the beverage industry converged on the city, turning the race into the most expensive campaign in El Monte history.

The beverage industry forces brought together consultants from across the country, including the firm of a Washington, D.C., political strategist whose famous "Harry and Louise" advertisements helped derail the Clinton administration's healthcare legislation in the early 1990s.

Late Tuesday, El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero, the tax's leading supporter, called the margin "insurmountable."

"This is going to be an early night for Measure H," Quintero said in a phone interview just after 9:30 p.m. "It's obviously going to be defeated."

LIVE RESULTS: California election | National election

Fred Muir, a spokesman for the "No on H" campaign, said the group was delighted with the early voting, and that they matched internal polling figures.

"It's not a surprise," Muir said. "We've been hearing discontent all over the city for quite some time."


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Photo: Initial results showed El Monte residents rejecting the proposed soda tax. Credit: Emile Wamsteker / Bloomberg