An Election Goose Egg for Ah-nuld California voters sent a clear message to Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: They don't buy his ideas for reform. The once-popular governor's attempt to sidestep the Democratically controlled Legislature by placing his policies on the ballot in a special $50 million referendum election simply backfired. Opponents ran the table against the governor's four proposals, which would have given redistricting authority to a panel of judges, capped spending, lengthened the amount of time for teachers to win tenure, and required unions to ask members' permission to help finance political campaigns. For Schwarzenegger, the failed election only worsens a second-year morass; his approval rating has sunk below 40 percent. Barbara Kerr, president of the state's teachers union, said Schwarzenegger "has some apologizing and reaching out to do." Negotiations will heat up in January when lawmakers return to Sacramento and attempt to close a budget gap projected to top $6 billion.
Good News for Democrats? Democrats hope victories in two high-profile governor's races might signal better times ahead. In New Jersey, a Democratic state where Republicans had been trying to make inroads, first-term Sen. Jon Corzine easily defeated Douglas Forrester. In Virginia, a state President Bush carried by 9 percentage points in 2004, Democrats were able to hold onto the governor's mansion when Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine defeated Jerry Kilgore, the Republican state attorney general, by almost 6. While Bush campaigned for Kilgore, Kaine hitched himself to popular outgoing Gov. Mark Warner. Republicans said the races hinged on local issues and proved little. Democrats said the Virginia results showed the party can win rural and religious voters; Kaine openly discussed his Catholic faith and campaigned hard outside metropolitan areas. The Dems are now growing more optimistic that they might be able to gain seats in the House of Representatives in next year's midterm elections.
A Comeback in Motown During his controversial first term, flamboyant Kwame Kilpatrick was known as Detroit 's "hip-hop mayor." Following a stunning re-election victory last week, though, Kilpatrick's moniker may be changed to "comeback kid." After trailing challenger Freman Hendrix, Kilpatrick, 35, roared back to take 53 percent of the vote and win a second term--that is, if an FBI investigation into absentee ballots doesn't change things.
Now comes the hard part. Kilpatrick's city faces a $300 million deficit, and if he doesn't cut spending, Detroit could face the prospect of a state takeover of its finances. Major layoffs of city workers seem inevitable, and residents continue to flee. There is some hope: About 50 shops and restaurants have opened downtown in the past three years, and a $2 billion riverfront development is underway. The city is also sponsoring a major buff-and-polish effort to show America its best face. The Super Bowl is coming to Detroit February 5.
Fiscal Disaster Down on the Bayou Two and a half months after Katrina plowed through New Orleans, a statewide political battle erupted last week with the opening of a special 17-day legislative session in Baton Rouge, where lawmakers scrambled to pass a slate of hurricane recovery legislation while trying to bring the state back from the brink of bankruptcy. The storm's devastation of the business community has created a huge shortfall in projected tax revenue, so lawmakers must cut $960 million from state programs by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2006. "Everything is at risk," says state Sen. Francis Heitmeier. It didn't help that the Federal Emergency Management Agency last week handed Louisiana a $3.7 billion bill for recovery costs. Legislators are creating a stimulus package that includes business tax relief and a streamlined process to award repair contracts. But the challenges are daunting. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and the City Council have created dueling recovery commissions. And the federal government has grown increasingly reluctant to fulfill President Bush's promise to "do what it takes" to rebuild the city. Louisiana originally asked for $200 billion in aid from the federal government, an amount that was quickly rejected by Congress. So members of Louisiana's congressional delegation are now trying to shepherd piecemeal recovery legislation through various committees.
Different Designs on Life's Origins The ongoing American culture war over the theory of evolution was fought to something of a draw last week. In Dover, Pa., voters ousted eight school board members who were responsible for introducing intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in science classes. The intelligent design concept argues that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power. The Dover board is defending its policy in a federal court suit in Harrisburg. In Kansas, meanwhile, the state board of education voted 6 to 4 to adopt new science standards that allow for doubt to be cast on the theory behind evolution. Final decisions on curricula will still be made by local school districts.