They're known as the mid-term elections—next to the presidential the biggest Barnum and Bailey act in United States politics. On Nov. 7 all 438 seats in the House of Representatives, one-third of the 100 Senate seats and 36 governorships are up for grabs—and both Republicans and Democrats are in there grabbing like mad. Not only that, they're grabbing at each other as 1980 presidential hopefuls such as Governor Edmund Brown measure their strength against established rivals such as President Jimmy Carter. In the coming weeks Maclean’s will be examining different aspects of the campaigning. This week, William Scobie reports from California:
s Governor Edmund Brown’s chartered Learjet took off from Los Angeles last week at the end of another euphoric day’s campaigning, a beaming aide summed up Democratic feelings: “The only guy who can beat Jerry now is Jerry!” Unless he makes a major blunder in the final days of his drive for reelection, the nimble Jerry Brown, 40, does indeed appear to be headed for reelection. And California’s ambitious first executive is good at staying out of trouble.
The same cannot be said for his bumbling Republican rival, 60-year-old Evelle Younger, California’s attorneygeneral. Described by a fellow Republi-
can as “about as exciting as a mashedpotato sandwich,” Younger trails Brown by 14 points in the latest Mervin Field poll. While the Brown campaign coffers are overflowing with some $2.4 million, much of it being spent on a final TV blitz, Younger is having trouble raising cash for a comparable media drive.
Mistakes and mishaps have dogged Younger’s campaign. The worst was to allow Brown to snatch away the crucial issue in this and most of the other gubernatorial contests—tax relief. “I’m a born-again tax cutter,” jokes Jerry at rallies around the state. A sometime Jesuit seminarian, he is not noted for his humor. But that line usually gets a laugh. He has been forgiven for calling Howard Jarvis’ famous Proposition 13 a “fraud” and a “ripoff” last June.
When “13” was overwhelmingly approved by Californian voters, Brown saw the light. While adroitly overseeing the distribution of a $4-billion state budget surplus among towns and counties hit by “13’s” whopping tax cut, he froze state salaries; slashed state spending; and signed into law a $1billion tax cut of his own. Today, he boasts: “I’m the champion budget cutter in America. I’ve beaten Ronald Reagan’s record.” What’s more, he has received the blessing on TV of the portly,
crabby Jarvis, now a national hero working to slash federal spending by $100 billion.
No matter that Jarvis has gone on to make a second commercial praising Younger. No matter that Brown is lampooned in the press as “Jerry Jarvis” and “Browndini,” the incredible escape artist. Californians admire a slick operator, and Jerry is that and more. He’s humble. “I’m human. I make mistakes,” he says. “I change my mind because I listen to what you, the people, are saying.”
In fact, Brown is not the universal flip-flop artist portrayed by his opponents. He still takes unpopular stands on many major issues and some of these positions will be tested in November. For Californians are to vote on a cornucopia of controversies, from gay rights to the death penalty, on a ballot form that contains no less than 52 proposals for state and local measures.
Four have implications that go beyond California’s borders. Debate is warmest over Proposition 6, America’s first state-wide referendum on a homosexual issue. This is an offshoot of evangelist Anita Bryant’s national anti-gay crusade devised by her friend and fellow “born-again Christian,” state Senator John Briggs. Proposition 6 would require school boards to fire teachers who are avowed homosexuals, or who “advocate or promote homosexuality in a
manner likely to come to the attention of schoolchildren and/or other employees.” Brown and Reagan are united for once in calling “6” needless and probably unconstitutional. But polls indicate it could go either way.
Briggs—who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican gubernatorial nomination earlier this year—is also sponsoring Proposition 7, which would give California the toughest death penalty laws in the U.S. Nearly a year ago, state legislators overrode Brown’s veto of a law restoring capital punishment. Brigg’s proposal would nearly double the categories of murder for which death or life imprisonment without parole could be imposed. Polls give it a good chance.
Then there’s Proposition 5, a proposal to ban smoking in virtually all workplaces and enclosed public areas. “We’re trying to restore a right taken from us 60 years ago by the tobacco barons,” says Paul Loveday, a San
Francisco lawyer who collected the 430,000 signatures which put “5” on the ballot. “And that’s the right to clean indoor air.” The powerful tobacco industry is spending nearly $5 million to stop him.
Finally, Californians must decide whether to confirm Brown’s appointment of the first woman ever to serve on the state Supreme Court, Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird. Right-wing and business interests want to oust Bird, 41, charging her with incompetence, cronyism and liberal bias. Pro-Bird groups say that she is under fire because she has taken a traditionally men-only job.
With all this and more going on in his backyard, does Jerry Brown have time even to think of a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination? Of course he does. “There’s a remote chance,” he says in public. In private, he has been referring to this campaign as “a dry run” for 1980.
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