As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

CA-Gov: The Underbelly of the News

Scanning the papers in a desperate attempt for news on the California governor's race, there were the predictable and not altogether wrong stories about the political impact of the productive legislative session. But beyond those process/narrative stories, a couple others caught my eye.

First concerns Dom Perata pleading with the governor to reverse reductions for worker's compensation beneficiaries, which were slashed tremendously in the name of reform. Here are the real-world consequences:

The reduction has brought a real hardship to Kyle Van Houten, 23.

The former champion football player from Escalon in the Central Valley lost his leg in a construction accident in July 2004, three months after Schwarzenegger signed his workers' compensation bill.

Under the new law, Van Houten's permanent disability benefit is $29,150, compared with $122,812 he would have received under the old formula.

"I went from being an all-state football player to feeling like less than a whole person," he said at a news conference Friday. "I lost my active youth, and now the governor is taking most of my permanent disability compensation." His employer's insurance company also turned down his request for a prosthetic leg, rehabilitation training and physical therapy, he said.

Perata's bill, SB 815, would gradually raise permanent disability benefits over three years to their level before Schwarzenegger overhauled workers' compensation. However, the proposal would not affect eligibility criteria or any of the new law's other money-saving changes.

Cost-cutting to enhance California businesses is fine. When it's at the expense of the disabled, who are pushed permanently into the lower class through no fault of their own, that's a problem. Billions would be saved without reducing benefits so dramatically. Angelides needs to take a look at this.

The other article concerns a major meeting of National Latino leaders which will take place next week in Los Angeles. Literally one of the last sentences in the article reads, "Highlights among the 251 speeches are expected to include addresses by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; Fabian Nuñez, speaker of the state Assembly; and Phil Angelides, state treasurer."

Oh yeah? Angelides? He running for anything?

On the heels of the long-delayed endorsement from Antonio Villaraigosa, it's time to consider the influence of the Latino vote on this race. Schwarzenegger garnered 30% of the Latino vote in the 2003 recall, but he was facing a Latino in Cruz Bustamante (who took 52%), and Latinos voted in very high numbers (47%) for the recall itself. They've seen this governor vote against driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, send National Guard troops to the border, and vocally support the Minutemen, but they've also seen him reverse his stance on Prop. 187. Arnold's election team has set a target of 35% for the Latino vote. But last month, Frank Russo suggested that was an unrealistic goal.

State Senator Abel Maldonado, the highest ranking Mexican-American elected Republican in the state, committed a sin that furious Republicans have said is suicide for his career. His offense? He committed truth.

An interview with the Los Angeles Times that he arranged, was reported last week as follows, with quotes from Maldonado:

"Our governor cares about one thing only, and that's Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

The senator also said many Latinos thought Schwarzenegger had shown "a lack of respect" with the Latino community by spending too little time in Mexico.

"When he needs Latinos, Latinos are always there for him," Maldonado said. "When Latinos need him, the answer's been no."

Obviously, the Latino population has increased over the last several years, and there is an under-the-radar registration drive in the Latino community, with the goal of registering 1 million new voters nationwide. Clearly there will be a bigger share of Latinos voting in 2006 than ever before. And Angelides is targeting much of his economic proposals at easing the burden of the middle class, where so many Latinos reside.

This could be something that defies traditional polling models and increases Angelides' final numbers. I don't know if anyone can say with any certainty what that impact will be.