A year ago, California politicians decided to split the state’s June primary elections and move its presidential contests to February 5. The goal, we were told, was to enhance the state’s standing in national political circles and get the candidates to talk about issues that matter to Californians.
Coincidentally, the state legislature was able to get a ballot measure extending their term limits on the earlier ballot…(but that’s a whole ‘nother story, as the kids say). And with less than a week to go, I’ve heard nary a whisper about those so-called issues facing the state. In fact, some people are wondering whether California’s clout would have been greater had their primaries not been held on the crowded Super Tuesday ballot.
Many federal issues hit us here at home in California, and they bridge partisan divides, but no one is talking about them. So far I have seen one television ad with Sen. Hillary Clinton talking about the environment. It was so vague, it could have been an ad for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger except that he’s not on the ballot.
California Republicans recently surveyed indicated their top priorities as immigration and the War on Terror - not much different from GOP voters across the country so it’s hard to justify how a discussion on these issues was worth the cost of adding a third electoral cycle for the Golden State.
So, I say if the presidential candidates want to appeal to Californians over the next week, let’s give them some things to talk about. Here’s my list of questions. You voters – Democrats and Republicans – should feel free to try this at home as well.
How will California keep its economy growing if we cannot get enough water to where it is needed? Growth in Arizona and Nevada is taxing supplies of the Colorado River and federal environmental lawsuits are threatening the ability to transfer water from the San Joaquin Bay-Delta. What’s their plan to keep Southern California from shriveling up in a drought?
How do we pay for transportation improvements? More than half of the country’s international trade travels through the ports of Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach, and California’s freeways are among the nation’s most congested. Yet California sends more tax dollars to Washington than it gets back. How are we going to pay for freeway expansion, goods movement and improving public transit?
California has taken a leadership role on the environment and is serving as an incubator for green business of all different types. Yet the federal government has gotten in the way of the state’s ability to pass its own air quality rules. Should the federal government continue to force California to use ethanol, despite its dubious environmental benefits, and should the EPA continue to block California’s vehicle emission curbs?
Although California bans gay marriage just like the federal government, it mandates employers treat all employees equally when it comes to benefits like as health insurance. So domestic partners have to pay federal taxes on these benefits while married couples do not. Is that fair? And a bonus question to any candidate who like Mike Huckabee thinks sexuality is a choice: When – exactly – did you choose to be straight?
These are all issues that have no easy answers, and are neither Republican nor Democrat, they’re truly Californian. None are likely to come up on the presidential campaign trail in Iowa or New Hampshire although a few might surface in New York or Illinois. Still, if California is going to get its money’s worth for switching its presidential primary date, I’d like to hear some answers.
The clock is ticking…