Californias Jewish voters maintain liberal reputation in Nov. 7 election

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California’s Jewish voters upheld their liberal reputation in the Nov. 7 election, despite a strong effort by the Republican Jewish Coalition to focus on the Bush administration’s pro-Israel record.

While Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger won re-election by nearly 55 percent of the popular vote, 52 percent of the Jewish ballots went to his Democratic opponent, Phil Angelides, according to Los Angeles Times polling director Susan Pinkus.

Even in races in which Jewish votes aligned with the majority, the Jewish margin of support was much higher.

Democrat John Garamendi won the lieutenant governor’s race by garnering 49.5 percent of the total vote, but he received 74 percent of the Jewish vote.

Similarly, Democrat Jerry Brown was elected attorney general with 56.7 percent of the vote, but was supported by 75 percent of Jews.

Statewide propositions 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D and 1E, authorizing multibillion dollar bonds to upgrade California’s infrastructure, transportation, housing availability, schools and levees, all passed, but Jewish support ran 10- to 16 percent higher than in the general population.

Two controversial and heavily funded propositions went down to defeat, but would have won easily if only Jewish ballots had been counted.

Proposition 86, which would have levied a stiff tax on cigarettes to fund new health programs, lost by 4 points, but won by 14 points among Jews.

Similarly, Proposition 87, which would have imposed taxes on California oil producers to fund alternative energy research, was defeated, winning support from only 45 percent of the overall voter. Sixty-two percent of Jewish voters supported the measure.

Jews constituted 5 percent of total votes, almost double their percentage of the California population, according to the Los Angeles Times poll released Nov. 9.

GOP supporters found some cheer in the election of Steve Poizner, a Jewish businessman from Los Altos, who beat Democrat Cruz Bustamante, 51 percent to 39 percent, in the race for California insurance commissioner. Poizner serves on the presidents’ council of the national Republican Jewish Coalition, said Larry Greenfield, the Republican Jewish Committee’s California director.

Political scientist Raphael Sonnenshein of Cal State Fullerton termed the national election results “the most colossal wave of change going back to 1980.”

California was somewhat insulated from the political tsunami, thanks largely to the tone of Republican moderation set by Schwarzenegger, Sonnenshein said.

He believes that Jewish Republicans made a mistake by assuming that Jewish voters were motivated solely by the Israel issue.

Tom Tugend

JTA Los Angeles correspondent