Calif. Primed For Special Election

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gestures while answering a reporters question at his first news conference as governor, held in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2003. Schwarzenegger fielded questions which varied from how he would solve the budget deficit to workers compensation
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democratic and labor forces that oppose him switched into full campaign mode after the governor made official what he has threatened for months — a special election to change the way state government does business.

Schwarzenegger announced Monday that he had signed a proclamation calling a special election for Nov. 8, only the fifth special election in California since 1910. He wants voters to consider measures that would cap state spending, strip lawmakers of their power to draw legislative boundaries and increase the amount of time it takes public school teachers to get tenure.

He also is likely to endorse a measure curbing public employee unions' ability to raise political contributions from member dues. That move will almost certainly produce fierce opposition from national unions who view the measure as a blow to organized labor. Democrats oppose it because they draw substantial campaign funding from unions.

The summer months in a non-election year typically offer a lull in the political campaign cycle, but the prospect of a special election this fall promises a costly face-off between the governor's political team and deep-pocketed Democratic interest groups.

"The summer is thought of as kind of a quiet time, but we don't intend to be quiet," said Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association.

To illustrate that point, the teachers union voted over the weekend to assess a one-time $60 increase on member dues to raise as much as $50 million to fight the governor's initiatives.

"We're going to do what it takes, and money is part of it," Kerr said. "We can't do $100,000 chicken dinners like he can."