Congresswoman in less than a week, leaving her Venice constituents without a voice in the House of Representatives. Although Harman announced her move weeks ago, she pushed back her resignation at the request of Gov. Jerry Brown, who was hoping to spare taxpayers the millions of dollars that a special election would cost by timing it to coincide with a planned statewide referendum on taxes to balance California’s budget.
Last week’s special state Senate election of Ted Lieu was an embarrassment. Late afternoon, when I showed at my Venice polling station at the same time as two other voters, we were outnumbered by the poll workers. I asked how many of my fellow Venetians had showed. “Out of 2,000 registered voters here, 18 have voted,” the supervisor told me.
It’s too bad that Harman leaves behind a bitter taste for those of us who supported her. Tuesday, I heard from Brad Chase, who is backing an online petition to have the multimillionaire congresswoman pick up the cost of the special election herself. “It's offensive the way she just skipped out, leaving us to pick up the tab,” Chase said.
Although piggybacking on another election would save money, the June tax referendum is in doubt. Brown ran on a pledge not to raise taxes without voter approval. He’s trying to meet California’s $25 billion shortfall half by budget cuts, and half by tax extensions. Brown is trying to do so without moves such as selling state-owned office buildings to well-connected investors then leasing them back for short-term gain but a long-term loss of $6 billion.
Unfortunately, Brown his backed himself into a corner with his special election pledge. To put the matters on the ballot requires a two-thirds vote of the state Legislature, a moved currently blocked by the state’s Republican lawmakers.
Still Brown is campaigning hard for his plan. As the governor put it in his State of the State speech, “Under our form of government, it would be unconscionable to tell the electors of this state that they have no right to decide whether it’s better to extend current tax statutes another five years or chop another $12 billion out of schools, public safety, our universities and our system of caring for the most vulnerable.”
Locally, maybe with our wallets at stake, enough voters will go to the polls in our congressional district to ensure that Harman’s replacement is truly representative.