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Race For California's Attorney General Still Undecided

November 9, 2010 12:13 p.m.

Most results are in, but the race for state attorney general may not be decided for weeks. Nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy talks to Morning Edition about what's at stake in the contest.

Related Story: Race For California's Attorney General Still Undecided


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

DWAYNE BROWN (Host): Most results are in, but the race for California attorney general may not be decided for weeks. We're joined on Morning Edition by nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy. Republican Steve Cooley, Leo, leads democrat Kamala Harris by about 41,000 votes in the attorney general's race. What's at stake?

LEO MCELROY (Political Consultant): Well, there are a couple of things at stake. For one thing, Cooley pretty much becomes the state-wide leader of the republican party if he manages to win because the republicans got shut out in every other race. So Cooley suddenly becomes a giant hope for the party. The other thing is a lesson in political arithmetic, that's kind of fascinating, usually you look at these things and you say OK, these votes are going to be democratic when they come in, these votes are going to be republican. LA is usually a source of democratic votes. In this particular case, it doesn't work out that way because Cooley is really well-known in LA being district attorney there. So both he, counting on his home town to support him with votes, and Kamala Harris, counting on LA as a source of democratic votes, have been really watching the LA returns which have been pretty slow coming in. There's a lot of breath being held in this race at this point cause it is really too close to call.

BROWN: Well, Governor-Elect Jerry Brown is breathing, he says he's going to spend some extra time in Sacramento before he officially takes office there. What do you expect from his second governorship?

MCELROY: Well, I think it's likely to be a rerun of the first in some ways. He got pretty contentious with the legislature the last time around. And the governor can do this, you know, he can be a little scrappy on issues and the legislature is not the most flexible body in the world. It's pretty polarized. You're likely to see a situation such as we had in the Brown-one era, where he actually was banned from coming on the floor of the legislature. They didn't want him around, they didn't like him at all. He may not have great relations within this time. The one thing that's going to happen, though, is you're going to get budgets on time because of the ballot prop that passed that makes that possible. However, the voters took the molasses out of the budget process, allowing it to speed up by making it a majority vote issue. But few folks remember that in recipes, molasses is a sweetener. They also took the sweetener out because there is less motive now for republicans to get involved in the dealing. They can just sit back, do their non-tax pledges and say OK, do what you can do, but how are you going to raise the revenue? It's going to be an interesting mix and the governor is going to be standing on the sideline trying to get somebody to listen to him. Maybe successfully, maybe not.

BROWN: You know it dawned on me after the election last week, the mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, will be the Lt. Governor and Jerry Brown, 72 years old, if by chance he passed away, Gavin Newsom could be Governor.

MCELROY: That's right, that's right and I think that's a shock to a lot of people. Although, there are those cynics who say that Gavin Newsom who was going to run for governor against Jerry Brown in the primary and then backed off, is doing exactly that arithmetic. And exactly that betting that at some point along the line he can become the successor, either through death or through Jerry getting tired and not running for a second term.

BROWN: Good point. And what do you think of the futures of the billionaire candidates, Republican Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina?

MCELROY: Boy, the assessments on them are coming in and they're not too kind, especially to the Whitman campaign which spent huge amounts of money and vastly underperformed all expectations. I think Meg Whitman's taking a beating in almost every quarter as a candidate. Carly Fiorina is not getting as much criticism. She didn't put quite as much of her own money in. She probably did not fall as far short of expectations as Meg Whitman did. But Whitman is not a likely bet to make a strong bid for public office in the near future, unless it's a very limited office.

BROWN: Leo, thanks so much.

MCELROY: You bet Dwayne.

BROWN: Non-partisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.