Sour economy dominates mood among Calif. voters

By Judy Lin

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 2 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

LOS ANGELES — Californians brought concerns about an anemic economy with them to the polls Tuesday as they selected their next governor and U.S. senator.

They also were asked to decide on headline-grabbing ballot initiatives seeking to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and suspend the state's greenhouse gas emissions law after being bombarded for months with campaign ads, fliers and telephone calls.

Lori Martinez, 46, of Fresno, said the negative campaigning by candidates was so bad that she simply tuned it out.

"We didn't even answer our phones yesterday or watch TV these past few weeks," Martinez said. "I'm tired of the mud-slinging."

The gubernatorial race has become the most expensive general election campaign for governor in state history, with most spending from Republican billionaire and former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman.

Whitman and former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive Carly Fiorina are hoping to capitalize on Californians' sour mood over the slow rate of economic recovery to defeat Democratic Party elder Jerry Brown and oust Sen. Barbara Boxer from the Senate seat she has held for 18 years. The GOP is hoping the same approach will win swing voters in a handful of highly competitive congressional races.

Democrats, meanwhile, are asking voters to stick with them, promising better times ahead.

Whitman, who voted by mail, made a half-dozen campaign appearances Tuesday morning, ending up clutching a bouquet of roses in Pasadena, home of the Rose Parade.

She predicted success for herself and GOP candidates around the nation.

"You're seeing the tidal wave coming across the United States. It's going to come to California and we are going to win this."

In Fresno, Martinez, who is a supervisor for a government-funded health and nutrition program, said she voted for Whitman because Whitman had the experience of running a large company and because "voters are tired of lifelong politicians who act in their own self-interest."

Boxer, who is engaged in one of the closest and hardest fought Senate races in the nation, has portrayed Fiorina as too extreme for California, saying she walks "in that far right lane."

But Kayla Tarbet, a 25-year-oldvoter in Long Beach, said she liked Fiorina's anti-abortion views and outsider's stance.

"Barbara Boxer has been there too long and hasn't done enough for me to want to keep her there," she said.

Fiorina repeated the mantra of change as she voted in Los Altos Hills, a Silicon Valley city that is one of the wealthiest in the U.S.

"I have lived in the real world, started as a secretary, became a CEO and understand that what we need to do now is create jobs," Fiorina said. Barbara Boxer had 28 years to do it. She hasn't done it."

Some of the tightest races may not be decided Tuesday night because about half of all voters are expected to cast vote-by-mail ballots, many of them being turned in on Election Day and not counted until later in the week.

This year's ballot also features several high-profile propositions.

Proponents of a measure to legalize marijuana, including billionaire financier George Soros, say it is a way to raise badly needed tax revenue. Opponents, including law enforcement organizations, argue that the wording of the proposed law would compromise public safety.

Robert Michler, a 59-year-old real estate broker in Los Angeles, said he voted for the measure.

"When I get cancer, I want to be able to have a marijuana cigarette so I can eat," he said.

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