Losers Who Weren't on the Ballot

My top five losers from Tuesday's elections (not-on-the-ballot division):

1. PG&E. The Northern California utility's parent company spent more than $45 million backing Prop 16 to make it hard for cities to launch public power schemes that compete with PG&E. There was virtually no campaign against the measure. And yet Prop 16 still lost. This might be only the beginning of PG&E's troubles. The initiative hardball tactic isolated the company from local governments, other utilities, elected officials -- and probably shareholders, who should ask why tens of millions of dollars were thrown away.

2. The press. Meg Whitman dodged and avoided the press, to great complaint from reporters and editors. And it didn't matter one bit. She won easily. We California journalists have never been less relevant.

3. Small political parties. The passage of the top-two primary system via Prop 14 will shut small parties out of general elections. Yesterday was a very dark day if you're a Green or a Libertarian.

4. Labor. Voters in two San Diego-area cities passed bans on project labor agreements, tools that unions use to make sure their members are part of public projects (and are paid well). Expect business interests around the state to take note of these measures -- Prop G in Chula Vista, Prop K in Oceanside -- and launch similar initiatives in cities around California.

5. Roman Polanski. The film director is under house arrest in Switzerland as the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office seeks to extradite him to face sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old more than 30 years ago. There's a case to be made for letting the Polanski matter drop (given the cost and the fact that the victim wants it dropped), but the election results guarantee that that won't happen anytime soon. Los Angeles' District Attorney, Steve Cooley, is the Republican nominee for attorney general, and it might be an enormous political problem for him if Polanski was shown mercy before November.

Yes, it's Chinatown, as the unions and small parties and reporters and one big utility now know.

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