As the race in California's 37th District showed (to a certain extent), wealthy Indian tribes are no match in the electoral arena for the boots on the ground and organization provided by labor. With this in mind, the February Presidential primary just got a whole lot more interesting:
A coalition of labor and horse racing interests announced Friday that it will ask voters to pull the plug on a huge tribal gambling expansion negotiated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The owner of two racetracks and the hotel workers' union will team up on a campaign that could put four new initiatives on the February ballot and cost tens of millions of dollars. Some tribes with casinos that are not part of the expansion said they might join the effort.
The tracks and union seek to undo legislation Schwarzenegger signed into law July 10 to allow four tribes in Riverside and San Diego counties to more than double or triple the number of slot machines in their casinos.
A few points:
• Unite Here has a lot of organizational muscle and will have enough money to get out the message of how these rich tribes will be expanding their gaming operations at the expense of workers. The Bay Meadows racetrack concern is on board because they believe this expansion will hurt their gambling business.
• This will be an EXPENSIVE referendum if it gets on the ballot. Labor and the richer tribes can raise gobs of cash. This will suck up all of the oxygen on initiatives as much as the alternative energy proposition did last year. This will impact...
• The term limits initiative, which will suddenly have less of an impression on voters. Considering that it's written as a limiting rather than a relaxation, that may bode well for it. But the ballot could be extremely crowded.
People are gathering signatures for 17 other measures, and backers of 11 others are waiting for the approval to begin signature-gathering to try to get their measures on a ballot next year. Those potential initiatives include measures to ban gay marriage, overhaul the state's tax structure, ban cruelty to farm animals and curb government employee pensions.
My calculus is that the more that's on the ballot, the less people want to support them. And the long ballots of the past couple years have been exercises in futility. The direct democracy bug everyone caught with the recall in 2003 has turned into a flu.