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Stateside: Ah, Mccain - Are You Doing It Again?

Stateside with Rosalea

Ah, Mccain - Are You Doing It Again?

First, the weather. A couple of weeks ago, the source for the Bay Area's winds became the North American continent instead of the Pacific Ocean. I happened to be sitting at an open east-facing window when the first of them came barrelling off the deserts west of the Sierra Nevada, was compressed and heated as it came down the slopes, and arrived here garnished with the fusty smell of sunbaked fructose from the fertile agricultural areas to the north and east of the Bay. At the same time a flurry of swallows made air visible by excitedly riding the spiralling currents of a little whirlwind that had formed in the lee of a nearby clock tower.

But enough of waxing liberals, I mean lyrical! A few days later I wondered if perhaps it wasn't Eau de McCain that I'd smelled on the wind. Last Monday, as I'm sure you know, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled that the California election to recall the governor should be postponed until March, by which time all the counties would have updated their voting equipment from chad-bedevilled card punch machines. What does this have to do with Senator John McCain of Arizona, you might ask.

Well, the reason there is an election already scheduled in March is that it is a presidential primary election, at which (to put it simply) voters registered with a particular party go to the polls to choose which of the presidential hopefuls in their party will be on the November presidential ballot. With Bush's popularity as a wartime leader running high, there was little likelihood of anyone in the Republican Party challenging him in 2004, simply because it would be a very expensive wasted effort.

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But a recall election in March without any "presidential primary" reason for California Republicans to go the polls leaves the recall proponents open to defeat by apathy. So, if the larger panel of the federal appeals court in San Francisco this week upholds last week's decision and the recall election is postponed until March, McCain is handed a very persuasive argument to put to the Republican Party head honchos in favour of his mounting another bid for the presidency. McCain didn't get on the primary ballot in all states in 2000, but he made a victorious showing in many of them, especially the early ones - which often decide the potential candidates' respective fates.

So, who is it that brought this case to the federal appeals court in the first place? You could be forgiven for thinking it was the American Civil Liberties Union because it is their lawyers who appear on the telly all the time. But the case is filed under the name of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, which is one of three organisations who are are being represented by the ACLU lawyers. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking the case was all about the recall of the governor of California. Not so. The court was of the opinion that the likely disenfranchisement regarding two propositions that would also be on the ballot made the stronger case for postponing the election. Perhaps because the earlier decision has been so badly reported, the court's sitting tomorrow will be televised live, both locally and nationwide on cable TV.

Two of the appellant organisations represent black voters and the third - the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project - represents Latino voters. On September 4, SVREP held a large fund-raising dinner in Oakland, where they hope to open an office. All the major gubernatorial candidates were invited to speak, but in the end only Peter Camejo, from the Green Party, attended. A Venezualan by birth, he was enthusiastically received, as were many of his party's policies - including electoral reforms to enable legislatures and local bodies to more accurately represent the demographics of their constituencies.

The mistress of ceremonies was none less than Telemundo's Oakland Bureau Chief and reporter Lupita Figueiredo. You might recall that back when NBC ditched its affiliation with a San Francisco TV station, it hied off down to San Jose where it picked up - along with what's now NBC11 - several Spanish-language channels, and Telemundo's KSTS was one of them. Its coverage extends over nine Bay Area counties from Napa down to Santa Clara, and through a sister station it covers three additional counties further south in the Monterey/Salinas area. Its signal reaches 7.5 million viewers, which include 1.5 million Hispanics.

In order to build its audience in the face of stiff opposition from the rival HBO-owned Univision stations, Telemundo vigorously participates in community activities, and I can only suppose that being host of a non-partisan voter registration drive falls into that category. The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project has a campaign aiming to mobilise two million new Latino voters for the 2004 general election, raising the national total to 10 million registered voters and 7.5 million votes cast. The dinner was the official local launch of that "10-4 Campaign".

The organisation was begun in San Antonio, Texas, in 1974, and has offices in Florida, Southern California and Arizona, and a website at www.svrep.org where they post their press releases on matters such as this court case.


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