SAN FRANCISCO -- Danilo Pajarito has voted for Democrats all his life. The 70-year-old retired Hollywood set designer helped elect Jerry Brown governor back in 1974 and voted for him again when Brown ran for re-election in 1978. And when Brown ran successfully for Attorney General in 2006, Pajarito voted for him again.
But now he’s tired of Jerry Brown, he said. For the first time in his life, he says, he plans to vote for the Republican nominee for Governor, former eBay head Meg Whitman.
“California needs a change and it’s not a change Jerry Brown can bring,” Pajarito says. “He’s already had his chance.”
Whitman, he says, “has better tools to fix California’s problems. She has shown that when she was the CEO of that computer company.”
Danilo Pajarito is Jerry Brown’s worst nightmare this election season. Over the last 30 years, California has become an increasingly blue state, thanks in large part to the rise of ethnic voters who have overwhelmingly voted Democratic.
But a new California Field Poll shows Brown now leads Whitman by a single percentage point, 44 percent to 43 percent, having lost most or all of his advantage among every minority group except African Americans.
“Whitman is more and more positively viewed by ethnic voters and that has to be all due to her advertising,” said Mark DiCamillo, The Field Poll’s director.
An onslaught of more than $100 million in television and radio advertising – increasingly negative attack ads on Brown – has succeeded in cutting Brown’s lead among Latinos from 23 percent in January to just 11 percent today. Brown raised $23 million before the primary, while Whitman, a billionaire, spent over $91 million of her own money on the campaign. His lead among Chinese Americans has gone from 20 points in January to just one percent. Vietnamese-American voters, who favored Brown by 18 points in January, now favor Whitman by a margin of 40 percent to 34 percent.
It’s the narrowing margin among Latinos that should especially concern Brown, says DiCamillo, since Latino voters have propelled Democrats to a string of election victories ever since then-Republican Governor Pete Wilson pushed through the anti-immigrant ballot measure, Proposition 187, in 1994.
“Brown hasn’t really campaigned yet, so many Latino voters don’t know that Pete Wilson is one of Whitman’s advisors and they don’t remember that Brown marched with Caesar Chavez,” adds DiCamillo.
Joe Mathews, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, notes Whitman has also done more than Brown to outreach to ethnic voters, making herself available for interviews on Spanish-language television and radio, and launching a Spanish-language television and radio ad blitz that describe her as "the Republican who opposed the Arizona law and opposed Proposition 187."
Joe Mathews, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and author of the new book, California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It, says it's important that Brown not take Latinos for granted, especially younger Latinos, who do not remember Brown’s tenure as Governor back in the 1970s.
“He’s behaving as though people know who he is, and the problem is that people under the age of 50 have no idea who he is,” Mathews says. “And the Latino population is the youngest in this state.”
Still, according to Mathews, there is some good news for Brown in the poll results.
“She has campaigned and he hasn’t,” he says. “I mean, here’s a guy who hasn’t done a thing and he’s still tied even after the other side has spent the LA Dodgers' payroll. In that sense, he’s in a pretty good spot. If he ever gives people a sense of who he is and why he’s running for governor.”