Democrats surge to control two-thirds of Legislature
By TIM HEARDEN
SACRAMENTO -- The president of the state's largest farm organization had mixed reactions to the Nov. 6 election in California.
Paul Wenger, a Modesto nut grower who leads the California Farm Bureau Federation, was elated over the demise of a ballot proposition that would have required labels on certain genetically modified foods.
However, Wenger said he was surprised that Democrats had appeared to gain a supermajority in the Legislature -- the first time a ruling party had done so in California since the 1930s.
Democrats can now pass budgets with tax increases without any Republican support and can even override Gov. Jerry Brown's vetoes, Wenger noted.
"I think a lot of it was there's a lot of get-out-the-vote for the presidential race, and while folks were out there voting, they just voted the ticket," he said.
"We knew it was going to be a challenge," he said. "We felt that it's not in the best interests of anyone in California to have a two-thirds majority that can override what the governor does. It really doesn't allow for a dialogue of issues."
The Farm Bureau and other ag interests here are happy over the failure of Proposition 37, which would have required warning labels on certain breakfast cereals, baked goods and other processed foods. The California Cattlemen's Association called the outcome "a win for all of agriculture."
Their victory came four years after they were left smarting over the 2008 passage of Proposition 2, which revised standards for housing farm animals. Wenger said the difference between the two efforts came down to money; the No on 37 campaign raised $46 million from agri-business and chemical conglomerates.
California voters did approve Brown's Proposition 30, which raises the state's sales tax a quarter-cent and raises income taxes for those earning more than $250,000 a year. Wenger said he hoped the initiative's passage would avert more tax hikes by the Legislature.
Among the individual contests in California that were of interest to farm groups:
* Incumbent Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, Jim Costa, D-Fresno, and John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, were re-elected. Costa is a member of the House Agriculture Committee, Denham is an almond grower and Garamendi authored a bill this year that would ease some farmers' access to subsidized flood insurance.
* Several state legislators friendly to ag appear to be headed for Congress. Those include former state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, a rice farmer and vocal advocate for Siskiyou County ranchers' water rights, and Assemblyman David Valadao, R-Hanford, also a farmer.
* In state races, CFBF-backed Lassen County supervisor and farmer Brian Dahle defeated fellow Republican Rick Bosetti, a Redding city councilman. In the 5th Assembly District, Frank Bigelow, a past Madera County Cattlemen's Association president, defeated fellow Republican Rico Oller, a former state assemblyman.
Among local ballot initiatives, voters in San Francisco soundly rejected an environmental group's measure to drain the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National Park. It provides water to an estimated 2.5 million Bay Area customers.
California Secretary of State election results: http://vote.sos.ca.gov/