California Gubernatorial Primary Turns on Immigration

Father Tom Joyce CMF| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
blog
Tuesday was the busiest primary day of this off-year election season. Immigration touched many contests, but not as significantly as the heat of the debate was beforehand.

None was more significant than the Republican primary in California. The winner, Meg Whitman, had started her campaign as a somewhat moderate Republican on immigration. She initially opposed the Arizona law, but her opponent, Steve Poixner, made it the principal issue.

In California voters can participate only in the primary of their registered party - though Proposition 14 on the ballot introduced open primaries for the future. That constituency is more conservative than the general electorate and drew the voters most outraged by undocumented immigration. Whitman trimmed her sails, eventually approved the Arizona law, and promised a tough enforcement strategy to curb immigration.

That may have won her the nomination, but will hurt her against former governor Jerry Brown. Immigration is a volatile issue in California and Whitman's words may come back to haunt her among the large Hispanic vote that is already drifting to the Democrats. Even conservative Republican voters in the Central Valley don't like the Arizona law and don't want to see their field hands - legal or not - disappear. (See Washington Post.)

And in Arizona, controversy continues to swirl around the exclusionary state law. Entertainers threaten to boycott the state, civil rights groups have file a suit to prevent the law going into effect, police split over implementation, California cities extend their boycotts, and so on and so on. In one of the more interesting stories, the Navajo nation has formally condemned the law because it will lead to profiling of the Native Americans (see Arizona Republic).

The most bizarre twist is in Prescott, Arizona, over a school mural. It's on the side of an elementary school near downtown and is meant to celebrate the environment. Not too many people were paying attention to it until the law controversy. Someone noticed that the children depicted were of brown skin - that is, looked like Mexican or African American.

A talk show jockey, also a city councilman, objected, and school officials asked the painter to lighten the skin of the main child in the painting. But even before this change, motorists passing as the artists and children worked on the mural yelled racial slurs. The school has since apologized for asking the artist to change it (see Arizona Republic).