Opinion Columns & Blogs

Bill Whalen: An election year quiz

We’re in that funny zone in California politics – the calendar has flipped to 2014, but the state Legislature isn’t back in business, nor has Gov. Jerry Brown delivered either of his big-ticket items for January: delivering his State of the State address and unveiling the details of his 2014-15 budget proposal.

While we wait for the fun to begin in earnest, here is a quiz to ponder as we enter what could be an intriguing election year here in the Golden State and nationally.

For California ...

1. Best storyline in a statewide election:

a) Which of the Republican underdogs manages to finish second in the gubernatorial open primary.

b) Finding a new secretary of state: Republican Pete Peterson and independent Dan Schnur vie for the title of Diogenes.

c) A Republican finishing within 5 percentage points of the winner in a state constitutional race (it happened only once, in both 1998 and 2010, when a Democrat won the Governor’s Office in a landslide).

2. Nastiest intra-party squabble:

a) San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed vs. other big-name Democrats, re: pension reform.

b) GOP gubernatorial field of double-down conservative Assemblyman Tim Donnelly vs. moderates Abel Maldonado and Neel Kashkari.

c) Democratic Rep. Mike Honda vs. upstart Ro Khanna in the 17th Congressional District.

d) Former Rep. Doug Ose vs. conservative Igor Berman in the 7th Congressional District.

3. Most contentious ballot measure:

a) Public employee pension reform.

b) Marijuana legalization (for recreational use).

c) $11 billion water general-obligation bond.

d) State minimum wage increase (from $8 to $12 by 2016).

e) Increasing state tobacco tax by $1 per cigarette pack.

f) Making California’s electoral votes proportional (would’ve given Romney 20 more electoral votes in 2012) .

4. Most likely title for the pension reform initiative after Attorney General Kamala Harris finishes her edits:

a) No change – “The Pension Reform Act of 2014”.

b) No mystery – “Altering Retirement Plans for Teachers, Firefighters and Nurses”.

c) No shame – “Soul-Sucking Pension Evisceration: Women and Minorities Hurt the Most”.

5. Sleeper issue under the Capitol dome:

a) Revisiting last year’s fracking legislation.

b) Revisiting last year’s CEQA reform legislation.

c) Mo’ money, mo’ tension between the Gov. Brown and lawmakers.

d) Brown reverses course on gun legislation, bans semi-automatic weapons with detachable magazines.

6. Legislature’s balance after Election Day:

a) Both chambers relatively unchanged (+/- 2 seats).

b) Democrats pad supermajority status.

c) Republicans make surprising gains, supermajority gone.

7. Gov. Brown’s first move after re-election:

a) Let pundits (myself included) continue with mindless speculation.

b) Pick up phone and call Ralph Nader, re: fusion ticket.

c) Catch first plane to an early-primary state.

d) Take a vacation, recharge batteries for second term.

Nationally ...

1. President Obama’s approval rating by 2014’s end:

a) Roughly the same as the current Real Clear Politics average of 42 percent (+/- 1-2 percentage points).

b) Noticeably better/worse (+/- 5 percentage points).

c) “Hope” run amok: gain of 10 percentage points or more.

d) Barack Milhous Nixon: loss of 10 percentage points or more.

2. Banner headline the morning after Election Day:

a) Republicans sweep both houses of Congress.

b) Status quo on Capitol Hill.

c) Democrats defy midterm gravity, make gains.

3. Red-state Democratic senator in biggest trouble:

a) Mark Begich, Alaska.

b) Kay Hagan, North Carolina.

c) Mary Landrieu, Louisiana.

d) Mark Pryor, Arkansas.

4. Red-state GOP senator in hottest tea party water:

a) Lamar Alexander, Tennessee.

b) Thad Cochran, Mississippi.

c) John Cornyn, Texas.

d) Mitch McConnell, Kentucky.

5. Biggest margin of victory on Election Night:

a) California Gov. Jerry Brown.

b) New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

c) Idaho Gov. Butch Otter.

d) Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.

6. Hot potato Washington will avoid:

a) Immigration reform.

b) Gun control.

c) Domestic surveillance/privacy.

d) Taxation – haves vs. the have-not’s.

7. Democratic male most troubling to Hillary Clinton in 2014 and beyond:

a) President Obama.

b) Vice President Joe Biden.

c) Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

d) Bill Clinton.



1. (b); 2. (a); 3. (a); 4. (b); 5. (c); 6. (a); 7. (a and d)


1. (a); 2. (b); 3. (d); 4. (d); 5. (c); 6. (b); 7. (d)