Back Room Deals, Massive Tax Hikes, And The Origin Story Of California’s Jungle Primary System

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abel Maldonado played political games with the Republican Party in California.  Both love higher taxes and both wanted to run conservatives out of the Party.  They got their wish and Arnold got his biggest wish—the death spiral of the party in California.  He did all he could to demean and denounce Constitutional government.  He lied about his positions when he ran for Guv in the Recall election in 2003.  Then he raised taxes—with the promise of destroying the Republican—Abel, thinking the Party was Cain, joined in the murder.

“In February of 2009, then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger enacted what was at the time the largest state tax hike in U.S. history. That $12.8 billion tax increase – which raised personal income tax rates, along with the sales tax – was passed by the California legislature with the bare minimum number of votes needed to achieve the two-thirds majority vote required in California to raise tax rates. State Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) provided the deciding vote that sent the tax hike to Schwarzenegger’s desk.

Maldonado wasn’t dumb, just liberal. He recognized that that his political future was bleak under the traditional primary system, seeing as he was breaking his central campaign promise to his constituents by voting for the multi-billion dollar tax increase. As such, Maldonado struck a deal with Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislative leadership to move the state to a jungle primary system in exchange for his deciding vote on the tax hike. The move to a jungle primary was subject to voter approval and appeared on the 2010 ballot as Proposition 14, which was approved by 53% of the electorate.

So when you read the election results today and see dozens of legislative Districts without a Republican moving to the November ballot, or the Senate race and other statewide races, without a Republican.  Think of Arnold and Abel.  When you see there are more Decline to State than Republicans, thank Arnold and Abel—and the man inside the GOP that financed the death spiral for making California a Banana Republic—oh, both are now working with Chad Mayes to make sure the GOP stays dead.

arnold schwarzenegger

Back Room Deals, Massive Tax Hikes, And The Origin Story Of California’s Jungle Primary System

Patrick Gleason, Forbes,  5/27/18

UNITED STATES – MAY 27: The state flag of California flies near the Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday, May 27, 2018. Negative campaign attacks between Democrats running in crucial House races have begun to tear the party apart in leading up to California’s primary election on June 5, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

California’s “jungle primary” system has been getting a great deal of national attention due to the fact that it could cost Democrats control of Congress. It could do this by locking Democrats out of the November general election in several key races, leaving Golden State voters in swing U.S. House districts with only two Republicans on the ballot to choose from in the fall.

In California’s jungle primary system, candidates from all parties – Republican, Democratic, and other – run in the June primary election and the top two vote getters advance to the November general election. The system has worked out well for Democrats since its inception in 2010, but that streak of good fortune looks to come to an end this year.

The cause for progressive concern are a handful Republican-held congressional districts in California that are seen as pickup opportunities for Democrats. Flipping them is instrumental to Nancy Pelosi becoming Speaker once again. Getting the most attention are House districts 38, 48, and 49, all of which are located in Orange County, a longtime Republican bastion that has been trending leftward in recent years and was carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, the first Democratic presidential candidate since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to win the county.

The heightened enthusiasm on the Left has turned out to be a double edged sword that is causing electoral headaches. Because of the high number of Democratic candidates vying for those key Orange County House seats, the primary electorate could end up splitting in such a way that the top two primary vote getters end up being Republicans, locking Democrats out of the general election contest.

The jungle primary system has many flaws. Here we’ll set aside all the reasons why California’s jungle primary is a misguided system and instead look at the reasons why it was installed in the first place. As it would happen, the story of how California’s jungle primary system came into being nearly a decade ago is a tale of backroom deals greasing the skids for the largest state tax hike in American history, self-serving politicians putting their political futures above the interests of their constituents, and, ultimately, ugly politics begetting bad policy.

In February of 2009, then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger enacted what was at the time the largest state tax hike in U.S. history. That $12.8 billion tax increase – which raised personal income tax rates, along with the sales tax – was passed by the California legislature with the bare minimum number of votes needed to achieve the two-thirds majority vote required in California to raise tax rates. State Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) provided the deciding vote that sent the tax hike to Schwarzenegger’s desk.

Maldonado wasn’t dumb, just liberal. He recognized that that his political future was bleak under the traditional primary system, seeing as he was breaking his central campaign promise to his constituents by voting for the multi-billion dollar tax increase. As such, Maldonado struck a deal with Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislative leadership to move the state to a jungle primary system in exchange for his deciding vote on the tax hike. The move to a jungle primary was subject to voter approval and appeared on the 2010 ballot as Proposition 14, which was approved by 53% of the electorate.

And that is how California’s jungle primary came into being. Nine months after Maldonado provided the deciding vote for Schwarzenegger’s tax hike, the Governator appointed Maldonado as his Lieutenant Governor, filling the vacancy left by John Garamendi, who had been elected to Congress.

Thanks to the deal struck by Maldonado & Schwarzenegger nearly a decade ago, Californians are stuck toiling under one of the most onerous tax burdens on the globe to this day, but Maldonado got his just deserts in the end. It was reported after the 2016 election that Maldonado was being considered for a cabinet position in the Trump White House as head of the Department of Agriculture. This author has it on good authority that word of Maldonado’s tax hiking, pledge breaking past was passed up the White House chain of command and that it was made clear to senior Trump administration officials what a terrible message Maldonado’s appointment would send to conservatives. President Trump ultimately appointed former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) as his Secretary of Agriculture.

Maldonado’s story is reminiscent of the tale of Richard Rich, England’s Lord Chancellor during the reign of King Edward VI and Solicitor General under Henry the VIII. Rich is best known for perjuring himself in order to secure a death sentence for Saint Thomas More. For that deed, Henry the VIII named Richard Rich the head Noble of Wales.

At the end “A Man for All Seasons,” the 1966 film classic depicting the affair, More asks Rich, “why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for Wales?” Many heavily taxed Californians might look at Maldonado and ask, “why Abel, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world….but for the Lt. Governorship of an effectively bankrupt state?”

It would be quite the plot twist if California’s jungle primary system, which was put into place in order to facilitate the largest state tax hike in U.S. history, was ultimately what prevented national Democrats from taking back the U.S. House of Representatives and using that congressional majority to undo the largest federal tax cut in history.

Patrick Gleason is vice president of state affairs at Americans for Tax Reform, and a senior fellow at the Beacon Center of Tennessee. Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PatrickMGleason

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.