Election Daze

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

You might not know this. In fact, you probably don't know or care. But there will be an election in California on Tuesday.

It's the one where we could have been deciding once and for all that perplexing question you hear asked all the time on TV –- Hillary or Obama?

The rest of the country would have hugged and thanked us for putting an end to all the speculation and excess wordage from the talking heads on cable.

But the Democrats in Sacramento had a smarter idea, they thought. They shifted the presidential phase of the election to last February. So we, the people of California, have already spoken.

If you forgot, we –- make that you -- sided with Hillary Clinton.

Funny thing, though. If the election were held Tuesday, it's quite possible the outcome would have been different. Many Democrats in the state are telling pollsters that they have changed their minds and now favor Barack Obama.

But that's all in the past.

There's plenty of other important stuff to decide come Tuesday. Which means this is the season when you open your mail or watch TV at your own peril.

For weeks we've been assaulted with ads and mailers that use every trick to try and hide who is really behind some of the issues on the ballot.

In a large swath of Los Angeles and nearby cities, each day brings a new delivery of claims that Mark Ridley-Thomas is a space alien or that Bernard Parks is, in fact, a robot controlled by a wizard who lives behind a curtain.

OK, neither candidate for the county Board of Supervisors has uttered those exact things. But their material has worked overtime to confuse just what it these veteran public officials do stand for and would do if elected to what is a very powerful open seat.

In another election race, both of the Democrats fighting it out for a state Senate seat carefully avoid letting their constituents know that neither one of them actually lives anywhere near Compton. They just want to represent the city in the legislature.

This election season, the most flagrant case of dishonest campaigning has to be the push for Proposition 98.

On its face, Prop 98 would reform the eminent domain laws. There's a good case to be made that it should be harder, if not impossible, for the government to take someone's property and give it to a developer who wants to build a new hotel or shopping center.

But in reality, Prop. 98 is a broad attack on rent control and zoning laws across the state.

It was drafted in part by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Jarvis was the father of Proposition 13 three decades ago, and is remembered by many as a property tax hero.

But he made his money as a tool of the landlord lobby, and that's who is buying the campaign to pass Prop. 98.

Among those giving money is a company that would like to do away with rent control on the mobile home parks it owns around the state.

That company belongs to Sam Zell, the newly crowned LA media mogul who has plans to change the Times and KTLA Channel 5 now that he's in charge.

The Sam Zell connection didn't stop the Times from opposing Prop 98. The paper's editorial called the measure bad news. A big overreach by anti-rent control forces that would essentially end controls on a unit once the current tenant moves out.

You can imagine how landlords might abuse such a provision to get renters to leave. That's the reason tenant groups oppose Prop. 98.

But to a lot of us, it's just as important for voters not to reward misleading campaigns and hidden interests. It's always feels good when the voters prove that they can't be easily fooled.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Getty Images