Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and his supporters Wednesday celebrated the defeat of Measure D – which would have shortened the mayoral term from four years to two – calling it a “victory for the people” and a sign that voters are wising up to the influence of money in politics.
The ballot measure was soundly beaten, with 54.4 percent having voted against it.
Tait’s camp argued the measure was conceived by “special interests” – a veiled reference to the city’s well-heeled tourism industry – and part of an ongoing political assault against the mayor motivated by his opposition to tax subsidies for connected businesses.
“The people have spoken,” Tait said. “And I think it shows that people are concerned about the effect of money and special interests on politics.”
While the architects of Measure D aren’t speaking publicly, they’ve argued before that the measure had nothing to do with Tait and would have given the voters more accountability over the mayor’s seat.
Matt Cunningham – a paid consultant for the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce – downplayed the loss in a post on his blog.
“On one hand, the results can be interpreted as a victory for the mayor. However, if the result is viewed through that filter, then by the same token almost 46% of the voters in a low-turnout, more conservative electorate sided with ‘the special interests,’” Cunningham wrote.
“To the extent the Measure D results have bearing on the upcoming mayoral election, it’s that it will be tougher and closer than many had heretofore thought.”
Tait was once a friend of the city establishment. But his campaigns against controversial subsidies – such as $158 million in tax rebates for a major hotel developer and a deal framework that grants 155 acres of land to Angels baseball team owner Arte Moreno for $1 annually -- have angered his former political allies.
He has also become isolated from the Anaheim City Council majority, which is heavily backed by the city’s major businesses. The Council has cut the mayoral aide’s compensation and diminished Tait’s meeting agenda setting power, moves widely seen as retaliations.
But with his opposition to tax subsidies -- framed as a virtuous defense of the public treasury -- the mayor has attracted a group of faithful supporters who believe he is the only member of Council standing up to powerful corporate interests. They were elated at the news of Measure D’s defeat.
“We are so delighted about that,” said Amin David, the president emeritus of the grassroots Latino group Los Amigos of Orange County. “Tom Tait has been a true knight in the pursuit of what is right for the city, and not individual entities.”
Tait’s supporters have also cast Measure D’s loss as a victory for Tait over former Mayor Curt Pringle. Tait and Pringle – who is now a lobbyist for many in the city’s business establishment -- were close friends for years, but had a falling out after Tait was elected mayor in 2010.
Pringle and Tait recorded counter robocalls on the measure, residents have reported.
Anaheim blogger Cynthia Ward, also a Tait supporter, argues that the primary election results – which included a third place defeat for Pringle-backed county supervisorial candidate Frank Ury -- show the former mayor’s widely hailed influence is declining.
“The Great Visionary is not winning a whole lot of his bids for power these days,” wrote Ward – who was involved in a lawsuit recently that killed a bond deal for the city’s convention center expansion -- in a comment to a Voice of OC article. “Weak, ineffective, impotent, and a lightning rod to boot. Nope, I think new accounts are going to be harder to come by soon.”
Pringle did not return a phone call for comment.