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Villaraigosa Ties Measure J Loss To Voter Confusion

Paresh Dave |
November 7, 2012 | 3:28 p.m. PST

Executive Director

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa blamed the likely loss of a ballot measure he helped oversee to speed up the construction of L.A. County transportation projects on voters incorrectly seeing the proposal as a sales tax increase.

In fact, Measure J sought to extend an existing L.A County sales tax surcharge for 30 more years, to 2069. Cautioning that he wasn't a pundit and that an analysis of election results wasn't complete, the mayor said voter confusion might have been an issue. He also brushed aside the notion that Measure J suffered as he diverted focus to Barack Obama's campaign. The mayor served as one of Obama's re-election campaign's co-chairs and was in swing states in the days leading up to the election.

Measure J needs 67 percent support to pass. With only provisional ballots and late vote-by-mail ballots left to be counted, support sat at 65 percent.

"I'm hopeful," Villaraigosa said about the uncounted ballots. "But this isn't my first election. I'm realistic."

Villaraigosa and other public transit advocates in L.A. designed Measure J to allow the county's transit agency to borrow more money over the next few years to start constructing more than a dozen projects authorized by voters through Measure R in 2008. Measure R just crossed the 67 percent barrier.

"We are going back to the toolbox," Villaraigosa said. He called Measure J a "plan D" after he failed during the past three years to get a divided Congress on board to support other transportation financing solutions.

"We have some very innovative ideas to accelerate public transit projects in the state," he said. "Like me, my staff is daring and unconventional."

MORE: L.A. County Commuters Support Measure J

The Measure J campaign also saw about $1 million fewer in campaign contributions to pay for TV ads than the Measure R campaign four years ago. The mayor said unions, a key supporter of public transit projects, were preoccupied with their successful quest to defeat Proposition 32. The Los Angeles County Transportation Authority also devoted fewer resources.

MORE: Measure J Voter Undecided Day Of Election | Voices of L.A. County Voters: Measure J

At a press conference Wednesday reflecting on election results, Villaraigosa said Howard Berman's loss to Brad Sherman for a Congressional seat was a "blow" to Los Angeles.

The former speaker of the State Assembly also cautioned Democrats in the Legislature, who were a couple of final election results from achieving a supermajority, to take a balanced approached. A supermajority would give Democrats the power pass tax increases without Republican support.

"If we're going to be smart and maintain that, we're going to have to be transformative," Villaraigosa said. "If we want more money, we've got to tie it to reform. That's across the board…I believe that's the message of this national election."

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