The Proposition 13 fever which sent California's political temperature soaring last June infected other western states in the fall campaigns.
As a result, elections in the region were dominated by discussions of tax reduction and budget cutting, and by the general efforts of Republicans to hold incumbent Democrats responsible for inflation and the high cost of government.
Because most votes in the western states are not tallied until after midnight Washington time, results were not available until late editions of the Washington Post. Results on important elections in the West will appear in tomorrow's editions.
Even before the polls closed, however, it was clear that the GOP effort had met with mixed success. In some states and congressional districts, the issue of high government costs enabled Republican candidates to remain on the offensive throughout the campaign. But in others, notably California, the cost-cutting issue was appropriated by incumbent Democrats.
Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., elected as an unconventional Democratic liberal four years ago, campaigned this year as a tight-fisted fiscal conservative who has sponsored the largest state income tax reduction in California's history. Brown labeled his opponent, Attorney General Evelle J. Younger, "a big spender" and succeeded in taking political credit for "making Proposition 13 work," though in fact the governor of the state has virtually nothing to do with its operation.
In Oregon, incumbent Democratic Gov. Robert Straub took another route in his attempt to defuse the tax reduction issue. After an initiative campaign placed a Proposition 13-style measure on the ballot, Straub called a special session of the legislature and sponsored a rival measure that offered property tax relief to homeowners and renters but not to business and industry. His Republican opponent, state Senate Minority Leader Victor Atiyeh, backed the across-the board tax relief measure, known in Oregon as Measure 6.
In a region where every state except Alaska went into election day with a Democratic governor, Straub was the only state executive openly to oppose a ballot measure limiting taxes of requiring spending cuts.
However, the Democrat governors in two other western states tried to have the best of both political worlds by staying neutral on such ballot issues. Colorado Gov. Richard D. Lamm avoided taking a stand on a proposed state and local government spending limit. Idaho Gov. John V. Evans followed a similar course on his state's version of the Proposition 13 initiative.
Economic issues also dominated the campaigns for U.S. Senate in Colorado and Idaho and the congressional races in many western states. Republican campaign messages typically blamed the Democratic Congress and President Carter for inflation. Democratic incumbents usually countered by citing votes where they had favored spending cuts.
It was difficult to measure Carter's impact on western political contests, partly because the president's own initiatives against inflation and in behalf of a strengthened U.S. dollar come so late in the campaign. Both before and after the initiatives, however, most western Democrats kept a healthy distance between themselves and the administration.
In part, this disassociation reflected lingering resentment in the region over what some western officeholders in both parties had called Carter's "war on the West." Mostly, however, Democrats were simply doing what they had one in this generally conservative region for decades, which is to run on their own records rather than on the record of the national party.
Aside from economies, the issues in the 1978 western campaigns varied from state to state, reflecting the region's wide diversity.
Race was a significant question in the Hawaii election, where Gov. George R. Ariyoshi squeaked out a narrow primary election victory in October with overwhelming support from Japanese-American voters. Other minority groups on the islands heavily backed Ariyoshi's opponent, Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi, in a campaign in which both sides exploited-American domination of the islands' political system.
Religion was an issue in Idaho, where Republican gubernatorial nominee Allan Larsen, a regional administrator in the Mormon Church, attempted to capitalize on bloc voting by members of his denomination. Larsen has said that morality can be legislated and urged new restrictions on liquor sales. His opponent, Gov. Evans, also is a Mormon and the first of his faith to hold the Idaho governorship.
And crime and corruption were big issues in Wyoming, where the administration of Democrat Ed Herschler has been rocked with a series of scandals that included the indictment of five state officials. Republicans, however, were slow in using the corruption issue, both in Wyoming and elsewhere.
"Psychologically, we're still affected by Watergate," said one top GOP official in Wyoming. "After what happened in the Nixon administration, it's hard for us to pick up this issue and run with it as we should."
This same reluctance was evident in California, where the GOP only late in the campaign raised the "Koreagate" issue against incumbent Democratic Rep. Charles Wilson of Los Angeles, reprimanded by the House for the money given him by Korean lobbyist Tongsun Park.
An exception to this reluctance was the campaign of Republican Norman Schumway in California's 14th Congressional District around Stockton. In this heavily Demcratic agricultural district, Shumway cited the Koreagate issue repeatedly in his bid to unseat Democratic Rep. John J. McFall, another recipient of Park's largess.
Whatever the campaigns in the West may have accomplished, they did little to advance the cause of American political humor. perhaps because of the emphasis on taxation issues, most of the debates between major western political figures were dry exchanges in which occasional name-calling interrupted the recitation of conflicting economic statistics.
There were exception, however, in the series of public debates between Younger and California Gov. Brown.
In one debate, Younger was asked to comment on the personal qualities of the candidates and concluded his remarks by saying that the governor lacked the "Irish charm" of his father, former governor Edmund G. (Pat) Brown.
"I may not have inherited the Irish charm of my father, but I inherited the fiscal frgality of my mother," Brown shot back.
Younger than recited some of California's more negative economic statistics and said that Brown hadn't inherited them from his mother.
"No, I inherited them from Gov. Reagan," Brown said.
The California election also produced probably the most imaginative, if unproductive, campaign stunt of the year. In an effort to demonstrate that voter registration procedures are far too loose, Jay Margosian, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, registered his cat, Joanne Kitty Margosian, as a voter. predictably, state voting officials didn't think it was funny.
In the Senate race in Wyoming, Republican frontrunner Alan K. Simpson tried to keep his audiences warmed up by telling them the difference between a political race and a horse race: "In a horse race, the whole horse runs."
Also in Wyoming, the Republican nominee for governor, state Sen. John Ostlund, started out with such a mild-mannered approach that Gov. Herschler said he was running "a creampuff campaign."
Late in the campaign Ostlund's strategists altered their strategy and began assaulting Herschler with a series of hard-hitting commercials aimed at various administration scandals.
"He's changed his pastries," said Herschler when asked about his earlier remark. "Now he's throwing mud pies."