Lt. Gov. candidates blast each other for missing votes

By Steve Lawrence
Wednesday September 18, 2002

SACRAMENTO — Using the label invisible man, the leading candidates for lieutenant governor accused each other Tuesday of piling up lousy participation records in their current jobs. 

The Republican nominee, state Sen. Bruce McPherson, R-Santa Cruz, said Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante broke a promise to voters by missing most meetings of the University of California Regents and the California State University Board of Trustees. 

“Mr. Bustamante has been an invisible lieutenant governor,” McPherson said a news conference. “Four years ago, (he) looked into the eyes of California voters and promised to make education a priority. He has broken that promise.” 

Aides to Bustamante said the Democratic lieutenant governor’s record as a regent and trustee was much better than McPherson claimed and that the senator had missed or ducked nearly 1,000 votes this year in the Legislature. 

“Bruce McPherson has been the invisible man,” said Bustamante spokeswoman Deborah Pacyna. 

McPherson said Bustamante has attended only 4 percent of trustees’ meetings and 17 percent of regents’ meetings since he became lieutenant governor in 1999. 

But the attendance at both boards can be figured differently, giving Bustamante a better record. The two panels typically meet for two or three days every couple of months, and sometimes their meeting dates coincide. 

Committee meetings are mixed into the sessions and, depending on when they are there, board members can be recorded as present at a committee meeting but not at a full board meeting. 

According to an Associated Press check of the minutes of trustees’ meetings, Bustamante has been to at least part of the four trustees sessions held this year, and Pacyna says he plans to attend a fifth Wednesday. 

But he attended only two of 21 trustees’ meetings in the previous three years for which attendance records are available, for an overall record of 24 percent. 

McPherson, counting attendance at full trustees’ deliberations, said Bustamante was present at only one of 25 board sessions, a 4 percent record. 

McPherson said Bustamante attended 17 percent of regents’ meetings, but when attendance at regents’ committees is counted the lieutenant governor has been to at least two-thirds of the regents’ sessions. Bustamante’s office says he’s actually been to more than three-fourths of the meetings. 

Bustamante’s staff said McPherson didn’t participate in a total of 966 votes on 730 bills this year. 

A McPherson spokesman, Adam Mendelsohn, said the vast majority of those missed votes were abstentions at the hectic end of the session on bills that McPherson didn’t feel had been adequately analyzed. 

“We’re not making a centerpiece of our campaign that we vote on every issue,” Mendelsohn said. “Abstaining is a policy statement.”