For decades, capital punishment was a driving force in California politics, swaying elections for governor and the U.S. Senate and reshaping the state Supreme Court, says the San Francisco Chronicle. While executions in California have been on hold for more than four years, tied up in court challenges to lethal injection procedures that the state is now redrafting, November’s elections may determine whether the death penalty still carries political weight.
The contrasts at the top of major party’ tickets could not be starker. Democrats Jerry Brown and Kamala Harris, candidates for governor and attorney general, oppose capital punishment; Brown vetoed a death penalty bill when he was governor in 1977, Harris refused to seek death sentences as San Francisco district attorney. Their Republican opponents, Meg Whitman and Steve Cooley, support capital punishment. So do most Californians, according to Field Poll surveys going back half a century, although the majority has fallen from 83 percent in 1986 to 67 percent in 2006.