Original URL: http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/election/article/0,1299,DRMN_36_1529964,00.html
2 states, 1 issue, unexpectedly different outcomes
Bilingual initiatives in Colorado and Massachusetts affected by funding
Rocky Mountain News, November 7, 2002
By Holly Yettick,
Similar ballot initiatives, same backer.
But Massachusetts voters said "hola" Tuesday to Question 2 while Colorado voters
said "adios" to Amendment 31.
It was an unexpected outcome for the initiatives, which both required English
learners to spend no more than a year in
intensive English courses before moving to mainstream classrooms.
That's because the initiatives - versions of which have already been successful
in California and Arizona thanks to financial backing from businessman Ron Unz -
are generally more popular with conservatives than liberals.
Yet in Massachusetts, a historically liberal state, Question 2 passed by 70
percent - one of the biggest landslides ever seen in an initiative race in that
In Colorado, a traditionally conservative state that made English its official
language in 1988, Amendment 31 failed - 56 percent to 44 percent.
Opponents and proponents in Colorado and Massachusetts alike agreed money was a
In Colorado, opponents got more than $3 million from medical equipment heiress
Pat Stryker - one of the biggest individual donations in the state's history.
No other campaign in either state raised even $1 million.
Much of Stryker's money went into an advertising blitz that ignored the
initiative's main goal of virtually eliminating bilingual education that calls
for instruction in a child's native tongue.
Instead, it attacked the initiative as too costly, too punitive and too
"From a purely political perspective, I thought the anti-31 campaign was the
best political campaign of the season, better
than the candidates' campaigns," said Norman Provizer, a political science
professor at Metropolitan State College of Denver. "Here was an issue that
started off with enormously high numbers in support of the amendment. Something
eroded that support.
"I can talk about it as a negative campaign and a campaign of attack ads but it
was very effective in eroding that support."
Other factors might have been opposition from Gov. Bill Owens in Colorado and a
smaller Hispanic population in Massachusetts, Provizer said.
Most Hispanic voters opposed the amendment in both states.
Colorado opponent Gully Stanford downplayed the role of the $3 million, noting
other initiatives have failed despite well-funded "yes" sides.
"I think we can thank our strong tradition of local control," he said.
Stryker said through her spokesman Wednesday that Colorado voters deserve the
credit "for preserving choice for families throughout the state."
"This campaign has always been about freedom of educational choice for parents
and their children, and the freedom to make local decisions about education,"
Unz said all but one of Colorado's five proposed constitutional amendments
"Sometimes," he said, "there's a pattern. Some years most initiatives win, other
years, most initiatives lose. Who knows what the factors are."