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Despite Massive Opposition Campaign, Proposition 227 Sweeps to Landslide Victory

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Friday, June 5, 1998.

Overcoming huge opposition, Proposition 227, the "English for the Children" initiative, won a landslide 61% victory at the polls. The measure dismantling California's 30-year-old system of bilingual education for limited English children had consistently demonstrated widespread public appeal during its yearlong campaign, and was able to sustain that support against powerful political opposition by election day..

"We overcame enormous odds to win this victory," declared Ron Unz, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur who chaired the 227 campaign. "Our initiative was opposed by the President of the United States. It was opposed by the Chairman of the state Republican Party and the Chairman of the state Democratic Party. It was opposed by all four candidates for Governor, Democrat and Republican alike. It was opposed by nearly all the state's major newspapers and virtually every educational organization, large union, and establishment group. Our only strong support came from the people of California, but that was enough for victory."

In the final weeks of the campaign, Republican billionaire A. Jerrold Perenchio, owner of the Univision Spanish-language television network, provided millions of dollars in cash and free air-time to the No on 227 campaign, which overall outspent the Yes campaign by a ratio of 20 to 1 in advertising. Despite this financial mismatch Proposition 227 passed by one of the widest margins in recent history, winning a larger percentage of the vote than any contested initiative since Proposition 13 in 1978.

Election results show that the measure carried 56 of California's 58 counties. Campaign finance reports indicate that the Yes campaign spent about $550,000 (excluding signature-gathering costs), of which some $200,000 was spent on advertising, while the No campaign raised and spent $4.5 million, including nearly $4 million on advertising and voter contact. In addition, Mr. Perenchio's television network provided an estimated $1 to 2 million in free air time for anti-227 editorials.