Voters defeated Proposition 23 Tuesday, and by a wide enough margin that the No on 23 campaign declared victory early in the evening.
"The result couldn't be clearer: Californians overwhelming rejected Prop. 23 and voted for a clean energy future," said Wade Crowfoot, West Coast political director for the Environmental Defense Fund.
But the Yes on 23 campaign refused to concede.
"It's entirely premature," said Anita Mangels, a spokesperson for the campaign.
With climate and energy legislation stalled in Congress, Proposition 23 drew national attention.
The measure sought to suspend California's landmark climate change bill, known as AB 32, until the state's 12.4 percent unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters. Advocates with the Yes on 23 campaign argued that the law's strict regulations on greenhouse gas emissions place too high a burden on the state's struggling manufacturing base and would lead to even greater job losses.
But while Proposition 23 enjoyed strong support from conservative Tea Party activists, a recent Field Poll showed that Democrats and moderate Republicans in regions across the state had lined up against it.
"In the midst of a major economic downturn, and with a barrage of fear mongering and scare tactics, voters still said they want a clean energy future," said Tom Steyer, co-chairman of the No on 23 campaign.
The largest contributor to Yes on 23
But environmentalists, cleantech business leaders, investors and social justice organizations joined forces to create a formidable No on 23 effort, raising more than $30 million and outpacing supporters in fundraising by a 3-1 ratio.
Campaign operatives deftly seized on Valero's Texas roots. "Stop Texas Oil: Hell No on Prop. 23" signs were on lawns across the Bay Area, and the proposition made its way into the World Series rivalry as well.
"World Series or an election, I'll always take California over Texas," tweeted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
No on 23 also ran an aggressive "ground game." Communities United Against the Dirty Energy Proposition, a coalition of more than 130 organizations representing low-income communities, spent weeks reaching voters through knocking on doors, phone calls, direct mail, and Spanish language radio ads featuring legendary human rights activist Dolores Huerta.