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SACRAMENTO — Aided by a barrage of TV ads and editorial endorsements, supporters of Proposition 64 seem to be gaining momentum. Opponents of the measure, which would place restrictions on suits under the state’s unfair competition law, sound increasingly worried the measure may pass. This weekend, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will give them fresh reason to fret. The governor, who in September said he supported the measure, has agreed to appear at a pair of weekend rallies in support of Prop 64. Businesses supporting the initiative, including the state’s auto dealers and heavyweight corporations like Philip Morris, Visa and MasterCard — which have donated $12 million to the campaign this calendar year alone — believe that a sizeable percentage of formerly undecided voters may turn out for the initiative on Tuesday. Leaders of some of the state’s biggest environmental groups say they’re worried about what could happen in the final days of the campaign, although they say they haven’t the financial wherewithal to take their concerns to the airwaves. “I’m very, very concerned about it,” said Rico Mastrodonato, Northern California Director for the California League of Conservation Voters. “There isn’t a proposition of bigger import to the environment.” Opponents formed a formal campaign committee just a few weeks ago, and a little over $1 million has rolled in in the waning weeks of the campaign. Virtually all of it has come from plaintiff attorneys, who had previously kept a low profile in the campaign, leaving environmental groups to carry the flag. Attorney General Bill Lockyer has taken a public stand against Prop 64, saying that the measure’s elimination of private right of action could hinder his office’s attempts to sue over environmental hazards. The latest Field Poll, released earlier this month, showed the measure still trailing 26 percent to 38 percent among likely voters. But that was up 5 percentage points compared to an earlier Field Poll conducted in July. Both polls showed the measure was not widely recognized by voters and that more than a third of those likely to vote on Tuesday were still undecided about Prop 64. But there are several indications that supporters have gained momentum. They say their own internal polling shows the measure ahead. Opponents say that their recent polls mirror the gains shown in the Field polls, “but we haven’t seen anything that suggests that [supporters] are where they need to be,” said Michael Schmitz, executive director of the California League for Environmental Enforcement Now. “I expect it to go down to the wire,” added Schmitz. The yes on 64 campaign “was always designed to reach voters as they’re making their decision,” said Brian Maas, director of government affairs for the California Motor Car Dealers Association. “That time has come.” Maas, whose group has donated $1 million to the effort in the past month alone, said the campaign has succeeded in sending a consistent message that the measure represents “a modest approach to reforming shakedown lawsuits.” Prop 64 supporters still have plenty of cash for a last-minute barrage of TV ads. They’re also getting help from some newspaper editorials that cite concerns that the law has been used against “mom and pop” businesses, a principal theme sounded by the yes on Prop 64 campaign. The San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times both support the measure. Major newspapers opposing Prop 64 include The Sacramento Bee and the San Jose Mercury News. But the biggest boost for Prop 64 may come from Schwarzenegger’s last-minute decision to lend the campaign some star power. He’s signed on to stump for Prop 64 at a pair of weekend rallies, in San Diego County and at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. Maas said the governor’s enthusiasm at those rallies — billed as part of the governor’s “Road to Reform” campaign tour — could help put the measure over the top with ballot-weary Californians. “This governor is unique, perhaps in our lifetime, in terms of somebody recognized as an international movie star,” said Maas. “We’re right on track to victory.”

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