Correction: The original version of this story said that state Treasurer Bill Lockyer had declined to take a position on the three law-and-order ballot measures on the Nov. 4 ballot. That is not true. He was opposed to Proposition 5, as we reported here.
In Capitol Alert's survey of potential 2010 candidates for governor, several interesting facts emerged.
The state's former top cop has declined to take a position on two of the three law-and-order measures on the ballot. The closer a candidate is to being a frontrunner the less likely he or she was to take a stand on anything. And not much separates the Democrats who participated - they largely agreed on the issues.
Four politicians chose not participate: two Republicans, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, and two Democrats, Attorney General Jerry Brown and Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Those four are largely viewed by political insiders as the early frontrunners in the campaign.
For the Republicans, that is because of their vast personal wealth (Whitman is a billionaire and Poizner once sold a company for a $1 billion) and California's campaign contribution limits.
For the Democrats, Brown and Feinstein are among California's best known political figures.
"They have all indeed chickened out," said David McCuan, professor of political science at Sonoma State University. "The top tier candidates want to play it cute. They don't want to alienate themselves to anyone."
They all have their reasons.
"Because she is not yet a candidate for governor, we are respectfully declining to participate," said Whitman political adviser Mitch Zak.
"The next time voters have to make a decision on Steve Poizner is almost 20 months away, and there's plenty of time for voters to get to know him and to get to know his views on the issues," said Poizner spokesman Darrel Ng.
"In the cases where she felt there could be a difference made and the issue was something on the front-burner, she took a stand," said Feinstein spokesman Gil Duran.
Brown declined to comment on why he would not participate.
The rest of the potential candidates released positions on at least half of the state's propositions.
Let's start with Proposition 8. The ban on gay marriage is the best known and most controversial initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot.
All the Democrats oppose the measure. But of the three most talked-about GOP standard-bearers in 2010 -- former Rep. Tom Campbell, Poizner and Whitman (the only of the trio to not make her gubernatorial intentions public yet) -- only Whitman is publicly supporting the measure.
She has made no broad announcements on the issue, but Whitman adviser Zak said she has told GOP gatherings in the last two weeks she supports the same-sex marriage ban.
Campbell, a moderate Bay Area Republican, opposed and even wrote an op-ed for libertarian-leaning Reason.com making a conservative case against the initiative. Poizner has not taken a position.
All three Republicans fashion themselves as social moderates, which could leave the 2010 gubernatorial field open to a GOP entrant from the right. None of the three Republicans are openly supporting Proposition 4, the abortion notification measure.
Most candidates declined to take a position on at least one measure. The only four that provided a position on every measure were Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell and former state Controller (and 2006 governor candidate) Steve Westly.
Not much separated those four candidates: Newsom and O'Connell voted identically, while Westly (a 'yes' on Proposition 11, the redistricting measure) and Garamendi (a 'no' on Proposition 2, the treatment of farm animals measure) disagreed with those slates only once.
On those measures he took positions on, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa agreed fully with O'Connell, Newsom and Westly (He took a walk on three measures - Proposition 5, 10 (the alternative energy bond) and 11 (redistricting).
State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who served eight years as the state's top cop until 2006, took no position on five of the 12 measures on the ballot, including Propositions 6 and 9. Each of those measures makes substantial changes to the state's criminal justice system. Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar declined to comment on why the ex-attorney general did not take a position on those measures.
Current AG Brown opposes Proposition 5, the nonviolent offender and drug rehabilitation act, and took no positions on any other measures.
With the moderate Campbell the only Republican to fully participate, partisanship was not the great indicator of candidates' positions.
Campbell agreed with Westly and Garamendi's ballot choices for nine of the 12 measures. He agreed with Newsom and O'Connell eight times.
Check out the full matrix of all the candidates' positions on all the measures here.
Photo: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom speaks against Proposition 8 at an interfaith event at Glide Memorial Church, Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008 in San Francisco. Credit: AP Photo/ George Nikitin
Photo: Meg Whitman speaking at the Republican National Convention September 2008. Credit: Brian Baer, Sacramento Bee