Anti-affirmative-action guru Ward Connerly will likely halt his nationwide push to end race and gender preferences. Connerly, a part black California businessman, spoke with the Colorado Independent an hour after Amendment 46 toppled by an extremely thin margin.
The so-called Colorado Civil Rights Initiative was the first Connerly amendment to flop after making it onto a state ballot. It was also a key measure in Connerly’s Super Tuesday for Equal Rights campaign, a nationwide thrust to dismantle affirmative action programs in five states this year. In three of those states, the measure failed to make it onto the ballot, and Thursday, after a feverishly close tally, it collapsed in Colorado. Nebraska was the only state this year to approve the proposal.
In a wide-ranging, hour-long phone interview with The Colorado Independent, Connerly said he now intends to turn his focus to prison reform. He downplayed the importance of Colorado’s rejection of a ban on affirmative action programs, and also weighed in on President-elect Barack Obama’s historic win.
When asked how he planned to proceed now that Colorado voters had rejected Amendment 46, Connerly said that he might curb his 12-year-long effort, which produced wins in California, Michigan and Washington state in years past and in Nebraska this year. “Well, I love to read. I love to write. I do have other interests,” he said. “I would like to pursue those things. I would rather do those things than get involved in these initiatives.”
“Contrary to what is said, I don’t need this for my financial well-being. I don’t need it for my psychological well-being,” he added, referring to an allegation that he paid himself $7 million from the two nonprofits that funded his Super Tuesday for Equal Rights campaign. Connerly spent more than $350,000 in Colorado this year, according to campaign finance reports.
But rather than continue the fight against racial preferences, Connerly said he will focus on reforming the criminal justice system. He has developed a passion for the issue because, he said, “I know someone for whom I have great affection who is in this situation. I had to learn a lot more about the system than I ever knew before.”
Connerly said that in the past year, he has contributed “frequently and heavily” to Families against Mandatory Minimums, a national organization dedicated to changing sentencing laws. And he is a proponent of alternatives to incarceration, such as ankle monitors for some convicts.
“I don’t want to mislead you. I don’t want to say I am no longer going to be interested in race equality in our public policies,” he said. “I think this whole business of what we are doing to people who are incarcerated is far more pressing.”
The Colorado Independent