Ever since the days when Assemblywoman Carole Migden was committee chair in the late '80s and early '90s, committee members have fought for the policy. But the consultants who got the contracts through back-scratching and cronyism always helped defeat the measure.
One reason for the breakthrough this year is that since the California Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that the committee can make endorsements in nonpartisan races -- for years a lawsuit prevented endorsements -- the slate card and campaign mail business has become more lucrative. (Before, the consultants were limited to working on mail for partisan races.)
With a bigger pie, the generosity of entrenched consultants has increased a bit. And the appetite of contenders has increased a lot.
Another reason for the heightened popularity of affirmative action? While committee members could quietly oppose the measure in the past, passage of Prop. 209 has made that position untenable in 1997.