LOS ANGELES — CALIFORNIA'S first-ever women senators - Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer; America's first native-American senator - Colorado's Ben Nighthorse Campbell; and Utah's first woman Supreme Court Justice - Miriam Shearing, are among the Southwest's contributions to national election highlights.
By a quirk of history which left California's two United States Senate seats open simultaneously for the first time, the twin Senate triumph is being called the most impressive Democratic victory here in three decades.
"The West coast is setting the tone for the pattern of congressional elections for years to come," notes Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.
Eleven women were running for United States Senate seats. Three of the four who won are in the West, and all four are Democrats. California's two winners are joined by Patty Murray of Washington State and Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois.
Though Arizona was one of five Southwest states won by Gov. Bill Clinton, voters there simultaneously returned the state Senate to the Republican column for the first time in years. They also returned Republican Sen. John McCain to Congress by a wide margin. Mr. Clinton was the first Democratic presidential nominee to win in Arizona since 1948.
"The inconsistent results of Tuesday's election showed clearly that Southwest voters are deeply dissatisfied with the established, two-party system," says Phil Burgess, president of the Denver Center for the New West.
Though Colorado went big for Clinton and liberal Sen. Nighthorse Campbell, the state's voters approved spending and taxing limitations while approving a gay-rights amendment and turning down a tax increase for funding public schools.
"The anti-politics of Perot and decreased partisanship amongst the electorate has left both parties bloodied," adds Mr. Burgess. More evidence of the same trend: Besides the whopping 22.6 percent of the votes won by independent Perot in Colorado, independent candidate for Utah Governor Merrill Cook took second in that race.
The approval of congressional term limits by California and Arizona, caps on taxes in Colorado and on legislative salaries in Arizona are growing evidence that people in the country's biggest growth quadrant for the 1980s want more control over political decisions and in limiting legislators.
Arizona's third try at creating a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday finally passed by a wide margin Tuesday. The state had suffered the loss of major convention revenue and labels of "racist" by outsiders as the only US state to have defeated two previous measures. "This will help reverse a significant impact on the Arizona economy," says Bruce Sankey, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Commerce.
Arizona voters rejected a high-profile proposal banning steel traps. Backers complained that opponents seized inappropriately on fuzzy language in the bill to defeat it.
Gov. Fife Symington has already announced his decision to introduce similar legislation.
Also, in a widely watched Arizona referendum, a proposal to prohibit abortion except to save a mother's life or after rape or incest, was defeated.
In California, the defeat of a key initiative supported by Gov. Pete Wilson is considered a deep blow to his already-sagging ratings.
Proposition 165, which would have given the governor sole power to enact a budget if no budget was passed by state deadlines, went down 53.8 percent to 46.2 percent.
A controversial initiative that would have allowed anyone with a life expectancy of six months or less to sign a directive requesting "aid in dying" was also defeated.
Last year's controversial "snack tax" on snacks, candy and bottled water was repealed.