You won’t hear Wal-Mart talking about opponents as a “vocal minority” anymore — at least not in the city of San Marcos, California. A Wal-Mart spokesman in the Golden State told reporters March 2nd, “When voters are asked whether they want the benefits of Wal-Mart Supercenters, we see time and time again that they say yes.” But they didn’t say “Yes” in San Marcos, where a controversial Proposition G was soundly defeated. Initial press reports showed that with 98% of the precincts reporting, the “NO” vote drew 6,883 voters (60.6%) and those in favor of Wal-Mart only 4,482 (39.4%). By any standards, Wal-Mart has suffering a huge defeat at the hands of a vocal majority in San Marcos. “It’s been a long, long road,” said Randy Walton, one of the leaders of Save San Marcos, a citizen’s group formed last summer to reverse a narrow decision by the city council to approve a 139,000-square-foot store. “It’s pretty remarkable for a group of citizens to get outspent by the amount we were.” Although final campaign spending reports are not in, Wal-Mart proponents spent roughly $22 per vote in their losing cause — at least $100,000. Save San Marcos spent only one-tenth that amount. The leader of the pro Wal-Mart campaign, the wife of the Vice Mayor who voted for Wal-Mart, was quoted in the North County Times as saying, “It went to the voters, if it’s pulling off to a no that’s what the voters of San Marcos want.” The store was approved originally by a 3-2 vote of the City Council. Opponents tried to get the council to vote to rescind their position, but the Council allowed Proposition G to go to the voters, where Wal-Mart was rejected. Several members of the City Council were criticized for having ties to a Wal-Mart consultant, who also served as their political consultant.
In a campaign footnote, the North County Times also reported that students at San Marcos High School voted 65% against Wal-Mart — almost mirroring the vote their parents took later the same evening. The San Marcos defeat illustrates again that big box opponents are stronger than Wal-Mart likes to admit, and that all the noise and shouting was not the result of a few, narrow interests. As in Eureka, California several years ago, voters rejected Wal-Mart at the ballot box, proving in a public venue that shopping is not the most important part of their lives. Ironically, the giant retailer already has a Wal-Mart in San Marcos, but it appears now they won’t have a second. For earlier stories on Proposition G, and what led up to the March 2nd defeat of Wal-Mart, search Newsflash by “San Marcos.”