Fellow Californians, today’s the primary, and it’s likely to be a fairly low turnout one, especially on our side, given the lack of a race in the Dem’s gubernatorial primary (cue the DK’s California über alles). Since I bothered to slog through the voter’s guide, I figured I’d toss my own two cents out there, in case anyone’s interested.
For interests of space and focus, I left off all of the uncontested races on the ballot. Some I voted for, some I left blank, some I wrote in candidates, but in any case neither my vote nor recommendation has much effect on the outcome.
Endorsements below the fold…
Senator – Barbara Boxer
This is both a vote for California’s good senator, and a vote against the execrable elephant in donkey’s clothing that is Mickey Kaus.
Governor – no recommendation
I wrote in Van Jones here. I’ll vote Brown in the general, but have not been impressed by him so far. I’m hoping the 1992 populist persona of Brown shows up soon, because right now he does not impress.
Lt. Gov – Gavin Newsom
Not a huge fan of Newsom, admittedly, but there doesn’t seem to be much daylight between him and Hahn on issue positions, and he’s got a good sense for political theatre, which is a big plus for a more of less useless office such as Lt. Governor. Ceteris paribus, I tend to vote for NorCal over SoCal and against whoever is dumb enough to employ
Chris Lehane Garry South at the moment [oops, got my slash and burn consultants mixed up]. Finally, getting Gav out of SF opens up space for a more lefty mayor.
Attorney General – Kamala Harris
This is fundamentally a race between Harris and Facebook privacy officer Chris Kelley. Given Harris’ progressive positions on pretty much everything, and the fact that corporate tool Kelley would threaten to do for California what he did to facebook users’ privacy, it’s a no-brainer.
Insurance Commissioner – Dave Jones
This was a hard call because both candidates looked pretty good, and I like de la Torre’s support of single-payer and his adept rhetorical use of his personal experience in our awful health insurance system to drive home the need for reform, but Jones looks to have a better overall grasp on the totality of what Insurance Commissioner can do, not just in terms of Health Insurance. And he’s from Sac, which is bonus points.
Superintendent of Public Instruction – Tom Torlakson
This may be the most important statewide race on the ballot, other than the initiatives. California education is under assault from a wicked combination of decades of perpetual GOP-forced funding cuts (thanks to Prop. 13’s 2/3 vote threshold in both chambers to pass a budget or raise taxes), and a right-wing privatization movement with a serious animosity towards teachers and a test fetish that (I am sad to say) has the support of Obama’s awful secretary of education. In this race, the three main contenders are all backed by a side in this struggle: Torlakson is backed by the teachers, Aceves by school administrators, and Romero by the right wing privatization group EdVoice, who threw a ton of money and some incredibly nasty flyers at my Democratic assembly primary race two years ago.
How one views the topic of reform in education depends a lot on what you think is wrong with it. Personally, having been a public school student in an era of budget cuts, and a grad student and teaching assistant in an era of rising tuition, I think that if anyone knows what is wrong with our educational system, and what needs to be done to improve it, it is the teachers. I have no love for think tank “experts” who have no experience teaching and don’t have to live with he consequences of their experiments, nor for the grifters who privatize public services to skim off the top while they bust unions. There is nothing wrong with California’s educational system that restoring our per student funding levels, tuition levels and class ratios to the Pat Brown days won’t fix. Of the candidates running, Torlakson is the only one who I trust to stand up for the integrity of public schools, and the only one who values our teachers as a critical part of the process and the solution to its shortcomings. My fear is that anti-union Republican votes will put Romero over the top, so turn out, Democrats!
Prop 13 – Yes
Noone’s campaigning against this one, and the general argument makes a fair amount of sense. Assuming the continued existence of California’s awful Prop 13-based property tax system, it is worth not discouraging businesses and residents to make improvements to their structures ASAP by refraining from dinging them with a higher tax assessment for fixing things up for safety’s sake. Given how many of the structures in the state are in serious danger from major earthquakes, doing whatever is possible to get things strengthened and safer is worth doing. This won’t likely make much difference for Yolo County, what with our overall lack of multistory structures and low earthquake risk.
Prop 14 – No
This is a bad idea for several reasons. First, the only reason this is on the ballot is that Republican then-State Senator now-Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado demanded that the State Senate put it on the ballot or else he wouldn’t vote to pass the budget, because he knows he’ll have a hard time making through a GOP primary as a moderate with a Spanish surname. His hostage crisis demands should not be honored with a vote.
Instead of the current party primary system, this initiative lumps everybody from all parties, plus “independent” candidates who choose not to put their party affiliation on the ballot, into one big pool, and then sends the two top vote-getters in that crowded field into the general election, which will only have two choices. By doing so, this strips rank-and-file party voters of their right to choose their own party’s candidates, and allows candidates to drop their party affiliation and feign “independence” when their party is unpopular in a given district, which is what Republicans have done in Washington State where they adopted this system.
Enjoy poring through every “nonpartisan” county race to figure out who is who? You’re going to love sorting through the massive block of names on your ballot under this bill. Expect a lot more rich, self-funded independent candidates staying silent about their policy agendas and mouthing platitudes. Minor parties like the Greens and Libertarians will be effectively shut out of future general elections. Party insiders and behind-the-scenes arm-twisting will have more, not less influence on the process, because the party that manages to clear the field for its chosen candidate will not dilute its vote as much as one which allows lots and lots of candidates to run, and thus have a better shot at getting to the general. In a nutshell, this is in my opinion a false reform, designed to aid the same corporate interests that have already bought the system and driven the state into a ditch.
Prop 15 – Yes
A great idea, especially given the importance that the person who runs the state elections be free from corruption. This voluntary pilot program would allow candidates to get a set amount of public funding if they have enough signatures and small donations to prove viability, without having to spend a ton of time begging corporations, unions and rich interests for money. In exchange for the funding, they cannot fundraise outside of that beyond a given amount. Candidates would get the same amount of funding, leveling the playing field and diverting the whole process from a fundraising race to actually campaigning for votes. Stigmatizing candidates who reject public funding would be a side benefit.
Our current system of financing elections is legalized bribery and corruption, and the sooner we see this system expanded the better. Since the supreme court’s decision that there can be no limits on corporate “speech” in the form of wads of money handed to candidates, the next best thing we can do to clean up our democracy is to get a public funding system going.
Prop 16 – No
Example A for why we need to seriously reform the initiative process. PG&E got tired of spending massive piles of money to block grassroots attempts to vote for public power (Such as Props H and I in Yolo County a few years back) or even buy their energy from someone other than PG&E (like what Marin County has been doing), so they spent a gazillion dollars in one election cycle to buy themselves an initiative slot to make people pass such votes by 2/3 instead of a simple majority. Oh, and by the way, that’s your and my ratepayer dollars financing this overtly antidemocratic campaign.
Prop 17 – No
Example B for why we need to seriously reform the initiative process. Basically, Mercury Insurance is unhappy that a 1988 initiative made it illegal to charge people more for insurance if they switched insurance companies, or had a while where they didn’t pay for insurance because they went to college, or ran out of money and so didn’t drive the car for a while, or lived for a while in a city with decent transit, or went to war and weren’t in a position to be driving a car stateside (one of the reason veteran’s orgs are opposing it). Mercury wants to be able to jack up our rates without restriction, so they funded an initiative to rewrite the law in their favor.
Public Guardian/Public Administrator – Cass Sylvia
City Council – Joe Krovoza and Sydney Vergis
Measure Q – Yes
Measure R – Yes
City Council – Bobby Harris
Measures S, T, U, V – Yes
Measures W and Y – Yes
originally at surf putah