Decision 2016 Ballot Analysis: The Down-Ticket Races (2/5)

userpic=voteThe upcoming November ballot, at least in my precinct in Los Angeles, California, is large. As the Donald might say, it is “Yuuuuuge”. So I’m splitting my regular sample ballot analysis into five posts: one covering the Presidential ticket (although you know where I’m going there), one for the down-ticket races, two covering the state-wide propositions on the ballot (50-59, 60-67), and a final post covering the county, city, and special district measures. I’ll also include one additional post summarizing all my positions. This post covers the down-ticket races: all the offices filled by humans or reasonable facsimiles thereof that are not the President. As always, if you have different views, I urge you to comment and try to convince me to change my mind.

United States Senator

Candidates: Loretta L. Sanchez fb (D); Kamala D. Harris fb (D)

This race is the result of California’s “Jungle Primary” law, where parties are now preferences and all candidates are on every ballot. The result: two Democrats. That’s great for Democrats like me, but poor for people in other parties who may not have any candidate that comes close to their views. I’m not sure this is proving to be the best system, or if it will result in candidates that appeal to the parties shut out. Time will tell.

In the primary, I supported Sanchez, primarily because I felt that Southern California needed a voice in the senate. I was unsure about Harris being that voice. Far too often the northern part of the state has an outsized voice in national politics — you don’t have to look further than our two current senators and the bulk of state leadership. But this is the general election and things can change. The good news is: whatever happens, we’ll be represented by a non-white woman.

Looking at endorsements (which can be telling sometimes), all have a mix of newspapers, elected officials, and such. Sanchez’s seem to be a bit more on the conservative spectrum, and her papers tend to be ones with a more conservative bent. Harris has the more high power endorsements: national leaders, major papers, major organizations. This indicates that Harris is the party favorite and has the support of the establishment. Sanchez has been having to pivot between the progressive and the conservative side, and not necessarily succeeding from both. From what I’ve read, many conservatives are going to sit out this office.

I picked higher education as first issue, and the differences between the candidates are striking. Sanchez talks about what she did in office, which wasn’t all that much. Harris, on the other hand, enumerated specific actions she would take (presumably, legislation introduced), to address the issue. Similarly, on civil / human rights, Sanchez presents a generic picture and talks about what she did in Vietnam. Harris, on the other hand, enumerates specific things that she will do to address the concerns. Picking a third example: defense and homeland security, Sanchez again focuses on what she had done in this area, where Harris discusses specific things she will do. Further, Harris has a number of issues, such as criminal justice reform, that aren’t even on Sanchez’s radar (website).

I went to look up her strengths in the LA Times endorsement, and discovered that it was an endorsement from the primary, not the general election. This may not be a problem, as the two candidates ran against each other at the time, and the strengths the Times noted are still strengths.

In terms of experience, Harris is primarily legal, not legislative: years as a District Attorney and then an Attorney General. Sanchez, on the other hand, is all legislative: her background is not legal, but financial — her degree is an MBA. Hmmm, MBA vs. Lawyer.

Much as I believe we have too many lawyers in the House and Senate, there is likely a good reason lawyers go into the field — they have the right of attention to detail that ensures laws are properly written. Harris also appears to be the only candidate articulating a vision for where she wants the state to be. Much as I would like Southern California representation, I have to go with the stronger candidate.

ConclusionKamala D. Harris fb (D)

United States Representative, 30th District

Candidates: Mark Reed fb (R); Brad Sherman fb (D)

This contest pits a senior member of Congress (Sherman), who is on a number of major committees, against a “successful actor, small businessman, rancher and an advocate for constitutional government as specified by our Founding Fathers” (Reed) with no legislative experience. Although the House can be a place where newcomers can get their political start, it tends to be better for that start to be at the state legislature level. I’m also worried about Reed’s use of the phrase “as specified by our Founding Fathers”, which tends to be a “tea party” code phrase harkening to the need for a Christian nation. Looking a Reed’s pages, one sees one dedicated to broken Obamacare promises, and his position on Israel is to primarily condemn Obama. Reed is notably absent regarding positions on a number of matters, especially social issues, defense, trade, cybersecurity, or civil justice. This increases my belief that his focus is not to work as much for the nation as against the Democrats.

Sherman covers a lot more issues on his pages. He addresses social issues, economic issues, gun violence, and trade, among many others. This discussions not only tout what was done, but what he proposes to do.

Endorsement-wise, Reed primarily has Republican party endorsement — no clear labor or newspaper endorsements at the present time. Further, some of his endorsements are problematic, such as Paul Takana or Sharron Angle. He also lists endorsements from 2012, which is poor form in my book. Endorsements do expire. Sherman has not yet put up his 2016 endorsements, which is poor form because vote by mail has opened.

At this time, Reed’s antipathy to the Democrats, the use of the code phrase, and his silence on many issues make me suspicious. Sherman hasn’t been the greatest representative, but he’s the only acceptable alternative in the race.

ConclusionBrad Sherman fb (D)

California State Senator, 27th District

Candidates: Steve Fazio fb (R); Henry Stern fb (D)

This is a contest to replace the termed-out State Senator Fran Pavley fb. Both are newcomers. Stern was the senior policy advisor to Pavley; and is a graduate of Harvard University and UC Berkeley Law. Fazio is a business owner — he owns Fazio Cleaners (which has a large number of locations).

Looking at the issues, Fazio supports public safety, but states that “I firmly believe that we must move past the era of divisive and strident partisan politics. Indeed, we must all work together pragmatically to come up with the best solutions. Not only do I support moderate social policies, I also strongly value protecting the environment. My conviction that we must ensure that California’s open spaces are not developed means that I would never compromise any part of our strikingly beautiful coastline, or endanger wildlife or the rich and varied natural wonders of our region. While Southern California does need new construction to meet the demands of a growing population, it must be developed responsibly.” He appears to be very concerned about the movement in California to reduce incarceration for minor crimes. Other than that, reviewing his issues pages, I’m not finding anything objectionable.

Stern, on the other hand, starts his issues page talking about fighting the oil and gas industries, which was a big concern here with the Porter Ranch gas leak. He states: “we’ll need another effective champion to stand up to the oil and gas companies, fight for quality public education, and work to keep our neighborhoods safe.” His page also notes: “He wrote the legislation to stop the gas wells at Porter Ranch from coming back online and to require the safety testing of all fracking and oil and gas wells throughout the state. Henry has worked on generating incentives for local companies to build clean transportation and renewable energy infrastructure, reducing the need for fossil fuels. And he’s helped our local schools take advantage of money available to them for energy conservation so they can spend less on energy and more on classroom instruction.” He’s also focused on creating tech jobs, and stopping runaway production.  He believes in public funding for higher education, and in creating apprenticeships and mentorship programs. He wants to prioritize funding for local safety programs.

Endorsements for the two are what you would expect: Republicans, most public safety, and small business owners support Fazio; Democrats, unions, and some papers support Stern.

Going from their webpages (because there has been precious little advertising), both appear to be an acceptable candidate, and both would be good for the district. I’m leaning slightly towards Stern simply because he covers a broader set of issues on his pages, and has slightly more focus on technology education.

Conclusion: Henry Stern fb (D)

California State Assembly, 45th District

Candidates: Matt Dababneh fb (D); Jerry Kowal fb (R)

This contest pits the incumbent, Dababneh, against the newcomer Kowal. Kowal is a former corporate attorney who states that he is proud to be “a political outsider” and who will never be a career politician. He is currently the Senior Vice President of Business Development & Operations at Vadio, a video technology startup focused on innovating in the music video space.

Looking at Kowal’s issues page, I immediately see something of concern: “As Assemblymember I will support legislation that requires our schools to teach in English”. He says he will work against “job-killing initiatives like minimum wage hikes and mandatory insurance requirements”. He pledges to “to protect Prop 13 and the rights of real property owners in the West Valley – at any cost”, ignoring the fact that the proposition has simply made the rich much richer. He’s also strongly for gun rights: “a proud Lifetime member of the NRA, I will be a strong voice for every Californian’s 2nd Amendment rights”.

On the other hand, reviewing Dababneh’s issue page, I find much more to like. He supports STEM education and increasing public funding for education. He’s working to fight climate change. He’s also opposed to changes to Prop. 13 (it really is the 3rd rail of California politics). He’s working to ensure that “all students in our state receive the financial education that they need to thrive after graduating from high school and college.” That’s really important.  He believes in protecting workers and film and television jobs.

In short, I don’t have to look too far on this one. Only one candidate aligns with my personal values.

Conclusion: Matt Dababneh fb (D)

Judicial: Superior Court Judges

📋 Office № 11: Steve Schreiner fb vs Debra R. Archuleta fb

Going back to my primary analysis, I noted that Steven Schreiner was rated well-qualified, and Debra R. Archuleta as only qualified. THe LA Times, back then, also endorsed Schreiner. Just as back then, I’m going with the well-qualified candidate.

Conclusion: Steve Schreiner fb

📋 Office № 42: Efrain Matthew Aceves fb vs Alicia Molina fb

The two remaining post-Primary candidates are Aceves and Molina. Aceves was rated well-qualified. Molina was rated non-qualified. Again, I’m going with the well-qualified candidate.

Conclusion: Efrain Matthew Aceves fb

📋 Office № 84: Javier Perez fb vs Susan Jung Townsend fb

This is an office where both candidates are rated as qualified, making the choice harder. The Times, during the primary, endorsed Townsend. I supported neither then, supporting a friend, Aaron Weissman. Perez was a prosecutor. Jung was a deputy DA. Both graduated from UCLA. One went to Whittier School of Law, the other to Loyola Law School. Both have strong endorsements.  I don’t think we would go wrong with either candidate. Further, both are minorities. I’m just going to lean to the side of Townsend, solely because we need to support more women in the judiciary.

Update: After some Facebook comments, I’m reconsidering my choice on this office. Look for a future post with the details.

Conclusion: See the updated post

📋 Office № 158: Kim L. Nguyen fb vs David A. Berger fb

The two remaining candidates are Nguyen, who is rated well-qualified, and Berger, who was rated non-qualified. Back during the primary, I wrote: “The Times explicitly disregards the NQ rating and recommends Berger. Additionally, someone has domain-squat the Berger for Judge domain and put up a blog advising folks not to vote for him. It has a private registration, so it isn’t easy to find out who is behind it.  Metropolitan News has a good background piece on Berger,  and it looks like the NQ rating, as well as the website, are the work of parties or parties offended by Berger’s Blog.  I was going to lean towards a WQ candidate, but I think I need to stand up for a blogger. There’s something fishy in the NQ rating, given the endorsement.” The Times reiterated their endorsement. I think that’s lazy. Rethinking the issue, I think I’m going for the well-qualified candidate.

Update: After some Facebook comments, I’m reconsidering my choice on this office. Look for a future post with the details.

☑ Conclusion: See the updated post