June 2018 California Primary Analysis (II): Other Statewide State Offices

I recently got my sample ballot for the “Statewide Direct Primary Election” on June 5, and boy, is it going to be a confusing election for people. We have two contests with enough candidates to take two pages (27 candidates for Governor, 32 for Senator, and two contests for our assembly district: one for the “short term” because the previous assemblycritter left early thanks to #metoo, and one for the “full term”, with the same candidates). Then there are all the other state, county, and district contests, plus the propositions. There are going to be a lot of posts as I work through this. Here’s the sequence as I see it (note: links to articles not yet posted will not work or may be incomplete):

This post will cover the other statewide California officers: Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Controller, Treasurer, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, and Superintendent of Public Instruction. The district-based state offices — Board of Equalization and Assembly — will be covered in Part III.

Lieutenant Governor

According to Wikipedia, the Lieutenant Governor of California is a statewide constitutional officer and vice-executive of the State of California. The lieutenant governor is elected to serve a four-year term and can serve a maximum of two terms. In addition to basically ceremonial roles, serving as acting governor in the absence of the Governor, and as President of the California State Senate, the lieutenant governor either sits on, or appoints representatives to, many of California’s regulatory commissions and executive agencies. The Lt. Governor plays an important role in California higher education as a member of the UC Board of Regents and the CSU Board of Trustees.


[✓] Jeff Bleich (D)

Jeff Bleich (FB) (D): When I first googled Bleich, up came endorsements from the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, and the Mercury News. That says something. Plus the guy is a UC Berkeley Alumnus. Seriously, he has great experience, is a former Obama advisor (which fits in well in California), and was Ambassador to Australia, so he knows all about Bloomin’ Onions.

But this is for Lt. Governor, a mostly ceremonial position whose main legislative function is chairing the UC Board of Regents. It is, as can be seen this election, a stepping stone for future statewide ambitions — namely, running for Governor. His past actions fit well for that. His position page on challenges seems to be positioning him for that. But why Lt. Governor? Forbes has an explanation of that: “At first glance, a run for Lieutenant Governor seems like an unusual next step. But Bleich’s campaign has a different sort of mission. His overarching message is that the U.S. must “update government before it is too late.”

The interesting part of the article — and what might actually apply to the position — is this: “Bleich believes California’s current education system is not equipped to build the student skills-sets on pace with an ever-evolving job market. He plans to prioritize skill training and industry cooperation that prepares students and existing workers for the rapidly changing job market. Bleich also believes there needs to be more of an emphasis on training students in “emotional intelligence,” to prepare them for jobs in home and nursing care for the inevitable “silver tsunami,” along with mental health services and other jobs robots won’t be able to “learn.”” As head of the UC Regents, and thus an influencer for the CSU system as well, he will be able to address that.

About the only question I have is: Why have no Southern California newspapers endorsed him? Still, he seems to have suitable skills and good positions on the issues.

[✗] David Fennell (R)

David Fennell (FB) (R), according to his bio, is an entrepreneur and venture capitalist who comes from an extended family of inventors and early technology pioneers in Silicon Valley. He’s worked in aerospace, and has founded technology companies. He hasn’t worked in state or local government, however. He does note that: “In 2008, David began reporting fraudulent activity to the FBI, FDIC, DOE and has been actively working to shine a light on over $3 Billion dollars in confirmed criminal fraud in San Mateo County.  This investigation has included more than 50 meetings and presentations with law enforcement officials related to corporate lawyers and their role in orchestrating DotCom Green Energy fraud. These corrupt deals have also included local developers and their role in the United Commercial Bank TARP Fraud, (Costing the FDIC $2.5 Billion) and the laundering of American Sterling Bank funds through the California Republican Party (Costing tax payers $42 Million).”

When you look at his issues pages, however, you see subpages on ending crony capitalism, dealing with unfunded pensions, and creating jobs. All traditional Republican positions — but nothing related to the few duties that the Lt. Governor has. Nothing on his page gives me a sense that he understand the Lt. Governor position, and has a clear statement of why he is running for this position.

I just don’t have a good sense of why this guy is doing this campaign.

[✗] Tim Ferreira (L)

Tim Ferreira (FB) (L) has few qualifications, at least according to his “about” page: Avid volunteer, Hardworking activist, Loving husband. Admittedly, Lt. Governor has a low bar (just ask Gavin Newsom (FB), the current holder of the position). We do know he wants to legalize ferrets.

However, he does have an interesting take on the vote for Lt. Governor: “My goal: convince you that the office of Lt. Governor doesn’t matter; therefore, it can be the most important vote you will make. Below you will find my argument against the position of Lt. Governor. If you agree with part, most, or all of my argument, then take advantage of this government oversight by voting Libertarian. […] Voting for a Libertarian in the Lt. Governor race is the most important vote you will make on June 5th. It is like what you learned in math class: a negative multiplied by a negative becomes a positive. “Throwing away” your “throw away” vote becomes a powerful signal vote. It signals that you want something more than politics as usual.” He also quotes Newsom on why the position is meaningless.

The argument is an interesting one, if it was correct. However, the Lt. Governor can influence UC policy, and does step in when the Governor is away. I’m not sure I want a Libertarian in that position, but I will keep in mind the message I am sending with my vote. In my case, the message is that I want someone who takes the job seriously (especially if it is my taxes paying their salary).

[✗] Cameron Gharabiklou (D)

Cameron Gharabiklou (FB) (D) is an attorney, driven to action by the 2016 election, when he decided he could no longer be on the sidelines. He has one overriding message: California Values Matter Now More Than Ever. He plans to use the office of the Lieutenant Governor to engage Californians of all backgrounds, race, religion, and lifestyle. Never mind that’s not the function of the office. It’s the idea that counts!

He has a number of positions on his issues page, most of which I agree with. I agree with his contention that our criminal justice system is (well, has become) “inherently racist and inequitable to those in lower socio-economic communities.” We might disagree on the reasons and solutions. I also agree with his contention that the “right of a free and fair press to engage in its public duty is under attack [and we] must protect the sanctity of the free press and allow investigative journalism to thrive.” But that’s neither here nor there. Remember: The main duty of the Lt. Governor is the UC Board of Regions. His position on education is: “We need to freeze UC and CSU tuition and fees, implement free community college, and ensure access to free, universal early childhood education.” Freeze? How about figure out how to lower it?

His positions are good, but there are more experienced candidates with equally good positions. As Lt. Governor is a stepping stone to Governor (often), I’d rather he take his good ideas to the State Assembly or State Senate and get a few years of seasoning, as well as working in the legislative system, down first.

[✗] Cole Harris (R)

Cole Harris (FB) (R) appears to be the California GOP’s candidate for Lt. Governor (although at least one GOP member thinks he is a Manchurian Candidate, using his money to get on the ballot but having no other experience and no significant positions). His about page doesn’t say much, other than he is an entrepreneur and a dedicated family man. It turns out: that is the extent of his experience.

As for his positions: he wants to address spending, jobs and the economy, and afforable housing. None of which are within the wheelhouse of the Lt. Governor. Ah, but he has an answer: “If elected he wants to use the Lieutenant Governor’s office in an avant-garde way that has not been done or thought of in the past, he will provide workable solutions to our state’s issues. […] With respect to ALL major issues, Mr. Harris will use the Lieutenant Governor’s office to call on industry participants across the board who are professionals that are on the front lines and in the trenches on a daily basis. They will be made up of the best and brightest from the private sector and state government, regardless of party, to address the current obstacles and hurdles in such industries to adopt methodologies to fix such obstacles and hurdles & ultimately help California solve these problems and fix our great state.” I would have cut out that last sentence, but it was so run-on and buzzword-busy that I just had to keep it.

Seriously, although he might want to use the position in an avant-garde way, he’s limited by the state constitution. If he had been in elected office, and thus familiar with the constitution, he would know that. Further, his issues say nothing about areas that are in the Lt. Governor purvue. So his inexperience and approach loses him my vote.

[✗] David R. Hernandez (R)

David R. Hernandez (FB) (R) is a former candidate for LA Mayor in 2009, when he would have run against Tony V. Back then, he described himself as “a small-business owner and currently the executive director of the San Fernando Chamber of Commerce”. He’s been active on various civic and community committees. I also found it interesting that he highlighted the following: “David led the countywide four-year battle to retain the Cross on the Original Los Angeles County Seal. This effort was instrumental in helping pass legislation in the US House of Representatives regarding the protection of religious expression.” My personal belief is that I didn’t care about the cross on the seal; it wasn’t being used in a religious context. But once they decided to remove it, fighting to bring it back wasted money the county didn’t have — there was no reason other than to stress Christianity to do so.

I don’t like his positions on transportation. He opposes “Bus Only Lanes” along Wilshire Boulevard in West Los Angeles. He is a long-time opponent of the “Subway to the Sea”, pushing instead for a Maglev/Monorail System. He is opposed to other transportation schemes such as the toll lanes on the 110 Freeway and stands in opposition to the Diamond Lane/Car Pool Lanes. Transportation experts believe the answer is not more concrete, but increasing density and utilization of the cars on the road. He also wants to repeal SB1 the Gasoline and Vehicle Registration Tax. I’d say that’s a strike against him, but this is for Lt. Governor.

More telling, his issues page discusses loads of issues and takes traditional Republican positions, but says nothing at all about education and areas that are within the purview of Lt. Governor. He never says why he wants to be Lt. Governor, except as a bully platform. I want someone with experience who knows something about the job.

[✓] Ed Hernandez (D)

Ed Hernandez (FB) (D) appears to be one of the few candidates for the position who has held elected office before: He’s a California State Senator. His bio is quite interesting and long, and he does appear to have not only progressive positions, but a track record of achieving them. That probably explains his long list of endorsements.

In terms of his positions, he says he is running to get things done, but no Lt. Governor does anything. However, he does have a position on education, and the Lt. Governor has a say there. He wants to reinvest in the UC and CSU system, reduce tuition, to have better prepared students, and to make UC/CSU more accessible. These are issues reasonable for a Lt. Governor.

This guy appears worthy of support.

[✓] Eleni Kounalakis (D)

Eleni Kounalakis (FB) (D) is another former ambassador (this time to Hungary) running for Lt. Governor. She’s worked on the California Democratic Commission and she served on California’s First 5 Commission and the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism. She was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee to the San Francisco Port Commission, and currently chairs the California Advisory Council for International Trade and Investment. No elected positions.

In terms of her positions on issues, she states, “As Lieutenant Governor, I will work to expand our economy, grow the number of good-paying jobs, fight to provide universal healthcare to our people and affordable higher education for our students.” Of course, you know what I’m going to say: only the last one is within the Lt. Governor wheelhouse. About education, she’s the only one I’ve seen acknowledging the Lt. Governor’s role: “The Lt. Governor plays an important role in California higher education as a member of the UC Board of Regents and the CSU Board of Trustees. I am committed to fighting to bring down the cost of higher education for California students.” She wants to address the cost of student housing, as well as growing student debt. I like her positions in this area.

I also find it important that she’s a woman. Having more women in office is one way to fight the “Boys Club” and atmosphere of sexual harrassment that exists in Sacramento. She’s another one I can support.

[✓] Gayle McLaughlin (None/Green)

Gayle McLaughlin (FB) (None/Green) is a former two-term mayor of Richmond CA, who was elected on the Green Party ticket. She was also on the Richmond City Council. She has strong progressive credentials. She has a background as an educator, and professional experience in nonprofit leadership organizations promoting literacy, social justice, and environmental health. She’s firmly in the Bernie Sanders camp.

In terms of issues, she has a wide variety of progressive positions. But we’re looking at Lt. Governor, and thus focused on education.  She says, “California needs to offer its residents tuition-free attendance at public four-year colleges, universities and community colleges. Community college students need to be included in scholarships, and students from families with fewer resources should get more, not less as currently proposed by some Legislators in Sacramento. Free College, No debt!” A bit pollyanna-ish, but somewhat reasonable.

So, in general, I like her positions, and she has some elected experience. She’s probably a bit more inexperienced when it would come to the Board of Regents. I don’t see a reason she shouldn’t be in the final consideration mix.

[✗] Lydia Ortega (R)

Lydia Ortega (FB) (R) is an economics professor running for Lt. Governor. She says that her “experience in economics, education, public policy, and innovation would make her a unique and effective voice in Sacramento.” She hasn’t, however, held elected position, instead teaching at SJSU since 1989. She does, however, understand what the Lt. Governor does: “Some of the office’s duties are not well known. In addition to succeeding the Governor if the office is vacated, the Lieutenant Governor serves as Acting Governor whenever the Governor is absent from the state. The Lt. Governor is President of the State Senate and a voting member of both the UC Board of Regents and the CSU Board of Trustees. The Lt. Governor also serves on the State Lands Commission and chairs the California Commission for Economic Development.”

Her experience at SJSU should serve her well as a CSU Trustee, and her notion that there should be jobs for graduates is a good one. She doesn’t have more on her issues on her website. Given there are a large number of Democratic candidates worth of support, I’m going to defer supporting her — but if you are a Republican, she might be worth looking into.

[✗] Danny Thomas (None)

Danny Thomas was an actor and comedian, father of Marlo Thomas (“That Girl”), and founder of St. Judes Hospital. He was responsible for the Andy Griffith Show. This is not that Danny Thomas.

This Danny Thomas has no campaign webpage, nor a campaign Facebook. All I could find is that he was a candidate for District 4 representative on the Orange County Water District in California. I also found out he is a dentist, and has a little information on voters edge.

He doesn’t appear to be taking the election seriously.


Now that I’ve gone through the candidates, I have four possibilities: Jeff Bleich (FB) (D), Ed Hernandez (FB) (D), Eleni Kounalakis (FB) (D), and Gayle McLaughlin (FB) (None/Green). McLaughlin has good positions and some experience, but realistically has no chance of winning. The three Democrats have experience, with Hernandez having the most. Kounalakis understands the best about the position, plus it would get another woman into office. Bleich and Kounalakis are the best funded and supported by the Democratic party; Hernandez has the most union and politician endorsements, demonstrating the depth of his network of connections. I don’t think anyone would go wrong for voting for either of the three. My gut is telling me to put Hernandez in the first position, primarily because of his elected experience and connections, and how that will serve him if he runs for Governor at some point. But a very close second would be Kounalakis for her understanding of the particular position; she has less elected experience. Bleich is a close third: he has greater National connections, but a bit less understanding of the position.

Secretary of State

In California, the Secretary of State deals with records and archives, business registrations, and most importantly: elections. Given my background and experiences, one thing I expect to see in candidates are positions related to cybersecurity of elections, and ensuring that outside entities cannot tamper with elections. A second concern is being able to influence elections, but that’s harder for a secretary of state to control. Other issues concern voter registration and voter qualification.  They also keep track of campaign finance and lobbying.


[✗] Michael Feinstein (G)

Michael Feinstein (FB) (G). No, not that Michael Feinstein (FB), the Ambassador of the American Songbook. This Michael Feinstein  is a former City Councilmember and Mayor of Santa Monica. He served on the City Council for two four-year terms between 1996 and 2004, and as Mayor from 2000-2002. His bio shows experience in electoral reform.

Looking at his issues, he’s really into electoral reform. He wants ranked choice voting and proportional representation in the legislature. That’s an interesting idea, but will be fought by the political parties … and if you thought our current jungle voting was confusing, try explaining how ranked choice voting works. Good idea, but I’m not sure it will work or get through the legislature.

He wants to work for clean funding of elections, and has a lot of problems with the move to voting centers. So do it. I’m against anything that makes it less convenient to vote. With respect to cybersecurity, all I see (other than buzzwords about election integrity) is a call for open source systems. That’s a start, but that’s only the surface. There are no calls for auditability requirements, nor designing less confusing ballots, nor ensuring minimum standards of cybersecurity to protect integrity from the printing of the ballot to the point it is counted.

In short, close, but no cigar.

[✗] Gail K. Lightfoot (L)

Gail K. Lightfoot (FB) (L). Note that you need to be careful when searching, or you’ll get the page from her 2012 Senate campaign or her 2016 Senate Campaign or her 2004 Senate campaign or … well, you get the idea. She’s a charter member of the Libertarian party,  a candidate for Representative in Congress four times (1986, 1988, 1990 and 1996), Secretary of State in 1998, 2002 and 2006 and for U.S. Senate in 2000, 2004, 2010 and 2012. She was named as the Vice Presidential candidate with Ron Paul to get his Write In-Votes counted in 2008. She styled herself after both Barry Goldwater and Ron Paul. So no elected office, but lots of election experience.

She doesn’t talk much about her issues, but is pledged to stop the top 2 primary system. I can’t fault her for that. I think it has turned out to be a bad thing. It keeps minority parties off the general election ballot, and makes the top general election candidates either two of the same, or the moderates split the votes to such an extent that the extremes get through. But the thing is: the Secretary of State can’t change that — the Assembly and State Senate can by passing a constitutional amendment and putting that up for a vote.

There’s nothing else on her site about other electoral reforms, cybersecurity for elections, or any of the other functions of the Secretary of State. She does not get my vote.

[✓] Ruben Major (D)

Ruben Major (FB) (D) is a paramedic who holds a Master’s Degree in Military History with a specialty in Counter-terrorism, which he claims is particularly important for the position of Secretary of State (I’m not quite sure how, though). He also has a law degree. Voxpublica characterizes him as a “Berniecrat paramedic/business owner/blogger Ruben Major, who might be a protest candidate worth voting for.” Irrespective of what Voxpublica ending a sentence with a preposition says about them, I don’t have a good impression of Berniecrats, many of whom I feel stayed home on election day in 2016, giving us our current leadership or lack thereof. But let’s see what his positions are.

With respect to elections, he want to “end private control of our election systems, to institute open source software, and to require 100% paper audits.” He also wants to decertify voting machines vulnerable to hacking. All of these are laudable goals. He also wants to ensure business growth and development in California, especially small business, and to do everything possible to make California a center for historical research and scholarship (with respect to the state archives). Again, laudible. Looking over the positions in his bio, he generally has the right positions.  At least in the order I’m writing this, he hasn’t knocked himself out against the incumbent, Padilla.

[✗] Mark P. Meuser (R)

Mark P. Meuser (FB) (R). according to his bio, “a native Californian and a small business owner, committed to fighting for honest and fair elections.” He is a lawyer and a businessman who wants to modernize the Secretary of State office, and ensure “the people’s confidence in open, secure, and fair elections.” As this is the first Republican candidate, here are my concerns: In some other states, Republican candidates often use the voter registration process and restrictions thereupon to disenfranchise valid voters. I want to make sure this guy doesn’t support that, as well as making sure there are appropriate protections in place in the cyber arena.

In terms of positions, he has some interesting ones. Most are reasonable. I’m not 100% sure on the PIN approach that he describes: there are some issues with voter anonymity, and most security professionals acknowledge the weaknesses of PINs for authentication. I certainly agree with counting all valid ballots, but I’m leery about his call to audit the rolls. In other states, that has been a path to disenfranchisement for people with common names.  I’m do not disagree that it needs to be done, but we need a process that works, and he doesn’t describe that. He also doesn’t describe how he will secure the technology. There’s no mention of having open source, of ensuring that voting machines can’t be tampered, that there is the ability to audit the election.

He also talks about reforming the initiative process. He writes: “The ability for a citizen to place a measure on the ballot is next to impossible except for the best funded special interest initiatives. The California initiative process needs to be brought into the 21st Century. In California we allow someone to register to vote online. Californians are used to doing their banking online and the technology exists that should allow a registered voter to go online and indicate that they desire a certain citizen initiative be placed on the ballot. By allowing online participation, this will greatly reduce the cost to the counties in validating signatures.” I will agree that the initiative process is broken, but the problem is more that it is too easy to get any crackpot initiative on the ballot, not well thought out, not well written, and then we’re stuck with it. We need to keep initiatives, but actually increase the threshhold to make them harder to get on the ballot, and have some form of commission to make sure they are well-written, even if they disagree with the ideas.

Given his lack of consideration of cybersecurity concerns and his position on the initiative process. I can’t support him.

[✓] Alex Padilla (D) (Inc.)

Alex Padilla (FB) (D) (Inc.) is the incumbent, and thus the likely man to beat given electoral inertia. He has loads of major endorsements, and unless there are major problems, will be one of the top two in the numbers. So I think we can take it as a given that Padilla has the experience for the office.

One problem I have with Padilla is that if you look at his issues page, a lot of the issues have nothing to do with the wheelhouse of the Secretary of State. Why talk about them? The answer is: To move on to higher elected office. There are some who believe this was Padilla’s goal all alone — Secretary of State was a stepping stone from the State Senate and Assembly after he was termed out. That’s a concern, because I want a Secretary of State who is focused on that job, not campaigning for a different one.

Looking at his page on voting rights, though, he says the right stuff. He’s pushing to expand access to the ballot, and says, “Protecting and strengthening the right to vote includes protecting the integrity of our elections and defending against domestic and foreign cyber attacks. I serve as an alternate on the US Department of Homeland Security’s Election Critical Infrastructure governance council. I have lobbied the Governor and the state legislature for funding for voting system upgrades and replacements. While in the state senate, I authored legislation to allow publicly developed open source voting systems in the state to increase the transparency and integrity of elections. And I will maintain current state law requiring (1) a verifiable paper audit trail in California elections, (2) voting systems not be connected to the internet, and (3) a manual tally of at least one percent of the precincts in each county to ensure the accuracy and the integrity of the results.” He also wants clean money and finance transparency.

HOWEVER…. the webpage of one of the other candidatesErik Rydberg (FB), claimed something interesting: “Last year during the 2016 Presidential Primary many No Party Preference(NPP) voters who wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders in California’s semi-open primary were encouraged to cast provisional ballots. When if fact they needed to request cross-over Democratic ballots for Bernie Sanders’ name to appear on their ballot. Our current Secretary of State Alex Padilla was well aware of the excitement around Senator Sanders Presidential Campaign and well aware of the large amount of voters registered NPP in California. At a time when he should have been overseeing the training of county registers for a massive in flux of Independents requesting cross-over ballots, he instead spent his time campaigning for Hillary Clinton which is a violation of the Democratic National Committee’s(DNC) charter for party leaders remain “impartial and evenhanded” while overseeing a primary.” Investigating this, I found out that the first part wasn’t true at least in LA County, but might have happened elsewhere. More significantly, however, the second part WAS true: Padilla was at a fundraiser for Clinton at Rob Reiner’s house in 2015; and was the headliner at a Clinton fundraiser in 2016. He was also at a campaign rally for Clinton in Reno in 2015 at the same time that rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had a surrogate reaching out to Latino voters. That’s poor form for a position that oversees elections, and does demonstrate bad judgement. Bad enough to disqualify him? I’m not sure, but it surely knocks him out as my favorite.

[✗] Raul Rodriguez Jr (R)

Raul Rodriguez Jr (R) is a Trump supporter, who while running for Secretary of State, doesn’t appear to have a campaign webpage, nor a FB campaign page. If he can’t take himself or his campaign seriously enough to provide any information, I don’t have to consider him.

[✗] Erik Rydberg (G)

Erik Rydberg (FB) (G). Looking at this guy’s webpage, there are a number of problems. He starts by claiming “Democracy comes from the Iroquois Confederacy. The Iroquois Confederacy is the oldest still functioning participatory democracy in the world and was the basis on which America’s Government was built.” Uh, no. According to Wikipedia, Democracy “appeared in the 5th century BC, to denote the political systems then existing in Greek city-states, notably Athens, to mean “rule of the people”, in contrast to aristocracy (ἀριστοκρατία, aristokratía), meaning “rule of an elite”. ” The Iroquois Confederacy dates to the 1700s, and it is more likely that the Enlightenment folks starting American government were drawing on their classical educations. Strike one for not getting your history right.

Then, on his webpage, he states: “I will make sure that absolutely every single ballot that is cast in California elections is counted. We’ll count them twice if we have to.” Yet again, ending a sentence with a preposition. More significantly, I know he means 100% audits, but that’s not what he says, and as a leader, what you say is important. Remember that, Mr. Trump. What you say is important.

Lastly, he has on the front page: “#MandatoryRecounts #HandCountedPaperBallots #RankedChoiceVoting #ProportionalRepresentation #EndTopTwoSolidarity” I’ve pointed out the problems with ranked choice voting before, as well as getting proportional representation through the state constitution process. And while I support getting rid of “Top Two”, that’s not in the wheelhouse of the Secretary of State.

Rydberg has no other information on his webpage regarding his qualifications, and no other specifics on his positions. I can’t support him. However, he did have some useful information on Alex Padilla.

[✗] C.T. Weber (PF)

C.T. Weber (FB) (PF) has no real campaign page, but does have a bio on the Peace and Freedom party page, which notes that it is “California’s Feminist Socialist Political Party”. Socialist. Strike one for my vote. Weber’s been running for things for ages; in 1970, he ran for state Controller.

He supports proportional representation, getting money out of campaigns, and is against the Top Two. I’ve talked about all of those before. He also says nothing about election integrity or cybersecurity. Strike two.

Lastly, his discussion of what he wants to do mentions none of the other functions of the Secretary of State. Strike Three. You’re out.


Now that I’ve gone through the candidates, there are two plausible ones: Ruben Major (FB) (D) and Alex Padilla (FB) (D). Of these, I have to side with Ruben Major (FB). Even if there were no formal improprieties with Padilla, his behavior in support of Clinton during the campaign showed poor judgement for the official who runs elections. If he shows up in the general election, I’ll vote for him. But otherwise, I think Major is the cleaner candidate.


The State Controller of California is the Chief Financial Officer of the U.S. state of California. The post has broader responsibilities and authority than the California State Treasurer. Responsibilities include investigative authority for every dollar spent by the state, and being an ex-officio member of the state’s Board of Equalization.


[✗] Mary Lou Finley (PF)

Mary Lou Finley (PF), as with C.T.Weber, only had a page on the Peace and Freedom party page. Her experience is described as “Mary Lou is recently retired from the San Diego Unified School District and is a member of the California School Employees Association.” This is not someone who should be the CFO of the 5th largest economy in the world.

As for her positions, the only one on the PF website is: “Mary Lou advocates reducing the tax burden on working people and shifting it to those best able to pay, the wealthy who benefit from the current economic system”. That is a shared goal with progressives, but there’s much more to the controller’s duties. I’ll pass.

[✗] Konstantinos Roditis (R)

Konstantinos Roditis (FB) (R) is someone who got fed up with the traditional Republican party and became a fiscal conservative. His bio shows little financial experience: He “was trained and worked as an automotive technician at SAAB of Santa Ana.” Later, he attended UCSD, where his major was Animal Physiology and Neuroscience, which he later changed to Political Science / International Relations. He then started a transportation business, but couldn’t expand because of “overbearing government regulations and crony protectionism which protected my politically connected competitors.” He later decided he was a staunch limited government Federalist. It is interesting that, with his attitude, he didn’t go to the Libertarians. There may be something on the social issue side, but that’s not on his webpage. I’m unsure whether he has the financial experience to be a CFO. Strike one.

In terms of his positions, unsurprisingly, he wants to repeal the gas tax (strike two, as I support SB1), and defund high-speed rail. He supports something called “trickle-up taxation”, which he describes as follows: “Currently, the majority of all state taxes go to Sacramento, and then to our local municipalities. Even though most of us don’t live in Sacramento, our money flows up first to those centers of government, and then they trickle back down to our communities. This form of taxation has resulted in higher taxes, government waste, corruption, fewer freedoms, and less representation. Therefore, instead of the current form of taxation, which I call, trickle-down-taxation we reverse the flow of taxation and implement trickle-up-taxation. Rather than paying state taxes, we would only pay county and city taxes.” What he fails to realize is that his complaint about the state having to dole out the money is precisely the result of Proposition 13. The solution he wants is the world that existed before Prop 13, where most things were funded by the property tax. The state only increased taxes and stepped in when Prop 13 revenues failed. Strike three. You’re out.

[✓] Betty T. Yee (D) (Inc.)

Betty T. Yee (FB) (D) is the incumbent controller. She previously served as a member of the California Board of Equalization from 2004 to 2015, so she’s familiar with California taxation policy.  She attended UC Berkeley attaining a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She went on to attend Golden Gate University, from which she earned a master’s degree in Public Administration. That’s not a financial degree, but that’s closer to CFO material.

Her issues page notes that she wants “to build a working economy that is centered on social equity and sustainability”. That includes “developing a fair tax structure that works to facilitate sound fiscal management and support job creation through economic development and sustained economic growth.” She also believes California’s current tax structure is outdated and inefficient and not sustainable, and she plans to lead the public discussions on comprehensive tax reform that she understands must be a thoughtful initiative that recognizes that every Californian is a stakeholder in reform. These are all good ideas.

Lastly, she’s a woman in high public office. One with ethics and integrity. This is important both as a role model, and to combat the atmosphere of sexual harassment so common in Sacramento. She gets my support.


This one is an easy choice: Betty T. Yee (FB) (D).


The California State Treasurer is responsible for the state’s investment and finance. The post has more narrow responsibilities and authority than the California State Controller. The current treasurer is running for Governor (and is my choice), and so this is an open position with no incumbent.


[✗] Kevin Akin (PF)

Kevin Akin (PF) lists his profession as retired steam engineer. He is also a retired hospital maintenance worker and longtime activist in the Peace and Freedom Party, and characterizes the treasurer job as “a snoozer of a job with a ton of power.” He previously ran for treasurer in 1982.

In terms of issues, he supports establishment of a California State Bank. In fact, that seems to be his main position. He also supports  revising the tax code to lift the burden from workers and the poor and make those who benefit the most from this economy pay for social needs; and breaking up the disproportionate influence of the billionaires and their corporations on state financial decisions. The latter two tend to be congruent with progressive positions.

I don’t see that much that would make me want to support him.

[✗] Greg Conlon (R)

Greg Conlon (FB) (R) has name recognition from having run for Treasurer twice, and has experience as a CPA. He was senior partner in a Big Five accounting firm for nearly three decades. He  served on the California Public Utilities Commission as President for two years and Commissioner for four years. He also served two years as Commissioner on the California Transportation Commission. Quite interestingly for a Republican, he has served on the Atherton Rail Committee, helping to be certain that the High Speed Rail Train is built in an environmentally acceptable manner that protects property values along the adjoining right-of-way.

His positions also seem reasonable: Reform State Public Pensions by starting a defined contribution plan for new employees and keep the present pension plan for current employees. Change the State Constitution so the State Treasurer and Controller will be appointed by the Governor’s Office rather than elected, helping us recruit truly expert people. Improve the State’s credit rating from fourth to last to an acceptable rating of AA or above.

So what’s the problem? A friend of mine (who works in the financial industry), at the end of Conlon’s senate campaign in 2016, noted the following: “After researching his background and finding out that he’s a former Arthur Andersen accountant (the folks who were shut down for helping Enron commit fraud) and then served as public utilities commissioner just prior to Enron getting caught….” That’s incredibly concerning, especially for someone going for the position of treasurer. I think I’ll pass unless all the other candidates get knocked out.

[✓] Jack M. Guerrero (R)

Jack M. Guerrero (FB) (R) is the other Republican in the race. He has a strong financial and political background: Mayor, City Councilmember, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Stanford economics graduate, Harvard MBA, Bank Vice President, Treasury professional, auditor of municipalities and government agencies, investment banker, and M&A due diligence advisor to Fortune 500 companies (with professional stints in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, and Zurich). This guy knows his stuff.

He doesn’t have a specific positions page, but his campaign page notes the following: “As Mayor of his hometown city, Jack worked with the California State Controller to expose millions of dollars in wasteful and unlawful spending. As a former pension auditor and one-time university lecturer in statistics, Jack understands the severity of the state’s unfunded pension liability which at nearly $500 billion, threatens the long-term financial stability of the state! Jack will EXPOSE this mismanagement by reckless politicians. Jack will safeguard state assets and advocate for policies that place citizens FIRST, including lower taxes, smaller government, and a prosperous California economy.” There’s not much he can do about smaller government as treasurer, but he could be an interesting check and balance. I’m not going to rule him out. The major complaint against him is that he lacks experience, but that’s more experience at the state level.

[✓] Fiona Ma (D)

Fiona Ma (FB) (D)  has represented the second district on the California Board of Equalization since 2015. She is  a Certified Public Accountant with a masters in taxation, former Chair and current member of the Board of Equalization, former member and Speaker pro Tempore of the California State Assembly, and she has served as a Supervisor for the County of San Francisco.

Her page doesn’t have a lot on her positions. It does note that the Treasurer plays a key role: investing California’s money in a socially responsible manner and ensuring our state is on sound financial footing. and that she will make sure Californians have access to the capital necessary to complete the projects Californians deserve while also helping to create good jobs and keep our economy growing. This includes securing the financing necessary for California’s infrastructure projects; transportation, public schools, housing, water quality, and pollution reduction.

The SacBee’s endorsement provides more information on her positions. They note that “Ma made headlines for trying to ferret out nepotism, murky accounting and excess on the Board of Equalization. Her persistent digging and calls for oversight laid the groundwork for bringing the tax board down to a more reasonable size. If elected, she promises to continue that commitment to transparency and accountability.” Another endorsement I read indicated she supported changes to get rid of the board entirely. The Bee also notes that “Ma is supporting a bill to create a banking system for cannabis, allowing the state to collect millions of dollars in additional tax revenue. She also is backing legislation that would bring back redevelopment agencies, addressing her goal to increase the state’s investment in affordable housing and expand a first-time homebuyer program.”

I like Ma, and I like her experience.

[✗] Vivek Viswanathan (D)

Vivek Viswanathan (FB) (D) is a policy wonk for Hillary Clinton and Jerry Brown who is literally running across the state for votes. He has a law degree from Harvard and an MBA from Stanford. He  was appointed and served as a Special Advisor in the office of Governor Jerry Brown, where he managed key projects in policy areas ranging from job creation and infrastructure to health care and public safety.  He served as Policy Advisor to Hillary Clinton on her presidential campaign, crafting her policy agenda to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for working families and developing her proposal to tackle the nation’s trillion-dollar student loan portfolio and cut debt for millions of borrowers. But you know what I don’t see? Actual financial experience, or experience working with the legislature. No CPA.

He has a platform of ten ideas on his webpage. He wants to generate more revenue by broadening our sales tax base to include high-end services so we improve the stability of our state budget.  I think this means applying sales to to professional services, which is a bad idea. He wants to give every baby born in California a college savings account with an upfront investment from the state that can grow over time. This is an idea I’ve heard before, but I’m not sure where the funds would come from. He wants to refinance student debt for borrowers who have taken out private loans, and have public financing for all state-level campaigns. Again, where do the funds come from, and who is paying for the refinancing. I’d rather see some form of loan forgiveness after service.  He wants to provide Medi-Cal coverage to all individuals in California who meet income eligibility levels, regardless of immigration status, which will be a non-starter in the current environment. You can see his page for the rest. Some are good ideas, but reflect his lack of understanding of California and the financial situation of the state.


My first choice here is Fiona Ma (FB) (D), who has both the experience and the right ideas. If you are Republican, there might be a good case for supporting Jack M. Guerrero (FB) (R) for checks and balances, but I think Ma is the stronger candidate.

Attorney General

The Attorney General is the top legal officer in the state, and often determines the cases the state argues to the Supreme Court. Kamala Harris had this job before being elected to the US Senate.


[✗] Steven C. Bailey (R)

Steven C. Bailey (FB) (R) is a retired judge who is endorsed by the Republican party. He appears to have lots of legal experience. However, there are allegations of misconduct and abuse of his judicial position: The allegations charge willful misconduct and “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.”  The charges run the gamut from using his judge’s status in testimonials for a private survey firm to nepotism stemming from the magistrate’s son working for a business that benefitted from Bailey’s rulings. As a sitting judge since 2008, Bailey often would order defendants to become involved in a monitoring program called SCRAM, run by CHI Monitoring of Placerville. Defendants basically pay for the monitoring service, commonly known as wearing an “ankle bracelet,” instead of being jailed. The judge in ordering numerous defendants to enroll with CHI often failed to note for the record that his son was employed there, according to the counts delineated by the Commission on Judicial Performance. When CHI clients failed to pay, Judge Bailey misused his authority to order the balance be paid as “victim restitution” when the monitoring firm is not a legal “victim” as outlined by the courts.

I’m sorry, but our Attorney General needs to be above reproach.

Voters Edge notes his top priorities as: Restore the rule of law and enforce the law fairly and equally for all persons; Reverse past soft-on-crime policies that have led to a rise in crime across California; Stop the continued dismantlement of California’s criminal justice and public safety institutions such as the ‘sanctuary state’ charade and the elimination of cash bail. I disagree with his positions on “sanctuary state” charade; I think that what the state is doing is right so as to get cooperation from all people involved with crimes. His other positions have the whiff of “blue lives matter”: although I support the police, I support them in a manner that treats all people, irrespective of skin color fairly — and that means recognizing that sometimes individual officers go over the line.

On his webpage, it is noted he is against gun control, supports the death penalty, and generally wants to keep criminals incarcerated longer. I disagree with all of those.

[✓] Xavier Becerra (D)

Xavier Becerra (FB) (D) is the fellow appointed to fill out the Attorney General position. Becerra graduated from Stanford University in 1980 and received his juris doctorate from his alma mater in 1984. Following law school, he worked for a legal services agency representing the mentally ill. In 1987, he was appointed as a California Deputy Attorney General. And in 1990, he was elected to the California State Assembly.

His website notes that since taking office in January, Becerra has taken the Trump Administration to court to defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). He’s led the fight against the discriminatory Muslim travel ban, the EPA’s illegal delay of air quality standards, and the ill-conceived wasteful plan to build a wall along the California border. Becerra has announced multi-million dollar settlements on behalf of Californians harmed by bad over-the counter medications, wire fraud scams, and compromised credit card information. He has secured tens of millions of dollars in debt relief for students who were taken advantage of by predatory for-profit colleges. And he prevented Big Oil giant Valero from taking over a petroleum distributor which could have led to higher gas prices at the pump. Translation: He’s taking actions I support.

In terms of his issues, he wants affordable health care for all, which means he’ll support the Affordable Care Act. There are loads more on his webpage, but I like what I see. I think I can support him. Additionally, supporting him supports diversity.

[✗] Eric Early (R)

Eric Early (FB) (R) attended New York University’s undergraduate film school, and then held various positions, including producing commercials for Hasbro Toys, directed short children’s films for The Great Space Coaster, working as post-production supervisor on hundreds of animated episodes of The Transformers, G.I. Joe, Jem and the Holograms, My Little Pony, and wrote several animated episodes of G.I. Joe and Jem and the Holograms.  At one point, I produced trailers for “King of the B-Movies”, Roger Corman. While working full time, he attended Southwestern Law School’s evening program and after graduation worked at one of the most prominent law firms in the state, where he was a Partner for a decade. He was regularly involved in complex litigation matters in California and throughout the country, primarily focusing on business, entertainment, real estate, title and escrow related litigation. In 2010, he started his own firm along with several of his colleagues, Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae LLP (“Early Sullivan”). He does not appear to have previous elected or public experience.

In terms of policy, he supports repealing the Gas Tax, providing law enforcement with the highest level of support, and staying ever vigilant for those who seek to do us harm. He wants to change Propositions 47 and 57 (which the people supported) that have turned California into a criminal’s paradise, and wants to make sure the Death Penalty is actually enforced. He is against the sanctuary state notion. He believes recent mass shootings were caused by the severely mentally ill.

I think this fellow is stronger than the other Republican in the field, but I still can’t support him because I don’t believe he will keep up the fight against the Trump administration.

[✓] Dave Jones (D)

Dave Jones (FB) (D) is the current Insurance Commissioner, was the first elected insurance commissioner, and has done a good job in the position. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He served as Special Assistant to former United States Attorney General Janet Reno. He is also a former city councilman and state assembly member.

In terms of positions, he has opposed President Trump’s Muslim Bans, deportation of immigrants, attacks, on civil rights and a woman’s right to choose, dismantling of healthcare reform, undermining of environmental laws, denial of climate change, undermining of public schools and teachers, attacks on unions and working people, and other efforts to undermine what Californians value. Jones opposes the Death Penalty and will continue criminal justice reform, with a focus on re-entry and rehabilitation programs for offenders returning to our communities, and work to restore trust between law enforcement and communities while holding accountable those who violate the law. Jones has long championed single payer healthcare reform.

I don’t see any positions that would prevent me from supporting him.


My decision is between the quasi-incumbent, Xavier Becerra (FB), and the current Insurance Commissioner, Dave Jones (FB) (D). I think Becerra is stronger, plus it is important to have leadership of California that reflects the ethnic diversity of the state. I am going for Xavier Becerra (FB).

Insurance Commissioner

The California Insurance Commissioner oversees and directs all functions of the Department of Insurance; licenses, regulates, and examines insurance companies; answers public questions and complaints regarding the insurance industry; enforces the laws of the California Insurance Code and adopts regulations to implement the laws; and has the broad mission to ensure vibrant markets where insurers keep their promises and the health and economic security of individuals, families, and businesses are protected. The Insurance Commissioner does not oversee the majority of Health Plans and Health Insurance. HMO Health Plans and PPO Plans offered by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California are overseen by the California Department of Managed Health Care.


[✗] Nathalie Hrizi (PF)

Nathalie Hrizi (FB) (PF). One starts out leary when one sees her FB handle is MaestraCommie and her campaign page says “Vote Socialist for California”. That’s almost a “Next” right there, but let’s see if there is something more. In terms of background, she’s a public school teacher librarian in San Francisco, and ran for Insurance Commissioner in 2014 winning 5.6% of the vote.

Her basic platform is summarized on her pages in the section titled “Healthcare for All“: “The California Department of Insurance prides itself on being the largest consumer protection agency in the state. But it’s not doing enough. We need a people’s insurance department that prioritizes the needs, health and well-being of the people of California—not the profits of insurance companies. As a first step, our campaign calls for a single-payer healthcare system that removes the insurance companies altogether.”

What she forgets here is that CDI can’t implement single payer health care. That’s up to the Assembly/State Senate, and possibly up to the people if it involves a constitutional amendment. The CDI gets to make sure the consumer is protected under the current insurance laws.

So Hrizi doesn’t have the necessary background, nor does she appear to understand what CDI does and her role therein. Now I can say “Next”.

[✗] Ricardo Lara (D)

Ricardo Lara (FB) (D) is the current representative for SD33. He seems to have a long career in public service and working for the underserved: He was Associated Student Inc. (ASI) Vice President while studying at San Diego State University; workedwith the Marco Firebaugh on the AB540 legislation that opened the doors for undocumented students to pursue a higher education; worked as a legislative staffer for years, including for Fabian Nuñez and Kevin de Léon before being elected to the Assembly in 2010. He was the chair of the California Legislative Latino Caucus and currently serves as Vice Chair of the California Legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Caucus. Upon his election to the Senate in 2012, became the first openly gay person of color elected to the California State Senate. He is also an active member of the California LGBT Caucus and a board member of the Equality California Institute.

He has a large issues page, most of which are out of the wheelhouse of the Insurance Commissioner, and thus do more to signal his broader views and a desire to move beyond the Insurance Commissioner position in the future. Judge that as you will.  His position on Health Care is relevant: he authored legislation to bring about single payer in the state, and authored a bill to require better staffing for dialysis patients. But what about what he wants to do as Commissioner? His “Why I’m Running?” page gives a clue. He says he’s running “because I believe at my core that California needs a strong defender, and a counterpuncher, who will stand up to fight our bullying President, Donald Trump, and his increasingly reckless federal government on issues from healthcare access to economic security and more. If millions of Californians begin losing their health insurance because of actions taken by Donald Trump, I will be there to fight him tooth and nail at every pass.” Must as I’m in the #NeverTrump camp, fighting Trump is not the job of the Insurance Commissioner.

I’m unsure about this guy.

[✓] Asif Mahmood (D)

Asif Mahmood (FB) (D) is a physician running to bring quality health care to every Californian and to take on Pharmaceutical and Insurance companies who are putting profits before people. Or so he says. He received his medical degree from one of Pakistan’s top medical schools in 1987, came to the United States in 1991 and chose to complete his medical residency at the University of Kentucky.  He is a pulmonologist and doctor of internal medicine, practicing at a number of hospitals in the Los Angeles area. This says that he understands dealing with the Insurance companies from the provider side of the question, but does not have a legal background. He has indicated that he will not accept campaign contributions from insurance or pharmaceutical companies.

His issues page seems to be much more focused on things the Commissioner does.I particularly like his stance on integrating insurance and innovation, and the fact that he discusses cybersecurity: “Another area of interest should be in how to insure against cybersecurity threats. Recent breaches into Equifax, the DNC, and the country’s election security have been highly publicized – consumers are more knowledgeable about security risks than ever before. CDI needs to get ahead of what could be a growing demand for insurance against these kinds of threats, and what that insurance might look like.” I also agree with him on prosecuting fraud, and the fact that his election would make him the first elected Muslim constitutional officer in the state (although I fear how that would be portrayed by a Republican opponent on the campaign trail and by President Trump).

Right now, I think he’s a more credible candidate than Lara, although both bring incredible diversity to state leadership. He is endorsed by much of the Democratic leadership, but I don’t see any media in the mix.

[✓] Steve Poizner (None)

Steve Poizner (FB) (None) has a leg up on all the other competition in terms of experience: He actually was Insurance Commissioner under a previous Republican administration, although now he is running with no party preference. He has the endorsement of the SF Chronicle and the SacBee over the Democratic candidates, which is saying something in this state. The Bee notes: “A successful tech entrepreneur, Poizner was so professional in his management of the massive Department of Insurance that many Californians couldn’t tell what party he belonged to. And in fact, he often said that his should be a nonpartisan office. (We agree.)” On Poizner’s page, he indicates “California Insurance Commissioner is a regulator requiring fierce independence from insurance companies and partisan party politics. Steve has pledged to press the Legislature to make this office officially non-partisan, and will refuse insurance industry contributions to his campaign like he did during his first term.”

Reading Poizer’s about page, he certainly has the experience for the job, and he certainly achieved reforms while in office. His previous Republican affiliation may concern some, but given the limitations of the office I don’t believe it will be a concern. I’m impressed that his issue page features cybercrime prominently, and his technology background should help him understand those issues. He indicates that he supports “establishment of a certification process for the cyber security professionals who manage our country’s corporate computer systems”, but one wonders if he knows about CISSP or the other requirements of DOD 8530. I’d hate to see another parallel track. But overall I like where he stands on the issues, and more importantly, he isn’t going so broad (unlike Lara) that he makes it appear he’s going for higher public office in the near future.

Poizer certainly makes a strong candidate.


From my read, the decision here is between former IC Steve Poizner (FB) (None) and Asif Mahmood (FB) (D). Although Mahmood could bring a needed provider perspective to the position, and would serve diversity well by becoming the first Muslim elected to statewide office, I think there is no contest against Poizer. If Poizer can stay independent, I think he’s the best candidate.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

According to Wikipedia, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) of California is a nonpartisan elected executive officer who directs all functions of the Department of Education, executes policies set by the California State Board of Education, and also heads and chairs the Board. The superintendents serves a four-year term, serves as the state’s chief spokesperson for public schools, provides education policy and direction to local school districts, and also serve as an ex officio member of governing boards of the state’s higher education system.


[✗] Steven Ireland

Steven Ireland (FB) campaign page says nothing about his experience, other than he’s a parent. Voters Edge indicates that his is the owner of SLIvideo TV (1999–current), which is a TV production shop. He’s a writer, producer, director, and videographer, specializing in bloopers and reality TV. He does not appear to have any formal background in education other than being a parent.

In terms of issues, he has three basic positions: (1) Safe & Secure Schools; (2) A Welcoming and Positive Learning Environment; and (3) Ability to Be Healthy and Ready to Learn. He also doesn’t understand when to use Initial Caps 🙂 . He wants to increase funding for school counselors and mental health professionals as a first line of defense against shootings. He wants to improve school infrastructure. He wants to address student homelessness. All are laudable goals. What’s missing is any discussion of curriculum, or how to improve the quality of education with the competing pressures on school budgets and the atmosphere that doesn’t support education from the Federal Government. He has an interesting interview with USC where he explores additional areas, including dealing with diversity, LGBTQ issues, and teaching culture.

He also points out that his campaign represents parents, as opposed to candidates championed by Charter Schools (Tuck) or Teachers Unions (THurmond), and thus he is the only one speaking up for the students. That’s an intriguing perspective.

Although I like Ireland’s stances on the issues, I fear that he is too inexperienced. I may change that view after reviewing the other candidates, and whether I determine they are too beholdent to particular special interest camps.

[✓] Lily (Espinoza) Ploski

Lily (Espinoza) Ploski was conspicuously absence in Ireland’s list of candidates beholden to particular education factions. Unlike Ireland, she actually has experience in education, with a Doctorate of Education Degree from CSU Fullerton, a MA in Student Personnel Administration from Columbia University, and a BA in Women’s Studies from UC Berkeley. She has served on community, school, and industry boards, committees, planning sessions, and work groups in a leadership capacity focused on workforce and economic development. She is also experienced in educational policy development, curriculum and program development, administrative practices, legislative processes, data analysis, evaluation, assessment, local, county, state, and federal regulations for public administration. She seems to have good experience. I’ll note she has also pledged not accept campaign contributions from the NRA or any group that perpetuates hate or violence.

She doesn’t have a strong issues page, but on Voters Edge notes that her priorities are: (1) Advocating for funding for K-12 and college and career pathways; (2) Safe and healthy schools and communities; and (3) Equity in all student outcomes to close the achievement gap. Alas, searching through Google, I can’t find more details on the initiatives she wants.

I like this candidate because of her background, and the diversity she would bring to the position. But I really wish she had more out there in terms of specific issues and plans.

[✓] Tony K. Thurmond

Tony K. Thurmond (FB) is the current Assemblycritter for AD15 (D-Richmond). He doesn’t know how to put up a good website, putting up text as images instead of text one can cut and paste. So we’ll grab from Wikipedia instead. Thurmond is a member of the California Legislative Latino Caucus, California Legislative Black Caucus, and California Legislative Jewish Caucus. Prior to being elected to the Assembly in 2014, he was a member of the Richmond City Council, a Board Member of the West Contra Costa Unified School District, and social services administrator. He is a graduate of Temple University (B.A. in Psychology), where he was student body president. He earned dual master’s degrees in Law and Social Policy and Social Work (MSW) from Bryn Mawr College. So his background is not education.

In terms of positions, he’s put his full plan up as a PDF (yea! I can cut and paste!). This makes clear that what is up on his webpage is just images from the PDF plan 🙁 . His plan has the following points: (●) Keeping our students safe from gun violence in schools; (●) Prioritizing funding to provide schools and educators with the resources they need; (●) Leading the fight against Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’s efforts to privatize our public education system; (●) Increasing transparency in public education funding; (●) Ensuring accountability for charter schools; (●) Creating a 21st Century curriculum focused on STEM education that will prepare our students for jobs of the future; (●) Supporting English Learners and bilingual education; (●) Renewing our commitment to special education for students of all abilities; (●) Creating inclusive schools that protect LGBTQ students from bullying; (●) Empowering teachers to instill critical thinking and creativity in students, not just teach to the test; (●) Addressing the teacher shortage by removing barriers to entry and improving affordability; (●) Prioritizing early education and after-school programs to close the achievement gap; (●) Providing school-based physical and mental health services for all students, regardless of income or immigration status; (●) Making college and career pathways accessible and affordable for every student; (●) Keeping kids in school and out of the criminal justice system; and (●) Caring for kids before they even enter the public school system. All are laudable goals.

Thurmond has loads of endorsements. Of particular interest are endorsements by the LA Times and SacBee, and that he has lots of union support, including teachers unions. The Times endorsement is interesting reading, and demonstrates Thurmond’s strengths. I’ll note that Thurmond is also a representative of diversity.

[✗] Marshall Tuck

Marshall Tuck (FB). Back in 2014 when Tuck ran against the current SPI, Torkelson, I was in favor of Tuck. Tuck has some equivalently strong support from papers like the SF Chronicle and Mercury News. Again, this is a bifurcated state battle: the south supports Thurmond; the north Tuck. The Chronicle faults Thurmond for a lack of willingness to take on the status quo when its comfort zone conflicts with the interests of students. They note: “A prime example was legislation last year (AB1220) that would have extended the number of years required for teachers to earn tenure from two to three. It must be emphasized that this was not an assault by right-wingers contemptuous of public education. It was a Democratic proposal (by Shirley Weber of San Diego) that would have put California in line with 42 states that keep new teachers on probation from three to five years.” But Tuck has his detractors as well. He’s strongly in the charter school camp (opposed by the Teachers Unions), and at least one report notes a right-wing, anti-gay crusade behind Tuck’s campaign. That’s worrisome. The same article notes that Tuck has “the same pro-privatizing platform that voters rejected when he was defeated for the position four years ago, and it’s the same education platform of Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and John Kasich, and Vice President Mike Pence: To deregulate public education, to outsource school services, to make it harder for teachers to gain tenure, and to expand the market of “school choice.”” His list of supporters does show strong charter backing, and there is a notable lack of backing by unionized teachers groups.

I’m concerned about the right-wing money infiltrating his campaign. More troubling is his seeming violation of some campaign finance rules.

The larger question is: Charters vs. Unions. I know of a number of successful public schools turned charter, including my alma-mater, Palisades HS. Granada Hills Charter, Birimingham Charter, Pali Charter — all have been successful. But they have also tended to cherry-pick their students, underserving minorities and special needs. Non-public charters have often abused the system, and sometimes gone to the extent of having biased curriculums. I’m not crazy about everything the teacher’s unions do, but I’m not sure charters are the magic solution they purport to be. Given the one-sided charter support and the troubling right-wing influence, I’m not sure I can support Tuck this time around.


This is one of the harder contests to consider. I like Lily (Espinoza) Ploski for her background, but it lacks the governmental side and she doesn’t have a strongly articulated platform. Tony K. Thurmond (FB) has a great platform and experiences, but has one-sided backing from the Teachers’ Unions. But I’m leery about charters, and Marshall Tuck (FB) is strongly in their camp; further, there are improprieties and connections to right-wing causes that I don’t like. In this case, I think I’m going to have to go for Tony K. Thurmond (FB), although it would be nice to see Lily (Espinoza) Ploski make it to the general election to learn more about her positions.