June 2018 California Primary Analysis (III): State District-Based 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 State Board of Equalization (3rd District), and the two elections for Assembly District 45: the Full Term and the Short Term.

State Board of Equalization (3rd District)

According to Wikipedia: The State Board of Equalization (BOE) is a public agency charged with tax administration and fee collection in the state of California in the United States. The authorities of the Board fell into four broad areas: sales and use taxes, property taxes, special taxes, and acting as an appellate body for franchise and income tax appeals (which are collected by the Franchise Tax Board).  The board is made up of four directly elected members, each representing a district for four-year terms, along with the State Controller, who is elected on a statewide basis, serving as the fifth member. In June 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation stripping the Board of many of its powers, returning the agency to its original core responsibilities (originating in the State Constitution in 1879).

Candidates

[✗] Doug Kriegel (D)

Doug Kriegel (FB) (D) is a former economics and consumer reporter for KNBC-4. He ran for AD45 back in 2018, lost to Matt Dababneh, who then resigned shortly thereafter due to #metoo improprieties. Kriegel than ran for the remaining short term, but pulled out of the election. He doesn’t seem to have a page on his campaign for BoE3, and seems to be the only major contributor to his campaign. Kriegel does support abolishing the Board.

Kriegel does not seem to actively want the position.

[✗] G. Rick Marshall (R)

G. Rick Marshall (FB) (R) ran for this position in 2014, and is running again. Back in 2014, I said: “Marshall wants to “bring a low-tax majority to the board”. This indicates (to me) a focus more on politics than the job. Here’s a better example: Marshall states on his website that “Have you ever noticed the red star on our state flag? It represents the Lone Star State—Texas. Even in 1849, Californians were looking to Texas. So let’s compare California to Texas. ” Bzzzzt. Wrong answer. The star on the state flag represents the first revolution for freedom from Mexico (according to Wikipedia), which led to the Bear Flag revolt. If Marshall is more focused on a political agenda than getting his facts right, he’s out of the running in my book.”

His current website has a tab labeled “Seven Principles“, but only contains one: “The Free Enterprise System, not Government, is the most productive supplier of human needs.” So he’s seemingly anti-government, or at least a small government advocate. He indicates he is for tax simplification and lower taxes. He also appears to be against the gas tax, which I support.

Experience-wise, he currently works in the Information Technology Department at University of California, Irvine Medical Center.  From 1984 until 1992, Marshall worked for CCH Computax (so he may have known my mom, and likely knew Sherm Armstrong). From 1992 until 2012, G. Rick Marshall ran his own computer consulting firm specializing in custom desktop database applications and Microsoft Office customization for small business clients. In 2006, Rick and his wife purchased a coin-operated laundry in Long Beach and there first learned about the sales tax permits issued by the Board of Equalization. He’s also endorsed by the Howard Jarvis Association, which to me is a bad thing.

I couldn’t support him in 2014, and I don’t see anything that makes me want to support him now.

[✗] Micheál “Me-Haul” O’Leary (None)

Micheál “Me-Haul” O’Leary (FB) (None) is a former city councilcritter and small business owner. He was elected to the Culver City City Council in 2008, re-elected in 2012, and was termed out as Mayor of Culver City in 2018. As owner of Joxer Daly’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in Culver City, and Corrigan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, in Moorpark, Mehaul has been both active or supportive of many local organizations including Culver City Lions Club, Culver City Homeowners Assoc., and Culver City Elks Lodge. He has also been an active volunteer in the Culver City Homeowners Association. Mehaul was also an active volunteer on the Culver City Sister City Committee and with St. Augustine’s Parish Building Committee – where he co-founded the Annual St. Augustine’s Golf Tournament. With respect to his pubs, there’s a notable interaction with the Board of Equalization:  He sold his pub to fund his campaign, but the Board held back the funds from this sale for 8 months due to a typo that was fixed with white out.

On his website, he notes: “This constitutionally created office has a long history of mismanagement and corruption, yet continues to exist in ambiguity as a cushy job and placeholder for party insiders between jobs. A job that currently pays $142k annually to do practically nothing.” His plan is to: (1) Break the cycle of insider politics plaguing the Board of Equalization; (2) Audit the Board of Equalization internally and cut out inefficiencies while protecting existing jobs; (3) Promote a tax and penalty system that works to keep businesses open; (4) Real Transparency (regular updates and interactive programming); (5) Push to implement a pro-active information source and learning program for business owners.

In general, his campaign gives me the impression of a business owner that got fed up dealing with the Board, and decided to run to fix the problems. His focus is being pro-business, but I’m not sure he has the experience. Then again, as the position is “to do nothing” and George Runner did it for years, he may be perfectly qualified. Still, as he can’t abolish the board, I’d prefer someone who took the position seriously.

[✓] Ben Pak (D)

Ben Pak (FB) (D) is an entrepreneur, reserve police officer, and community leader through participation on the Affordable Housing Commission and serving as a deputy to California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, Ben opened his first small business in 1998. He later became a leader in the assisted living industry and served as an advocate for senior citizens. He believes that the BOE doesn’t need another career politician, especially a career politician whose career has been mired in scandal. It needs someone with public and private sector experience, someone who knows the tax system and has worked with the BOE, someone who built a successful business career. This seems to indicate he’s taking the position seriously.

In terms of his positions, he wants to restore trust and bring professionalism back to the board. He also wants to ensure that the board protects all taxpayers, not just the wealthy interests. He doesn’t list any endorsements on his website.

I like his ideas, and this is a position that doesn’t require a lot of experience. The lack of endorsements is troubling, but I can’t rule him out.

[✗] Nancy Pearlman (D)

Nancy Pearlman (FB) (D) main campaign website is from her run for Community College District in 2017, when she lost. She doesn’t appear to have a page up for her BoE campaign, nor any issues or positions that I could find. Next!

[✓] Scott Svonkin (D)

Scott Svonkin (FB) (D) is another former Community College District trustee running for the Board. Must be a cushy position 🙂 . But at least Svonkin has a campaign webpage and appears to want the job. Svonkin’s career focus has been in public service, particularly on education and non-profits, and as a businessman and experienced community activist. Svonkin currently
serves as Chief of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffrey Prang. Previously, Trustee Svonkin served as a member of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley’s staff and worked as Senior Advisor to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Trustee Svonkin has also served as Chief of Staff for State Assemblyman Paul Koretz and
was a Deputy Councilman for West Hollywood. What’s missing is any tax experience.

He wants to reform the BoE, and plans to work to institute tough new ethics rules, and increase transparency. He wants to crack down on people not paying taxes, support small business, and make the BoE more friendly. He has an impressively large number of endorsements. I just wish he had more experience.

[✗] Cheryl C. Turner (D)

Cheryl C. Turner (D) is a trial lawyer and transactional attorney with an extensive background in business, insurance, real estate and construction. For over 20 years, she’s managed her own legal practice with an emphasis on business, tax, insurance, real estate, transportation and construction law. Ms. Turner also advises and assists clients with tax and regulatory compliance issues and is a member of the California State Bar’s Taxation Section. Cheryl is a former Real Estate Broker and currently holds a Public Works Construction Management Certificate. She was recently appointed by California Governor Jerry Brown to the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians.

Her website shows she has the background for the position, and her election would add diversity to the Board. But she has no position on her website. She doesn’t say what she wants to do.  According to Voters Edge, she wants to (again, with the Initial Caps): (1) To Keep Taxpayers Informed of their Rights, Benefits and Obligations Concerning Taxation; (2) To Provide Transparency and Accountability to the Public Concerning Taxation; (3) To Keep Taxes to a Minimum and Tax Only When Necessary and Justified to Support California’s General Fund. She lists no endorsements.

She’s got good experience, but I’m not sure I agree with her priorities.

[✓] Tony Vazquez (D)

Tony Vazquez (FB) (D) has a jumbled campaign webpage. He is a former mayor and councilmember in Santa Monica, and he is currently the treasurer of the Independent Cities Association (ICA), a Board Member of (HELO) Hispanic Elected Local Officials, as well as many other boards. There have been some issues regarding conflict of interest from his wife, who also served on the Santa Monica City Council. Per his page, he is running to make sure everyone and every business pays their fair share of taxes, to improve and overcome all challenges confronting the California Board of Equalization. Sounds a bit generic.

He also has a large number of endorsements.

I’d be concerned about the conflict of issue problem, but that was more his wife. He seems to have the experience and the endorsements.

Conclusion

After looking at the candidates, there are three viable ones: two with loads of experience and endorsements, Scott Svonkin (FB) (D) and Tony Vazquez (FB); and one with good ideas and less experience, Ben Pak (FB) (D). I think I’ll go with Scott Svonkin (FB), because of his issues and his specificity on them. Based on some comments I’ve received about Svonkin’s deportment, I’ve decided to go with Ben Pak (FB) in the primary instead. Svonkin may not be a bad choice, but he needs to control himself better.

Member of the State Assembly – 45th District (Full Term)

Our Assembly District needs some explanation — or in other words — Some Assembly Required. Should I go out on that joke? Seriously, back in 2018 our district elected Matt Dababneh, who rode into office in 2013 on the coattails of Brad Sherman, our congressman. He won a special election to replace Bob Blumenthal when Blumenthal went off to the City Council; and then won a full term in 2014 and 2018. Then came #metoo. He resigned from office at the end of 2017 as a result of sexual misconduct charges. I never quite liked the man, but I liked his opposition less. This set up a special election to fill his unexpired term — which had only one contest on it — back in April. That resulted in a run-off, which is the “short term” seat on this ballot. But, as assembly districts are two-year terms, the normal full year term is also up for re-election, resulting in the “full-term” seat. It turns out that most of the candidates for the “full-term” seats were candidates for the “short-term” seat, so it will be interesting to see how this works out.

I’ll also note that State Assembly is, to me, a great starting place for people to get involved in politics. City council is also good, but Assembly can handle a neophyte. At worse, two years done and gone.

Candidates

[✗] Ray Bishop (D)

Ray Bishop (FB) (D) has an interesting resume. He studied business and accounting at CSUN, and is a small businessman. Ray established and ran community-based hospitals in the 1970s. Ray established and ran the Los Angeles Cabaret Comedy Club and Restaurant (1982-1992). In recent years, Ray works as a commercial real estate broker and business broker. Ray serves on the Los Angeles County Small Business Commission, for over twenty years. Ray is a member of the Los Angeles Planning Commission. As a California Democratic Party delegate and chair of the Business & Professional Caucus, Ray Bishop has worked hard to promote the awarding of government contracts to small businesses. He is also a member of the Los Angeles County Small Business Commission. There’s much more.

His positions seem reasonable, and I’m not going to list them here. However, there is no evidence of campaign activity after he lost the special election. I think he is not actively running.

[✗] Jeff Bornstein (D)

Jeff Bornstein (FB) (D) does not appear to have a current campaign page, and during the special election received the lowest vote count, 1.9%, only beating a write-in candidate. I don’t believe he is actively campaigning..

[✗] Daniel Brin (D)

Daniel Brin (FB) (D) has a campaign webpage, but it talks about voting on April 3rd, and the latest news is from February. A google search uncovers no evidence that he is actively campaigning for the full term seat since losing the special election.

[✗] Justin M. Clark (R)

Justin M. Clark (FB) (R), unlike the other candidates, is clearly running, because he’s one of the two candidates for the “short term” seat. Clark is an 18-year-old college student currently attending California State University Northridge while also working at a local ice cream shop. I’ll note that he doesn’t state his major or year, but at 18 he is most likely in his first year at CSUN.

Looking at his positions on the issues, most are actually old-school moderate Republican values couched so progressives might vote for him. This is what the “Top Two” campaigning was supposed to do. So this is a lot of what you hear: Reduce regulation, Lower taxes. Kill High Speed Rail. Wait? What? Seriously, this is Fiscal Republicanism tied to saying nothing on social policy. There are a few points in this manifesto that still have problems for me. First: “We support investment in California’s transportation infrastructure through “pay as you go” financing…” That is an approach that uses more toll roads, and eventually would go to reporting miles driven for a road tax. We might have to go there when we are all electric, but right now the traditional funding method has been the gas tax, and the rate increase simply makes up for the fact that folks drive less and get better mileage (thus it is offsetting the drop). He also talks about ending sanctuary cities; I support the concept.

But overall, I just think he is too young. Finish college first, and learn a bit more. At 18, you’re just out of high school. Now get off my lawn.

[✓] Jesse Gabriel (D)

Jesse Gabriel (FB) (D) is the other candidate that won the April 3 special election, and thus is on the ballot for both the “full-term” and the “short-term”. Given that, he’s likely to win the “short-term” seat, and a lot of door painting and moving funds can be saved if he wins the “full-term” as well. But there’s time for that. He has a great resume: “Jesse Gabriel is a Los Angeles County Commissioner and constitutional rights attorney who has represented clients before the United States Supreme Court.  He is currently suing the Trump Administration in two landmark lawsuits which seek to protect undocumented young people—known as Dreamers—who were promised protection under the DACA program.  Through his legal work and legislative advocacy, Jesse has assisted Holocaust survivors, victims of domestic abuse, and communities facing the threat of hate-motivated violence.  Jesse has also helped to resolve complex business disputes through his work with a major law firm.  Prior to beginning his law practice, Jesse worked to advance the Democratic Party agenda in the United States Senate, where he served as a senior advisor to former United States Senator Evan Bayh.” Progressive vales, fighting Trump already. He’s working on issues of importance to the district, and knows his constitution.

Issues-wise, he’s got the traditional progressive agenda with which I agree (see, you don’t have to end a sentence with a preposition).

When I did my research for the special election (which I didn’t post due to limited interest), he was one of the two candidates that I really liked. I still like him. But he wasn’t my favorite.

[✓] Tricia Robbins Kasson (D)

Tricia Robbins Kasson (FB) (D). Ah, Tricia. You were my favorite.  I liked her background, I liked her positions. Most importantly, I liked that she was a woman, and the best way to get a change from the sexual harassment of Dababneh was to put a woman in the office.

But you lost. You archieved your website, leaving up only a “thank you” message. Her outgoing message on her site shows why I liked her.

But she’s not campaigning, and so it would not be appropriate to even attempt to get her into a runoff. Sigh. But I can’t bring myself to [✗] her.

[✓] Ankur Patel (D)

Ankur Patel (FB) (D) is unlike the other Democratic candidates in the special election that lost: he’s decided to keep trying. Even though I was totally annoyed by the number of mailers and calls I received from him during March (and that’s why I didn’t vote for him), not giving up is a good sign: “Reflecting on the results of the Special Election Primary for California State Assembly District 45, acknowledging that there is always room for improvement, and recognizing that I am on the ballot for the Regular Election Primary on June 5th, 2018 – I am going to continue to make the case that I would be an excellent representative for our community in the State Legislature.” He’s still actively campaigning, and still tweeting (although he’s retweeting Gayle McLaughlin and Bernie Sanders).

Experience-wise, it’s hard to extract the relevant nuggets from his wordy bio. He does appear to have a Master’s degree in transportation planning at CSUN, with a 90-page thesis (they’ve gotten shorter since my days) exploring ways to reduce traffic in the Valley, specifically how the Los Angeles Department of Transportation contracts out bus services and where there could be improvements in how public tax dollars are spent (Patel, 2014). The paper looks impressive.

He has a lengthy list of issues in the drop down on his website, I like what I see in the few I’ve looked at. I particularly like his #metoo Ally pledge, which is specifically absent on Gabriel’s webpage.

I think I’ve changed my mind on this fellow, and perhaps he deserves more support.

Conclusion

The recommendation for the “full-term” seat is an odd one. We know that my favorite, Tricia Robbins Kasson (FB) (D), has essentially withdrawn, and she has actually endorsed the frontrunner, Jesse Gabriel (FB) (D). We also know that the “short-term” opponent, Justin M. Clark (FB) (R), is only 18 year old, and too inexperienced for the position — and there only because of his party. For the full-term seat, we must ensure that Clark has no chance of winning it. Then there is Ankur Patel (FB) (D). He’s got transportation planning experience, warming the heart of this highway guy. He’s got good positions and is a formal #metoo Ally. He’s a fighters, as evidenced by not giving up after the Special Election. The best way to ensure that Clark has no chance at the full-term is to get Patel into second place. One of four things will happen: Gabriel will get over 50% of the vote, which will be perfectly fine. We will have a runoff between Gabriel and Patel, which is also fine because either would be excellent at the job. Or we have a runoff between either Patel or Gabriel and Clark, and they’ll beat his butt. Again, a win, but a bit riskier. I think, for the primary, I’ll support Ankur Patel (FB) (D), but I have no problem (and might actually switch at the last minute) with Jesse Gabriel (FB) (D).

Member of the State Assembly – 45th District (Short Term)

Candidates

[✗] Justin M. Clark (R)

See above for my thoughts on Justin M. Clark (FB) (R). In short, too inexperienced, and I disagree with his positions.

[✓] Jesse Gabriel (D)

See above for my thoughts on Jesse Gabriel (FB) (D). He’s a strong candidate who I agree with; I just wish he had a stronger public stance on #metoo.

Conclusion

In this case, there’s no contest: Jesse Gabriel (FB) (D).

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4 Replies to “June 2018 California Primary Analysis (III): State District-Based Offices”

  1. Hi Daniel!
    I was thrilled to find your ballot analysis when I went looking for election info on judges. I am so amazed by and grateful for the thought and effort you’ve put into this. It is by far the single most useful source of info and analysis on this election, and I especially appreciate the links you included to the source materials you referenced. I also find your thinking process helpful–even if I disagree, it helps to clarify my own thoughts. It’s what I’ve always wanted but have never before found.
    FYI, a couple of things you might find interesting:
    * ACLU sued Alex Padilla for throwing away mail-in ballots without notifying voters
    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/05/california-is-quietly-disenfranchising-thousands-of-voters-based-on-their-handwriting.html
    * Scott Svonkin (for BOE) sounds like a bully
    http://www.laweekly.com/news/scott-svonkins-personality-problem-2169907 https://www.dailybreeze.com/2017/09/12/this-is-a-warning-to-la-community-college-trustee/
    Happy voting!

    1. I agree with Emily that your analysis of the California ballot was the most thoughtful and useful information I found. Thank you for all of the effort.

      Tina

  2. Yup, I had already noticed you didn’t side with Padilla: his attending fundraisers for Hillary while Secretary of State should definitely give voters pause; but the ACLU suing and winning against Padilla for throwing out mail-in ballots without notifying voters is an even stronger deal-killer for me, and I thought you and your readers might appreciate knowing about it.
    Glad you found the Svonkin (BOE 3) info useful!

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