🗳️ Nov. 2018 California General Election Analysis (I): Introduction and Non-Judicial Offices

My sample ballot has been received, indicating that (a) it is indeed Fall; (b) my TV will soon be inundated with political advertising; and (c) it is time for the General Election Ballot analysis. This election, it is being divided into three parts and a summary:

  1. Non-Judicial Offices: State, Federal, and Local
  2. Judicial Offices
  3. Propositions and Measures
  4. Summary

This is Part I: the analysis of all elected offices except the judges. It covers the following races:

For reference, here are the posts that covered these offices in the primary: Governor ☙ Other State Offices ☙ District Based Offices ☙ US Senate and House ☙ County Offices. If much of this looks familiar, it was because this particular grouping allowed me to simply revisit my primary analysis, and update as appropriate.

In the next part, to quote an old TV show, “Here come ‘de Judge”.

State Offices

Governor

[✗] John H. Cox (R)

John Cox (FB) is the Republican candidate. His bio notes that he is “endorsed by the California Pro-Life Council” and that he “supports 2nd Amendment rights and strongly opposes Jerry Brown’s “Sanctuary State” and boondoggles like the High Speed Rail “Train to Nowhere.”” If you read my core values statement from the last election, you know that many of those positions go against my values. In particular, during the debate he made clear that his support for the 2nd Amendment is not reasonable regulation, but removing regulations.

He supports repealing “Jerry Brown’s massive $52 billion gas tax increase” — that is, he’s in favor of Prop 6 and against SB1. I monitor Caltrans, and I see the good SB1 is doing. I understand how infrastructure and transportation is funding in this state — through the gas tax — and I also understand that poor infrastructure makes this state bad for business. SB1 is a small price to pay for having good roads and good transportation. Another knock against him.

He does not talk at all about improving education, and about how he will improve things. I happen to like the direction the state has taken under Brown. I can’t support Cox.

[✓] Gavin Newsom (D)

Gavin Newsom (FB) is the front runner. He’s the former mayor of San Francisco and the current Lt. Governor. He’s got loads of endorsements, He’s got loads of cash (he was also born into it). He’s got progressive credentials galore. What’s not to like?

Well, he’s been a so-so Lieutenant Governor, skipping out on duties. C’mon guy, you get a ceremonial post and you can’t even do the few responsibilities of the job? He had an affair with his chief of staff’s wife — not the greatest thing in this day and age (although I believe it was consensual). He wasn’t my choice in the primary.

That said, I’ll hold my nose and vote for him because I can’t stand Cox, and there is no other choice.

📋 Conclusion

Gavin Newsom (FB)

Lt. 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.

[✗] 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.

He’s hispanic, and it is important to have representation of minorities in state government.

[✓] Eleni Kounalakis (D)

Eleni Kounalakis (FB) (D) is a former ambassador (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 harassment that exists in Sacramento.

📋 Conclusion

This is a hard choice, because both candidates: Ed Hernandez (FB) and Eleni Kounalakis (FB)  are good. Hernandez has the most experience. Kounalakis understands the best about the position, plus it would get another woman into office. 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. In the primary, my gut told 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 I ended up going with Kounalakis at the last minute. I think I’ll stick with her simply because we must break up the old boys club.

Eleni Kounalakis (FB)

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.

[✓] Alex Padilla (D)

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 primary 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? Let’s look at the other candidate. Padilla also had problems with his handling of the ballots. But that still doesn’t overcome my dislike of the other candidate.

[✗] 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.

📋 Conclusion

Revisiting my primary analysis, I still have some concerns with Alex Padilla (FB). But the other candidate has positions I don’t like, and we only have two choices, and so I’m going with Padilla.

Alex Padilla (FB)

Controller

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.

[✗] 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)

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.

📋 Conclusion

Betty T. Yee (FB)

Treasurer

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 ran for Governor in the Primary (and was my choice); this is an open position with no incumbent.

[✗] 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.

[✓] 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 primary 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.”

📋 Conclusion

Fiona Ma (FB)

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.

📋 Conclusion

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.

[✗] 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; worked with 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.” Much as I’m in the #NeverTrump camp, fighting Trump is not the job of the Insurance Commissioner.

I’m unsure about this guy.

[✓] 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 had the primary 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.

📋 Conclusion

Steve Poizner (FB)

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).

[✓] 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.

[✗] 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.

📋 Conclusion

Tony Vazquez (FB)

State Assembly (45th District)

[✓] Jesse Gabriel (D)

Jesse Gabriel (FB) (D) is won the April 3 special election, as well as the “short-term” on the Primary ballot. A lot of door painting and moving funds can be saved if he wins the “full-term” as well. 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 then. He’s my choice now.

[✗] Justin M. Clark (R)

Justin M. Clark (FB) (R) 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.

📋 Conclusion

Jesse Gabriel (FB)

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.

[✗] 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.

[✓] 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

📋 Conclusion

Tony K. Thurmond (FB)

Federal Offices

US Senator

The situation with the US Senate is very similar to the House: In general, I happen to like Dianne Feinstein and I agree with most of her positions. She certainly stands up for the traditional progressive views (and I’m an old-school Humphrey-ite). More importantly, she’s been in the Senate for a long time. The Senate, as an institution, is one where power is based on seniority. She has reached the point where she has some seniority. This would be less of a worry if California’s other senator had someone equal seniority, but Kamala Harris was recently elected and is at the bottom of the seniority pool. There’s one additional factor: She’s a woman, and it is vitally important that the Senate reflect the makeup of America — and that means every woman in the Senate is important to combat the implicit male privilege in our society. She’s also Jewish, meaning that my religious viewpoint is represented in the Senate — vitally important in a nation where the forces of Christianty are pushing harder against us.

What this means is that any candidate for Senate must convince me not only that they have significantly better positions on issues than Feinstein, but that they have the ability to make up for the loss of her seniority through their power of persuasion, and that they will preserve the diversity of the Senate. They may need to make the case that there are significant character flaws in Feinstein that overcome the strengths I’ve noted.

[✓] Dianne Feinstein (D)

Dianne Feinstein (FB) (D) (Inc) is running for her sixth term in the US Senate, which means she has good seniority, plum committee positions, and is set up to be a significant voice when the Democrats regain control (hopefully in November). Her Senate accomplishments are detailed here, including a cybersecurity bill. She is the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the first woman to chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. In addition to her committee assignments, Senator Feinstein is co-chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, co-chairman of the Senate Cancer Coalition and co-chairman of the Senate Women’s Caucus on Burma. She is also a member of the Anti-Meth Caucus, the Congressional Dairy Caucus and the Congressional Former Mayors Caucus. She has served as a member of the Aspen Strategy Group since 1997. Her main drawback is that she’s 84 — young for the Senate, perhaps, but it does raise questions about whether a younger Senator could do more for the state. Many hoped she would retire this year (and I would have supported that), but I think she feels (and I agree) that she will be more effective in fighting Donald Trump with her seniority.

There are those who are jumping on Feinstein because of the delay in the release of the Ford accusations against Kavanaugh. They feel it was done for partisan purposes. As the Washington Post notes, “Feinstein has been a lightning rod for loud criticism from President Trump and quieter frustration from some fellow Democrats after she disclosed she received a letter in July from the woman that she did not share with Senate colleagues and federal law enforcement until last week. The episode has put the 85-year-old senator from California, who is seeking a sixth term in Nov­ember, in the middle of a fast-moving and explosive cultural, political and social firestorm charged by forces of the #MeToo movement and Trump’s divisive presidency.” Her explanation of the delay was  “She wanted this held confidential, and I held it confidential up to a point the witness was willing to come forward…How women are treated in the U.S. with this kind of concern is really wanting a lot of reform.” For me, the delay is not a problem — and I’m not sure that Ford would have opened up at all had De Leon been the Senator. The fact that Feinstein is female and the ranking and senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee is key, and likely why Ford came to her — and it gave her the clout to push the issue. So without Feinstein, we might not have have been discussing Kavanough’s behavior at all. It emphasizes why it is so important to have a women with her seniority in the Senate representing California.

I agree with her positions on the issues, which seem congruent with the Democratic Party (and with what de Leon espoused). I also found a good head to head summary of Feinstein vs. DeLeon on the issues, and I found myself agreeing with Feinstein more.  With the right administration, she has the seniority to bring them off. Right now, I think it is too important to have women, and women with seniority, in the Senate.

[✓][✗] Kevin De Leon (D)

Kevin de Leon (FB) (D) is the current representative for SD24 (State Senate District 24). He was elected to the State Assembly in 2006, to the State Senate in 2010, and elected President Pro Tem of the Senate in 2014. He attended U.C. Santa Barbara and graduated from Pitzer College at the Claremont Colleges with honors. He is a Rodel Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a guest lecturer at the University of Southern California. He’s been active with the California Teachers Association and the National Education Association. He built up an impressive track record in the State Senate, including doing a lot to support SB1. His state senate bio has a lot of detail on his legislative accomplishments. It looks to have even more information than his campaign bio, but it does have fewer pictures. de Leon clearly has the experience for the position; if Feinstein had opted to retire, he would be an almost ideal candidate, bringing latinx representation to the Senate.

It is in articulating his issues that de Leon falls down. He has four issues on his front page,  and no additional issues pages on his sites. On those four issues, he takes positions similar to Feinstein’s. He doesn’t say what he would do to advance those issues in an environment where he would have to build a coalition — likely cross party — to get sufficient Congressional support, and how he would convince a President who is hostile to California. From de Leon, I need a better understanding of his positions, how they differ from and are better than those of Feinstein, and what are his skills that will enable him to move them forward in the current environment in Washington DC.

He hasn’t convinced me yet.

📋 Conclusion

Dianne Feinstein (FB). She has her problems, but it is still vitally important to have women with seniority in the Senate, especially if we retake the majority.

US Representative (30th District)

Going in, I should stipulation that I like our current representative, Brad Sherman (FB). I agree with his positions, I follow what he does, and I haven’t seen anything objectionable. So, from my point of view, an opposition candidate needs to convince me why there are problems with Brad Sherman (FB), and why I should vote for him (because they are all guys) instead. This is multiplied by the way Congress works, where the power of your voice is based on your seniority. Sherman has been there multiple terms and has growing seniority. So not only must your ideas be better, your ability to work the room and convince other congresscritters must be better, because you’ll be starting at the far junior position, in what may still be the minority party. In other words, ideas aren’t enough.

[✓] Brad Sherman (D)

Brad Sherman (FB) (D) (Inc) has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1997, meaning he has seniority, and through seniority, wields power. He is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as the senior Democrat on the Subcommittee on Asia. He is also a senior member of the Financial Services Committee. During his tenure in Congress, Sherman has developed a reputation as a strong advocate for fiscal responsibility, a balanced budget, federal aid to education, the interests of working families, strong environmental standards, the protection of Social Security and Medicare, and policies to expand U.S. exports. Before joining Congress, he served on the California State Board of Equalization from 1991 to 1996. He was Chairman of the Board from 1991 to 1995. Before that, Sherman was on staff at one of the nations’ big-four CPA firms. Sherman is a Tax Law Specialist and a CPA. He received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. Sherman was also an accounting tutor during his time at UCLA. Later he received his law degree from Harvard, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. Note how none of the other candidates provided this level of detail on their backgrounds, nor have this extensive of a background.

In terms of issues, I’ve been following Sherman for years, and have agreed with most of the time. I did favor Howard Berman when Sherman and Berman’s districts were combined, but I’ve been pleased to become a Sherman constituent.

In short, I like what Sherman has done, and no one has convinced me that another candidate is better.

[✗] Mark S. Reed (R)

Mark S. Reed (FB) (R) is the most viable candidate against Brad Sherman, at least in terms of votes. So maybe he’s a lawyer who will know how to work the halls of Congress, or have some special magic experience. Nope. His experience is “After graduation from El Camino Real High School in 1975, Reed studied Architectural Drafting at Pierce Jr. College from 1976-1978. Reed, age 57, is a successful actor, small businessman, rancher and an advocate for constitutional government as specified by our Founding Fathers. After working in management positions for several years, he bought his first company at age 26 and opened a small retail store. He sold both and bought out his second company at age 32.  He has sat on the board of directors of several companies, chaired many national committees and currently sits on the board of directors of the CAB at KCET.” He’s not that there in the experience or background market.

Perhaps his issues will convince me that Sherman is bad? He starts by pandering to the Jewish vote with a big “We Support Israel” banner on his page. His issue page has a special section on Israel, which appears to be condemning Obama’s support for Israel and Sherman’s support of Obama. This plays to the Conservative and Orthodox Jews; it fails with the Reform Jews who liked how Obama was working for broader piece in the region. He’s against Obamacare completely, as opposed to tweaking it to make it work. He’s in strong favor of gun ownership. His attitude on energy can be summed in one sentence: “In order to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we need to abolish the Department of Energy, and drill in this country where we can.” He supports school vouchers, which allows public money to go to religious schools. In short, his values are not my values, and he does not get my vote.

📋 Conclusion

Brad Sherman (FB)

County

Assessor

The Los Angeles County Assessor is the assessor and officer of the government of Los Angeles County responsible for discovering all taxable property in Los Angeles County, except for state-assessed property, to inventory and list all the taxable property, to value the property, and to enroll the property on the local assessment roll. Going in, I haven’t had any major complaints with the current assessor, Jeffrey Prang (FB), so any opponent needs to convince me what is currently wrong with the assessors office, and what they would fix.

[✗] John Loew

John “Lower Taxes” Loew has been running for County Assessor since 2000. He has gone so far as to change his middle name to “Lower Taxes”; this must be a pain on systems that don’t like spaces in middle names. He doesn’t appear to have a webpage, or a Facebook, and at best has gotten 23% of the vote. I can’t take his candidacy seriously.

[✓] Jeffrey Prang

Jeffrey Prang (FB) has a campaign website, although he needs to get a certificate and enable HTTPS so Google likes it. Prang is a graduate of James Madison College at Michigan State University with a B.A. in International Relations. In 2004, Mr. Prang completed the Program for Senior Executives in Local and State Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Professionally, Jeffrey Prang is a State Board of Equalization licensed appraiser, an Executive Committee member of the California Assessors’ Association (CAA), and an active member of the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) and the Society of Auditor-Appraisers (SAA). Before his election as Assessor, Jeff Prang served as a member of the Executive Staff in the Los Angeles County Office of the Assessor. Prang previously served as Assistant City Manager for the City of Pico Rivera; Senior Advisor to the Los Angeles County Sheriff; Deputy to State Board of Equalization Chair, and current State Treasurer, John Chiang; Director of Public Information, City of Los Angeles Department of Animal Services; Press Deputy to Los Angeles City Council President Ruth Galanter; and Special Assistant to Los Angeles County Assessor Kenneth P. Hahn. In 1993, Prang completed the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Real Estate Appraisal Training program. Prang began his career as a Realtor with Re/Max Realty in Warren, Michigan. Prang served nearly 18 years as a councilmember for the City of West Hollywood, including four terms as mayor. He was elected Assessor in 2014.

His website indicates that his initiative has been the modernization of our outdated technology to ensure maximum efficiency, fairness, and accuracy in assessments. Obsolete technology from 40 years ago, including a mainframe computer and paper-based, inflexible, and inefficient technology platformsand processes. In 2018, all property files were digitized, and a new mobile application has also been developed to serve as a “mobile briefcase,” allowing appraisers in the field to access all property data, retrieve digital records, sketch property diagrams, take photographs, and perform all functions. These seemingly simple tasks previously required in-office access to numerous programs, archived documents, and maps and later had to be electronically linked to the system. The complete technology transformation project is expected to be completed by early 2019 and will represent a new era in government assessment technology. (Alas, he says nothing about the cybersecurity of the effort). He also worked with the Board of Supervisors to raise the minimum threshold for reporting business property – from $2000 to $5000. He has a one-stop public service counter, and has opened access, through the County’s Open Data website, to unprecedented amount of property data going back 11 years, providing it in an easy-to-use format for free download. There are many more details on what he did, but color me impressed. It demonstrates even more that his challengers do not have a viable argument against him.

📋 Conclusion

Jeffrey Prang (FB)

Sheriff

Per Wikipedia, The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, officially the County of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, is the nation’s largest Sheriff’s Department. The Department’s three main responsibilities entail providing patrol services for 153 unincorporated communities of Los Angeles County, California and 42 cities,[2] providing courthouse security for the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, and the housing and transportation of inmates within the county jail system. In addition, the Department contracts with the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Metrolink, provides law enforcement services to ten community colleges, patrols over 177 county parks, golf courses, special event venues, two major lakes, 16 hospitals, and over 300 county facilities; and provides services, such as crime laboratories, homicide investigations, and academy training, to smaller law enforcement agencies within the county. The Sheriff is the manager of the department.

The department has improved from the days of Lee Baca, but there are still lots of problems. Stories of sexual assault and harassment in jails. Some mistreatment of those detained. Some of this comes with the nature and implied privilege of urban policing, but that does make its continued acceptance acceptable. In looking at the incumbent’s accomplishments and goals, I’m looking to see if he recognizes the problems that remain in the department, and what are his plans to fix them. In his opponents, I’m looking at their experience, and to see if they have a better idea.

[✓] Alex Villanueva

Alex Villanueva (FB) has an impressive bio, well worth reading (but hard to summarize). He has impressive education credits:
Associate of Arts, Liberal Arts (1984), San Bernardino Valley College; Bachelor of Science, Liberal Studies (1992), Regents College, University of the State of New York; Master of Public Administration (MPA), Public Administration(1997), CSUN; Doctor of Public Administration (DPA), Public Administration. Dissertation: Leadership Diversity in Law Enforcement (2005), University of La Verne. He has been in the Sheriff’s department since 1986, achieving the rank of Lieutenant. He’s also a Planning Commissioner or La Habra Heights, has been an Adjunct Professor in the  Criminal Justice Department as California State University, Long Beach for 4 years, and served in the California Army National Guard and US Air Force.

The front page of his website specifically enumerates the problems with the current LASD leadership. His issues page details what he plans to do. He has a lot of Democratic club endorsements, but a notable lack of law enforcement rank and file groups.

[✗] Jim McDonnell

Jim McDonnell is the current LA County Sheriff. He began his law enforcement career in 1981 after graduating from the Los Angeles Police Academy.  He served for 29 years at the Los Angeles Police Department. Following his career at the LAPD, Sheriff McDonnell served as the Chief of the Long Beach Police Department for five years.

His accomplishments page details a number of notable improvements he has made, but is more generic on his plans — it is pretty much “to allow me to continue my path forward”. I couldn’t find a more coherent statement of specific objectives. He is endorsed by the LA Times, who provide a detailed list of the LASD’s problems that is worth reading, but conclude “McDonnell’s administration has had its ups and downs, so if either of his opponents were to lay out a comprehensive program for running a modern Sheriff’s Department that reflected the best thinking on criminal justice reform, public safety and jail management, he would merit serious consideration. But both Villanueva and Lindsey focus too much on internal issues and resentments of the rank-and-file and insufficiently on how the department could better serve the county’s 10 million people. Of the three, McDonnell remains the best choice, although in many respects he has thus far fallen short of his early promise.”  Not too ringing. His other endorsement list is surprisingly short. He has the LA County and California Police Chiefs supporting him, but not many other law enforcement organizations. His deputies, however, have no confidence in him.

📋 Conclusion

I went into this thinking I would be supporting the incumbent, Jim McDonnell. But the lack of confidence in him from his staff, and the litany of problems with his leadership makes me unsure about him.  Alex Villanueva (FB)’s education and experience impresses me, as do his plans on how to reform the department more.

Alex Villanueva (FB).

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