🗳️ Nov 2022 General Election Ballot Analysis (I): Intro + State/National Offices

Here in California (and in Los Angeles in particular), we have an election coming up. You know what that means: Every election, I do a detailed ballot analysis of my sample ballot. This is where I examine each candidate and share my conclusions, and invite you to convince me to vote for the other jerk.  Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting this analysis into a few chunks (note: links may not be available until all segments are posted):

  1. State and National Offices (excluding judges)
  2. County and City (Los Angeles) Local Offices (excluding judges)
  3. Local and State Measures (nee Propositions)
  4. Judicial Offices (County and State)
  5. Summary

Note: This analysis is NOT presented in the same order as the Sample Ballot (the ballot order makes no sense). I’ve attempted instead to present things in more logical order.

This part covers the State and National Offices (i.e., the US Legislative Branch, US Senate):

  • Federal: US Senate (two elections) ❦ US Representative, 32nd District
  • State:Governor ❦ Lt. Governor ❦ Secretary of State ❦ Controller ❦ Treasurer ❦ Attorney General ❦ Insurance Commissioner ❦ Board of Equalization, 3rd District ❦ Supt. of Public Instruction

For your reference and mine, here’s where the candidates for this post were covered in my primary analysis:

For these offices, a lot of the analysis I did in the primaries still applies. After all, a leopard can’t change their spots that fast… and these candidates can’t change. But sometimes my preferred candidate was eliminated in the primary, so I have to look again. Sometimes there is new advertising that needs to be addressed. New material about candidates will be clearly indicated.


US Senate

The Senate election in California is weird. Dianne Feinstein (whom you would love to vote on because she needs to be replaced with someone younger) was elected in 2018, meaning she’s not on the ballot until 2024. The seat we are voting on is Kamala Harris’ seat, which was vacated when she was elected Vice President in 2020. Harris was elected in 2016, meaning that her seat is up for reelection this year.

Here’s the problem. When Harris became VP, the Governor appointed Alex Padilla to replace her. But state law requires that appointment be voted upon at the next statewide election … which is this one. So one of the senate elections is for the remainder of Kamala Harris’ term. That term ends in January 2023, so the “replacement” election is for perhaps 2 months.

This means there are two senate elections: one for the full term (2023-2029), and one for the remainder of the current term.

US Senator – Full Term (Jan 2023 through Jan 2029)

This is the main contest. The primary winnowed out a large field to just two candidates: a Democrat and a Republican. Given the nature of the state, the result will be predictable. But let’s pretend…

 Mark P. Meuser (R)

I looked through Meuser’s website to see if I could figure out anything regarding his positions on the issues. There’s some biographical stuff where he seems to love history. There’s some blog posts that have bunches of words but say nothing of substance. So I took a look at his Twitter page. The fellow is strongly anti-Biden. Based on his tweets, he is anti-VAX, and he is echoing the Republican line on CRT. He blames Biden for the increases in gas prices (Biden had no control over what private corporations charge). Just reading through his feed makes clear he is another candidate who is riding on the coattails of Trump’s disruption. His values are not those of California.

October 2022 Update: His tweets are typical Republican doctrine. His platform is the same. Fears of violent crime. Increased oil and gas production (and thus denying climate change). Claims that public schools indoctrinate children (and religious schools don’t). Wanting hardened schools with armed officers. Creating fears of immigrants.  He blames government regulations for the supply chain issues.  At least his plan doesn’t talk about abortion or deny the 2020 results.


Alex Padilla (D) Inc

Padilla is the current US Senator, having been appointed to take over Harris’ seat. His website doesn’t have a good issues page, but his “about” page does highlight his accomplishments since his appointment. He hasn’t been that much of a leader, but he’s only had a year or two in a junior position. He has supported the right issues, and his early legislative and state actions have been good.  I don’t see anything in his pages that eliminates him from consideration.

Looking for more information, I read through the LA Times endorsement for Padilla: “As the state’s election chief, Padilla had already shown he had the mettle to take on national issues by offering a sober and factual counterpoint to President Trump’s frequent lies about election fraud. And his long political resume as secretary of state, as state senator representing the San Fernando Valley and as Los Angeles City Council president made it clear he was among the few ready to step up to the Senate seat on short notice. He did that with ease, and now, just slightly over a year since he took office, Padilla has proven that he is as capable, as honorable, as skilled a lawmaker as we expected. California’s junior senator immediately and competently stepped into the debate — pushing to include social safety benefits for immigrants in the “Build Back Better” plan and co-writing bipartisan legislation that, among other things, would reinvest in the nation’s electrical grid and fund electric school buses and were included in last year’s infrastructure package signed by President Biden.”

So far, he seems like the best candidate in this bunch.

October 2022 Update: I haven’t seen many campaign ads from Padilla. But I also haven’t heard anything that would make me to change my mind.

📋 Conclusion

What is it about California elections that bring out everyone under the sun to run. I generally disagree with Donald Trump (I only agreed with him on the creation of Space Force), and disagree even more with his claims and positions since he lost the election. That’s right, he lost. So those who support him don’t get my support. I also want someone as Senator that understands the role of the Senate, is congruent with me on the issues, and hopefully has some experience.

There’s only one candidate for this office that meets that bill: Alex Padilla.

US Senator – Short Term (ending Jan 2023)

This seat is a little different: they are running for office for what is likely to be a two month term. Same candidates, all of whom were discussed above.

 Mark P. Meuser (R)

Alex Padilla (D) Inc

📋 Conclusion

The logic here is the same as with the full term seat. The conclusion is the same as well: Alex Padilla.

US House of Representatives, 32nd District

The primary contest has been winnowed down to the incumbent Democrat, and the challenging Republican.

Brad Sherman (D) Inc

Brad Sherman has been representing this district (or the neighboring district, as two were merged a few years ago) for a long time. I have generally agreed with his actions in office, and he has been an effective communicator with his constituents. As his campaign page notes, this would be his 13th term (i.e., he’s been in office for 25 years). That also means he has the seniority (esp. if Democrats are in power) to make a difference. That’s something that wouldn’t be true for a clueless newbie. I agree with him on the issues. So I would need good reason to replace someone I like.

Lucie LaPointe Volotzky (R)

Looking at her issues page, one can see common R talking points. For example “No transgender should participate in our women’s sport!”. No explanation, no background. That says everything about an attitude towards transgender (the right answer, by the way, is to eliminate the distinction between men and women’s sports, and instead use strength/weight categories). She’s in favor of gun rights. She states “Let’s bring back business from China.” without providing any reason for those businesses to come back. Does she want to underpay and abuse our labor? Does she want to weaken environmental law? That’s why labor goes to China. So she’s naive.  She states “We have the highest inflation in 40 years. It was caused by printing too much money”. No, it was caused by supply chain issues, combined with unexpectedly high demand. So she doesn’t understand economics either. She’s not the right person for this job.

October 2022 Update: Revisiting her website, I see the following: “who will put America first and stand strong to defeat the radical progressive agenda hijacking our country”. That level of partisanship really doesn’t convince me, but it will play great to the Trumpublican base. I also looked at her endorsements. Our city councilman, John Lee, has endorsed her. This makes me think twice about re-electing Lee at the next election, given the endorsement indicates he agrees with her values. Other than GOP organizations, there are no other real endorsements for this race. My mind is unchanged.

📋 Conclusion

During the primary, this was a hard decision, with some good Democrats running against Sherman. But for the general? This is an easy decision. Brad Sherman‘s been doing a good job for 25 years, and his values generally align with mine. Volotzky is clearly in the Trumpublican camp and her values do not align with mine.


California Legislature

Member of the State Assembly, 40th District

Ah, redistricting. It mixes things up every time. Our current assembly member is Jesse Gabriel, 45th District. Gabriel is good — he’s coauthored some bills in the area of cybersecurity. But we’re no longer in his district. So instead, we get the realigned incumbant for the new 40th District, which now has more Republican voters.

Pilar Schiavo (D)

Schiavo is a Small Business Owner and Nurse advocate, with 20 years in the labor movement, 13 of those with the California Nurses Association. She currently lives in Chatsworth.  She doesn’t appear to have prior political experience. During the primary, I didn’t like her issues page. The problem was not her positions. At a high level, they are solidly in the Democratic camp. However, they don’t show a depth of understanding of the issues, and everyone seems to be targeted with an endorsement (“… and this is why she’s endorsed by …”). Water conservation is a good example of this. Here’s what she says: “And finally, drought continues in California, with 2022 on track to be the driest year in California history. AD40 has been struggling with severe drought. We face a real threat that there may not be enough water for our local communities. Pilar will fight for state investment to ensure our community has the water we need – in water table infrastructure, rainwater capture, and water reuse. That’s why Pilar is endorsed by the Sierra Club and California Environmental Voters.” But the issue is much more complex in the district, from groundwater contamination from the Santa Suzanna labs, to the need for water for fighting brushfires. I fear she really doesn’t understand the issues well enough, but her heart is in the right place. She has strong Democratic, labor, and union backing.

Her Republican opponent is attacking her for being very progressive (i.e., in the Bernie camp, supporting single payer health care).  There is some truth to some of those claims. But I’d rather have that then the Republican values. Her linked in page shows her as being based in Oakland. An article from one of the Mother Lode papers shows her background is Northern California. She’s being pushed by a group to get moms in office.

So, in the primary, she wasn’t my choice.

October 2022 Update: But it’s now the general election. Her issues page is basically unchanged. Endorsements are still strongly Democratic.

◯ Suzette Martinez Valladares (R) Redistricted Inc.

I should mark Valladares as an Incumbent; she currently represents the 38th district and has been redistricted here.  But the 38th was heavily Republican — Santa Clarita, Saugus, Castaic, Simi Valley, and Porter Ranch.  The new district is less so. But this does mean she knows how the Assembly works and has the experience.  But I also know by the little (R) that her values likely do not align with mine. She’s was mentored by Buck McKeon (a very conservative republican), and was Executive Director of Southern California Autism Speaks (which neurodivergents will tell you does not speak for them). She lives in Santa Clarita. She’s been involved in Republican politics for a long time.

But what’s more significant is: She does not have issue statements anywhere on her pages. I don’t know what she is for.  Endorsements tell some:  law enforcement and Republicans. Digging deeper, the dirt comes out.  It seems she promotes Trump’s lie the the election was fraudulent. She seems to not want to expand medicare. But other than that, she seems to say nothing about what she stands for. This makes me very nervous.

October 2022 Update: She’s added an issues statement to her page. What she has there is typically Trumpublican. Although she hides it on her pages, she opposes safe and legal abortion. She believes Trump’s big lie about the 2021 election. Nope.

📋 Conclusion

I do not like Suzette Martinez Valladares; her values do not agree with mine. That said, I have a lot of problems with Pilar Schiavo. I’m not bothered at all with her progressive positions. But she’s not a long time valley person — she doesn’t know this area and its issues well. She doesn’t have a deep understanding of the issues. She hasn’t been involved heavily in politics—this appears to be her first run. She’s far too much of the clueless newbie, and is being perceived as a threat because the machine is behind her. I preferred a different candidate in the primary. But given the positions of the opposition, Pilar Schiavo it is.

California Executive Branch

Going in, you need to understand the following: I like where California is now. I like the leadership in Sacramento. We’ve got an unprecedented surplus. We have fair elections. We protect the rights of women and minorities. We keep the church where it belongs: where people go on their day of worship. To get my vote, a candidate needs to convince me they are significantly better than what is there now.


Here the contest is between the incumbent, Newsom, and a Republican. The LA Times had an interesting article related to this: it talks about how Dahle is a decent moderate Republican, but even that isn’t enough to make him a better candidate than Newsom.

Gavin Newsom (D) Inc

I shouldn’t need to write much here. I like Gavin Newsom. I like what he has done as Governor. Has he had missteps? Sure. Has he created photo ops for the opposition? Yup. But overall, he’s taken the state in a direction that I like. Those in the State of Jefferson might not like it, but I like it. Right now, he has my vote. If I have to quibble with anything, it is the names of his children. Montana, Hunter, Brooklynn, and Dutch. Really. Dutch? 😁

◯ Brian Dahle (R)

Dahle represents the 1st Senate District. This is far north California, and it is State of Jefferson country. Reading through his issues page, his positions on climate change (“Climate is one factor, but even more important is our decision to ignore forest fuels while pretending that leaving forests unmanaged is good for the environment.”) make me think of Trump and his “sweep the forests”. He also writes “We need to repeal the gas tax and roll back excessive regulations that have increased the cost of every sector of living, from energy to housing.”. The fight against regulations is a key Republican position against the regulation state. The Gas Tax is another Republican hatred, but as someone who monitors what they are doing with that money, I know it is doing good and is not the reason behind high gas prices. He may be a moderate Republican, but he’s still not my guy.

📋 Conclusion

My choice is still Gavin Newsom

Lieutenant Governor

Under California’s Constitution, the Lieutenant Governor serves as Acting Governor whenever the Governor is absent from the state, and automatically becomes Governor if a vacancy occurs in the Office of Governor. The Lieutenant Governor is also President of the Senate and votes in case of a tie.

The Lieutenant Governor serves as a voting member of the Board of Regents of the University of California, the Board of Trustees of the California State University system, and the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges system. The Lieutenant Governor also sits on the Calbright College Board of Trustees.

The Lieutenant Governor also serves on, and rotates with the State Controller, as chair of the three-member State Lands Commission, which oversees the control and leasing of millions of acres of state-owned land, including offshore oil resources, as well as use and permitting for all navigable waterways in California. The Commission also manages state land-use planning and revenues, and related interstate issues. During alternate years, when the Lieutenant Governor serves as Chairperson of the State Lands Commission, she also serves as a member of the California Ocean Protection Council and as a non-voting member of the California Coastal Commission.

◯ Angela E. Underwood Jacobs (R)

Jacobs is the Deputy Mayor of Lancaster. She has the official GOP endorsement. She has a broad list of issues to tackle, none of which are really in the Lt. Gov wheelhouse.  She’s not overly Trumpian. If you were looking for a R candidate, she might be good. I’m not.

Eleni Kounalakis (D) Inc

Eleni is the current Lt. Governor. Can one say the Lt. Governor has done a good job? She hasn’t done a bad one, that’s for sure.  She had no issues on her campaign website (but again, Lt. Governor). She’s done a great job of leading delegations and issuing proclamations. My only complaint is that she didn’t run to replace Newsom during the recall. That would have ensured Democratic control.

📋 Conclusion

I’m inclined to stay with Eleni Kounalakis (although she hasn’t done all that much — she needs to build up that resume). The Republican candidate doesn’t sway me.

Secretary of State

The California Secretary of State is an elected state executive officer established by the California Constitution. He or she serves as the state’s chief election officer, keeps the state’s key documents including the constitution and Great Seal, and keeps the state archives. Additionally, the secretary of state registers businesses in the state, commissions notaries public, and manages state ballot initiatives. The secretary of state is elected to four-year terms, concurrent with the other constitutional officers of California, and is restricted to two terms.

Given the shenanigans from the Republican party with elections, this is a vital office for California. I do not want a Trumpian Republican in this office. The current Secretary of State did a great job with the 2020 elections. I’m not inclined to change what isn’t broken.

◯ Rob Bernosky (R)

Bernosky is the Chief Technology Officer of LinkedIn. Wow.  He seems to say the right words on his issues page (although his site isn’t using HTTPS — a technology guy should know that). But he states his party preference as Republican, which is a concern. So when he talks about “Cleaning California’s voter rolls;”, is he referring to the Republican purges? When he says “eliminating messes like Motor Voter;” is he talking about making it harder to register? When he talks about “Modernizing voting technology that is safe and secure to protect every ballot cast;” — I know the folks behind the new systems in Los Angeles, and it is safe and secure. I just don’t trust him.

Shirley N. Weber (D) Appointed Inc

Weber is the current appointed Secretary of State, part of the chain of changes resulting from Kamala Harris becoming VP (Alex Padilla was Secy of State, he became Senator when Harris became VP). She inherited a smooth working machine. She has a strong record of defending civil and voting rights. Her priority is making California the national leader in running inclusive, trustworthy, and transparent elections – expanding the franchise to more of our citizens, ensuring election security, and empowering voters to make informed decisions. That’s the right stuff.

📋 Conclusion

My conclusion in the primary still stands, I’m sticking with our current Secretary of State, Shirley N. Weber. Rob Bernosky was potentially interesting, but his party affiliation makes me not trust him, so Shirley N. Weber it is.


The State Controller is the Chief Fiscal Officer of California, the sixth largest economy in the world. She helps administer two of the largest public pension funds in the nation and serves on 78 state boards and commissions. These are charged with duties ranging from protecting our coastline to helping build hospitals. The Controller is the state’s independent fiscal watchdog, providing sound fiscal control over more than $100 billion in receipts and disbursements of public funds a year, offering fiscal guidance to local governments, and uncovering fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars. The current controller, I believe, is termed out.

Is this a good position for a Republican? I’m unsure. I’d be worried about their sabotaging the works. That’s the level of distrust they have created these days. To the (R) candidate I say: Convince me.

Lanhee Chen (R)

Chen’s about me page says he earned four degrees from Harvard University, including a law degree and doctorate in political science, and served in senior roles in both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations. Wow. But what does that have to do with financial issues? He was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as a member of the independent and bipartisan Social Security Advisory Board. OK, a little more financial, but…. His “Why I’m Running” statement shows the right passion, but I’m still not convinced. He’s endorsed by Republicans, and he has the LA Times endorsement. The Times explained the reason was “Because he is a sharp thinker with experience analyzing large financial systems, and because the controller should be as independent from the party in power as possible.” I get the independence. As for Chen being a Republican, the Times wrote: “Many Californians will balk at the idea of voting for a Republican. That’s understandable because the conspiracy-fueled wing of the GOP has grown too powerful under the influence of former President Trump and his litany of lies. But one way to restore some sanity to the GOP is to elevate Republicans, like Chen, who operate in the world of facts. Chen would not tell us whom he voted for in the 2020 presidential race, but he is unequivocal in stating that the election was legitimate, that Joe Biden won and that Trump has been untruthful in describing it otherwise.”

But after reading his campaign pages and the endorsement, my problem is not his being a Republican. It’s that he has no financial background. He’s a wonk, but a really smart policy wonk. There’s no evidence that he knows finances, that he knows audits, that he knows what the controller does. On the other hand, at least he is against Trump, and has described Jan 6 as an abomination.

◯ Malia M. Cohen (D)

Cohen was on the State Board of Equalization (which deals with taxes), and is now trying for Controller. She has some financial background: Prior to being elected to the Board of Equalization, Cohen served as President of the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco, where she served as the Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee. In that role, she oversaw the adoption of an $11 billion budget, and measures concerning bond issues, taxes, fees, and redevelopment and real estate matters. She also served as a fiduciary member of the San Francisco Transportation Authority. She also served as a Commissioner of the San Francisco Employee Retirement System (SFERS), which manages a $23 billion pension fund.  She has a lot of Democratic leader and union endorsements, which could be problematic if their oxen get gored. Her issues page talks about equity, but I’m not sure the issues she mentions are in the scope of a controller. The Times wrote of her “Cohen is a rising star in the California Democratic Party with strong ties to powerful politicians. Endorsed by the party, most statewide officials and dozens of lawmakers, she is positioned to work well with the Democrats who run the state. But California will benefit more from a controller who will stand up to them.” That’s a concern, but I also want a controller that understands the financial side.

📋 Conclusion

The biggest problem with Malia M. Cohen is her issues page. Her discussion of the issues makes it clear she doesn’t understand the limitations of the Controller position. To me, my first priority is someone who understands the duties and functions of the Controller, and who understands the finances. The Controller is a specialized wonky position. So, between the candidates we have, I’m forced to go with Lanhee Chen, who is a super genius, endorsed by the Times, and seems to understand the position.


The Treasurer provides financing for schools, roads, housing, levees, public health facilities, and other crucial infrastructure projects. The Treasurer managed in excess of $3.2 trillion of banking transactions in 2021. One of the primary duties of the Treasurer is to provide transparency and oversight for the state’s investment portfolio and bank accounts. Funds held in the treasury that are not needed immediately are invested in safe, liquid securities designed to use the state’s financial resources efficiently. As such, the Treasurer oversees an investment portfolio that has averaged more than $100 billion, about one-third of which are funds beneficially owned by more than 2,200 local governments in California. In addition to these banking and investment activities, the Treasurer serves as the agent for the sale of all state bonds and is the trustee on a majority of the state’s outstanding debt.

Fiona Ma (D) Inc

Ma is the current Treasurer of California, and is a CPA by training. She is endorsed out the wazoo. I have heard no complaints about how she runs her department. I see no reason to change.

Jack M. Guerrero (R)

Guerrero is a CPA and past Mayor of Cudahy. Reading his page, he certainly has the experience. As of the primary, there were no 2022 endorsements yet, but he had lots of Republican endorsements in 2018. If this were an open seat, I would consider him for the position: No Trumpian stuff, and loads of financial experience. But this isn’t an open seat, and he doesn’t identify a single problem in the current Treasurer’s operation. So why change?

October 2022 Update: With Guerrero’s selection in the primary, it looks like the endorsements have come in. All strongly Republican, Tea Party, Libertarian, or “Howard Jarvis” types.

📋 Conclusion

During the primary, I wrote: For this position, I really like the incumbent, Fiona Ma. Jack M. Guerrero has a lot of experience and might do a good job — if this was an open seat. But it isn’t, and I haven’t seen a justification for replacing Fiona Ma. For the general? I still see no justification for replacing Fiona Ma.

Attorney General

The Attorney General is the state’s top lawyer and law enforcement official, protecting and serving the people and interests of California through a broad range of duties. The Attorney General’s responsibilities include safeguarding Californians from harm and promoting community safety, preserving California’s spectacular natural resources, enforcing civil rights laws, and helping victims of identity theft, mortgage-related fraud, illegal business practices, and other consumer crimes. The AG also defends California’s laws when they are challenged in court.

The current AG, Rob Bonta, was appointed when Xavier Becerra departed to become U.S. Health and Human Services secretary in the Biden administration. This is a position where I do not want a Republican, for I wouldn’t trust a Republican AG to defend laws that are Democratic priorities.

◯ Nathan Hochman (R)

Nathan J. Hochman is an American attorney who served as United States Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division of the United States Department of Justice in 2008. He also worked in the Criminal Division as an Assistant US Attorney, prosecuting over a hundred cases, from going after corrupt government officials and tax evaders to narcotics traffickers and violent gang members. Nathan also ran the Environmental Crimes Section targeting air, water, and land polluters. OK, he has suitable experience. He is endorsed by a large number of Republican organizations and law enforcement agencies. But with any Republican, the concern is his position on the issues. Would he support the laws the state passed even if he disagrees with them? On that, his issue page is silent.  Is he worth the risk?

October 2022 Update: He has only four issues on his site: Fentanyl, homelessness, crime, and human trafficking.  All standard Republican talking points. But his page is silent on other issues, such as whether he would defend California’s position on abortion, regulation, immigration, or elections. Hochman seems to be personally anti-abortion, but believes the AG should enforce and support California’s laws. He supports the constitutional amendment on abortion (that makes it legal in California), and didn’t vote for Trump (or anyone) in 2020. He doesn’t talk a lot about his personal beliefs, emphasizing the non-partisan nature of the AG. However, this twitter chain makes it appear he is not in favor of Trump running in 2024. On CRT, he writes: “If we had banned critical race theory we wouldn’t be paying so much for gas, I just know it”. Probably a joke, but he does seem to support the notion there is no basis for teaching it.

Rob Bonta (D) Appointed Inc

Bonta is the current AG, appointed from the Assembly when Becerra went to the BIden Administration. Before that, he was a Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, where he represented the City and County and its employees, and fought to protect Californians from exploitation and racial profiling. He has a slew of endorsements, including the major papers. The LA Times wrote: “Bonta is the right choice. He should be elected to a full term as attorney general. He has shown a commitment and an ability to effectively enforce laws that Californians have adopted, either directly by ballot or through their elected representatives. By contrast, the three leading challengers want to undermine or overturn many of those same laws — a dangerous stance for candidates seeking to be the state’s chief law enforcement officer. Bonta’s brief tenure has been solid so far. In the midst of California’s housing affordability and availability crisis, he has stood firm against cities resisting laws requiring them to make space for more residents. For example, he called out Pasadena for its ploy to restrict multifamily housing in broad swaths of the city, and similarly warned Woodside to drop its plan to designate the entire city as a supposed mountain lion sanctuary.” Given the opposing candidates, I agree.

📋 Conclusion

We need someone that will work to uphold California’s laws, and there’s only one choice who will do that with an appropriate level of assurance: Rob Bonta

Insurance Commissioner

The California Insurance Commissioner (1) oversees and directs all functions of the Department of Insurance; (2) licenses, regulates, and examines insurance companies; (3) answers public questions and complaints regarding the insurance industry; (4) enforces the laws of the California Insurance Code and adopts regulations to implement the laws; (5) and enforces the department mission to ensure vibrant markets where insurers keep their promises and the health and economic security of individuals, families, and businesses are protected. The position is especially important right now, with the ACA and Health Insurance marketplace issues.

But note that the focus of the job is insurance. This is not a job that deals with things like homelessness or public safety. This is also one of those positions that does require a legal background, as well as the ability to deal with numbers (although a CPA is not required). Lastly, the position requires someone who is not to close to the Insurance industry.

Ricardo Lara (D) Inc

Lara is the current Insurance Commissioner. Commissioner Lara previously served in the California Legislature, representing Assembly District 50 from 2010 to 2012 and Senate District 33 from 2012 to 2018. Commissioner Lara earned a BA in Journalism and Spanish with a minor in Chicano Studies from San Diego State University. That’s also not a strong background for this position. He has the endorsement of a bunch of Democratic leaders, unions, and affinity organizations. Notably, he does not have the endorsement of the LA Times, who writes: “Ricardo Lara’s first year as California insurance commissioner — the elected office charged with regulating the state’s $310-billion insurance industry — was an ethical disaster. In March 2019, Lara, a Democrat, held a lunch meeting with insurance company executives who had business pending before his department, for the purpose, records showed, of building a relationship that would benefit his reelection campaign. In April, he accepted more than $50,000 in campaign donations from insurance industry representatives and their spouses, including from people with ties to the company at the lunch meeting the month before. In June, Lara overruled decisions his department had previously made in ways that benefited the company.” Technically not illegal, but visually stupid. But that was only one of many such problems; the Times piece details them all. His priorities seem reasonable. Still, given a weak background and ethical issues, I wonder if there is someone better…

◯ Robert Howell (R)

Robert Howell owns and operates an electronics firm in the Silicon Valley. He has a degree in Engineering from San Jose State. He’s running as a Reagan Republican. His focus seems to be on wildfire victims. But more troubling is this element of his vision: “Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing the Golden State due to the high cost of living and a broken, unresponsive state bureaucracy.” How he connects that to the responsibilities of Insurance Commissioner is unclear? Does he believe it is the cost of insurance that drives people away?  But other than that, he has no broader vision, and no endorsements. He also doesn’t have the experience needed. Next…

October 2022 Update: Howell still hasn’t expanded his website. In their endorsement of Lara for the General Election, the Times writes: “Howell sits on the board of a conservative club called the Liberty Forum of Silicon Valley, has never held elective office and knows little about insurance. Faced with these two options, Lara is the better choice.” The Times also notes: “Howell […] said in an interview with the editorial board that he didn’t see how climate change was relevant to the insurance commissioner’s duties. And he seemed uncomfortable stating a clear position on abortion. He initially said abortion is not relevant to the insurance commissioner’s office. Then he said that he wouldn’t allow his personal beliefs to interfere with his job duties and that he “would probably be OK with” abortions during the first trimester or to save the life of the pregnant woman. This isn’t the kind of commitment to a personal freedom under attack by the U.S. Supreme Court that Californians expect from state leaders. Howell does not display any particular passion or interest in insurance issues. He told The Times he decided to run for insurance commissioner because it’s an office he believes he could win after losing a few local races in the San Jose area. Although he lamented the problem many California homeowners face getting insurance in wildfire-prone regions, he presented no detailed plans to address the issue.”

📋 Conclusion

Ricardo Lara is clearly an ethical mess. But Howell has no solutions, doesn’t understand the position, and has no real plans. Of the two, I’ll hold my nose and go with Lara.

State Board of Equalization, 3rd District

The State Board of Equalization (BOE) was created in 1879 by constitutional amendment and charged with the responsibility for ensuring that county property tax assessment practices were equal and uniform throughout the state. Through the years, legislative changes expanded the BOE’s role to administer additional taxes and fees. Effective July 1, 2017, the BOE returned to its Constitutional responsibilities. The BOE is responsible for property tax programs, alcoholic beverage tax, tax on insurers, and private railroad car tax. The BOE is also constitutionally responsible for the Alcoholic Beverage Tax and Tax on Insurers. By way of agreement, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), performs billing and audit services for those programs.

Tony Vazquez (D) Inc

Vazquez is a current member of the Board of Equalization. He was elected to the Board in November 2018. The 3rd district is entirely in Los Angeles County (his website says “The Third Board of Equalization District includes over 9.5 million residents of the counties of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino.”, but the Voter Information Guide says the 3rd district is only LA County; Ventura is 2nd District, and most of SBD is 4th District). He’s a former mayor of Santa Monica. He has a large number of endorsements. His “why I’m running” doesn’t say much. But so far, I’m not seeing a strong argument as to why he should be replaced, and as the current Chair of the BOE, he has the historical background that is important.

◯ Y. Marie Manvel (None)

Manvel does not have a campaign website (well, she lists one on Voters Edge, but it doesn’t resolve). Voters Edge notes that  she is a social services commissioner, and that her priorities are: (1) Review unfair taxation; (2) California to be more business friendly; (3) Reduce redundant taxes. Not all of these are BOE responsibilities.  She has an MBA from USC (Finance, Entrepreneurship), and a BS in BIological Studies from UCSB. Linkedin provides no additional data. Again: No campaign website indicates little drive for the position; and her priorities are both wrong and far too high level.

October 2022 Update: Since the Primary, Manvel has hired someone to create a website for her. However, the site doesn’t say all that much, lists no endorsements, and seems to serve primarily as a front door for donations. Her front page repeats anti-taxation memes, and seems to want to eliminate taxes. But it also shows a lack of awareness of the limitations of the BOE. There is nothing that says she understands the Board of Equalization.

📋 Conclusion

At the primary, I said that only one candidate had the drive to even build a website: Tony Vazquez. None of the others gave any reason to replace him. So Tony Vazquez it is. For the general, his opponent has built that website. But it still shows no understanding of the Board of Equalization’s role, nor does her page show any endorsements. In fact, her page shows she thinks the Board has more power than it does. So she still hasn’t convinced me that Vazquez has to go.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

The superintendent oversees the California Department of Education (CDE) and, by extension, all of the state of California’s public schools. He or she executes the policies of the California Board of Education, which is the school system’s primary governing body. The superintendent also manages the operational side of the school system; he or she licenses teachers, maintains school property, and fulfills other administrative duties. The CDE and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction are also responsible for enforcing education law and regulations; and for continuing to reform and improve public elementary school programs, secondary school programs, adult education, some preschool programs, and child care programs.

Tony K. Thurmond Inc

Thurmond is the current Supt. of Public Instruction. Per his bio, “Superintendent Thurmond is an educator, social worker, and public school parent, who has served the people of California for more than ten years in elected office. Previously, he served on the Richmond City Council, West Contra Costa Unified School Board, and in the California State Assembly representing District 15.” He appears to have good plans. He has a large number of endorsements, including the teachers. I don’t recall hearing any scandals or problems from his administration (except from the R side, which doesn’t like progressive education in general). So far, my fav.

◯ Lance Ray Christensen

Christensen is a California Education Policy Specialist and Vice President, Education Policy & Government Affairs at the California Policy Center. His issues platform seems to be focused on more parent input (which is often R code words for targeting books and ideas they don’t like). The agenda becomes clear when you see his endorsements: California GOP, California Congress of Republicans, Lincoln Club, various Republican parties, various Republican legislators. This guy is not non-partisan, but has a R agenda. Next…

📋 Conclusion

The field for this office makes the selection for me easy. The Republicans are pushing the Trump agenda in non-partisan clothing. Nope. Further, they haven’t provided the justification as to why the incumbent is doing a bad job. So that leaves the incumbent: Tony K. Thurmond


2 Replies to “🗳️ Nov 2022 General Election Ballot Analysis (I): Intro + State/National Offices”

  1. I greatly appreciate the deep analyses you’ve done for the California and Los Angeles County ballot, especially since they’re also mostly applicable to me in the Antelope Valley portion of LA County.
    One minor correction: the official Voter Information Guide Page 61 shows that the Board of Equalization 3rd District consists solely of the entirety of Los Angeles County. Ventura County is in the 2nd District and almost all of San Bernardino County is in the 1st District with a southwest corner sliver in the 4th District. Perhaps this was a redistricting change after the 2020 census.
    Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts. And I’ve also been a huge fan for years of the primary portion of the cahighways.org website.

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