🗳️ Mar 2024 Primary Election Ballot Analysis (II): County and City (L.A.) Local 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 Local Offices (excluding US Congress and State Assembly)

  • County of Los Angeles: District Attorney
  • City of Los Angeles: City Council 12th District
  • LA Unified School District: Board of Education 3rd District
  • Democratic County Central Committee: 40th Assembly District


County of Los Angeles

District Attorney

With the current rise in crime, especially retail “smash and grab” thefts (I’m sure you’ve heard about the theft rings), the current DA, George Gascón has been in hot water. This isn’t new for him.

Back in 2020, the last time Gascón ran, his primary opponent was Jackie Lacey. She had a raft of problems. She approached the job as a traditional tough-on-crime prosecutor, getting endorsements from the public safety crowd. This led her to fail to prosecute a number of problematic police officers. In particular, Gascón wanted to be hard on officer-involved shootings—which if you recall 2020, seemed to be everywhere (this was the summer of George Floyd). Lacey also had a death penalty problem. An ACLU report issued in the election year 2020 identified 22 people who were sentenced to death while Lacey has been in office, and all of those defendants were people of color. This is something the community was hypersensitive about.

Enter George Gascón. He was a former progressive San Francisco DA attempting to bring his ideas to Los Angeles. Gascon earned a reputation as one of the nation’s most forward-thinking law enforcement officials. While police chief in Mesa, Ariz., he spent years battling Sheriff Joe Arpaio over what critics called brutal and humiliating treatment of suspects and immigrant detainees. After a brief stint as San Francisco’s police chief, Gascon was appointed district attorney, championing a number of causes aimed at reducing prison populations and trying to rectify disparate enforcement against people of color. He wanted to get rid of cash bail, and work to reduce prison populations by getting more people the mental health treatment they need. He co-authored Prop. 47, which reduced some non-violent felonies to misdemeanors. He was willing to consider some sort of independent special prosecutor to investigate police shootings. His issues page at the time showed that he has successfully tackled sexual assault, environmental issues, law enforcement overreach, corruption, and fought for the victim.

But warning signs were there. He wasn’t endorsed by his former bosses in San Francisco; Mayor London Breed endorsed Lacey. Why? According to the LA Times, “she blamed Gascón and his posture of reform for the rash of car break-ins and other street problems that have dogged San Francisco, even as the city experienced a sharp drop in violent crime. Sound familiar? While naming an interim prosecutor to take over after Gascón stepped down to run in L.A., Breed maintained there was growing frustration for “the endless cycle of people getting arrested for dealing drugs, or breaking into cars, only to be released back out on the streets.”” Gascon responded that they prosecuted about 85% of those cases, and in many, the SFPD failed to get solid suspects. The Times reports that Gascon posits that the real reason for the animosity is “Breed’s endorsement of his opponent stemmed from personal animus.

This brings us to 2024. Gascon has fallen out of favor due to a perception that there is an increase in crime and in smash-and-grabs, and that he is failing to prosecute. What many fail to realize is that much of this is out of Gascon’s hands: The thefts are often below the legal limits for prosecution, and the stores don’t prosecute because it is cheaper to have insurance cover their losses than to pay for the lawyers. Further, the threshold for felony prosecution is $900 after Prop 47, and below that, the discretion to charge is often at the City Attorney level, not the County DA. But the people want someone to blame. Officer involved shootings have gone out of the news, and the public no longer thinks about disproportionate arrests of people of color.

According to the LA Times, as soon as he got into office, Gascon changed the rules: “Prosecutors could no longer seek the death penalty or try juveniles as adults. A number of misdemeanor charges, including trespassing and simple drug possession, would no longer be filed. An overall focus on restorative justice would mean defendants would face shorter prison sentences, even in some cases where violence was alleged.” At his swearing in, he announced that he would end cash bail, institute a ban on prosecutors seeking enhanced prison sentences and show leniency to many low-level offenders. He would also a review of thousands of old cases to determine whether lighter sentences or prisoner releases should be sought.

So what to look for here. Gascon’s office has become perceived as ineffective, and has lost public confidence. He needs to be replaced, but the replacement needs to continue appropriate reforms. The answer is not to go back to a tough-on-crime approach that targets minority groups disproportionately. With limited prison space and the cost of prisons, they need to be utilized smarter. Most importantly, we need to make sure we don’t use law-and-order as an excuse to fall into Trumpian hatred of the other, hatred of the poor, and hatred of minorities. This is an area where Trump is controlling the perception and the narrative for his purposes and because it serves his goals. Gascon did what he promised to do, but he needs a symbolic replacement. But a smarter, more politically adept replacement.

In looking at these candidates, I expect them all to have positions are tough on violent crime, and plan to address the retail theft surge. If they don’t, that’s a problem. But I also expect to see some reforms continued. I look at their position on cash bail, which is a problem because it allows white collar and wealthy criminals to pay their way out. A risk based approach is better, keeping people in jail based on the nature of the charge and the likelihood of the accused to flee. I look at their position on abusive police officer and officer-involved shootings. The DA should hold the police accountable when they abuse their positions. Lastly, I look at their positions on racial disparities in charging: is there a racial pattern in how they prosecute and the sentences they go after, understanding that some of this is coming from who gets arrested.

Where I could figure it out, party affiliations are shown as / X, because they do show general philosophy. NPP = No Party Preference

Nathan Hochman / R→NPP

Hochman is a former federal prosecutor, U.S. Assistant Attorney General, and LA Ethics Commission President. He is endorsed by a number of former US District Attorneys and former DAs in LA and Santa Barbara. He has a detailed platform that is predictably tough on crime. I looked instead at his positions on the reforms that Gascon was specifically brought in to address: disparities in cash bail application, dealing with rogue cops, and racial bias in enforcement. He’s in favor of a risk-based approach on bail, but not a total elimination of cash bail. I disagree. I agree with the risk based approach, but if the risk is there, there shouldn’t be the option of cash-bail. All cash-bail does is provide an out for the wealthy. He does seem to want to prosecute police misconduct.  His platform does not address racial disparities in prosecution.

He claims to be running as an independent. He’s not. Wikipedia notes that Hochman was the Republican nominee for the 2022 California Attorney General election, ultimately losing the election to Rob Bonta.

He’s a “maybe”, but his lack of broad endorsements, his failure to address racial issues, and his political affiliation make me wary. In particular, he has no law enforcement or Democratic endorsements.

Debra Archuleta / D

Archuleta is, according to her bio page, a former Deputy DA who was elected a judge of the Superior Court in 2016. She appears to be one of the Democratic candidates. She does not list endorsements. As she is a former Judge, it was intrigued with the Metropolitan News had a piece on her, as they normally explored judicial behavior. They noted that back when she was running for judge, a number of Deputy DAs, including Cooley, didn’t endorse her. The disagreement appears to be personal, combined with disagreements over ballot designations. The MetNews discussion indicates she hadn’t done a lot of violent crime prosecutions at the time. I’ll note we don’t see police endorsements, nor do we see Democratic endorsements.

I reviewed her positions on the issues. She seems clueless on the issue related to bail: “Bail ensures protection for the public and law enforcement officers on a daily basis, and it is central to maintaining the integrity of the criminal justice system by ensuring the accused appear in court.” No. Having no bail ensures appearance. Bail just gives the wealthy a way out. She says nothing about her approach to abuses by law enforcement or addressing racial disparities in prosecution. On the plus side, she does explicitly talk about hate crimes.

Jeff Chemerinsky / D

Chemerinsky is another US Attorney running for this office. He was Chief of the Violent and Organized Crime section of the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. He is a registered Democrat, and has a broad set of endorsements. These range from various Democratic clubs, various levels of state, city, and county politicians, and police commission members. Notable here are Henry Waxman, Bob Blumenthal, and Ira Reiner.

In terms of positions, he wants to continue criminal justice reforms. He wants to go after smash-and-grabs, but also enhance civil rights prosecution. Reading through all of them, they seem appropriate and align with my thinking. I cannot find any details on his thoughts on bail, abusive police officers, or racial disparities in prosecution. He’s a possibility.

Eric Siddall / D

Eric Siddall is the Immediate past Vice President of the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) and a current Los Angeles County deputy district attorney.  He is a registered Democrat, with his only listed endorsement being the ADDA (which he used to lead). His bio claims that he is a violent crimes prosecutor. Ballotpedia confirms this, noting “Siddall is a deputy district attorney assigned to prosecuting violent crimes. In his former role as vice president of the county prosecutors’ union, Siddall says he successfully sued Gascón over Gascón’s prohibition on sentencing enhancements, allowing prosecutors to again seek higher sentences in crimes with specific aggravating factors. Siddall supports encouraging rehabilitation of criminals and measures to promote public safety. Siddall says he will prioritize hiring 300 new prosecutors to clear the backlog of cases and reduce the crime rate.”

Reviewing Sidall’s priorities, he wants to reduce violent crime and address retail theft, like most candidates.  He wants to end gun violence. His priorities page says nothing about addressing police abuse, his approach on bail, or correcting racial disparities in prosecution. Digging, I found that he was against bail reform.

I’m lukewarm on Siddall.

Maria Ramirez / D

Ramirez is Head Deputy District Attorney, in the Target Crimes office. Her focus is prosecuting gang violence and drug trafficking.  She’s been invited to candidate forums as part of a group of Democratic candidates, so presumably she’s a Democrat. Her website does not list any endorsements.

Reviewing her issues section, she wants to continue reform but believes Gascon approached the issue wrong. She wants to address gun violence through the use of enhancements. She wants to reform and rework the DAs office. Her website does not address violent crime or smash and grabs, but in a candidates forum on Prop 47, the Daily News notes that she feels that Prop 47 did not consider the long-term consequences of reducing consequences for recidivists, and so she would propose the reinstatement of Penal Code section 666 in instances where there are two or more theft convictions within five years of the current offense, and would consider exempting certain crimes from Proposition 47 that are creating public safety risks to our county. With respect to bail, Ramirez has stated that the implementation of zero-bail is “Flawed” due to just looking at the charge itself, and not based on a “complete review” of the arrestee. I’ve seen no discussions regarding holding police accountable, or addressing disproportionate racial issues.

I like her ideas on reform, but think the other areas of her platform needs work.

Dan Kapelovitz / G

Kapelovitz worked as a certified criminal law specialist and taught Criminal Procedure and Evidence at the People’s College of Law. He is endorsed by the Green and Peace and Freedom parties, signaling a likely affiliation. No police or law enforcement endorsements.

His platform is very progressive, stressing many of the right things–bail reform, racial justice. Reading through his issues page, I agree with him on many things. He seems to be moving even further to the progressive side than Gascon. But I don’t think he is addressing the current wave of smash and grab crimes, nor violent crimes. He’s using Prop 47 as an excuse to say nothing has to change. Surgical changes are needed, and the morale issues at the DAs office need to be addressed.

Some good ideas, but I think Kapelovitz has the wrong approach.

Lloyd “Bobcat” Masson / NPP

Masson is another Deputy DA who has grown disallusioned with Gascon’s leadership, although he is from San Bernardino County. His focus has been cold cases. He lists no endorsements.

His priorities page starts off with “Priority one for me is immediately dropping the hammer on all robbery, burglary and theft-related offenses, including follow-home robberies, car thefts, retail theft and catalytic converter thefts”. Drop the hammer? This isn’t a TV show. In other areas, he sounds the same as many of the other Deputy DAs who want to fix Gascon’s damage. He does seem to be against ending cash bail, and says nothing about prosecuting bad police officers or addressing racial charging disparities.

John McKinney / D

McKinney has a detailed bio online. He’s been a prosecutor in the Major Crimes and Gang units of the Compton Branch of the Superior Court. He’s been invited to candidate forums as part of a group of Democratic candidates, so presumably he’s a Democrat. His endorsement page lists a small number of political endorsements, mostly mayors and councilmembers of southern Los Angeles County cities.

His priorities page echoes the call to fix what Gascon has broken. His approach is slightly different: “Whenever possible we will focus on the source of crime, such as the leaders of organized crime rings, cartels, and drug operations.” Reading through the details, I like his policies. He doesn’t say anything about rogue cops or bias in charging based on race.

Craig J. Mitchell / D

Mitchell is another Superior Court Judge running for DA; he was a Deputy DA before that. His bio statement is odd. He writes: “In his 20 years he has never had a conviction overturned. When he served as a Deputy District Attorney, during his last years as a prosecutor, Mitchell tried more murder cases than any other prosecutor in Los Angeles. Judge Craig Mitchell, unlike his opponents, has spent his career upholding the law as a Judge – not as a lawyer representing criminals. Judge Craig Mitchell is a crusader for justice.”  First, trying more murder cases doesn’t mean anything when you are going for a prosecutorial job like the DA. Secondly, he implies that his opponents are lawyers representing criminals. Yet almost all of his opponents have either been some form of Deputy DA or their Federal equivalents. DA and folks like that represent the state in cases, not the criminals. I don’t think there is one public defender running for DA. So he does appear out of touch with the field. He’s been invited to candidate forums as part of a group of Democratic candidates, so presumably he’s a Democrat. His website lists no endorsements.

Reading through his policies, it is the usual “tough on crime” positions, along with fixing Gascon’s management mistakes. He’s opposed to the change in bail policies. He doesn’t say anything about rogue cops or bias in charging based on race.

David S. Milton / R

Milton is a retired judge, now serving as an arbitrator. His areas of expertise include Real Estate, Personal Injury, including Premises & Products Liability, Civil Rights / Officer Involved Use of Force, Business & Commercial Contract, and Professional Malpractice (Medical/Nursing/Legal/Accounting). According to the LA Times, he is a Republican. HIs website lists a large number of GOP endorsements; but none from law enforcement organizations.

His website lists the usual litany of tough on crime provisions. He doesn’t say anything about addressing prosecution of rouge police, or systematic differences in racial prosecution.

George Gascón / D INC

The way I went through the candidates here was to go through all the challengers first, saving Gascon for last. I wanted to survey the field and see what they felt the problems were with Gascon. I would then see if Gascon was addressing those problems, or was even aware of them.

So let’s start with the obvious: There are lots of folks out there that hate Gascon’s policies. You hear it everywhere. You see it in all the other candidates. You read about it on NextDoor. So, why oh why does Gascon have so many endorsements. Democratic clubs out the ying-yang. Labor unions. Elected representative. Significant leaders. Even The Los Angeles Times, which writes:

He is doing what he promised, and doing it well, despite intense and dishonest backlash from opponents inside his office and among right-wing politicians and pundits across the nation. L.A. County voters would be wise to reject the nonsense and keep Gascón on the job and criminal justice reform in place. […] Falsehoods about his policies, and about the apocalyptic landscape that Los Angeles has supposedly become because of them, are widespread — so much so that voters who supported him 3½ ago may have forgotten why. […]

L.A. voters picked him because he correctly saw the self-defeating nature of a system that does not know when to stop punishing. Studying the data, Gascón realized that punishment must be properly “dosed,” like medicine. Too much for too long, the numbers show, and the imprisoned offender is broken instead of corrected, loses the ability to responsibly reenter society and becomes more likely to reoffend. That phenomenon has endangered all of us for far too long — and it has perpetuated multigenerational racial inequities by disproportionately locking up Black and Latino Angelenos and leaving too many families without two parents present.

Gascón’s policies seek the most fitting rather than the longest possible sentences. This smart approach was such a departure from older, failed strategies that the MAGA right promptly distorted it into the false narrative that Gascón refuses to prosecute misdemeanors at all, and generally avoids prosecuting felonies.

What’s telling is who is missing: There are no law enforcement endorsements. In fact, the LA Police Protective League raised money to defeat Gascon in the 2020 election, and worked for his recall. The police do not like his reforms. It is clear he is doing more than (as they would put it) being soft on crime; he is clearly goring their ox and holding officers accountable, and not treading their statements as the word of God. I don’t see an endorsement yet from LAPPL in favor of a candidate, but they are clearly against Gascon.

The LA Times primary voter guide makes the ox goring clear: “Gascón’s first term has also been a success for the progressive bloc that vaulted him into office. Prosecutions of police officers for excessive force have become more of a focus, and seven people have been exonerated for crimes judges later ruled they did not commit. Gascón’s resentencing unit has also had a dramatic impact by shortening the prison terms of people who were sent away for decades as juveniles because they were tried as adults, though some say the program is moving too slowly.” This is why cops don’t like him: he’s holding them accountable.

Gascon doesn’t have a statement of priorities on his website; he doesn’t have a list of what he will change in his second term. There are no lessons learned. He does seem to be increasing his prosecution of smash and grabs.

Jonathan Hatami / R→D

Hatami is Deputy District Attorney in the Complex Child Abuse Section in the office of the Los Angeles County District Attorney. He’s been invited to candidate forums as part of a group of Democratic candidates, so presumably he’s a Democrat. He has a lot of endorsements, including both political and law enforcement, but notably nothing from City of Los Angeles folks. His DA endorsements are all from other counties. One of his endorsements was from Antonovich, one of our few R Supervisors. It turns out that Hatami ran for Santa Clarita City Council as a Republican,  but changed his affiliation to Democrat to run for DA. Hmm….

I read through his detailed positions statement. I agree with his position on bail. He talks about holding the police accountable for their actions. He talks about protecting LGBTQ+ rights. He talks about strengthening hate crime prosecution. He talks about fair and equal access to justice and justice reforms. Of all the candidates I’ve looked through, this fellow seems to be saying the right things.

I note that the LA Times states “Hochman, Hatami, Milton and McKinney have said they would either erase all of the district attorney’s policies or begin their terms as the “exact opposite of George Gascón.””. Yet in looking over his positions on his website, I can find no such statement. There is a reference that he will treat things on a case-by-case basis as opposed to blanket policies, but that’s different than being the exact opposite of Gascon.

📋 Conclusion

This is a hard race to come to a conclusion on. On the one hand, there is the perception that Gascon is doing a bad job. This is shown from the recall effort and the clear feeling in the DA’s office. On the other hand, there is the question of whether that perception is reality. For if the perception was reality, then Gascon would not have gotten the LA Times endorsement or so many union and other endorsements. Something deeper is going on here.

Start by asking yourself: Is violent crime going up in Los Angeles County? I’m not talking about what you hear on the news, for the news covers what will bring the eyeballs. I’m not talking about what you read on social media. Again, eyeballs. The actual answer is: No. According to the LA Times, “In the latest sign that violent crime in Los Angeles is receding from a surge during the COVID-19 pandemic, LAPD officials on Wednesday released statistics showing double-digit percentage declines in both homicides and nonfatal shootings in 2023.” They increased during the pandemic (not a surprise, as enforcement was lower), but have dropped since. That article also said that the police chief also noted “robberies were down about 10%, but a greater percentage of those stickups involved firearms. Despite the positive statistics, the chief said he understood how some residents may be left feeling on edge by crimes including smash-and-grab thefts, which have been the focus of TV newscasts and social media posts showing people carrying stolen merchandise as they stream out of high-end stores.” Retail theft is up, but the number of cases filed is also up. Further, retail theft numbers are known to be misrepresented, and some of the issue is that stores do not find it worth their while to prosecute.

So increasing crime is a matter of perception, not necessarily fact. Just like the perception of the economy. Ask yourself next: Who is stirring the pot of that perception?  Police unions are known to be strongly Conservative, and the people on NextDoor tend to be the folks that love to carp about crime and thefts and everything about society going to hell. So it clearly seems there is a concerted effort to work against Gascon’s reforms.

But also, clearly, there is a strong sense of discontent in the DA’s office. Independent of Gascon’s law enforcement policies and priorities, his management style is irritating the rank and file. That’s not good. He might have the right ideas, but doesn’t seem to be managing their implementation well. From reading all the different pages, it seems a lot of the problem has been enforcement of a one-size-fits-all rule. He didn’t change the sense or the philosophy of the office (how people think — the corporate culture). He did a sharp turn and shocked people. What he needed to do was instill the new philosophy, trust his staff, and give them the discretion to do the right thing — be it lighter or harder.

So there are two schools of thought here. First, keep Gascon and hope that things will improve in his second term and the seeds he planted mature. Second, replace Gascon with someone who has better management skills and can improve the perception while still improving things. Much as I think that Gascon started the movement in the right direction, I think he has lost his mandate of support from the rank and file. I think that Gascon will make it into the top two primary. So what we are doing is like Survivor: Picking the best individual to go against Gascon, hoping that the General Election will make things clearer with a smaller field.

Based on my reading of all the candidate statements, and looking for one that seems willing to address reform, police accountability, and criminal justice reform in a more sensical manner has been difficult. There are far too many that focus on the “law and order” side that conservatives and the police love, without the balance. Based on all my reading, I think the best one to go against Gascon is ⚫ Jonathan Hatami / R→D. His statement of issues seems the most balanced, and he seems to have the desire to treat things case by case and with balance. At least it is worth it for the primary.

City of Los Angeles

City Council, 12th District

Ah, City Council. The part of government that people interface with the most. These are the folks that help you with the local pothole, the tree that fell during the storm, or zoning issues. Wikipedia notes that Los Angeles’s 12th City Council district covers the northwestern San Fernando Valley communities of Chatsworth, Granada Hills, Northridge, Porter Ranch, West Hills, North Hills, and Reseda, and is currently represented by Independent John Lee since 2019 after he was elected to finish Mitchell Englander’s term. Lee is the only Independent on the nonpartisan City Council, previously being a Republican much like his predecessors. Registration in the district is Democratic 44%; Republican 24%; No party preference 32%.

John S. Lee INC 

John Lee has been OK. His office has been responsive when we’ve needed them. They’ve replaced trees that have been damaged on our street. They have fixed issues with the senior center and handicapped parking. They have been working to address homelessness and public safety issues. He has worked to close Aliso Canyon. So why am I lukewarm about Lee.

The answer is simple. If he was non-partisan as he claimed, he wouldn’t be out there endorsing the Republican candidates for State Senate and State Assembly. Those candidates are clearly in the Trump camp, and being a Trump supporter, even once removed, means I can’t support you for public office. His endorsements show a similar lack of balance. The Daily News leans very conservative these days. As do the unions and individuals that support him. He’s OK, but its clear his values and my values do not align.

Further, Lee has been charged with ethical issues, just like his predecessor. The Ethics Commission has accused Councilmember John Lee of accepting gifts in 2016 and 2017 in excess of the limit, failing to disclose those gifts, misusing his city position, and aiding and abetting his old boss, former Councilmember Mitch Englander, in misusing his city position. We don’t need this.

Serena Oberstein

Serena Oberstein is a San Fernando Valley resident, who currently serves as the director of Jewish World Watch (a great organization). She served as the President and Vice President of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission from 2014-2018. She has a broad level of endorsements, including Adam Schiff, Brad Sherman, Pilar Schiavo, Henry Stern, Howard Berman, Loraine Lundquist. This is my current state and national leadership team, or folks I want  (see my post on state and national offices) or have wanted in the past to represent me. She also has a swath of Democratic organizations behind her. The LA Times hasn’t yet endorsed in this race.

She has a broad set of priorities for the district, beyond getting past the ethical problems of Lee. I’ve read through her priorities, and I agree with them.

📋 Conclusion

I think it is time for a change in the district. I’m supporting Serena Oberstein.

Los Angeles Unified School District

Member of the Board of Education – District 3

LA Unified District 3 includes the communities of Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Encino, Granada Hills, Hollywood Hills, Lake Balboa, North Hills, North Hollywood, Northridge, Mission Hills, Porter Ranch, Reseda, Studio City, Valley Village, Van Nuys, Woodland Hills, West Hills, and Winnetka. Essentially, it covers the West San Fernando Valley and the Hollywood Hills. The LA Times has published a voter guide to the district, which is worth reading.

Where I could figure it out, party affiliations are shown as / X, because they do show general philosophy. NPP = No Party Preference

Dan Chang / D

According to his bio: Chang teaches mathematics at James Madison Middle School in North Hollywood. Prior to teaching, Dan led several improvement efforts within the Los Angeles Unified School District. In 2012, he cofounded the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education. The LA Fund rallied local artists to support LAUSD arts education through its Arts Matter campaign. His priorities are outlined on his website and the LA Times article and seem reasonable.  He has a small set of endorsements, but notably UTLA is not behind him. However, a group called “Kids First” is, and they are sending out tons of mailers. The LA Times endorsement of Schmerelson makes clear why there are so many mailers: “[Chang] has a long association with charter schools and school reform organizations, though he now teaches at a traditional public school. ” 🛎 Ding 🛎 Ding 🛎 Ding. Chang is the Charter School candidate.

While researching this, I found an interesting OpEd on Chang. It described the damage that former board member Tamar Galatzan did, and how Schmerelson is working to fix it. This OpEd noted how Chang is embracing Galatzan’s endorsement, as well as endorsements of other board members, and how this is disqualifying for him.

◯ Elizabeth Badger / D

According to Ballotpedia, Badger is the founder and CEO of Minority Outreach Committee, Inc., a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that seeks to encourage and facilitate political, economic and social development. She is a past DNC delegate.  She doesn’t have a campaign website.  Based on the LA Times article, she may be slightly more in favor of charter schools. She really doesn’t provide a lot to go on.

Andreas Farmakalidis / Decline to State

Farmakalidis’ bio page is word salad, but the Times sums it up well: He is part owner of California MusicBox, which provides studio recording services and private music lessons during school and after school.  This becomes interesting when you read what the LA Times has to say about his priorities: “Funding from voter-approved Proposition 28 is supposed to increase access to music and arts education, but thus far “only 20% of California schools currently offer such programs. This raises concerns about two key areas: inadequate guidance and insufficient accountability. … It’s crucial to ensure those funds are used effectively, but it’s bigger than that. It’s about how the whole arts program is structured, how it engages students, and whether it truly unlocks the potential that lies within each and every kid.”” This comes across to me that he is a candidate solely to provide more funds for his business. That’s not right.

Raquel Villalta / R

Villalta is a teacher in the Saugus Unified School District. Her LA TImes discussion raises a lot of red flags. Under “Experience”, she has “Worked more than 17 years in L.A. Unified, including as a mentor teacher. “Unfortunately, when faced with discrimination from LAUSD due to my sincerely held religious belief against the COVID shot, I remained steadfast in my principles and faith … [and] I found myself placed on unpaid leave.” “. Translation: She’s Anti-VAX. Strike one. Under priorities: “Honor “parental rights””. That’s code for a load of things, including controlling what is taught in the schools. They call it “work ideologies” when it is really just teaching students about diversity in society, and about the real history of what has happened to minority groups. This is clear when she talks about “the promotion of gender ideology in our schools.”. Strike two. On her website, she talks about “teaching core subjects , without political agendas”. This is coded language, and refers to the attempts to remove textbooks that conservatives feel promote particular agendas from simple things such as diversity in math problems. Strike three. You’re outta there.

⚫ Scott Mark Schmerelson / D INC

Schmerelson is the current Board member from the district. He has a fair number of endorsements. This includes the endorsement of the LA Times. He also has the endorsement of UTLA. I’ve reviewed his priorities and this goals, and they seem reasonable.

📋 Conclusion

Discounting the second tier (no shows, MAGA, and such), this boils down to a battle between Chang and Schmerelson. Chang is backed by the Charter School folks. Schmerelson is backed by the Teachers Union and the LA Times. Given I strongly value public schools and think Charters are a threat thereto, my choice is clear: Scott Mark Schmerelson / D INC.

Democratic County Central Committee: 40th Assembly District

This is one of those races where I have truly no idea how to pick the right people, other than I tend to go for the incumbent. I’m also thinking it is worth looking at who is active in the Democratic Grassroots organizations.  Did they run for office and need to be encouraged. Do they have positions that are problematic (like support for Gaza) [those I’m marking with ❌]. I’m listing what I find, and hopefully the decision process will come to me. (Vote for no more than 7)

◯ Melissa Garcia Mardoyan

Stonewall Democratic Club Member. San Fernando Valley Young Democrats.

◯ Joshua Heath

Author of “A Letter from Satan to Santa Clarita“, which is quite clever. He’s also running for Santa Clarita City Council.

◯ David Hyman INC

LA Dem Central Committee. Recommended by Taban. I couldn’t find anything additional.

Andrew Taban

Stonewall Democratic Club Member. Field Rep for the California State Assembly (AD40). Ran (but lost) for Trustee, Hart Union School District. Chair, Santa Clarita Valley Democrats. Recommends Hyman, Elmer, Doumas, Flambek, Katajian, Kampbell.

◯ Christine Lamonica

Ran for LACC Board of Trustees. Owner, Prema Yoga. ❌ Re-tweets stuff from Stop Globalization. ❌ Seem to be pro-Gaza. Nope.

◯ Isaac Lieberman

Democratic Socialist. ❌ Referred to Biden as a Corporate Democrat. Bernicrat. LA Dem Central Committee.

◯ Christine Farabaugh

Calif. Teachers Assn. Member.

Michelle Fowle

Stonewall Democratic Club Member. Founder and Chair of The Resistance – Northridge, Indivisible (information on Northridge Indivisible). Strong first-time activist. Strong Biden supporter.

Stacy Fortner INC

Stonewall Democratic Club Member. Ran for SCV Water Agency. Alumna of Emerge CA. Elected delegate for Democratic State Central Committee, Assembly District 38. AD38 Regional Vice Chair. On the EBoard of the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley. On the EBoard of her local club Democratic Alliance for Action. Member of the National Federation of Democratic Women. Emerge CA class of 2017.

◯ Margaret Finnstrom

Bernicrat. LA Dem Central Committee. Supports Israel.

Michelle Elmer INC

Stonewall Democratic Club Member. LA Dem Central Committee. Recommended by Taban. Part of AD 40 Valleys United. Part of Dems for Israel.

Andres Sandoval INC

LA Dem Central Committee. Active in County Democratic Party. Democrat of the Year, 2019

◯ A. Lysa Simon

CU Lawyer. VP North Valley Democratic Club.

Betty Doumas-Toto

Stonewall Democratic Club Member. LA Dem Central Committee. Recommended by Taban. Policy Advocate, National Organizer & Activist at Housing is a Human Right & Single Minded for Single Payer. Americans for Democratic Action.

◯ Lynne Plambeck INC

Stonewall Democratic Club Member. LA Dem Central Committee. President, SCOPE. SCV Water Agency (30 Years).

◯ Renay Grace Rodriguez

Stonewall Democratic Club Member. ❌ Lifetime member: DSA

◯ Jack Kayajian

Recommended by Taban. Ran for LA CD12 City Council. Union Steward.

Michelle Kampbell

Recommended by Taban. Part of Close the Gap CA. Truman Award from SCV Dems. Class of 2018 SCV under 40. Active in Jaycees SCV. President of Democratic Alliance for Action (DAA).

📋 Conclusion

Wow. I was right that the answer came to me: ⓵ Andrew Taban; ⓶ Michelle Fowle; ⓷ Stacy Fortner INC; ⓸ Michelle Elmer INC; ⓹ Andres Sandoval INC; ⓺ Betty Doumas-Toto; ⓻ Michelle Kampbell


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