Decision 2010: The Candidates

Two weeks ago, I presented my initial takes on the propositions. Today I present Part II of my ballot analysis, looking at the candidates. At the end, I’ll give you an update on where I stand on the propositions. As with the earlier post, my intent here is to capture my research (for I always look at the candidates fresh-ish for these posts); you can feel free to attempt to convince me to support someone else.

  • Governor: Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown. Very often, when candidates run against incumbants, the cry is “Do we want more of the same?”, expecting the answer to be “no”. Except, in this case, there is no incumbant, and “more of the same” is actually Meg Whitman: a Republican candidate with no government experience. That was tried with the Governator, and it didn’t work. We need someone who knows how to work in Sacramento (for inexperience didn’t work), who is frugal, and who knows how to govern the state. That’s what we get with Jerry Brown, and that’s why he’s been getting the lion’s share of endorsements: Sacramento Bee, LA Times, SF Chronicle, Daily News (the OC Register went for Whitman, but that’s no surprise). Is Jerry Brown the perfect candidate? No. But I just have more confidence in his ability to bring the parties together to solve the budget problems of the state in a more structurally sound manner, based on his experience and knowledge of the state, than I have in Whitman. Her ideas on taxes (especially elimination of the capital gains tax) I don’t feel are right: in a time of state budget problems, decreasing the income stream is not the right answer (and although some states have no CG tax, most do). With respect to cutting spending, I see more ideas to limit future spending than to cut what is currently there. I also disagree with some of her positions on immigration (an example: I don’t think we should deny them drivers licenses, for that hurts everyone, as they’ll drive anyway… a better answer is to clearly show immigration status on the license itself, just as we do with underage licenses). Brown, on the other hand, has experience in working with legislators to balance state budgets. He also has some clear plans to bring new industries to the state. I just think he’ll do a better job than Whitman.
  • Lt. Governor: Abel Maldonado. This is a hard recommendation to make, for the office is one that really doesn’t do much, and should be eliminated. The choice isn’t that great: on one side, there is a relatively minor politician with no executive experience, but who has shown a willingness to be bi-partisan and has been capable in the job. On the other side, there is a mayor of a major city who has the executive experience, but who has also shown himself to be flighty and prone to say the wrong things. My gut is telling me that the former, Abel Maldonado, might be a better choice, especially if he can work as a team with Brown, for Maldonado might be able to sway the Republican politicians to work for the state as opposed to being shills for the party, whereas Newsom would just exacerbate the partisanship. At least, right now, I’m willing to give it a try.
  • Secy of State: Debra Bowen. Remember the adage that if something is working, don’t attempt to fix it. Bowen has done a good job as Secretary of State, and I see no reason to change.
  • Controller: John Chiang. Again, this is a case of someone who is doing a good job, with no good argument to replace him. Reading through Strickland’s statements, I think he’ll be more effective in the Assembly.
  • Treasurer: Bill Lockyer. Yet another case of the incumbent doing a good job. We seem to have an effective team in Chiang and Lockyer, and I see no strong reason to change it.
  • Attorney General: Steve Cooley Kamala Harris. We have no incumbant in this race; no one to keep in office because they are doing a good job. In fact, this will be pulling someone out of office who is doing a good job where they are. It’s basically a North vs. South battle, with the DAs of Los Angeles and San Francisco battling it out. Both have been effective DAs in their respective cities, but who would be better for the state? The LA Times endorses Cooley, but is it because he is good, or to get him out of LA? The SF Chronicle endorses Harris, potentially for the same reasons. I’m going for Harris, primarily because Cooley opposes same-sex marriage and would work to repeat the healthcare law. The former is morally wrong, and the latter is a waste of state money.

    ETA: Originally, I was for Harris, but changed my mind. Please read the comments on this post. In short, Cooley is a better prosecutor. As for his stance on gay marriage: he appaers to be essentially neutral: he would argue for what the electorate has passed. Thus, my problem is more with the fools that passed Prop. 8 than Cooley. That said, now it is time for the Harris supporters out there: Convince me I should switch my leaning back to Harris. You still have time.

  • Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones. Another hard race, with no incumbent. Here the qualitities of the candidates are less clear, pitting two assembly critters against each other: Dave Jones vs. Mike Villines. The endorsements reflect this, with the LA Times on Jones’ side and the SF Chronicle on Villines side. Both are saying relatively the same mumbo jumbo on their issues pages (Jones, Villines). I think I’m going to go for Jones. The LA Times endorsement provided the deciding factor: experience. Jones has been chairman of the Assembly’s health and judiciary committees, and understands insurance regulation. His biography shows continuing consumer protection work. Villines didn’t have his experience touted in the SF endorsement, and looking at his bio, the emphasis is on his business skills, not his consumer protection or insurance experience.
  • State Board of Equalization, 4th District: Jerome Horton. Horton is the incumbant, and there is no major party opposition. Horton seems to have good tax policy experience, which is what you want in this position. The highest profile opposition is the Libertarian candidate, Peter De Baets. His page shows someone who admits he won’t look at cases on their merits: “I will side with you and not with the State on every single appeal that comes before the tax board. No exceptions.” That’s the wrong answer: each case should have its merits objectively examined. He’s not a credible opponent.
  • United States Senate: Barbara Boxer. This race is like Brown vs. Whitman, but the answer is much harder, because neither candidate is that great. In one corner, we have Barbara Boxer, a strongly partisan Senator who hasn’t really made that much of a name for herself. On the other corner, we have Carly Fiorina, a businesswomen who took the great company HP and destroyed it. So why am I going for Boxer? Two primary reasons: senate rules and social positions. The main thing Boxer has going for her in the Senate is seniority. People forget that is significant in the Senate, and right now, the state needs the strongest voices it can have. Fiorina, if elected, would be at the bottom of the food chain: a senator with no seniority and no experience in senate rules and procedures. That can only hurt the state. Fiorina is also too conservative on social issues for me; she tends to give in blindingly to the conservative social agenda. The last reason is more gut: I just watch her on TV, and cannot find anything to trust in the image I see.
  • United States Representative (30th): Henry Waxman. Remember earlier where I said we should keep people that are doing good jobs. Waxman is one of the good guys in congress: working to protect the people of his district and the nation. His opponent, Chuck Wilkerson, strikes me as more on the fringe side. I like his technical background (EE degree, worked in the aerospace industry), but when I see the phrases “Outspoken advocate of common sense constitutional government and conservative government policies via ‘letters to the editor’” or “Student of and lecturer on global warming science and politics”, I just know this man’s positions are not congruent with mine. Waxman’s positions are.
  • Member of the State Assembly: Diana G. Shaw. Here I’m going partisan: we have Diana Shaw, Democrat, running in a heavily Republican-drawn district represented by Cameron M. Smyth. Smyth has been heavily focused on the Santa Clarita portion of his district, ignoring us folks in the valley. I’ve been getting his newsletters, and he has been skewing way too conservative and partisan for my tastes. I’d like to replace him with someone more moderate, and Shaw is the choice I’m given. I also like that she emphases practical government.
  • Supreme Court Justices: Yes on all. Judicial races are hard, especially in races where you are only confirming someone in a position, not deciding between two people. I have been presented no evidence that these individuals are unqualified. The LA Times recommmends the incumbents. I’m inclined to go with that recommendation.
  • Court of Appeal Justices: Yes on all. Again, the reasoning is the same as above. I have been presented no evidence that these individuals are unqualified. The LA Times recommmends the incumbents. I’m inclined to go with that recommendation.
  • Superior Court Judges: Randy Hammock (28); Alan Schneider (117); Amy Hogue (136). These are consistent with my positions in June 2010; the latter candidate is unopposed.
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction: Larry Aceves. This is a battle between a career educator and a legislator. I’d rather have an educator in this position, so I’m on the side of Aceves. This is consistent with the LA Times recommendation. He wasn’t my choice in June, but of the choices we’re given, I think he is the better one.
  • County Assessor: John Y. Wong. In this case, the Wong choice is the right choice. OK, I just had to make that pun. As I noted back in June, I like Wong because he has been on the appeals board, and thus recognizes the decline in property values in the county. The Times endorsed him for the same reason. His opponent, John R. Noguez, appears to be experienced, but has more endorsements from elected officials, making me question his focus on the property taxpayers vs. the needs of government.

As promised long ago at the beginning, here’s a recap of my position on the propositions. Some have changed. See this post and this post for the reasoning: