Election Analysis: Assembly District 45 Special Primary Election

userpic=voteActions often have unintended consequences and costs. Quite a few years ago, everyone wanted term limits because it (supposedly) meant you would not have career politicians, and more people would run for office. Did that happen? Not in your life — we have politicians that just run from office to office. In California, what has happened is that politi-critters do their stints in the state assembly and state senate, and then move to the city councils.

That’s what happened to our state senator: Just reelected to the state senate for his last term, he opted to run for Los Angeles City Council to start over again. He won… leaving a vacant seat in AD45, bringing us a special election a week from Tuesday. [BTW, term limits is also going to bring a sea change to the LA County Board of Supervisors in the next few years] We’ve been getting calls for a few weeks from candidates we don’t know, and I tell them all the same thing: I will do a detailed ballot analysis and make my decision shortly before the election.

That’s this post.

So even though you aren’t in Assembly District 45, you’re the lucky winner of my analysis. The primary election brings us 11 candidates: 7 Democrats, 3 Republicans, and one who has no party preference. What factors will I use to determine things. First, I want a candidate that understands California’s problems — in particular, the issues with transportation infrastructure. I’d like a candidate that acknowledges understanding of cybersecurity issues, as I often see bills in the legislature about that. I’d also like a candidate that understands the valley, and (as they say) “shares my values” (which tend to be progressive Jewish values). In particular, regarding the latter, I don’t want a candidate that will push conservative Christian values. I look at who endorses the candidates: that often shows individuals with whom values and agendas are shared. So let’s look at the candidates:

  • Elizabeth Badger, CEO/Business Owner (D). According to her website, she is “CEO/Founder of Minority Outreach Committee, Inc.”, and a member of “West Angeles Church of God in Christ led and mentored by Bishop Charles Blake”. She’s active in a number of Democratic groups, and attended CSUN. Her issues are fiscal restraint, education, and jobs. In terms of endorsements, her biggest political one is Dianne Watson. Overall, her endorsements tend to be strongest from the African-American community. The most interesting one is Rabbi Steve Jacobs, who I know when he was at Kol Tikvah. Steve never impressed me on the rabbinic scholar side — he was always more in the forefront of civil rights. I’m sure that’s why he’s endorsing here.
  • Susan Shelly, Author/Publisher (R). Her splash page on her website emphasizes the Daily News endorsement, that she supports Prop 13, and her Republican nature. Her emphasis is cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes. This is a bad refrain, and Prop 13 has been one of the worst things for our state because (a) of how it led to corporations not paying their fair share through loopholes, and (b) how overtime it has created significant inequalities in the property tax rolls.  Her bio shows her as a valley girls — El Camino Real HS and CSUN, and the author of some political books such as “The 37th Amendment” and “How the First Amendment Came to Protect Topless Dancing”. She ran for Congress in 2012 and lost. She’s endorsed by a number of Republican Groups and the Howard Jarvis association. Her issues? Prevent tax increases, cancel the bullet train, reduce efforts for renewable energy, protect students, not listening to unions, and reducing the number of smog checks.
  • Andra Hoffman, California Government Teacher (D). I just received a mailer from Hoffman, which shows her wearing a Magen David clearly, and her bio notes her membership at Temple Beth Hillel in Valley Village (where we used to belong), and her attendance at Cleveland HS and CSUN. I think our daughter was in classes with her children at TBH. She’s endorsed by a number of teacher associations (including the unions), NOW, the former Assemblyman (Bob Blumenfield), Rep. Henry Waxman, and quite a number of political leaders. Her issues are education, freedom of choice for women, healthcare, and eliminating special interest tax breaks.
  • Chris Kolski, Professional Engineer/Educator (R). Kolski wants to you to vote for him because he’s Republican, and we need to break “one party” rule in Sacramento. Umm, OK. Immigrant from Poland, UCLA grad, electrical engineer. Claims to care about the valley. His main issues are education, cutting spending, and personal liberty. He’s endorsed by a smattering of Republican politicians, the American Independent party, and a number of his individual endorsements use phrases like “liberty-minded true no nonsense citizen”
  • Eric Lewis, Neighborhood Council President (No Preference). He only has a Facebook page for his campaign. He’s a sound mixer. Priorities: “balanced budget that prioritizes public education, health, safety, and transportation”. That’s about all I could find. This shows a less than serious devotion to his campaign.
  • Armineh Chelebian, Accountant/Political Consultant (R). She ran for city council, and lost. She ran for assembly, and lost. Her main web page is not her campaign for assembly but for city council. Her assembly campaign is run from a Facebook page. She’s an Iranian immigrant, BA in Bus. Administration from CSUN, and worked at Blue Cross. She’s been active in the local Republican party. As her main website is from her city council run, she lists no endorsements for the state assembly run, nor does she list her statewide issues. I don’t take her as a serious candidate because of this.
  • Damian Carroll, Council Policy Analyst (D). Carroll has the endorsement of the Democratic party. UCSD graduate in Theatre Arts, and married to a Taft HS grad. Strong in the SF Valley. Attends Temple Judea. Has worked for Councilmember Krekorian and Assemblyman Mike Feuer. Issues are education, environment, jobs, the Jewish community, and civil liberties. Endorsed by the Democratic party, Fran Pavily, numerous democratic leaders and organizations.
  • Dan McCrory, Businessman (D). Lives in the valley, but otherwise doesn’t state education. Appears to be strongly union, having worked for the telephone company. Issues are the economy, education, environment, healthcare, GMOs, and water. Mixed on the endorsements, the most interesting ones being Julie Korenstein, Ed Asner, and the UAW.
  • Matt Dababneh, Congressman’s Chief Deputy (D). His page also claims he has the endorsement of the California Democratic Party (which contradicts Damian Carroll). The answer is that the endorsements are split: the state organization backs Dababneh, the SFV organization backs Carroll. Born in the Valley; UCLA grad (Poli Sci/History). District chief to Brad Sherman. Issues: the same as everyone else: economy, jobs, health care, accessibility, education. Endorsements are Daily News (presumably on the D side), California Democratic Party, Brad Sherman, Mike Dukakis, Grey Davis, Dianne Watson (who also endorsed Badger?), Ed Begley Jr., and a number of other politicians and organizations.
  • Dennis De Young, Businessman/Financial Consultant (D). This isn’t the frontman for Styx (which would have been cool). Investment advisor and stockbroker here in Northridge. CSUN grad, and has been active with both VST and Matadors Federal Credit Union. Talks about increasing jobs, improving schools, immigration reform, and infrastructure improvements.  However, he’s against increasing the gas tax, which funds improvements in traffic (so he doesn’t understand how the state goverment works). Most of his issue statements talks about reducing taxes. No endorsements listed.
  • Jeff Ebenstein, Councilmember’s Valley Director (D). Worked for Councilman Paul Koretz. Attended CSUN and a member at Valley Beth Shalom. No children. Issues: Seniors, Education, Economy/Jobs, Public Safety, Environment, and Animal Welfare. Endorsed by a number of council members, political leaders, animal welfare folks.

Wow. Quite a large field. How do we pare it down. First, I’ll elminate those candidate that have weak websites — you have to start somewhere. That gets rid of Lewis and Chelebian, who still has her old page up. Of the remaining Republicans, I don’t agree with either. There are just enough flags in their words that make me uncomfortable. That eliminates Shelley and Kolski. Badger strikes me as a little too overemphasized on minority issues (and not being a fan of Rabbi Jacobs, his endorsement is a turn-off). McCrory’s website, although present, doesn’t provide a lot of information. De Young does mention infrastructure, but then he comes out against the gas tax, which funds it.

This narrows the field down to Hoffman, Carroll, Dababnen, and Ebenstein. Three of these are primarily already in the political arena (Carroll, Dababneh, and Ebenstein), working already for politicians.  This explains why the entrenched parties are behind them. Three of these are Jewish (Hoffman (TBH), Carroll (Judea), and Ebenstein (VBS)). None really talk about highways or transportation. None discuss Internet issues.  How do we decide further?

  • Hoffman wants to restore many of the education funding cuts of the last years. She wants to ensure the availability of freedom of choice for women, and in particular, does not like faith-based hospitals imposing that faith if they receive public money. She wants to fight runaway production and bring entertainment jobs back. She wants to put construction workers on the job fixing our streets and sidewalks, repairing old bridges, replacing worn-out sewer systems and water delivery systems and building the transit systems to fight traffic and air pollution.  She wants to fix the tax system, and supports implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Carroll wants to increase education funding, give students tools to better navigate and pay back their loans, encourage ties between universities and local industries to give students a path to employment, focus on renewable energy, conservation, and alternative transportation approaches. He wants increase investment in public infrastructure projects that will ensure public safety and create good paying jobs – roads, water, energy, parks, bridges and schools. He wants to fast track infrastructure projects. He wants to advocate for Israel at the state level. He wants civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and intersex (LGBTQI) communities.
  • Dababneh wants to streamline regulatory processes, support a green economy, spur investment in infrastructure, and address runaway production. He wants to protect the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area and open spaces in the valley. He will oppose proposals to open up new coastal areas for oil and gas exploration and development, and supports development of alternative energy. He supports the Affordable Care Act. He supports education and keeping tuitions low.
  • Ebenstein wants to stop government waste and ensure the SF valley gets its fair share. He’s the only one with explicit planks on senior issues and animal welfare — which makes sense given he’s unmarried (his website mentions only a female partner), so his focus is his mother and his pets. He also wants to deal with the hostile business climate and runaway production, but doesn’t mention infrastructure improvements to address the economy.

Just because he doesn’t mention infrastructure, I’m going to cut Ebenstein from the list. I also think he won’t fully understand the issues of parents. That leaves Hoffman, Carroll, and Dababneh. They are all remarkably similar in their positions. Right now, my gut is leaning towards Hoffman. The reasons why are more emotional: she’s a women, and I think we need more women in Sacramento; she’s Jewish and at TBH, making the values more likely to be shared (although this is also true of Carroll); and most importantly, she’s the only one not already in the political machine. That, to me, indicates there’s some passion behind this, as opposed to this being a stepping stone in a longer career.

I’d welcome your thoughts on the various candidates, if you live in the area.