For those of you living in California, there’s an election in 1.5 weeks. You can probably guess what that means. Yup, it’s time for me to go through the sample ballot and figure out my preferences… and your opportunity to convince me that I’m totally wrong and should vote for that other bum. This is a large ballot with very little press and advertising, so let’s get started. I’ll break this into multiple parts.
My ballot shows 15 candidates, of which two are Democrats, six are Republicans, five decline to state a preference, and one each from the Green and Peace and Freedom parties. This is a free-for-all folks, and it shows the disadvantages of the new primary system. Remember, only the top two in votes will make it to the General election, so name recognition is key — even over a good platform. Translation: The real battle is between Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari, and Tim Donnelly. None of the other candidates will have the recognition to do better than those two. But let’s pretend they all have a chance and start at the bottom and work our way to the top.
Cindy L. Sheehan is the P&F candidate. She’s the lady who camped out on Bush’s front door, if you recall. Her site reminds me very much of Berkeley in the 1960s with its desires (probably not a surprise), but I don’t have any confidence that she would be able to work with the state legislature. Luis J. Rodriguez is the Green candidate. The platform has lofty goals, including “Access to art, music, dance, theater, writing, and festivals in every neighborhood”, but it fails to state a realistic plan for achieving them or paying for them. In general, both of these folks seem to have positions that are similar to the Democratic position; where they differ are often in areas the state government has no power. Further, both are political novices — not appropriate for the governorship of a state as large as California. We need proven executives that can work with the legislature.
Turning next to the candidates who state no party preference. Joe Leicht has a platform that seems reasonable: kill the high speed rail and divert the funds elsewhere, cutting the business tax, etc. But then he talks about things — such as military pay raises and cutting the benefits for Congress — that the state can’t control. This shows he doesn’t understand state government. Bzzzt. Next player. Janel Hyeshia Buycks focuses on business — a 25% tax incentive to large corporations as well as small business owners that would guarantee at least 40% of the workforce to be provided to Californians. Tax incentives won’t do it for large corporations when the taxes are actually the smallest part of doing business in the state. Further, her front page has the menu item “God’s Agenda”. Bzzzzt. Next player. Rakesh Kumar Christian is with something called the American Public Party. He created his own party, and does not state a platform. Frankly, his website looks unprofessional. Bzzzzt. Next player. “Bo” Bogdan Ambrozewicz is another immigrant (from Poland), and his main claim to fame is that he’s independent. His mantra seems to be cutting government, reducing the property tax by 25%, and fighting Obamacare. It just doesn’t sway me. Lastly, there is Robert Newman, who talks about supporting second amendment rights and ending abortion in the state. He also has phrases like “Voluntary, non-denominational prayer and Bible-based morality will once again flourish in our schools and government institutions.”. Bible-based morality? Someone is unfamilar with the Constitution. Bzzzt.
Perhaps the Republicans are better. Alma Marie Winston has statements on her site such as “pay raises for state employees and automatically expanding government programs that provide minimal benefit to the public are shamefully enacted while the crippling middle class”. There is this belief that the state employees are not middle class workers, and that’s a disservice to all the honest civil employees who work to make this a better state across all administrations. She also seems to argue for fracking to fund education: “The Monterey shale is one of the largest in the world for natural gas and oil. Monetization of these inground assets will ensure billions of endless resource making California once again, “The Golden State.””. Nope. Fracking is bad news. Andrew Blount has dropped out of the race. Glenn Champ is a road builder from Clovis. His front page says, “He graduated from Sierra High school, college poly science, and would not stand for the unbiblical, communist, socialist, curriculum brain washing in college. CHAMP 48, is of all American Christian heritage.”. Sigh. Code word triggers that make me shudder. Next, and quickly. Richard William Aguirre is focused on energy and water desalination plants, wants to assess every household $400 to pay for it, and then to eventually eliminate income and property taxes. He seems out of touch with reality. That brings us to the two big names in this area. Tim Donnelly has lots of Republican group endorsements. His website clearly states “our government must seek to protect the sanctity of human life”. I’m sorry, but I can’t support candidates working against a woman’s right to choose. Lastly, there is Neel Kashkari. The best funded Repub, he has a prominant section on his website denouncing Donnelly for being “liberal”. Since when did being “liberal” become a crime? His issues page is jobs and education. That’s it. I’m sorry, but California has many more issues than just jobs and education. Conclusion: None of the Republicans have swayed me over.
Turning to the Democrats (and disclosure: I am a registered Democrat). Akinyemi Agbede has a website that makes one wonder: “This Super Genius man came to the United States of America in the year 2001…” He doesn’t have a written platform, and I can’t take him seriously. That brings us to Jerry Brown. I voted for Brown when he first ran for Governor in the 1970s, and I supported him this go around. He hasn’t been perfect, but he has been governing the state well and moving it forward from the bad financial position it was in. Most importantly, he has the ability to work with the legislature to get stuff done, something I don’t think any of the other candidates have.
One last point: Being governor requires the candidate to understand how government works, while still having some level of executive capabilities. Where there have been political novices that have taken the job, those novices have not ultimately been successful (Reagan might be the exception to the rule; although looking back, he didn’t leave the state in great shape — in fact, it took Jerry Brown to come in and fix the mess Reagan left). Looking over the field, most of the candidates are small business folks and the like, and few have executive or governmental experience. The only ones with any government experience whatsoever are Blount (a former mayor who has left the race), Donnelly (state assembly), Kashkari (asst. secretary of the Treasury) and Brown (incumbant, atty. general, mayor). Again, in the experience side, Brown wins.
Conclusion: Jerry Brown.
The functions of the Lt. Governor is to, umm, breathe? Most Lt. Governors will tell you that this is a useless position; you’re primarily the understudy for the Governor, waiting for something to happen to get your big break and go on stage. Yet, for some reason, people seem to want the position. In fact, this year we have 8 candidates vying for the top two general election slots: two Democrats, three Republicans, and one each from P&F, Green, and something called Americans Elect.
Amos Johnson is the P&F candidate. He doesn’t seem to have a website; well, he doesn’t have one in English. Bzzzt. I want someone to at least put in the effort to get the position. Jena F. Goodman is the Green candidate. She was the student body president at a community college, and is currently a student at UC Davis. I think she’s just too inexperienced to step into the Governor’s shoes if something happens to the Governor (and Brown is old). Alan Reynolds is a political novice (seemingly on one commission) who pushes his centrist positions, independence from the parties, and positions that generally get government out of the way. His endorsements are interesting — the Modern Whig party, Life & Liberty, and Reform parties. In his stance on HSR, he notes: “Where I live there is a proposed 14 billion dollar tunnel to go under our city which has fought a freeway for the last 60+ years. The EIR has been repeatedly delayed, and those who know more about it I believe have found that it is not a fiscally viable solution either.” The translation here is that he is against the completion of Route 710. In general, his positions are inoffensive, but his political experience is limited.
As for the three Republican candidates: Ron Nehring is a past chair of the California Republican Party. He’s endorsed by Tom McClintock (a negative in my book), and wants to replace the Affordable Care Act. He seems to think business taxes are what is keeping business out of California, and wants to lower them (in my view, although the taxes are high, they aren’t what pushes business out — it is other regulations on the books that make it convoluted to work in the state). He’s pro-guns, and strongly anti-marijuana. Other than that, he doesn’t seem to be advocating any of the problematic Republican social positions. His experience is primarily as chair of the Republican party — there is no elected office experience, and he’s only been a board chair. George Yang is a first-generation immigrant, a computer scientist, with no elected office experience other than minor party offices. There is nothing offensive in the positions he has on his website. Lastly, there is David Fennell. He wants to fight white collar crime and “crony capitalism” (a phrase I’ve seen before from some of the more libertarian types). He also uses phrases like the “People’s Republic of San Francisco”. He’s concerned about protecting the pension system, and fighting against “Wall Street criminals”. He appears to have no political experience.
There are two Democrats on the ballot. Eric Korevaar primary position is to cut the Lt. Governors budget by 50%. Yet another scientist running for office, he’s a political novice. No offensive positions. Gavin Newsom is the incumbant and former mayor of San Francisco. Again, he has no offensive positions.
In summary, most of the candidates here seem to have roughly the same positions regarding the tasks the Lt. Governor does. There are no offensive social positions, although the Republicans are very much in favor of tax cutting, the right to have guns, and anti-Obamacare (but willing to fix the state’s program). With the exception of Newsom, none have significant elected office experience or elected executive experience.
Conclusion: Gavin Newsom, based primarily on his experience and the fact that Brown is older. Reynolds and Yang are second choice possibilities. I don’t like Nehring’s stance on pot, and both Fennell and Korevaar are politically inexperienced.
Secretary of State
This is a position whose primary responsibility, at least in my eyes, is overseeing elections. One Green, one unstated, two Republicans, and four Democrats are vying for the office. The only one with name recognition is Alex Padilla, and that’s because of all the bills he introduced. This is an office that doesn’t require loads of political experience. Let’s meet this field.
David Curtis is the Green candidate. Experience is primarily with the Green party system. He wants public campaign financing, and to get rid of the “top 2” system we currently have. He wants to reform elections. In general, he has reasonable positions. Dan Schnur has no party preference. He wants the chief elections official to be “non-partisan and independent of any political party”. He was Chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He was involved as media spokesman for Pete Wilson, Reagan, and Bush.
Pete Peterson is one of two Republicans running. He wants to be a “Chief Engagement” officer, push technology, and get more people involved in the election process. For a “technology” person, his website was hard to navigate. Roy Allmond is the other Republican. He has a poor website that uses Comic Sans. He’s a proud Tea Party member who wants to “endeavor to make President Reagan thank me in heaven for doing such great job”. Most of his positions are empty pages.
Jeffrey H. Drobman is the first of four Democratic candidates. He’s an independent software developer with a poor website that wants to promote Internet voting. His main site is on Facebook. Leland Yee has withdrawn from the race after he was suspended from the State Senate while being investigated on FBI corruption charges. Derek Cressman worked with Common Cause, a non-partisan government watchdog organization, and is in favor of election reform. He wants to modernize systems. Lastly, there is Alex Padilla, a state senator wanting to move up in state offices. He wants to make it easier for businesses to get started, and improve election systems.
With the exception of Allmond, who is a kook, most seem to have reasonable positions. Much as I agree with Padilla’s positions, he strikes me more as a career politician who would likely use the office as a stepping stone. Looking at the websites and going with gut feelings, I’m torn between Schnur and Cressman, and leaning towards Cressman.
Conclusion: Derek Cressman
The chief financial officer of the state — the one who actually issues the checks. One Green, two Republicans, and three Democrats are running.
Laura Wells, the Green candidate, wants to “replace corporate power with people power”. She wants to implement a state bank (which I don’t see the point of). She wants to get rid of money in politics, and believes Jerry Brown to be the worst governor in the country. Reading her website, she doesn’t seem to resonate.
David Evans is one of two Republicans. He’s a CPA who wants to see tax dollars are spent wisely. Nothing offensive on his website; there are no “code words” that I could find. The other Republican is Ashley Swearengin, the mayor of Fresno. She wants greater spending oversight, state understanding of its debt obliations, and paying down the debt.
Turning to the Democrats. Tammy D. Blair wants accountability and to conduct more audits. She wants to upgrade the state payroll system and to investigate city manager salaries. Her website, however, is poor in that it doesn’t prevent spam comments from being posted. Betty T. Yee is a member of the State Board of Equalization. She’s familiar with public finance and tax policy. She wants comprehensive tax reform and retirement security. Lastly, there is John A. Perez, the current Assembly speaker. His website is all about Perez, and nothing about what he wants to do as controller. I wasn’t impressed with him as speaker, and he seems to be more focused on himself and his career than the office.
Conclusion: Betty T. Yee. I was torn between Yee and Swearengin. Both seem to understand public finance and have good goals. Yee, based on her experience on the Board of Equalization, understands it better in my eyes.
For Treasurer, there is a mercifully small three person field. The Green candidate is Ellen H. Brown, who’s primarily position is the Green call for a public state bank. I think that’s unneccessary. Greg Conlon, the Republican, is a CPA and served on the California Transportation Commission and PUC. He wants to improve the state’s credit rating and address unfunded pension liabilities. Lastly, John Chiang, the Democratic candidate, is the current controller. He wants to continue to improve the state’s financial state, building upon his accomplishments as controller.
Conclusion: John Chiang. I think he’s done a good job as controller, and would do a good job as treasurer. He seems to understand the position better than Conlon.
Another crowded field, with one unstated, one Libertarian, four Republicans, and the incumbent Democrat. Let’s get rid of the low-hanging fruit first. The unstated preference is Orly Taitz, who is prominent in the “Birther” community. Nope. The Libertarian is Jonathan Jaech, who wants to “eliminate the exercise of police power against any person charged with a crime that cannot harm another”. He’s an attorney with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He wants to restore Jury Nullification, where a jury can find someone not guilty simply because they disagree with the law. I’m not sure I buy that.
Turning to the Republicans. First is John Haggerty. His website notes that he wants to “(g) protect unborn children; and (h) uphold marriage as the best means of providing children with the irreplaceable support of both their father and their mother”. Code words. Bzzzt. Next is Ronald Gold. He wants to address immigration reform and corruption in government. He wants to legalize marijuana. He wants to allow undocumented residents to register in a State sanctioned program that will let them stay in California and work. Looking at his website, I’m not sure why this guy is Republican other than it gives him more leverage against Harris. Phil Wyman, the third Republican in the race. His key focus is transportion, wanting 100% of the sales tax from gas and diesel is dedicated to highway construction, not the state’s general fund, to fund and schedule four-lane improvements and overpasses for Route 14, Route 58, Route 395, I-15, Route 18, and Route 202, and to fund the High Desert Expressway, known as the Avenue P-8 Corridor, connecting the Victor Valley with Antelope Valley. He’s strongly against illegal immigrants. In general, although I like his transportation stance, he doesn’t seem to be focused on the the attorney general does. The last Republican is David King. His website states that he will ” ensure those laws are defended, including measures passed by initiative.” He doesn’t explain that further, but I read it as wanting to defend Prop. 8.
The sole Democrat is Kamala Harris, the current Attorney General. She’s been OK (but far from a strong enforcer of the position), and is often in Washington. She seems to be focused on fighting human trafficing and for equality legislation.
Ronald Gold. Much as I think Harris has done a good job, she’s been far from perfect. Gold’s positions seem much more on the Democrat side of the equation (he worked for Bobby Kennedy), and I seemed to resonate with what he said more.
Conclusion Redux: Kamala Harris. Originally I was for Ronald Gold. But then I was putting away my ballot pamphlet… and saw that he was the favorite of the American Independent Party, an extreme far-right party. It’s confirmed here. This makes me believe that despite what I see on his webpage, he may be a tad too conservative for my tastes.
The watchdog against the insurance companies. Three candidates: P&F, Republican, and Democrat. Nathalie Hrizi, the P&F candidate, wants to abolish the insurance companies and urges people to vote socialist. Bzzzzt. Next. Ted Gaines, the Republican candidate, wants to sue Covered California to allow people to keep the healthcare they have now. He views the insurance commission as a hostile bureaucracy. Dave Jones, the Democrat and incumbent Insurance Commissioner, wants to keep up the good work he has been doing.
Conclusion: Dave Jones. Hrizi is just plain wrong, and Gaines misunderstands things when he thinks the answer is to sue Covered California.
State Board of Equalization, 3rd District
This one is easy. There’s just one candidate: Jerome E. Horton, the current chair of the commission.
Conclusion: Jerome Horton
US Representative, 30th District
This is our district in the valley — the one that saw the bruising fight two years ago between Brad Sherman and Howard Berman. This year, Sherman is up against one other Democrat, two Republicans, and a Green. The Green is Michael W. Powelson, who wants free universal health care, as opposed to what we have with the ACA. It’ll never happen. He also has a page on his website titled “Why I am a Socialist”. Bzzzt. Next player.
Mark S. Reed is one of two Republicans. He believes that with the ACA, ” the government is socializing the nation”. He vows “to repeal and replace Obamacare.” He is strongly pro-Israel, and wants to audit the INS (demonstrating he is unware it is now ICE). He is pro-life, and believes “marriage is between a man and a woman.”. Bzzt, in my book. Next. [ETA – In response to a mass email, I actually received a response from Mr. Reed. He noted, “I agree that government has been eroding our liberties one at a time by passing laws that regulate them. It does not matter to me if the regulation is liberal or conservative, government should not be involved. That includes marriage, it should be returned to the religious institutions and the federal government should recognize all civil unions from all fifty states. As for choice it is a very personal decision between a woman and her God only. Now for the ACA yes I still believe it should be repealed and replaced, there are several provisions that are great and could be covered in a 100 page piece of legislation however in the remaining 2600 pages there are sever damaging ripple effects to our healthcare as we know it and time will expose these.”. I note his use of the term “civil unions”, not marriage — this could mean that he wants the government to only issue civil unions, and only religious institutions to do marriages, but I doubt that — and to create a separate category of “civil union” creates second-class citizens. I also note his use of sentiments I put with the more “Tea-Party”-ish wing/Libertarian wing. I don’t agree with the full-on Libertarian approach — I think that there are clear roles for government — and many of the regulations in place have been driven not by the government, but by businesses looking to get a competitive advantage by regulating their competition away. So I still don’t personally agree with Mr. Reed, although I am impressed with his response and that he took the time to respond to an emailed comment on a mass marketing email from someone who opposed him. If you are someone who has the Libertarian / Tea Party / Republican leanings, he might be a reasonable candidate to support. (Not for me, tho…).]
Pablo Kleinman is the other Republican. He wants to reform, not repeal, the ACA. Looking through his website, it is hard to see what he will actually do, as opposed to his not liking what Brad Sherman has done. He doesn’t seem to have political experience.
Sherman’s Democratic opponent is Marc Litchman. Litchman has indicated the first bill he will introduce is to “break up L.A. Unified.” He want to “make school districts with more than 100,000 students ineligible for federal aid.”. I’ve written before about how this is a bad bad idea, and that breaking up LA Unified is not the answer — it would just create more bureaucracy. The answer is to reform and restructure LA Unified. As for Brad Sherman himself: Although I preferred Howard Berman, I don’t think Sherman has done a bad job, and I see nothing in the alternative candidates that would make up for the loss of seniority Sherman’s incumbency brings.
Conclusion: Brad Sherman
State Assembly, 45th District
Two candidates: Susan Shelley, the Republican, against Matt Dababneh, the incumbent Democrat. Susan Shelley has been trying and trying and trying for this position. I haven’t supported her in any of her past runs. She came close in the November special election, tho… under 400 votes from getting in. Her website, however, says nothing. You can download a photo, you can find your polling place, and you can see how close she came. No word on what she would do, so I’m sticking with my past position (as she’s done nothing to change it). Matt Dababneh wasn’t my preferred candidate in the special election, but at least he has a full-on informational website, with reasonable positions.
Conclusion: Matt Dababneh
Whew, this has gotten long! In Part 2, we’ll look at all the Judicial candidates, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the three big county contests, and the two propositions.