November 2014 Election Analysis – Part I: The Major Offices

userpic=voteThe general election is just about two weeks away, and that means I should start going through the ballot to revisit who I should vote for. I do this afresh each election, and I post my analysis here for you to review. If you disagree, let me know with a convincing reason why I should support the other bum. But more importantly, I encourage you to do the same: Go through your sample ballot, where ever you are, and study the candidates and make an informed decision. Put some critical thought behind your vote. Don’t just vote a slate without thinking — on either side. Don’t just vote against the other guy; vote for the positions you like. This is your chance to make a difference. Most importantly, remember to vote. Many many many, and even many more, have given their lives so that you have the ability to vote. Respect them, and exercise your franchise. Even if you disagree with me.

On to the ballot… as this is long, I”m going to split this into three pieces: the major offices, the propositions, and the minor offices.

STATEWIDE OFFICES

Governor

The battle here is between Jerry Brown (D, Incumbent) and Neel Kashkari (R). Brown has oodles and oodles of funds. Kashkari has little cash and little chance of winning. But let’s give Kashkari a chance. After all, the man has a BS and an MS in Engineering and worked at TRW. He then turned his back on engineering and got an MBA. Endorsement-wise, he has very little: a few former secretaries of the Treasury, a few small city mayors. Looking at his issues page, he seems to be primarily focused on two areas: education and jobs. No discussion of transportation. No discussion of water policy. Brown, on the other hand, is a known quantity. He tends to be fiscally tight, but is very concerned with his legacy for the state. In general, he’s done a good job of righting the fiscal ship of state, although it is questionable how much is Brown, and how much is the economy at large. More importantly, however, is that he has shown that he is able to get the legislators in Sacramento to work together. In short, I don’t think Kashkari is viable, or has an overall plan for the state.

  • Conclusion: Jerry Brown.

Lieutenant Governor

Talk about a useless position. I think the sole duty is being chair of UC, and waiting for the governor to pass away. The battle here is between Gavin Newsom (D, Incumbent) and Ron Nehring (R). Positions are only meaningful as this is a stepping stone. Newsom wants to legalize marijuana (about damn time), address non-violent offenders better, invest in clean energy, and improve government accessibility on the Internet. Nehring, on the other hand, wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, wants to protect gun ownership (he’s endorsed by the NRA), he wants to protect Proposition 13 (which in many ways is bad — it has a major impact on home ownership for younger people — I would much rather see Prop 13 rethought for an across the board reassessment of assessed values without artificial lowering, and then an overall reduction in the tax rates to bring in the same income across the reassessed properties). He is against marijuana legalization.I think my views are more in line with Newsom.

  • Conclusion: Gavin Newsom.

Secretary of State

This is a contest for the future of voting in the state. The battle is between Alex Padilla (D) and Pete Peterson (R).  Padilla wants to increase voter participation, increase election education, increase use of technology where appropriate, and update the technology platform for business administrative matters with the state. Peterson seems to be pushing for very similar positions: increasing participation, increasing use of technology. Given similar positions, what about endorsements. Peterson seems to have most of the major newspapers, former Mayor Riordan, and predictable assembly, mayors, etc. Padilla has the predictable Democratic leadership and union support, but there is a noticeable absence of newspaper endorsements. I took a look at the Times endorsement. Their concern is similar to mine. I know Padilla from his work in the assembly, and he seemed to be to be an ambitious politician more interested in maintaining political jobs and power. That worries me. I think I agree with the Times on this one:

  • Conclusion: Pete Peterson.

Controller

This is a battle between Betty T. Yee (D) and Ashley Swearengin (R). I remember in the primary being torn between these two. Yee talks about tax reform and retirement security. Swearengin talks about financial oversight, improving budget management, and enhancing economic competitiveness. She also wants to look at tax reform. For Yee, beyond the predictable endorsements, she has no major newspapers behind her in the general election. For Swearengin, beyond the predictable party endorsements, she has the endorsements of the major papers in the cities, and what is more notable is that a number of the papers switched their endorsement of her between the primary and the general election.  I’m particularly impressed by this paragraph in the LA Times endorsement: “Notably, Swearengin has not been infected by the far-right fever that has gripped much of the Republican Party in California and, indeed, across the nation. So far, she has shown herself to be pragmatic, non-doctrinaire and able to separate her campaign from the divisive social issues that have marginalized many of her fellow Republicans.” I like the idea of having the other party as a watchdog for the spending of the majority, and I do believe we need to encourage moderate Republicans in order for the two party system to actually work.

  • Conclusion: Ashley Swearengin.

Treasurer

The battle here is between John Chiang (D, current Controller) and Greg Conlon (R). In general, I think Chiang has done a good job as controller. Conlon wants to reduce taxes and spend the surplus that the state is currently accumulating. Bad idea, as we’ve seen. Chiang’s agenda is more a summary of what he did as controller.  Both seem disconnected from the job of Treasurer: one really wants to be a legislator making the law, and the other wants to be controller. Given this, it is at least better to have a treasurer who knows the state’s finances. Looking at endorsements, Conlon has nothing beyond the predictable. Chiang has all the major papers.

  • Conclusion: John Chiang.

Attorney General

The attorney general is the top law enforcement officer in the state. The battle is between the incumbent, Kamala Harris (D), and Ronald Gold (R). I recall liking a lot of Gold’s positions in the primary, but ultimately going for Harris. The problem for Gold is that, other than legalizing marijuana, he doesn’t state his positions on his website, nor does he list endorsements. Harris has a number of pages talking about the issues. But otherwise, Harris has a similarly poor website: the only endorsements she lists is law enforcement. In this case, going by the information they provide online, Gold has not given me a reason to vote for him, whereas Harris, by listing her positions has.

  • Conclusion: Kamala Harris

Insurance Commissioner

This position could be very powerful indeed: the ability to deny rate hikes. This position requires someone who watches out for the consumer, and is not connected to the insurance establishment. The battle here is between the incumbent, Dave Jones (D) and Ted Gaines (R) (who is an insurance agent). Jones’s page emphasizes what he as done for consumers already as insurance commissioner, and shows his legislative experience. He doesn’t state positions, but he does have endorsements of the LA Times, SJ Mercury News (but not the Daily News). He has a lot of union endorsements — these are significant here because unions generally want lower insurance costs, as they provide insurance to members. Gaines’s website starts by attacking Covered California. His issues are reduction of insurance fraud, clamping down on lawsuit abuse, and taking politics out of insurance. Clamping down on insurance fraud and lawsuit abuse primarily benefits insurance companies, with trickle down effects to individuals. He doesn’t talk at all about efforts against insurance companies to protect consumers when they lose the ability to sue. Gaines emphasizes the fact that he was a family insurance agent. He lists no endorsements. I”m inclined to go with the known quantity here.

  • Conclusion: Dave Jones

Member, State Board of Equalization, 3rd District

The Board of Equalization basically does tax policy. The battle is between the incumbant, Jerome Horton (D) and G. Rick Marshall (R). Marshall wants to “bring a low-tax majority to the board”. This indicates (to me) a focus more on politics than the job. Here’s a better example: Marshall states on his website that “Have you ever noticed the red star on our state flag? It represents the Lone Star State—Texas. Even in 1849, Californians were looking to Texas. So let’s compare California to Texas. ” Bzzzzt. Wrong answer. The star on the state flag represents the first revolution for freedom from Mexico (according to Wikipedia), which led to the Bear Flag revolt. If Marshall is more focused on a political agenda than getting his facts right, he’s out of the running in my book. Horton, on the other hand, has a number of positive initiatives.

  • Conclusion: Jerome Horton

United States Representative

30th District

The battle here is between Brad Sherman (D) and Mark S. Reed (R). Sherman is a well known quantity and has done well; I preferred Berman when the two battled, but Sherman’s OK. Reed’s focus seems to be on repealing the Affordable Care Act. He supports gun ownership. He wants to strengthen border enforcement. He wants to “abolish the Department of Energy, and drill in this country where we can”. He’s in favor of school vouchers. He is against gay marriage, and is “pro-life”. In other words, he’s a predictable Tea party conservative. Sherman is the opposite of that, and my positions are in line with Sherman’s.

  • Conclusion: Brad Sherman

Member of the State Assembly

45th District

The battle here is between Matt Dababneh (D) and Susan Shelley (R). Dababneh was the deputy to the former assembly member who moved to a different position. Shelley’s been trying for the position for a while, and has been coming closer. Shelley is strongly supportive of Prop 13; is strongly in favor of gun rights. On the other hand, she supports legalization of marijuana, the right to terminate pregnancy in the first trimester, and same sex marriage. Her positions have shifted over time; I don’t have a problem with that. She wants to dump the Affordable Care Act and start over. She seems to put people over the environment — at least that’s how I would summarize her objections to cap and trade and honoring our agreements with the Owens Valley. Her endorsements are predictable. Dababneh is about the same on the social issues (as Shelley has move to the more progressive position). He particularly talks about investing in public infrastructure — something we sorely need. He wants to fight to keep UC tuition low. He supports protecting the environment. I think in the areas where the issues differ, I’m more in line with Dababneh — although I must give Shelley kudos for recognizing that her district is much more progressive than the traditional Republicans. It may be a very close battle.

  • Conclusion: Susan Shelley

Major Non-Partisan Offices

Superintendent of Public Instruction

This is a battle between Tom Torlakson (incumbant) and Marshall Tuck. In the primary, I noted that Torlakson emphasized local decision making, preparing students for careers, and safe schools. He is currently the state Superintendent. He has loads of endorsements. I also noted that Tuck was involved with the Green Dot charters, wants to be a “independent advocate for parents and students”, and wants to empower local decision making. I noted that the LA Times endorsed Tuck primarily because he would bring new ideas and isn’t in the pocket of the teacher’s union. Based on that, I went with Tuck. Tuck still has the endorsement of all the major papers. Torlakson has most of the unions, and no papers. I don’t see a reason to change my position from the primary.

  • Conclusion: Marshall Tuck

County Offices

County Assessor

A scandal ridden office of late, this is a battele between Jeffrey Prang, who is currently in the assessors office, and John Morris, who is a D.A. In the primary, I went with Morris, noting: Prang has the backing of loads of politicians, is familiar with the assessors office, and is an experienced public administrator. Alas, as the Times notes, his experience is similar to Noquez. Morris is not an assessor, but an experienced manager and someone trained to recognize fraud. I’m inclined to go with the Times on this one, primarily because the job at the top is not assessing properties — it is making sure the office is run in an ethical manner with honest assessments. I agree with my conclusions then.

  • Conclusion: John Morris

County Sheriff

This is another battle to replaced a disgraced official: Lee Baca. The battle is between Jim McDonnell, the police chief of Long Beach, and Paul Tanaka, a retired undersheriff. Since the primary, Tanaka hasn’t even bothered to campaign. Further, Tanaka was the subject of a criminal probe. We don’t need that. In the primary, I went for McDonnell, noting it was based not only on his endorsements, but the fact that he is law enforcement from outside the Sheriff’s department, meaning that he’ll have less personal ties and more of an ability to clean house if necessary.

  • Conclusion: Jim McDonnell

County Supervisor, 3rd District

This, in many ways, is the big one. A very very powerful position. This is now a battle between Bobby Shriver and Sheila Kuehl. In the primary, I wrote “we’re left with the three frontrunners: Kuehl, Duran, and Shriver. In answering a question on HOT lanes, Kuehl said, “I do not generally support toll lanes, as they have proven neither economically beneficial nor better for traffic. There is a proposal, however, to use a kind of public-private partnership to build a toll road alongside the rail through the Sepulveda pass as a way to help finance the project. I would support this, as the 405 would remain free and no lanes would be stolen from it. I do not support toll lanes on the 405 or 5.” A parallel toll road through the Sepulveda Pass in addition to light rail (subway)? There’s no space for it, and the area is too sensitive and has too many chokepoints at either end. A response like that shows a disconnect with reality. Duran and Shriver are similar on transportation, but only Shriver wants to encourage car sharing (and thus, I’m guessing, vanpooling): “Support and expand bike sharing and car sharing programs, particularly in dense areas to offer viable transit alternatives and make first- and last-mile transportation easier and more efficient.” Looking at other areas, Shriver states “Every student in Los Angeles County must have a quality arts education.” He also supports “increased funding for the LA County Arts Commission, as a cost-effective investment in our future, our quality of life, and the success of our students”. Duran does not address the arts on his issues page.”

In the primary, I went with Shriver. The Times went with Duran. Recently, the Times endorsed Kuehl. Curious as to why, I read their endorsement. They like both candidates, but note “In the end, though, it is Kuehl’s record of fierce advocacy for those in need that should provide confidence in her leadership. Shriver’s experience in city government and the not-for-profit sector is valuable, but less suited to the needs of this singular district.” Even with this, I still like Shriver’s positions on transportation and the arts better.

  • Conclusion: Bobby Shriver

And that’s it for Part I. Part II, looking at the propositions will come as soon as I can find the time to research and write it.

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