November Election – Last Installment

OK.  Now we finally get to the nitty-gritty — the candidates.  I’m going to start at the top and work down.  That way, if you’re not living right next door, you can read as far as applies to your ballot, and then stop (unless you’re just curious about other people’s elections).

So, at the top of the ballot (figuratively speaking) is the U.S. Senate.  This is one of the easier races for me.  I happen to like Barbara Boxer and have found myself agreeing with her on almost every issue that comes up.  Fiorina has criticized her for being “ineffective”.  I’m not sure how you can be effective in a gridlocked Congress like we’ve got now.  Aside from that, the kind of places Carly wants to go are not places I’d like to be:  more restrictions on abortion, more outsourcing of jobs abroad, less environmental protection, more global warming, less spending on education and more on the military.  YUCK!!!  Boxer is an easy choice.

Once you get down to the statewide offices, I find it harder to get excited.  It’s not so much the lesser of two evils as it is trying to choose among levels of mediocrity.  But, choose we must.  This year (as in most years) I am guided by Ivins’ Rule — which I was introduced to by the late Molly Ivins.  Ivins’ Rule says that, just before you cast your ballot, look at the results from the most recent and reputable poll.  If the poll shows more than a five point difference between the Republican and Democratic candidate, you’re free to vote your conscience.  You’re vote is very unlikely to affect the outcome anyway.  If the difference is less than five points, however, hold your nose and vote for the Democrat.  It’s a rare day indeed (at least in California) when the Democratic candidate, no matter how wishy-washy and disgusting, would be worse than the Republican, and the winner is (sadly) almost certain to be one or the other.  So, with that as as introduction, on to the races:

Governor — GOD, I wish we had good candidates to choose from!!!  Between Jerry Brown and e-Meg Whitman, it seems to be a battle over who can talk and act in stupider ways during the campaign.  Neither one seems to have any novel or insightful ideas about how to address the state’s intractable deficit problem.  Jerry appears very beholden to the state employee labor unions, while Meg is the darling of the coupon-clipping millionaire set.  If there’s at least a five point difference by election day, please vote for your favorite minor party candidate.  Don’t let Jerry think the electorate really likes him, and please don’t let him win by a landslide.  He’d be even more insufferable than he already is.  If it’s less than five points, however, please vote for Jerry.  He may not be good, but Meg would be worse.

Lieutenant Governor — This position holds some minor power, mostly due the boards the holder sits on ex officio, like the State Lands Commission and the boards of UC and CSU.  The two major party candidates are as lackluster as the office.  Gavin Newsom is memorable for having turned most of his entirely Democratic Board of Supervisors against him and battling with them at every turn.  Abel Maldonado’s main claim to fame is that he eventually voted for a Democratic proposed state budget, after extorting what he could out of the Democratic leadership.  The best one can say is that neither would be in a position to do major damage to the state.  None of the minor party candidates look very impressive either.  Sigh …  However, Maldonado is still somewhat to the right of Newsom, and getting Newsom elected will benefit San Francisco by getting him out of the mayor’s office.  Newsom, by a hair.

Secretary of State — Debra Bowen hasn’t been a bad secretary of state.  She just hasn’t been a particularly creative or innovative one.  The Secretary of State is responsible for state elections.  Bowen has been a tepid supporter of ranked-choice voting, which is not as good as proportional representation but better than the conventional system.  After much hemming and hawing, she did approve it, which is something.  The Republican would be a step backwards.  Bowen, but without much enthusiasm.

Controller — OK.  Here, finally, we’ve got an incumbent who really deserves to get re-elected.  John Chiang has been willing to call a spade a spade on the state’s financial situation and has not tried to sugar-coat the failures of the governor and legislature to come up with a budget.  He was also willing to stand up to the governor on whether the governor had authority to unilaterally furlough state employees.  In other words, he’s got guts.  Chiang is an easy choice.

Treasurer — Bill Lockyer, the incumbent, has bounced around among state offices, first in the legislature, then as Attorney General, and now as Treasurer.  He’s done a decent job in each position, although in none of them has he been truly outstanding.  Nevertheless, he’s been pretty honest about the damage that the state’s budget crises is doing to California’s financial standing, and critical of both governor and legislature for not getting the budget done.  He’s done a good enough job to merit re-election.

Attorney General — I differ from many of my Democratic friends on this race.  They’re enthusiastic about Kamala Harris.  I’m not.  To my mind, she’s far too political to be a good Attorney General.  IMHO, an AG needs to be willing to go after ANYBODY who’s violating state law, regardless of position or party affiliation.  From what I’ve seen of Harris in SF, she hasn’t done that.  She’s also very politically linked to Obama and his group within the Democratic Party machinery.  Like Jerry Brown, I suspect she’ll turn a blind eye to misbehavior if the offending party is well-connected.  Her main opponent, however, Steve Cooley, is a hard-line law-and-order Republican along the lines of George Deukmejian.  I don’t believe that kind of philosophy, with its emphasis of “lock ’em up”, is particularly effective in dealing with crime.  A reluctant nod for Harris.

Insurance Commissioner — So, here you’ve got two legislators — one Republican, one Democratic, who’ve attempted to push through some insurance reforms in the legislature.  BUT, the insurance commissioner isn’t a legislator; he/she is an administrator and quasi-judicial officer who gets to make determinations on the propriety of insurance rates and write administrative rules for insurance companies.  In the past, insurance commissioners have sometimes been “captured” by the industry they’re supposed to be regulating.  It’s again a danger with either candidate, but probably more of a danger with Villines.  I plan to vote for Jones (but will also think about Ivins’ Rule).

Superintendent of Public Instruction — This one’s a toughie: a legislator vs a school administrator.  Torlakson, the legislator, has been involved in education issues in the legislature, but he’s also been closely tied in with the teachers’ unions.  Aceves, a retired school administrator, has had experience at the local, but not the statewide, level.  Still and all, I think this  position needs to be filled by someone who’s not beholden to a special interest.  I’m afraid that Torlakson doesn’t fill that bill.  I’m going with Aceves.

Appellate Justices — I’m going to start with my standard statement, which I say every two years — the electorate had no business voting on these positions.  Voters don’t know enough about what judges do to be able to make educated decisions about whether they’re doing it well.  Further, the vote is far too easily turned into a political witch-hunt, as it was by right-wing Republicans against the Rose Bird court.  In addition, unless someone turns it into a witch-hunt, justices are routinely retained with greater than 90% of the vote in a meaningless show of “support”.  That having been said, here are my thoughts:  Cantil-Sakauye — Her reputations is that she’s a moderate to conservative judge, which would put her smack in the middle of the current Supreme Court, probably pretty close to where Chief Justice George was.  I personally would like to see the court move a little bit towards the left, or at least away from the right, but turning this justice down wouldn’t do much of anything. YES.  Ming Chin — This is one of the two or three most conservative justices on the current court.  IMHO, he’s definitely to the right of the California mainstream.  I wouldn’t be unhappy if he were replaced by a more moderate justice.  He’ll still get retained with over 90%, but if you’d like to protest the court’s rightward movement, this would be the place to do it by voting NO.  Moreno — Moreno has been the most liberal justice appointed to the court in the last fifteen years.  That’s not saying a hell of a lot, but he has been a pretty fair judge, IMO.  YES.

Moving down to the more local Bay Area First Appellate District Justices, here are my one word recommendations:  Banke — NO  [no opinion]; Dondero — NO; Lambden — YES; Jenkins — NO; Siggins — YES; Reardon — NO; Bruiniers –NO; Needham — NO.  And, at the county level, I’d recommend Kolakowski over Creighton, as I did in the primary.  IMHO, we have more than enough former DAs as judges.

FINALLY, getting down to local elections, here are my suggestions:

Oakland Mayor — I tend to generally agree with the recommendations of the East Bay Express.  Three of the major candidates:  Quan, Tuman, and Kaplan, deserve serious consideration.  I also personally feel that Don Macleay and Greg Harland have interesting things to say.  (See my post on the mayoral forum for more details.)  However, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do NOT vote for Perata for first, second or third choice.  I’ve watched Perata for over twenty years, and IMHO he’s as sleazy as they come.  He is exactly what we DON’T need as Oakland mayor.

Oakland City Auditor — Cortney Ruby has done some good work as auditor, and on that basis, I think she deserves to be re-elected.

Berkeley City Council — While I don’t live in Berkeley, I’m going to throw in my unsolicited opinion on a few of the races:  District 4 – Jesse Arreguin ; District  7 – Kriss Worthington: District  8 – Stewart Jones

Richmond Mayor — This one’s easy.  I’ve watched Nat Bates over the past twenty years, and IMHO he epitomizes the worst of Richmond politics.  By contrast, the current mayor, Gayle McLaughlin, has been a breath of fresh air; willing to challenge the entrenched political powers that have run Richmond into the ground over the past thirty years.  Bates’ campaign has also cooperated with the police and fire unions in running a very nasty smear campaign against
McLaughlin, based on health problems she had some fifteen years ago.

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6 Responses to November Election – Last Installment

  1. Well, Stu, I agree with some of your choices. Lockyer, Chiang, Aceves, Bowen But I’d vote YES on ALL the judges. But after that we diverge.

    Boxer is part of the shrill, ultra-partisan problem we must fix and she does not have much to show for 18 years of shooting off her mouth. Everyone knows that if you want something done you go see Diane anyway. She is the model that Barbara does not measure up to for Senator. I don’t share Carly’s views on abortion but that is settled law. It is unfair to blame her for globalization. She faced an HP unable to compete against low cost production. Hurd did not change Carly’s strategy he just cut deeper. Time for a change and some business experience in the Senate.

    Governor is a choice between two uninspiring candidates, but it is a clear choice. Either we elect an ‘old pol’ who talks big but probably won’t change much of substance even when it needs changing or we elect Meg who promises to be the Governator Arnold was not. She will face his same fate, i fear, eaten alive by the State House gang. Hold your nose and vote for Meg and change you hope to be able to believe in.

    AG. Harris? Really? No way, she has performed badly as DA and does not feel obligated to support the laws she does not agree with. I wish Jerry Brown had run for re-election as AG he seems well suited to that role. It’s Law and Order-LA for me with Cooley.

    LT GOV. Who cares? Gavin just wants a cushy day-job to stay in the game after using all his chits as Mayor. He’s waiting for a better time. Abel is the better choice for this powerless job. I like the Texas model better, myself, the Lt Gov really is the President of the Senate and as much power as the Governor. And if the Gov and Lt Gov can agree on a plan—it happens in Austin!

    OAK MAYOR. Poor, Oakland, it so desperately needs a competent mayor and I agree that Perata is not the right choice. But the other 3 just don’t have the gravitas. I’m glad I live in CoCoCO.

    Gary Hunt

    • stuflash says:

      It appears to me that the Contra Costa air may be getting to you. Your comments sound dangerously close to those of someone gradually turning into a Republican. (Kind of like Pinnochio on Pleasure Island — watch out for those ears!) See some of my past posts about the disfunctional nature of the U.S. political system.

  2. Jeff Hoffman says:

    Hey Stu, first I want to say “thanks” for all your work on this. Now on to my comments.

    I agree on Boxer, she’s maybe the only mainstream Democrat I can stomach, because she’s just enough to the left of the rest.

    Don’t agree at all on Ivin’s rule, though I think she’s funny. If you don’t fight for what you believe in, you’ll never get it, and I guess some of us will never be able to vote for the evil of two lessers.

    Jerry Brown is not just mediocre and annoying, he’s turned into a typical right wing, mainstream Democrat whose policies any progressive would find totally repulsive. (Yes, mainstream Democrats are right wing, too. As Bill Maher said, in this country we have a choice between the lunatic far right of the Republicans and the center right of the Democrats.) Of course Brown wouldn’t be as bad as the fascist he’s running against, but a pox on both of them.

    I fully agree with anyone but Perata, but don’t you think Kaplan would be the strongest environmental advocate? While my office is in Oakland, I don’t live there, but Kaplan would get my No. 1 vote.

    Re the Secretary of State race, you should hold all the candidates to that standard. I think Bowen’s done a pretty good job going after Republican voting machine fraud. I agree with you in your dislike for her lack of support for proportional representation, but no mainstream politician supports that. However, that’s an office I’d really be afraid to lose to a Republican or even a more mainstream Democrat with less intestinal fortitude.

    • stuflash says:

      On Ivins’ Rule, I think it’s a matter of degree. I agree with you that always going for the lesser of two evils is a slippery slope that often leads into the sewer (if you’ll pardon the metaphor). However, I think it’s also true that sometimes the damage avoided is worth the compromise involved. I say this as someone who’s often voted for third party presidential candidates and has witnessed the long-term damage done to people by Reagan and GW Bush, not just in the U.S. but worldwide. I should say, however, that even before Molly Ivins penned her rule, I was already following it. In 1980, I was living in North Carolina. My feeling was that if Carter couldn’t carry North Carolina without my help, he was a lost cause. Turns out I was right.

  3. Jeff Hoffman says:

    Mainstream/corporate Democrats like Clinton have done plenty of damage, too. For example, it was the Clinton administration that deregulated banking by repealing the Glass Steagall Act.

    If you analyze where the two gangs, er, I mean major/corporate parties stand on the issues I assume you care most about — war/peace and the natural environment — there’s really very little if any significant difference. Obama has been every bit as bad as Bush in the Middle East and has nominated even fewer species for the Endangered Species lists. He fully supports offshore oil drilling and nukes, and hired a damn rancher to head Interior.

    My point is that the concept that Democrats do less harm than Republicans is far more perception than reality. (Democrats are clearly better on most social issues, but as much as I care about many of those — I have close friends who are gay and who are not white, for example — the effects of those issues are mostly limited to discreet portions of humans.)

  4. stuflash says:

    Last night, I spent a little time looking up other recommendations on the judicial elections. Mostly, those making recommendations are on the right — either Republicans or Tea Partiers. Some made their recommendation just based on whether the justice was appointed by a Republican or Democratic governor. That’s overly simplistic. By that standard, Republicans should have supported Earl Warren because he was appointed by Eisenhower. Others just went by party affiliation. Again, Warren was a registered Republican. One rated them on being “strict constructionists” or not. On that one, Banke, Dondero, Jenkins, Reardon, Needham, and Bruiniers all got a “thumbs up” as being right-wing enough for the rater. Siggins and Lambden got a thumbs down. Peculiarly, while Moreno predictably got a thumbs down, so did Cantil-Sakauye and Ming Chin, even though they rated 6/10 on the “strict constructionist” scale. So, my recommendations are pretty much in accord, except I’d give a thunmbs-up wherever they gave a thumbs-down.

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