So, a week from Tuesday is election day. Have you voted yet? Between early voting (available in most California cities) and permanent absentee voter status, you needn’t wait until election day. However, if you’ve been reading my blog regularly [although that seems unlikely], you hopefully haven’t yet. But now it’s time.
In one of my earlier posts, I recommended following “Ivins’ Rule”, an idea popularized by the late political columnist Molly Ivins. It applies to races where you’re not enthusiastic about any of the “major candidates” and you’re thinking instead of voting for a “minor candidate”, either because you truly like them a lot or to send a message that the major parties need better candidates.
Molly’s advice (and mine) was to wait until the last week before the election, then look at the latest polling results. If the Democrat was ahead or behind by more than five points, go ahead and vote for whomever you want. Your vote is unlikely to change the result. If, however, the polls show less than a five point difference, hold your nose and vote for the Democrat. No matter how little you think of the Democratic candidate, the Republican (at least here in California) is assuredly going to be worse.
Applying Ivins’ rule to the current California election, here’s the rundown:
U.S. Senate — While Barbara Boxer is leading over Carly Fiorina, her lead is slim. Whether you think Boxer’s been great (which I do) or too strident, Fiorina would be a change for the worse. Even worse, she could result in a Republican takeover of the Senate. If that happens, kiss goodbye to anything productive happening in Washington for the next two years. With the economy struggling to crawl back out of the tank it’s been in since 2008, that would be disastrous. There’s also the fact that Fiorina is anti-choice and thinks global warming isn’t anything to worry about. This is NOT the race to throw away your vote on a minor party candidate on!
Governor — It looks like Jerry Brown has opened up an 8-10 vote lead of Meg (e-meg) Whitman. That being the case, you are free to consider a minor party candidate of Brown doesn’t turn you on.
Lieutenant Governor — This one’s likely to be a hair-puller down-to-the-wire contest, with Newsom and Maldonado running neck-and-neck. This isn’t a terribly important office, and I must confess I find Newsom unimpressive and Maldonado better than the average Republican [talk about damning with faint praise!], but all in all, I’d still recommend following Ivins’ Rule. Take a clothes pin to your polling place.
Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Controller — from all I’ve seen, all these races will be won by the Democrat. Feel free to follow your conscience.
Attorney General — The latest polling I’ve seen puts this race right on the border of Ivins’ Rule. Harris is apparently down by somewhere around five points to Cooley. I would say that, when in doubt, choose the Democrat. Vote for Harris.
Insurance Commissioner — One of the problems with the “down the ballot” races is that little polling is done (at least other than private candidate polls unavailable to the public). Between Jones and Villines, however, the differences are stark. Jones is very pro-consumer and has supported legislation to establish “single-payer” healthcare insurance for the state. Villines is a classic Republican free-marketer, who has opposed most regulation of the industry. Not surprisingly, while Villines isn’t accepting direct contributions from the insurance industry, he’s benefitting from “independent expenditure” ads run by the Chamber of Commerce (and probably paid for in part by the insurance industry). To be fair, Jones has taken a lot of money (about $400,000) from trial lawyers who sue insurers. They, however, aren’t directly regulated by the insurance commissioner. I think Jones is the clear choice.
Beyond these races, the rest of the ballot is nonpartisan, so Ivins’ Rule doesn’t directly apply. I’ll stick with the rest of my previously-expressed recommendations.