Alix’s Voter Guide – California Ballot, June 2018

Hello! Long time no talk. It’s been 19 months since the last election and it was nice to get some time off from campaign life.

There are some exciting decisions to be made in the upcoming election here in California. All of the statewide officers are up – Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, all the way down to the Board of Equalization. Senator Dianne Feinstein and every member of Congress and the state Assembly are up for election. Remember: this is a “Top Two” open primary, meaning all of the Republicans and Democrats appear on your ballot in June, and then the first and second place finishers – regardless of party – will move on to the November General Election.

Everyone in my world is predicting that 2018 is going to be another Year of the Woman: unprecedented numbers of women are running for office this year, and it’s about time. In the first election following Trump’s inauguration, the #metoo movement, and the women’s marches, I’d like to see some progress in making our government look more like America. Luckily, there are some great female candidates on the June ballot.

Before we begin, I should clarify that the opinions I express in this voter guide are my own, and should not be attributed to my employer, my baby girl, or any of the many Democratic clubs I belong to. Please send all hate mail to me at info (at) votealix.com.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a liberal Democrat attorney and a government nerd, whose passions include arts and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and protecting our environment for future generations. I’ve worked on more political campaigns than I can count, including my own, and I also like long walks on the beach.

My guide to the 2018 San Francisco candidates and measures is here.
My printable one-pager with my ballot recommendations is here. Take a screen shot and take it with you to the polls!

With that said, let’s dig in.

Governor – Newsom, Eastin, or Chiang
Lieutenant Governor – Kounalakis
Secretary of State – Padilla
Controller – Yee
Treasurer – Ma
Attorney General – Becerra
Insurance Commissioner  – Lara
Member, State Board of Equalization (Dist. 2) – Cohen
U.S. Senator – Feinstein
State Superintendent of Public Instruction – Thurmond
Statewide Proposition 68 – Yes
Statewide Proposition 69 – Yes
Statewide Proposition 70 – No
Statewide Proposition 71 – Yes
Statewide Proposition 72- YES!!
Regional Measure 3 – Yes

Governor – Newsom, Eastin, or Chiang

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has a solid lead in this race, and so the June election is really just about seeing who will make it into the top two to face Newsom in the November election.

The other Democrats include Antonio Villaraigosa, a former mayor of Los Angeles; John Chiang, the state treasurer; and Delaine Eastin, the former superintendent of public education. The two main Republican candidates are John Cox, a business executive endorsed by President Trump, and Travis Allen, a State Assembly member who has stayed in the race despite having been found to have sexually harassed a staffer. Ugh.  If you’re reading this voter guide, I can assume you won’t vote for a Trump supporter or a sexual harasser, so I won’t even bother analyzing Cox and Allen for you.

The Dems aren’t that far apart from each other on issues like the environment, education, universal preschool, housing and homelessness. They all (except for Villaraigosa) support universal health care and agree that high speed rail is a good idea, but are wary about how the state is going to pay for both of these very expensive initiatives.

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Delaine Eastin

Newsom has more experience, vision and charisma than the other candidates. As Lt. Governor, he has had a front row seat to the workings of the Capitol, and having served as SF Mayor, he is sympathetic to the plight of big cities, particularly on homelessness and housing issues. I had some problems with his work as Mayor (see: ending Halloween in the Castro), and I think his flip-flop on California’s high speed rail project is problematic. And he’s going to make it into the top two anyway, so let’s look at his opponents.

Having met John Chiang (pronounced “Chung”) on a number of occasions, I can tell you he is genuine, hard working, and wonky.  I really like him. He doesn’t have the star power of a Newsom or Villaraigosa, and that’s probably why his campaign isn’t attracting the high level donors and endorsers. Which is too bad, I think he’d make a great governor.

Villaraigosa has been focused on winning the Central Valley vote, visiting the region more times than the other candidates combined. I haven’t been hearing much about his campaign, but that’s because I live in SF, and it seems that Villaraigosa has conceded my vote to Newsom.

Delaine Eastin is the only female candidate in the race, and she is also smart and has some good ideas for California, but the last time she held elective office was 15 years ago, and voters probably don’t remember anything about her. All things being equal, I’ll vote for the qualified woman in the race, since only 6 states in the US have female governors, and um, it’s 2018.

Lieutenant Governor – Kounalakis

The main job of the lieutenant governor is being ready to serve as Governor should something terrible happen to him (yes, it has always been a him).  There are a few substantive roles the Lt. Gov. plays, though, such as UC Regent, Trustee for the California State University system, State Lands Commissioner and chair of the California Commission for Economic Development. Whoever holds the seat can also use the position as a bully pulpit, taking on whatever issues matter to them. It’s a pretty sweet gig, actually.Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 9.57.55 PM

In this year’s election there are three viable Democratic candidates for the job, and you really can’t lose with whichever one you pick. Eleni Kounalakis was US Ambassador to Hungary, and while she has never held elected office, she has been a Democratic activist for many years, and she has amassed a pile of endorsements from people and organizations I personally care about (Senator Kamala Harris, women’s groups, etc.). She plans on using the Lt Governor’s office to draw attention to the equal pay and equal treatment of women in the workplace. Huzzah!

Jeff Bleich, the former US Ambassador to Australia, is also in the mix, with the endorsement of the Chronicle, Congresswoman Jackie Speier and a few others. Dr. Ed Hernandez is the only candidate who has electoral experience, having served in the State Assembly and the State Senate, and he has the endorsements of labor and many organizations.  Since I’d like to see more women in public office, and Kounalakis seems capable, I’m with her.

Secretary of State – Padilla

Incumbent Alex Padilla is endorsed by everybody and is running virtually unopposed. He cleared the field because he has done a good job of modernizing the Secretary of State’s office, increasing voter registration and protecting voter rights.

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Controller – Yee

Incumbent Betty Yee is endorsed by everybody and is running virtually unopposed. She stuck her neck out for the state’s cannabis industry, long before it became legal for recreational purposes, and she has always been a fierce advocate for women’s rights and undocumented Californians. Vote for Betty.

Treasurer – Ma

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 10.03.32 PMFiona Ma is a CPA, a former member and chair of the state Board of Equalization, and she has the endorsement of everybody, including the California Democratic Party. She is supporting a bill to create a banking system for cannabis, which would allow the state to collect millions of dollars in additional tax revenue. Her work in rooting out nepotism and questionable accounting practices at the Board of Equalization has received widespread praise. Her main opponent is Vivek Viswanathan, who has never held public office, and he can’t seem to scrape many endorsements together.

Attorney General – Becerra

Two Democrats are the front runners in this race: Incumbent Xavier Becerra and outgoing Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. Becerra was appointed Attorney General by Governor Brown to replace Kamala Harris when she was elected Senator. Dave Jones, who currently serves as Insurance Commissioner, is running a strong campaign against Becerra. And while the two Republican candidates are long shots, if Jones and Becerra split the Democratic vote, it’s possible that a Republican could make it into the top two if they unify the party.

Attorney General Becerra has made headlines for himself by suing the Trump administration on several fronts, most notably immigration. Jones is equally as aggressive, having served as a fierce consumer advocate as Insurance Commissioner. Both men have distinguished records, and share similar positions on the issues that matter to Democrats in California.

Jones is very smart and I’ve been impressed with his dedication to public service. After graduating with a law degree and a degree in public policy from Harvard, he worked at legal aid for years, and then three years in the Clinton Justice Department. Although… he is a white dude, and we don’t need any more of those in office. (Sorry white dudes, you’ve had your turn).

Insurance Commissioner  – Lara

One year ago, I wrote a column in the Examiner about what it would take to get single payer health care in California. The bill I wrote about – S.B. 562 – would have helped bring universal health care to our state, and its author, Senator Ricardo Lara, is now running for state Insurance Commissioner to stand up to insurance companies and continue his work on developing a single payer system. Which I think is WAY overdue (although it’s going to be very expensive).

Lara’s main opponent, businessman Steve Poizner, is a former Republican, now running as an independent. He previously served as Insurance Commissioner in 2006, and says he will concentrate on prosecuting insurance fraud (read: defending insurance companies against the little guy) and improving coverage for natural disasters. Poizner opposes universal health care.

Member, State Board of Equalization (Dist. 2) – Cohen

California’s Board of Equalization (BOE) is the only elected tax board in the country. The BOE oversees property taxation collected locally by county tax collectors, and sets “fair market value” of public utility property including buildings, land, structures, improvements, fixtures, and personal property.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 9.28.15 AMThis race is between two women: Supervisor Malia Cohen from San Francisco, and State Senator Cathleen Galgiani from Stockton.  Senator Galgiani chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, and she is a moderate Central Valley Democrat. She comes from an agricultural region, and her perspective and her campaign promises are pro-farming and pro-business.

Malia Cohen is a progressive Democrat from the big city, she has a track record of taking on the special interests and big corporations (see: Big Soda and Big Tobacco). I know Malia personally, and I can tell you that she is smart, and she has integrity and a fearlessness that I admire. The Board of Equalization has faced serious allegations of misconduct, including misallocation of tax payers dollars, widespread nepotism, and questionable spending. Malia has the tenacity to root out the causes of these problems, and she will hold people accountable for them.

U.S. Senator – Feinstein

Many of Dianne Feinstein’s critics think that she is too stodgy and bipartisan. In August 2017 she called for patience with Trump saying that “he could be a good president.” (Gah!) After those comments, the backlash she felt was fierce, and it inspired State Senator Kevin DeLeon to file to run against her. DeLeon was hoping Senator Feinstein would retire or be weakened by the resurgence of progressive activists in the form of the Resistance movement.Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 10.06.28 PM

DeLeon’s candidacy clearly lit a fire under her because Feinstein has since become a vocal critic of the Trump administration’s policies. She is also a strong supporter of gun control laws and has introduced legislation to ban bump stocks. I think she is worth keeping around,  because she has a deep knowledge of the judiciary and international relations, and has seniority on key committees. But kudos to DeLeon for pulling Feinstein to the left and reminding her that California is, and must remain, at the front lines of the Resistance.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction – Thurmond

This race is between Assemblymember Tony Thurmond from the East Bay, and Marshall Tuck, a former charter school executive from Los Angeles.

Tuck is a former investment banker and a charter school advocate, and he ran against incumbent Tom Torlakson in 2014. As I said back then, I think charter schools threaten to drain the public school system of its high achieving students, leaving underperforming students in the dust. (See this great article by Paul Buchheit on the subject).

Thurmond is the real deal. He has served as a social worker helping foster kids, truants and the developmentally disabled. Unlike Tuck, he has held government positions for many years, on the school board and the city council in Richmond. As an elected member of the state Assembly, he has made improving public education his top priority. This experience will help him pull the levers of government to support the public schools, and get them the funding that they so desperately need.

Statewide Proposition 68 – Yes

This measure would authorize $4 billion in general obligation bonds for state and local parks, environmental protection projects, water infrastructure projects, and flood protection projects. For perspective, keep in mind that the state’s overall budget was $190.3 billion this year.

Given how hard climate change is already hitting our state (See: wildfires, floods, longer droughts, shrinking snowpack), this measure is critically important. Every single environmental organization in California supports it, as well as every major newspaper, and a few powerful Chambers of Commerce. The only serious opposition is from people who hate taxes generally. Vote yes.

Statewide Proposition 69 – Yes

Prop 69 is a Constitutional amendment requiring that all tax revenues from the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, enacted by the legislature last year, be dedicated for transportation-related purposes. This is a SUUUPER technical measure having to do with state budgeting, and the “Gann limit” of 1978, which determines how state and local budgets are calculated. You can dig into the details here, or you can just vote yes to make sure that the gas taxes you pay will not be diverted by future legislatures into other non-transportation related funds. Also, it has no formal opposition. 

Statewide Proposition 70 – No

Ballot measures like this make me so mad. They require a graduate degree to understand them, and they illustrate how broken our ballot measure system is. Prop 70 is a Constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the California State Legislature to use revenue from the State Air Resources Board’s auctioning or sale of greenhouse gas emissions allowances under the state’s cap-and-trade program, which vote would need to take place sometime in 2024 or later. Requiring a 2/3 majority in the state Legislature simply gives Republicans the power to decide how cap-and-trade funds are allocated.

Not sure why this is on the ballot now, except that Jerry Brown promised to put it on there and he’s about to retire. He is one of the very few supporters of the measure, and all of the environmental organizations have lined up against it. Vote no.

Statewide Proposition 71 – Yes

Today, when a ballot measure is approved by the voters in California, it goes into effect the day after the election. That’s nuts, because the Secretary of State doesn’t even certify that the election results are valid until a month after the election takes place. In very close elections, a ballot measure could go into effect before all the ballots are counted! A yes vote on Prop 70 will correct this problem, moving the effective date of ballot propositions from the day after election day to the fifth day after the election results are certified. This one is easy. There is no formal opposition.

Statewide Proposition 72- YES!!

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 10.09.58 PMCalifornia is facing some very serious water shortages in its future, and capturing rainwater is one way homeowners are going to start solving the problem. Prop 72 is a Constitutional amendment that will make it easier for Californians to install rainwater capture systems by eliminating a tax penalty for their installation. (Or rather, by enabling the state legislature to exempt them from taxes, same same). All of the major newspapers support Prop 72, as well as the Democratic Party and many major environmental organizations. There is no formal opposition.

Regional Measure 3 – Yes

Eek. Living in the Bay Area is expensive enough. Raising the Bay Bridge and Richmond Bridge tolls by $3 (over six years) will be painful for most commuters. However, this money will go toward a very good cause – funding the Bay Area Traffic Relief Plan, including a $4.5 billion slate of transportation projects. And if it gets more people off the bridges and onto public transit, that will be a very good outcome. I say vote yes.

 

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4 thoughts on “Alix’s Voter Guide – California Ballot, June 2018

  1. Although I already voted, it was interesting to read your choices and specially your reasons. Most of mine match yours (except for Alameda Co. vs. SF), but our differences were interesting.

    I have to give you good (or bad news) that kidlet of yours is going to be a politician! Look at that “love ’em all” smile and that that hand stretched out to shake a voter’s–he’s a true natural. (Is this how FDR’s mother started???).

    Judy Cox

  2. As a public school parent, I’d love for you to help me understand your rationale behind endorsing charter school advocate Phil Kim, who carries water for Betsy DeVos’ pro-charter school agenda, and Tony Thurmond, who supports a moratorium on charter school growth. There is a glaring inconsistency between your school board endorsements and your endorsement for Thurmond. And only one of your board of ed endorsements (Faauuga Moliga) has actually worked for SFUSD.

    I just can’t follow your logic.

    • Hi Brandee – Thanks for your feedback. I just talked to Phil to clarify his position on the proliferation of charter schools, and was satisfied with his response. he and I agree that charter schools should never replace public schools, and that they warrant heightened scrutiny and accountability. I just revised my voter guide to include this paragraph:

      Although he works at a charter school (KIPP Academy), he tells me he opposes the proliferation of charter schools in San Francisco.  He advocates for more accountability and oversight of charter schools, and he distances himself from the politics of Marshall Tuck, Betsy DeVos and others who think that charter schools should replace public schools. He thinks that charter schools can play an important BUT NICHE role in a public school system, but that the public schools should always remain primary. I agree with him on these points, and I think that his unique perspective would be valuable on the school board. 

      • Alix, back in May, I gave public comment at a school board meeting as a part of a coalition of grassroots groups that were opposing a petition that KIPP filed to move into Malcolm X Academy, a public school in the Bayview. All of the teachers and families at Malcolm X were 100% opposed to KIPP moving into their school. There were 5-year-old children begging KIPP not to co-locate (and co-location almost always leads to schools closing) because they love their school and their teachers. I have a first grader, and I can tell you that one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever seen – are *children* begging an elected group of adults to make sure that their school doesn’t close. 😦

        If you live in San Francisco, and you’re not hip to what’s been happening, you should be. Our public schools are under attack.

        Co-location means Malcolm X losing some classrooms (like a cool down room where students struggling with anxiety could go to get a break) because of this. Malcolm X’s students outperform KIPP’s students on a number of standardized tests. The entire SFUSD board unanimously denied the petition. KIPP then ran to the state appeal board in Sacramento (which is stacked with charter school boosters) and got approval, riding roughshod over the will of the community.

        I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but KIPP and many other charter schools are heavily funded by edtech moguls in Silicon Valley. See: Bill Gates, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. Why? Well, it’s easier to sell edtech through corporate charter school chains like KIPP than it is through democratically elected schools boards. In fact, Hastings went on record to say that we should do away with democratically elected school boards.

        The whole idea of a “niche” market for K-12 public schools really bothers me. That caters to elitist views that some schools are only for certain children. KIPP (and charter schools in general) are notorious for counseling out children with disabilities and the children that are the most challenging (i.e., expensive) to serve. KIPP is notorious for using harsh disciplinary tactics and expel and suspend students – especially our black and Latinx students – at a much higher rate, speeding up the school to prison pipeline. I’ve heard KIPP informally referred to as “Kids in Prison Prep”. We don’t need an elite, “niche” school that creates a system of “”winners” on the backs of children who society labels as “losers.”

        You are much more trusting than I am, and you may not realize it, but in including the paragraph you did, you are repeating the propaganda that charter schools repeat again and again while they simultaneously work to shutter and privatize public schools. I appreciate you caring about our public schools, but I think that you need to have your ear to the ground a bit more before you develop your platform. There are 55,000 students in our public schools. Those students deserve wholesome school board members who do not work for charter school chains. As a public school parent, I have a vested interested in this topic, and I feel strongly about this.

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