THE RANDOM GUIDE TO THE CALIFORNIA PRIMARY
The Great Pretender
By Jack Random
As a voter compelled to register as a Democrat for fear that my vote for Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, you can be sure that I fall far to the left of the Democratic Party. In fact, I have only a little more faith in the Democrats than I do in the Republicans despite their official policies. Both parties are corporate and ultimately serve corporate interests. I hold on to the hope that someday, despite all the barriers, an independent or third party movement will break the stranglehold of the major parties on our electoral process. Meantime, a combination of pragmatism (least harm) and idealism (independent) will guide my vote. What follows are my recommendations in the 2018 California primary.
GOVERNOR: JOHN CHIANG, DEMOCRAT, STATE TREASURER.
I have never perceived the presumptive favorite Gavin Newsom as anything but what he is: an opportunist who plays the cards he’s dealt with a deft hand. He is the Great Pretender, a definitive Democrat in the Clintonian mode. Contrary to his television ads it requires no courage to come out in favor of gay rights when you’re mayor of San Francisco. It takes no courage to stand for universal healthcare when you’re seeking higher office in California. Where was Newsom’s courage when it came to supporting Sanders over Clinton?
Newsom was the first to attack a fellow Democrat: John Chiang. It was puzzling but the polls must have said Chiang was taking votes from him. Chiang did not respond in kind initially but former mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa did, asserting quite justly that Newsom was taking credit for accomplishments that did not belong to him. In California the Lieutenant Governor is pretty much a symbolic office that politicians use to gain name recognition and test the waters for a statewide run.
Villaraigosa’s ad campaign is sponsored by California Charter Schools Association Advocates to the tune of $17.3 million dollars. If you love charter schools – taking money from public schools and channeling it to profit motivated private charters – then Villaraigosa is your candidate. Otherwise palatable – he’s pro union – he lost my vote when he took that money.
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: TIM FERREIRA, LIBERTARIAN.
I won’t pretend to know much about this candidate except that he carries the Libertarian banner. As noted above, the Lieutenant Governor doesn’t have really have any authority. Presumably, he or she gets free office space, benefits and a nice salary. Democratic Senator and superstar Kamala Harris gives her blessing to Eleni Kounalakis and that will probably be sufficient to win the election but she will not protect our coastline or anything else. She’s a figurehead. I say: Use this office to vote independent. There are no Greens, no Peace & Freedom and no other official third party candidates. There are a few Decline-to-States. Vote independent.
SECRETARY OF STATE: MICHAEL FEINSTEIN, GREEN, ELECTORAL CONSULTANT.
The Secretary of State runs our elections. That is important. In other states it can be argued persuasively that Secretaries of State decided presidential elections but not here. Fundamentally, California doesn’t count in presidential elections. Still, it is important – important enough that two Greens, a Libertarian and a Peace & Freedom candidate secured their place on the ballot.
I can go two ways here: Support a Democrat to ensure that a Republican does not secure the office or go independent. I don’t believe a Republican has a chance in a California statewide election so I’ll go Green: Michael Feinstein appears to be the more serious candidate. He supports multi-party democracy, ranked choice voting, proportional representation, limiting money in politics, transparency and voter integrity. He has my vote.
CONTROLLER: BETTY YEE, DEMOCRATIC INCUMBENT.
The controller is the state’s bookkeeper. It requires competence and integrity. I see no reason to change horses so I’ll vote for the incumbent even if she is a Democrat.
TREASURER: FIONA MA, DEMOCRATIC INCUMBENT.
The treasurer is the state’s banker with authority to manage investments and assets. Once again, competence and integrity are required. The Peace and Freedom candidate Kevin Akin has some interesting ideas, including a publicly owned bank. Democrat and CPA Fiona Ma is certainly qualified, competent and supported by California Nurses, Teachers and the Council of Laborers. She also has the coolest name on the ballot.
ATTORNEY GENERAL: XAVIER BECERRA, DEMOCRATIC INCUMBENT.
The office that launched the formidable career of Senator and future presidential candidate Kamala Harris, this year’s contest features two Republicans and two Democrats. That narrows the field. Dave Jones is the current Insurance Commissioner and seems to be supported by a variety of employee associations. Xavier Becerra was appointed to the position when it was vacated by Harris. Becerra has the money and his contributions include California Nurses.
Becerra has shown a willingness to stand up against the presidency of Donald Trump on issues ranging from immigration policy to the legalization of marijuana. He’s also a Clintonian with high stake political ambitions.
Jones brings the reputation of fighting for consumers against predatory insurance companies. In its endorsement of Jones, the San Jose Mercury News qualified that reputation with “while being fair to the industry.” That sends up a warning signal. His credits include working as a special assistant to former Attorney General Janet Reno who oversaw the Elian Gonzalez fiasco, Ruby Ridge and the Branch-Davidian tragedy in Waco, Texas. That’s not much of an endorsement.
As sometimes happens, the Mercury-News endorsement brought me to the opposite conclusion. Stick with Becerra and hope for the best.
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER: NATHALIE HRIZI, PEACE & FREEDOM.
The commissioner is in charge of enforcing insurance laws – a critical function in today’s society. The candidates include Democrats Ricardo Lara and Asif Mahmood, former Republican Steve Poizner and Peace & Freedom’s Nathalie Hrizi, a public school teacher.
The fact that Poizner was once appointed to this position by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminates him. Mahmood is a medical doctor who supports universal healthcare. Lara is a state senator who also supports medical care for all, including the undocumented. He sponsored a bill to that effect. It seems there is little to distinguish between Mahmood and Lara and that begs the question: Why are they both running?
That leaves the Feminist Socialist Peace & Freedom candidate Nathalie Hrizi. She stands for three principles: 1. Healthcare is a universal right. 2. Private health insurance companies should be abolished. 3. California should create its own single-payer, non-profit system.
I’ll vote enthusiastically for Hrizi.
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION: TOM HALLINAN, DEMOCRAT.
This one is too easy: Three Republicans and one Democrat.
UNITED STATES SENATOR: PAT HARRIS, DEMOCRAT.
Never have so many considered his or her self qualified to become United States Senator from the great state of California. I count eleven Republicans, ten Democrats, eight decline-to-states, one Libertarian and one Peace & Freedom. Sadly, the only political organization left out of the party is Green.
We all know Dianne Feinstein. The new model is the progressive model. Suddenly she believes in Medicare for all. Suddenly she believes in the rights of undocumented immigrants. Suddenly she believes in limiting the power of the president to wage war. I like the new model but like an old car I don’t trust it. Feinstein has let the progressive community down far too many times.
If we eliminate the Republicans – and we do – we can move on to the progressive challengers. On the Democratic side there is Pat Harris, a civil rights attorney who believes in legalization of marijuana/cannabis nationwide, universal healthcare and getting corporate money out of politics. I like this guy. Then there’s state senator Kevin De Leon who is committed to immigration reform, Medicare for All and a national clean energy plan. What’s not to like? Democrat David Hildebrand wants to end Citizens United and favors a minimum wage of $15 per hour. Democrat Alison Hartson, a national political director, adds the right to a college education to the progressive agenda.
Jason Hanania is a “technodemocrat” who believes in voting with the majority of Californians using an Evoting system. Interesting. I’ve proposed a similar a system myself. Peace & Freedom’s John Thompson Parker wants to declare a state of emergency to address police misconduct in minority neighborhoods. Libertarian Derrick Michael Reed wants to address the incarceration crisis.
It goes on and on without end. My only conclusion is that it is time for Feinstein to go. We need new blood in Washington and any US Senator who has waffled over the justification for the Iraq War needs to write her memoirs. I might even buy the book. Meantime, I’ll vote for the civil rights attorney in the primary and hold my nose if I have to vote for Feinstein in the general election.
US REPRESENTATIVE, DISTRICT 10: MIKE BARKLEY, DEMOCRAT.
Folks around here know the incumbent congressman from the 10th district in the great central valley likes to play both sides of the coin. Lately he’s charading as the congressman who’s trying to save the dreamers and the children being separated from their parents. That is not the congressman we know and despise. It’s one thing to be conservative and another to play like a progressive whenever your electability depends on it. Denham has always pretended to be a family farmer but the way I hear it he’s a corporate farmer and a very wealthy man.
Let’s be frank: It doesn’t really matter which Democrat runs against him. Denham is the enemy. Every Republican member of the House of Representatives is the enemy. If we want to put the check on Trump we have to take congress away from the president’s party. We need to take both houses of congress. The Democratic money is going to Josh Harder but all the Democrats – Sue Zwahlen, Michael Eggman, Mike Barkley and Virginia Madueno – support progressive policies on healthcare and immigration. All are running against the man in the White House.
I’m put off by the big money going to Harder so I’ll vote for Mike Barkley for his pro-union, anti Free Trade stand, his opposition to the Trump tax cut and his concern for California’s water problems. Those who are rightly concerned that two Republicans (Denham and Howze) might meet in the finals should probably vote for Harder.
STATE SENATOR, DISTRICT 8: TOM PRATT, DEMOCRAT.
I’m sorry. Spelling errors in a candidate statement (Voter’s Edge) put me off – especially one as egregious as this: “Education is a basic tool for any human been.” That propels businessman Tom Pratt to the top of the ticket despite a bizarre first priority: Restore funding to all county fairs. Really? Oh well, he favors universal healthcare and wants to expand broadband coverage. He’s supported by Progressive Democrats of America.
STATE ASSEMBLY, DISTRICT 12: ROBERT CHASE, DEMOCRAT.
The worst-case scenario: One Democrat against one Republican.
SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE: CRYSTAL SWANSON, TRIAL ATTORNEY.
This contest is between a trial attorney in Crystal Swanson and a military judge in Carrie Stephens. In a nation that incarcerates more people proportionately than any nation on earth – thanks to prison for profit – we elect our judges with precious little information. From what I could gather from her Facebook page, Swanson is qualified and competent. Carrie Stephens also seems qualified and competent but she leans too much on her military experience for my taste. I’ll vote for Swanson.
SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION: TONY THURMOND.
Kamala Harris and the Democratic heavyweights have thrown their support to Tony Thurmond, an African American educator and state legislator. Thurmond promises to stand up to Betsy DeVos’ anti public schools agenda. He’ll fight vouchers and profit motivated charter schools. He believes in teacher flexibility, teaching creativity and critical thinking. He believes in the arts and music education. He had me at standing up to DeVos.
Lily Ploski, Marshall Tuck and Steve Ireland all sound like good candidates with excellent ideas but this time I’ll go with the favorite.
STANISLAUS COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS: SHANNON SANFORD.
Shannon Sanford is proud of her test scores and wants to eliminate administrative red tape. Don Davis has the endorsement of the Modesto Bee with his 36 years of experience. Scott Kuykendall values hard work, honesty and responsibility. I find none of their arguments compelling but I’ll vote for Sanford on the grounds that she has relatively specific ideas.
STANISLAUS COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: STEVEN O’CONNOR.
If you’ve followed the trial of attorney Frank Carson, you have probably come to the same conclusion I have: Birgit Fladager should not have the power of her office. She is being challenged by her employee and fellow prosecutor John Mayne and defense attorneys Steven O’Connor and Patrick Kolasinski.
O’Connor forcefully attacks the incumbents excesses and misconduct. He stands for fair trials and wants to protect attorneys under the DA from Fladager’s revenge. Kolasinski reportedly runs the largest law firm in the county. Other than that I’m not sure why he’s running. Mayne has experience in the DA’s office. He laments the high turnover rate in the office.
For me it comes down to John Mayne and Steven O’Connor. I like O’Connor’s style and passion.
STANISLAUS COUNTY SHERIFF: JUAN ALANIS.
This contest is between the Sheriff’s Lieutenant Jeff Dirkse and Sergeant Juan Alanis. After finding trusted friends and family members endorsing Alanis, I was stunned to learn that he is a fierce gun rights supporter. I cannot in good conscience support him. Dirkse has the endorsement of former sheriff Adam Christianson. Not impressed. He opposes citizen review boards and marijuana legalization. He will cooperate with ICE. That’s enough. I don’t like either of these candidates but I will vote for Alanis as the least bad candidate.
PROPOSITION 68: BOND FOR PARKS, WATER QUALITY & FLOOD PROTECTION.
We need to support this. Too much of our infrastructure has been allowed to crumble and has not been repaired. This will help in bringing us back to the modern age and the standards California deserves. YES.
PROPOSITION 69: TRANSPORTATION FUNDS.
Requires money raised from a 2017 law for transportation be used only for transportation. Our roads are in terrible shape. YES.
PROPOSITION 70: SUPERMAJORITY FOR CAP & TRADE FUNDS.
I don’t like Supermajority laws. The infamous Prop 13 that crippled California for years was a Supermajority law. It’s undemocratic. NO.
PROPOSITION 71: EFFECTIVE DATE FOR BALLOT MEASURES.
Requires that propositions passed by the voters go into effect within five days. YES.
PROPOSITION 72: ALLOWS EXEMPTION OF RAIN CAPTURE SYSTEMS FROM PROPERTY TAX REASSESSMENT.
Water is the new gold. YES.
SOURCES: Voter’s Edge California, San Jose Mercury News, Fresno Bee, Modesto Bee Editorial Board and the San Francisco Chronicle.