Thursday, May 31, 2018

June 2018 Local Races

How I'm voting on Local Races, June 2018

As with the statewide races, remember that California’s “top two” primary system means that in many races, the top two vote-getters will be on the ballot again in November. So if you’re torn between two obvious front-runners, don’t stress too much -- you’ll get to decide again in November.

Here are my choices in these races; details are below the jump.

Local Districts, Federal + State Offices

U.S. Congress, 13th District: Barbara Lee
CA State Assembly, 15th District: Beckles over Pardue Okimoto + Wicks

Alameda County

Superior Court Judge, Office #1: Tara Flanagan
Assessor: Phong La
Auditor-Controller/Clerk-Recorder: Blackwood
District Attorney: Pamela Price (Heart) over Nancy O’Malley (Head)



Local Districts, Federal + State Offices

U.S. Congress, 13th District: Barbara Lee

She still speaks for me ... and is unopposed.

CA State Assembly, 15th District: Beckles over Pardue Okimoto + Wicks

I’m confident that any of the major candidates for this race would represent me well in Sacramento. I wish there were ranked-choice voting. Here’s
My #1 vote would go to former Richmond City Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, supported by many politically-savvy people I know. My friend Nathan says “I pick Beckles as one of the savviest Richmond progressive Councilmembers.” Endorsements: Our Revolution, CLCV, APEN, CA Environmental Justice Action, Equality CA, and others.
My #2 vote would be for Rochelle Pardue Okimoto, nurse and El Cerrito City Councilmember. She gets support from CA Nurses Association, CA Legislative Black Caucus, and what I think of as mainstream Democrats in Contra Costa County.
My #3 vote would be for Buffy Wicks; I got a strong and convincing pitch for her from someone whose political instincts I respect, who said her high-level experience (she’s a former advisor to Obama and Hillary Clinton) would help her be an effective legislator. She has many high-level endorsements (Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, Howard Dean, Gabby Giffords, Scott Wiener, Darrell Steinberg) from mainstream Democrats. I like her willingness to support new development, particularly near transit. Some other friends voiced strong concerns about her links to the national Democratic party. That doesn’t bother me -- I think that would help her be effective. But she hasn’t served in elected office before, and I think it is different to serve than to advise.
I know several of the other candidates personally, but I don’t think they’re going to make the top two: environmentalists I know support Oakland Councilmember Dan Kalb (endorsed by Sierra Club + Mayor Libby Schaaf). Education people (particularly in Berkeley) support Berkeley School Board member Judy Appel. And EBMUD Director Andy Katz is a nice guy who’s done good advocacy and legal work on environmental issues -- but I don’t think he’s got a shot (sorry, Andy).
I’ll be very curious who gets top two for November. I look forward to learning more about the two finalists and having another difficult decision then.

Alameda County

Superior Court Judge, Office #1: Tara Flanagan

First off, I value judicial independence and I don’t think we should vote for judges. We should only unseat them if there’s an extraordinary reason, and then only if the challenger is clearly superior. I read a bunch of articles about this race (plus an email making the rounds that claims to be from a woman who didn’t like Flanagan’s tone in the courtroom), and I don’t think this race qualifies on either front. If you want to read more, try the East Bay Times editorial.

Assessor: Phong La

This is an easy one. The previous incumbent, Ron Thomsen, is not seeking re-election. There are four candidates for this open seat. The best candidate is Phong La. He’s got endorsements across the political spectrum, including from a lot of people I trust. He’s got long experience as a tax attorney (including with complaints to the assessor’s office). He wants to improve the user experience by having more electronic access and offices in multiple parts of the county. For details, see the East Bay Times endorsement or La’s website.
The other candidates don’t measure up. Two others are from within the Assessor’s office but are unimpressive. Jim Johnson has managerial experience but not in the appraisal section of the office, his website lists only three endorsements, and he’s a member of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association -- No. Kevin Lopez looks like he’s got strong technical credentials, but no management experience, and his endorsement list is unimpressive (it’s cute that he’s got support from the “President of the Centerville National Little League” from Fremont, but …). And John Weed isn’t convincing either.

Auditor-Controller/Clerk-Recorder: Blackwood

There’s no incumbent. The two candidates are both seasoned financial professionals with nearly identical job titles. I’m voting for Irella Blackwood because of endorsements and because I don’t like the way her opponent, Melissa Wilk, was lined up for the job. Blackwood has reportedly done a good job with performance audits. If you want details, I suggest reading the East Bay Times endorsement (which also includes a good description of what the person in this job does).
That editorial, and a few other articles, show that the incumbent (Steve Manning) had meant to game the system to create an easy election for one of his deputies (Wilk). The incumbent filed for the election but withdrew just before the filing deadline. His deputy (Wilk) was conveniently already ready to file, had a professionally built campaign website, and had already lined up several endorsements. That’s also the way the current incumbent (Manning) had won the job four years ago, and how the previous incumbent (Patrick O’Connell) had gotten the job 28 years earlier. That’s not good democracy.
If you really want to dig, you can check out Blackwood’s endorsements compared to Wilk’s.

District Attorney: Pamela Price (Heart) over Nancy O’Malley (Head)

This is a tough one.
Incumbent Nancy O’Malley was Alameda County’s first female district attorney. Appointed in 2009, she was re-elected unopposed in 2010 and 2014. She has a strong history of prosecuting domestic violence cases, led a statewide effort against human trafficking, and pushed for bail reform. She has apparently successful experience managing the DA’s office (no small feat, overseeing 100’s of lawyers, investigators, and other staff).
But she has made serious errors in judgment in dealing with the police. She has not prosecuted any police officers for killing of unarmed people, while at the same time having accepted campaign contributions from police unions. Last fall she took a $10,000 contribution from the Fremont police union while she was investigating the head of that union for killing an unarmed pregnant teen; her office later declined to prosecute the union chief. The combination shows terrible judgment. I don’t know the details of the Fremont case -- or others -- but it is hard to believe that in her 9 years in office, there have been zero police officers who deserved prosecution. So while she’s been a competent and relatively progressive prosecutor, I’m not surprised that she’s getting challenged by a more progressive candidate.
Her challenger, Pamela Price, is also extremely impressive. She was an undergrad at Yale in 1978 and her JD at Cal in 1982. She has a strong history of suing governmental institutions and corporations for discrimination and harrassment. She’s one of a handful of black women ever to argue in front of the US Supreme Court. And she has a compelling personal narrative: herself a victim of domestic violence and sexual harrassment, she has both personal and professional experience navigating the criminal justice system. She rocks.
But … I have two concerns about Price. One is that she has little administrative experience; that matters in running a large public institution. If she were to win, I’d hope that she would rely on seasoned professionals to help; that might be difficult if she doesn’t trust the DA’s office. The second concern is that she appears to have made some errors of judgment herself: one of high-profile clients accused her of exploiting her story. And she initially told some newspapers that she wouldn’t prosecute misdemeanors -- despite the fact that many drunk driving and  domestic violence offenses fall into that category. She later backtracked and gave a better explanation: use discretion in sentencing and explore programs that have productive alternatives to incarceration.
My heart wants to vote for Price and what she stands for; if she wins, I hope she’ll learn to run the office well (or depend on competent non-political staff). My head recognizes O’Malley is more experienced; if she wins, I hope Price’s challenge will drive her to do a better job of police oversight. I’m probably going to go with my heart on this one.

5 comments:

Tom Lent said...

I am not yet decided yet either - we are lucky to have lots of good choices - but I'm giving Dan Kalb a seeper look. I think his chances are actually pretty good despite the Buffy $$ machine. He's got some other useful endorsements - East Bay Express and CLCV, for example - and for some interesting reasons. Of all the candidates he arguably has the most actual experience getting things done in Sacramento, albeit from his time as an environmental lobbyist, but he was effective. I'm intrigued.

Tom Lent said...

I'm planning to write in ‘no confidence’ against Sheriff Ahern. He is running unopposed (as he has since 2006) but is totally out of step with Bay area values and really needs opposition. Immigration and justice reform activists have long raised concerns about condistions at Santa Rita under his watch, his support of deportation and other ICE actions, his embrace of the Urban Shield militarization programs and his opposition to criminal justice reforms that favor community based programs over incarceration. More detail here

Learn more about voting ‘no confidence’ from Indivisible Berkeley at here

Michael Sumner said...

Thanks for the write-ups!

Tom Lent said...

On Flanagan vs Katz: I had a very hard time with this. I strongly agree with your position that judges should be independent of the political process and not an electoral office. However, here we are and I am deeply disturbed that Flanagan has crossed that political line in a substantive way by taking large campaign fund contributions from sheriffs unions. With regrets, I voted for Katz.

Jeff Hobson said...

Thanks for the notes, Tom & Michael.

Tom -- I'm interested in the "no confidence" vote option. I'm not a fan of Sheriff Ahern either. I usually ignore the uncontested races. I'll be curious to see if there's a sufficient # of those votes to make an impression. I'll consider having that be part of my recommendation repertoire in the future.