Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Nov 2018 Statewide Offices

How I'm voting on Statewide Offices, Nov 2018

With California's open primary, a few of these statewide offices provide a tough choice between two strong candidates (marked in red). Here's a summary of my votes for all the candidates listed before the state propositions (for others, see my "Berkeley + Local Offices" post). Details are below the jump.

State+Federal races

Governor: Gavin Newsom
Lieutenant Governor: Hernandez
Secretary of State: Padilla
Controller: Yee
Treasurer: Ma
Attorney General: Becerra
Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara
State Board of Equalization, 2nd District: Cohen
US Senator: Kevin de Leon
US Congress, 13th District: Barbara Lee still speaks for me
CA Assembly District 15: Buffy Wicks
CA State Superintendent of Schools: Tony Thurmond


Vote YES on Judges Corrigan, Kruger, Humes, Margulies, Richman, Miller, Siggins, Tucher, Streeter, Jones

Alameda County

Alameda County Assessor: Phong La

State+Federal races

Governor: Gavin Newsom

Slam dunk -- way better than Republican John Cox.

Lieutenant Governor: Ed Hernandez 

The Lt. Governor doesn’t have many responsibilities -- serve on the UC Regents, go to a bunch of meetings, act as interim head of the state while the real Gov is out of state, and hope that the role gives you enough name recognition to run for Governor later. On issues, there’s not much of a difference between the two Democrats who made it into the runoff together.

State Senator Ed Hernandez has support from organized labor, Planned Parenthood, and gobs of elected officials. He’s had a good record in Sacramento. Many newspapers endorse him (examples: SF Chronicle, LA Times). He just comes across as solid to me -- not flashy, but a straightforward policy wonk who has thought carefully about how to use the Lt. Governor’s position.

Eleni Kounlakis gets endorsements from Sen. Kamala Harris, California NOW, Emily’s List, CLCV, and many women-in-politics organizations. She’d be the state’s first female Lt. Gov (yay!). Lots of the money to support her is in an independent expenditure committee run by her father (hmm). She helped run her family’s development firm in Sacramento. She was an ambassador appointed by Obama. But she’s never held elected office before, and that gives me serious pause for someone running for this high of an office, particularly when there’s another highly-qualified candidate with whom I agree on major positions.

I’m voting for Hernandez.

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla

Slam dunk -- same as in the primary.

Controller: Betty Yee

Slam dunk -- same as in the primary.

Treasurer: Fiona Ma

Slam dunk. The Treasurer is the state’s banker, managing its investments. CPA and State Board of Equalization member, Fiona Ma has great experience. She helped expose the problems with the State Board of Equalization while she was on it, and she’s got endorsements from people you listen to.

Attorney General: Xavier Becerra

Slam dunk. Becerra was Deputy AG under Kamala Harris, and Governor Brown appointed him to fill the remainder of Harris’ term when she won her Senate race. Becerra has done a good job since then: he’s resisted the Trump agenda on health care, environmental protection, immigration issues (including the travel ban and sanctuary cities), and other issues. He’s filed over 30 lawsuits against federal overreach.

Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara

Slam dunk, and important. Ricardo Lara introduced a bill for Canadian style single payer health care in California, he also developed legislation expanding health care for immigrants. Lara has union and Democratic Party support. Steve Poizner is an ex-Republican who opposed legal immigration.

State Board of Equalization, 2nd District: Malia Cohen

Slam dunk. Here’s an update from my primary writeup:
We probably shouldn’t vote for this Board. It would be better if it were an appointed body. A few years ago, the state stripped it of many of its duties and transferred thousands of jobs from the Board’s oversight to the state government. But as long as there’s an election, we might as well get the right people.
Current San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen is the best candidate running. She’s taken good positions on financial issues, including on how the city’s money is invested. And I’ve been impressed by her and her staff in my work life. Plus, she’s committed to the Board’s remaining duties (overseeing county assessors) well and transparently.
Her opponent, Republican Mark Burns, just wants to defend Prop 13. 

US Senator: Kevin de Leon

I happily voted for Dianne Feinstein (and Barbara Boxer) in the “Year of the Woman” in 1992. I’ll be even happier voting for Kevin De Leon this year. As my friend Nathan said for the primary, “If Feinstein is the very model of a modern mainstream Democrat, former State Senate president De Leon is the avatar for the progressive wing.” Feinstein said Trump could be a good President.

De Leon has been great in the California Senate. He helped get SB1 passed (transportation!), has made sure cap and trade funds go to low-income communities (environmental justice!), and is ensuring California provides services to “Dreamer” young immigrants (immigration reform!). I was impressed when he spoke to a TransForm summit about the need for affordable housing, and then backed it up with successful advocacy in the legislature.

US Congress, 13th District: Barbara Lee still speaks for me

Slam dunk -- if you need any convincing on this, you’re probably not interested in the rest of my writeup.

CA Assembly District 15: Buffy Wicks 

I’m writing this endorsement writeup for the few of you who are still undecided on this race. I was like you until recently, when I really dug into it. In the primary, I made a ranked-choice endorsement: Beckles/Pardue Okimoto/Wicks, and I was pretty sure I’d have a tough decision this fall.

Since then I’ve heard them debate, listened to pitches from friends and acquaintances, read lots of independent comparison pieces. They have very similar positions on most issues. Their differences are more about personality, identity, and history.

Wicks came across (in the radio debate I heard) as a polished policy wonk, experienced at negotiation and good at citing multiple sources and making her points clearly and concisely. She hasn’t held elected office before, but she’s been involved in progressive politics for decades. She was an organizer against the Iraq war, for UFCW against Walmart, and then for Obama, where she’s credited with helping set up his organizing strategy.

Beckles describes herself (in the radio debate I heard) as a radical and a revolutionary who’s accustomed to fighting against Chevron and developers she doesn’t trust. She’s fought for a $15 minimum wage, “ban the box” to combat employment discrimination, and to win new tax revenues from Chevron for Richmond. She’s also left behind some disturbing stories about her personality, such as ridiculing a blind councilmember for his disability and legislating odd conspiracy theories.

Overall, I’m going with Wicks.

My friend Victoria Eisen put it very well, saying:
“Just like it’s immoral to vote against someone because of their race, it’s wrong to support them just because we sorely need more black leadership.  
I don’t have personal experience with Jovanka, but everyone I know who does (Richmond residents, etc) paints the same picture. She routinely ridicules those she disagrees with and is a conspiracy theorist.  
Yes, Buffy is blonde and cut her political teeth outside the district, but her experience with the Obama administration - the ACA in particular - means she knows how to work with other points of view to get things done. Think Nancy Skinner.” 
If you want to reach about them, check out their websites: https://buffywicks.com and https://www.jovanka.org. You can find lots of info on their individual histories, endorsements, and what they think about different issues.

CA State Superintendent of Schools: Tony Thurmond

I like Tony Thurmond. He’s been my Assemblymember and has worked on education for years. I supported him for his current job in the State Assembly (15th District), which he’s leaving before he’s termed out to run for this office. He’s been on the Richmond City Council (2005-2008), West Contra Costa County School Board (2009-2012), State Assembly (2014-2018), and has served on lots of boards and commissions. He’s run a nonprofit called "CEO Youth" (Creating Entrepreneurship Opportunities for Youth) based in Richmond, that trains high school students to conceptualize and launch youth-led business ventures. He grew up poor, overcame it in part with the help of government programs and social services, and wants to provide pathways out of poverty for more kids like himself. He’s supported by teachers’ unions and he has built strong working relationships at each level where he’s worked.

Marshall Tuck comes from a very different background: wealthy towns on the Peninsula, UCLA, Wall Street banking, before he decided he wanted to make more of a difference in the world. He taught in Zimbabwe for a few months, went to Harvard Business School, a software company for a few years, and then finally transitioned into education in 2002. He worked for a charter schools company, then Villaraigosa appointed him to run Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a nonprofit that targeted low-income schools for interventions that focused on improving test scores. It appears they did raise test scores, but by amount the same amount that the rest of LAUSD did.

For some voters, this is a referendum on charter schools. Thurmond would put more limits on them than Tuck. That’s a good thing, according to my wife Kim, who’s been in schools for 25+ years: in public, charter, and private schools as teacher and doing professional development, and at SFSU as a math professor, teaching many future schoolteachers. She says that while some of the charters are good, many are not. Her understanding is that on average, they’re not doing better than the public schools whose students they’re taking, they're doing a lot to disrupt the schools and districts, and they're allowed to kick students out, unlike the public schools.

On the other hand, the public schools can and should do better. If you read my writeup this spring, you may remember I quoted at length from a friend who's worked in education policy for years (link -- then scroll down to “School”) -- he convinced to lean towards Tuck then. I can imagine that some of Tuck's ideas might help.

But on balance, I’m going with Thurmond.

If you really want to dig in further, here are some things that have informed my thinking:


Vote YES on Judges Corrigan, Kruger, Humes, Margulies, Richman, Miller, Siggins, Tucher, Streeter, Jones

I generally support the notion that we should appoint judges for life (or at least a long time) and insulate them from politics. So I’m not a big fan of voting on judges (although voting once every 12 years doesn’t seem *too* bad). So I have a simple standard: if there hasn’t been a scandal that tells me a judge totally blew it, I vote Yes to keep them in office. With that assignment, Benjamin researched all these judges. He came across some interesting stories, some people whose politics we might not agree with (and many that we do agree with), but no scandals.

So I’m voting Yes on Judges Corrigan, Kruger, Humes, Margulies, Richman, Miller, Siggins, Tucher, Streeter, and Jones. ADVICE WELCOME: If you know something we don’t, please put it in the comments.

Alameda County

Alameda County Assessor: Phong La

This is an easy one. The previous incumbent, Ron Thomsen, is not seeking re-election. 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 editorial or La’s website.

His opponent, Jim Johnson, has some managerial experience in the Assessor’s office, 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.


Unknown said...

Hi Jeff, Thanks for all your research and write-up. I have been undecided between Wicks and Beckles. I have been disturbed this past week because I have received flyers from Wick's party against Beckles. I don't like they idea of one candidate spending money putting down another candidate. It is like hate mail. Especially a white women putting down a African American women. Wicks should stick to her beliefs not spread weakness of the other candidate. This kind of behavior from Wick's party is what has decided for me to vote for Beckles.

Henri Picciotto said...

I recommend the East Bay DSA Web site http://buffywicks.money
They explain in detail, based on public records, where Wicks' millions come from.

Unknown said...

I am totally turned off by negative campaigning, and was very upset by the anti-Beckles flyer in the mail. However, one thing I've learned through volunteering for Wicks is that most of the flyers aren't sent by her campaign. They are created and sent by a third party which apparently her campaign isn't even allowed to contact, let alone approve content!

How and why it is this way I do not understand. Lots of people are complaining about the volume of flyers (and tone of a few of them), but apparently this is not her campaign's doing. Her campaign is very much about person to person contact: door to door by volunteers, and meeting people in their homes at house parties.

elissa said...

unfortunately the Wicks-Beckles race has gotten really nasty, unreasonably so given their similar stances on many issues and that we should be focusing our ire outside of the Bay Area. That said, I have received negative flyers about both candidates and have generally found that Wicks seems to be more of a target of negative campaigning than Beckles-- the accusations about taking corporate money, being a carpetbagger, being in the pocket of charter schools, etc. are simply not true. And the DSA site about her contributions is shockingly slanted and incomplete. I was really surprised to such a hit piece coming from the DSA--as the commenter above said, their info came from public records so they could have just presented facts and not discredited their research by such bias and even obviously untrue allegations. I agree with you, Jeff, that Beckles' well-documented and well-known reputation are problematic and despite wanting to support women of color as candidates, I am 100% convinced that Wicks will be a more effective lawmaker and I will be voting for her. Thanks as always for your thoughtful analysis of this race and all the rest of them!

elissa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Hobson said...

Thank you, Henri, for suggesting some info to look at and for signing your comment. I did look at the website you suggested, but I wasn't impressed. I get it that some people I disagree with contributed to Wicks' campaign. But some people I agree with did too. And the writing was so biased and slanted, painting anyone who made a campaign contribution as evil, that I wrote it off as a campaign hit piece.

For the rest of you, whose posts show up as being from "Unknown": I'd appreciate it if you would post your name with your comments in the future. I like to know who's reading and commenting my posts.

Charis said...

In my case, user error (or imperfect user interface) - I picked the option that said "google account" expecting that would identify me. I didn't pick the anonymous option, but now I see I should have picked the middle option that says Name/URL. -Charis

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