Thursday, May 27, 2010

June 8 Election Endorsements


Copyright © 2010 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

It’s been a long-standing Zenger’s tradition to make a full — or nearly full — slate of endorsements for every local election. Here are ours for the June 8 primary and a rationale for each one.


It’s really pathetic that the California Democratic Party can’t do any better for a gubernatorial candidate than this 1970’s retread, but his fundraising advantages and connections with organized labor gave him the clout to drive the truly interesting and innovative candidates, John Garamendi and Gavin Newsom, out of the race. Even though his first gubernatorial tenure (1975-1983) was a lot more conservative, especially on fiscal issues, than it’s remembered, he’d still make a better governor than either of the major Republicans, Meg Whitman or Steve Poizner, whose tit-for-tat attacks on each other on their self-financed TV commercials are the sort of thing that would lead any self-respecting kindergarten teacher to call a time-out on both of them.

Lieutenant Governor: GAVIN NEWSOM

We’ve always been a little wary of Newsom because he cut his political teeth in San Francisco by bashing homeless people, but he’s at least partially atoned for that with his leadership role on marriage equality for same-sex couples. The only other major Democrat in the race is lackluster Los Angeles City Councilmember Janice Hahn, and Newsom — an aggressive politician with executive experience — is clearly preferable.

Secretary of State: DEBRA BOWEN

An incumbent with a proven record of leadership, especially in resisting the pressure to rush untested, dubious electronic voting systems into use. She deserves another term.

Controller: JOHN CHIANG

In person he’s a non-toxic alternative to Sominex, but he’s proven he knows his way around a balance sheet and he courageously stood up to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger during the most recent state budget crisis. Keep him.


Another proven Democrat with a good track record in office, even though I’ve wondered for decades why California needs both a treasurer and a controller.

Attorney General: KAMALA HARRIS

The Democratic primary in this race has seven major candidates, an embarrassment of riches that so flummoxed the San Diego Democratic Club they couldn’t agree on a single candidate and ran out of a quorum before they could even consider an endorsement. At least two candidates are to be avoided at all costs: Rocky Delgadillo, whose dubious term as Los Angeles city attorney doesn’t deserve to be rewarded with a promotion; and the slimy Chris Kelly, who’s put out so-called “push-poll” calls (they pretend to be taking a survey but they’re really dishing the opposition) with Republican-style arguments against Harris in particular. (Kelly is also the former head of the privacy department at Facebook, which sounds to me like being the chief of virginity at a strip club.) As city attorney of San Francisco, Harris has been an aggressive defender of same-sex marriage equality; she personally lobbied the San Diego City Council to join the lawsuit against Proposition 8, and her office provided by far the best presentation to the state supreme court in the case.

Insurance Commissioner: DAVE JONES

Another race where there are several progressive Democrats running, but Jones is an especially eloquent champion of the individual against corporate corruption and greed — and that’s what being insurance commissioner is all about.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: TOM TORKLASON

Another embarrassment of riches for progressive Democrats, but Torklason, an Assemblymember and former classroom teacher, showed enough of a grasp of the basic issues involving education to win the endorsement of the San Diego Democratic Club, and we’re going with them on this one.

State Board of Equalization, Third District: MARY LOU FINLEY

A long-time local activist with the Peace and Freedom Party, especially committed to anti-war and economic justice issues. With no serious Democrat in the race, this is an appropriate race for a conscience vote.


They try, and try, and try, but the Republicans can’t come up with a candidate that can stand anywhere near the physically diminutive but intellectually giant California junior senator. Her opponents this year include Tom Campbell, iconoclastic Republican who authored Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget strategy; Carly Fiorina, who ran the Hewlett-Packard company into the ground until the founding family fired her; and Chuck DeVore, darling of the tea-party crowd until it turned out he exaggerated his record in the U.S. military and (like Democrat Bob Blumenthal in Connecticut) claimed combat experience he never had.

House of Representatives, 49th District: HOWARD KATZ
House of Representatives, 52nd District: RAY LUTZ

Two Democrats running in dead-goat districts — the kind where a dead goat would win as long as it had an “R” on the end of its name — who deserve support as much for the sheer courage it takes to run against the Republican incumbents (Darrell Issa and Duncan D. Hunter — whose father handed him the seat as if it were an inheritance) as their issue positions.

House of Representatives, 50th District: TRACY EMBLEM

With all due respect to Francine Busby, who took on Randy “Duke” Cunningham before he crashed and burned from his own corruption, her Democratic primary rival, Tracy Emblem, is a stronger candidate and, more importantly, would make a better Congressmember.

House of Representatives, 51st District: BOB FILNER

A thoroughgoing progressive ever since he risked life and limb on the Freedom Rides against racial discrimination in the South in the early 1960’s, Filner has been a stalwart champion of progressive causes in Congress and has even won the respect of veterans, who may not like his anti-war politics but have to admit he goes to bat for them when their benefits are threatened.

House of Representatives, 53rd District: SUSAN DAVIS

A reluctant endorsement: Davis is a moderate Democrat representing a progressive district, but there isn’t any meaningful challenge to her either within the Democratic party or outside from the Green or Peace and Freedom parties. She’s screwed the progressive community on trade issues and had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the fight against “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but she’s done enough things right — including her initial vote against the Iraq war — to deserve to stay in office.

State Senate, 40th District: MARY SALAS

A battle between true progressive Salas and Republican-in-Democrat-clothing Juan Vargas for the nomination in a solidly Democratic district. An easy call.

State Assembly, 76th District: TONI ATKINS

She hasn’t always been as progressive as we’d like, either, but for the most part she’s been there, not only on Queer issues but on medical marijuana (on which she really stuck her neck out while on the San Diego City Council) and affordable housing (ditto) — and her past as director of the Womancare feminist health clinic indicates solid pro-choice credentials.

State Assembly, 78th District: MARTY BLOCK

Even when we’ve disagreed with him — like his refusal to join the court challenge to Proposition 8 — he’s at least had rational reasons for his positions. A solid progressive at a time when we need them in the state legislature.

State Assembly, 79th District: PEARL QUIÑONES

Like the Salas/Vargas race, this is a battle between a progressive outsider and a machine politician, Ben Hueso, for the soul of the local Democratic party. She’s got our vote.

San Diego County Board of Supervisors, District 4: STEPHEN WHITBURN

While we bemoan the lack of a marquee-name Democrat in this race — Lori Saldaña announced for it and then backed out, Toni Atkins decided to run for Assembly instead, and Donna Frye dithered and finally decided not to run — we’ve seen Stephen Whitburn “up close and personal” at the San Diego Democratic Club. He’d make an excellent replacement for the disappointing Ron Roberts, who instead of being a voice of moderation among his fellow Republicans on the current board has generally gone along with their anti-labor, anti-environment, anti-social service schemes.

San Diego County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk: DAVE BUTLER

A rarity in San Diego county government — a Democratic incumbent — and a 34-year veteran staff member in the assessor/recorder/clerk’s office who deserves election.

San Diego County Sheriff: BILL GORE

We were reluctant to make an endorsement in this race — especially an endorsement of former sheriff Bill Kolender’s hand-picked and pre-appointed replacement — but radical-Right candidate Jay LaSuer’s denunciations of him and the third man in the race, Jim Duffy, for daring to regard Queer people as people, and the more recent attacks on Gore by the racist-nativist-xenophobic anti-immigration crowd as “soft” on “illegals” make him our choice.

San Diego City Council, District 2: PATRICK FINUCANE

This should really be a Democratic seat, but a corrupt, abusive prosecution drove Democrat Michael Zucchet out of the race and installed the man he’d beaten, Republican Kevin Faulconer. Once again we lament that the Democrats (or anyone to their Left) aren’t mounting a stronger candidate against Faulconer, but Finucane has our support.

San Diego City Council, District 4: TONY YOUNG

While he hasn’t always been as progressive as he should be — especially on sticking up for the prerogatives of the City Council against the Mayor — he’s as sympathetic to Queer issues as we can expect from an African-American officeholder and his record on other issues has been solid if unspectacular.

San Diego City Council, District 6: STEVE HADLEY

While we have a great respect for his principal Democratic rival, Howard Wayne — and we’re frightened by the Republicans’ front-runner, Lorie Zapf — our choice is the chief of staff of termed-out incumbent Donna Frye. A quiet, thoughtful man, Hadley may not share Frye’s gutsy, extroverted style but he shares her principles and commitment to progressive ideals, and that’s the key to our endorsement.

San Diego City Council, District 8: DAVID ALVAREZ

Unlike the Mary Salas-Juan Vargas and Pearl Quiñones races, this isn’t a grass-roots progressive running against a machine candidate — this is a grass-roots progressive running against two machine candidates, Felipe Hueso (incumbent Ben Hueso’s older brother) and Nick Inzunza (brother of former District 8 Councilmember Ralph Inzunza, driven out of office in the same scandal that snared Michael Zucchet — only he deserved to be). Strike a blow against nepotism and elect someone new in this district.

San Diego Unified School Board, District B: KEVIN BEISER

The city’s math teacher of the year and a personable candidate and an aggressive campaigner, he’s the right choice to get rid of lackluster incumbent Katherine Nakamura.

Mayor of Chula Vista: STEVE CASTAÑEDA

A strong progressive Democrat and a candidate with a good chance of unseating current Mayor Cheryl Cox — wife of County Supervisor Bill Cox. Strike another blow against nepotism.

Superior Court Judge, Office 14: LANTZ LEWIS
Superior Court Judge, Office 21: ROBERT LONGSTRETH
Superior Court Judge, Office 27: DE ANN SALCIDO
Superior Court Judge, Office 34: JOEL R. WOHLFIEL

These four judges are being targeted by a Right-wing cabal organized around a Web site called “Better Courts Now” — by which they really mean “More corporate-friendly, anti-labor, anti-environment and anti-Queer courts now.” The people behind “Better Courts Now” have made no secret that this is a pilot project and if it succeeds, they’re going to bankroll more challenges until they’ve got rid of all fairness and justice in the court system and aligned it as totally with the business community and the radical Right as the courts in Texas have become through similar campaigns. I’ve long believed that no judge should ever have to stand for election in any way, shape or form — the framers of the U.S. Constitution got it right when they guaranteed federal judges life tenure except for misconduct gross enough to justify impeachment — but as long as we’re stuck with the whole obscene idea of the judiciary as an elective office, the least we can do is support objective judges against this loathsome partisan challenge.

Democratic Central Committee, 75th Assembly District: DEREK CASADY, PHYLLIS McGRATH, GERRY SENDA
Democratic Central Committee, 78th Assembly District: MAGGIE ALLINGTON, JERI DILNO, PAT WASHINGTON
Democratic Central Committee, 79th Assembly District: KELLY KING, MICHELLE KRUG

You can vote for up to six candidates in each of these races. All the above are long-time progressive activists in San Diego and most are members of the San Diego Democratic Club. They deserve your support.

State Propositions:

13 (Limits on Property Tax Reassessments for Seismic Retrofitting of Existing Buildings): YES

We’re subjected to at least one of these in virtually every state election. The original Proposition 13 capped property taxes at 1 percent of assessed valuation and triggered an automatic reassessment every time a property is sold. This is the latest in a series of fix-its that is needed to make sure people who improve the earthquake safety of their buildings — and thereby make them worth more — aren’t penalized for it with a dramatically higher tax bill.

14 (Nonpartisan Primary Elections): YES

This ballot measure would eliminate partisan primaries and allow every voter to vote for every candidate in every election. The top two vote-getters would then compete with each other in the general election. It’s a long-overdue reform which will allow voters in districts heavily skewed towards one major party or the other — which is most of them in California, thanks to decades of relentless gerrymandering by legislators determined to give California voters as little choice as possible — recourse against the highly partisan candidates that now dominate California legislative elections. It’s being opposed not only by the Republican and Democratic party establishments but by alternative parties as well — which is a major mistake, because the only California elections in which members of the Peace and Freedom, Green, Libertarian or American Independent parties are now able to compete and actually have a chance of electing people are the already nonpartisan elections for local office. This is a long-overdue reform that, along with the drawing of state legislative districts by an independent commission rather than the legislators themselves, gives us the chance of having a legislature that truly represents US, not party bosses or special interests.

15 (Public Financing Option for Secretary of State Election): YES

This is a baby step towards another desperately needed electoral reform — creating a so-called “clean elections” option of public financing so candidates who can’t raise mega-bucks from corporations or other special interests can still compete. In Maine, Arizona and other states that already have this, here’s how it works: you collect enough petition signatures and $5 contributions from ordinary voters to qualify, and then the rest of your campaign is paid for by all of us through our tax dollars as long as you agree to take no more money from private sources. This initiative applies to only one office — the California secretary of state (whose main job is to oversee the election process itself) — but it’s a baby step towards a system that has worked in other states and deserves to be applied here.

16 (2/3 Voter Requirement for Public Power): HELL NO!

This is one of the most vile, cynical initiatives ever put on the ballot by a major corporation — in this case Pacific Gas & Electric, who are using the initiative process to insulate themselves forever from competition by cheaper, more reliable public power services. It’s hard to exaggerate the evil of this measure — all its so-called “independent” supporters have been recruited and financed with PG&E’s money — but to make just one point, PG&E’s ads for it have implied that local taxpayers stand to lose millions of dollars if their cities take over their electric utilities. The truth is exactly the opposite: the publicly-owned Los Angeles Department of Water of Power is making so much money the city government is depending on it to bail them out.

17 (Auto Insurance Rates): NO

Another cynical initiative in which a corporation — this time, Mercury Insurance — is trying to buy at the ballot box a result they couldn’t achieve in the legislature. Reject it.

County and City Propositions:

A (East Otay Mesa Landfill): NO

We agree with the San Diego CityBeat’s opposition to this proposition: “This thing would grease the skids for an expanded solid-waste landfill and recycling center in eastern Otay Mesa. The county hasn’t assessed its waste-capacity needs since 2005, and this measure would allow the developer to skirt certain regulatory processes. We might need more landfill space, but this is the wrong way of going about getting it.”

B (Board of Supervisors Term Limits): NO

Term limits for elected officials are a lousy idea. Under term limits, the California state legislature has gone from one of the most competent, most respected in the nation to one of the least. When people in the private sector hire for a job, experience is usually considered a good thing. We can understand the motives of the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) and other backers of this proposition — the San Diego County Board of Supervisors has been a solid phalanx of anti-labor Republicans since 1994 — but it was wrong for Republicans to use the ballot box to impose term limits on the Democratic-dominated state legislature in 1990 and it’s wrong now for Democrats and their union backers to use the ballot box to impose term limits on the all-Republican Board of Supervisors now. Besides, the term limits won’t apply to the current incumbents but they will apply to any Democrats who might win election in the future. Scott Brown’s tenure in the U.S. Senate is the result of a similarly short-sighted trick pulled by the Democrats in the Massachusetts legislature in 2004 — they wanted to deprive Republican Mitt Romney of appointing John Kerry’s replacement if he had defeated George W. Bush in that year’s presidential election. Let’s not make the same stupid, short-sighted mistake the Massachusetts Democrats did.

C (Veterans’ Preference for City Employment): YES

San Diego has one of America’s largest military establishment — and one of its largest percentages of residents who are returning veterans. So does the city government go out of its way to give preferences to veterans who are seeking city jobs? Only if they served so long ago that they were drafted. When City Councilmember Todd Gloria showed up at the San Diego Democratic Club and explained why he was sponsoring this proposition and why it was necessary, I sat in stunned disbelief that such a no-brainer was even needed. But it is.

D (Making Strong-Mayor Permanent and Adding Ninth San Diego Councilmember): NO

The theory behind San Diego’s switch from a city-manager to a strong-mayor form of government in 2004 was that city government would be more accountable if it were being run directly by an elected official than an appointed manager. The truth has been the other way around; under the strong-mayor system, the City Council has been reduced to virtual rubber-stamps for the mayor, with little or no access to information other than what the mayor chooses to give them. According to City Councilmember Donna Frye, who’s served under both forms, it’s gotten harder for her to get the data she needs to make responsible decisions under the strong-mayor system, and several times she’s had either to sue the city or threaten to just to get information out of the mayor and his staff. San Diego’s city charter could use some basic rethinking, but the current mayor successfully hijacked the charter review process and now they’re pushing this measure — which would make the mayor’s office even stronger and add a ninth City Council seat, at a cost of $1-1.5 million in an already strapped city budget — to solidify their control and turn San Diego into even more of a mayoral dictatorship than it is now. Reject this.

G (Banning City-Required Project Labor Agreements in Chula Vista): NO

The question posed by Proposition G is simple: do you believe that city governments have an obligation to make sure that local developments hire local workers at living wages and thereby make sure the money they’re paid returns to the local economy as they buy goods and services from local businesses; or do you think cities should be forced to outsource contracts to out-of-town firms that hire on the cheap and take their swollen profits somewhere else? If you believe that a decent community protects its own workers and businesses, vote no on G.