By Doug Porter
The following analyses represent my opinions. The SD Free Press editorial board may or may not agree with me. For all our articles on the upcoming election, check out our 2014 Progressive Voter’s Guide.
You’ll have to go down-ballot this year to find much excitement in the Statewide races for elective office in California. The real action is in the State Superintendent of Education and Controller contests, not exactly positions likely to stimulate passion at the polling place.
None-the-less, I’m presenting a quick overview of the eight races, with links to the candidate websites and a few choice words of wisdom about each. If you came here looking for “unbiased” coverage, please avert your eyes: you are about to be offended.
Jerry Brown, Democrat, Incumbent
As much as Republicans would like to trash California’s economy, the general public knows things are better now than they were four years ago. The incumbent Governor has zigzagged his way across the political landscape to the distress of some Democrats and most of the Republican hierarchy.
San Francisco Chronicle:
Gov. Jerry Brown has $22 million in the bank and a 21-point lead in the polls, but as he seeks a historic fourth term, he’s conducting one of the most unusual re-election campaigns ever witnessed by state voters – one in which he hasn’t starred in a single TV or radio spot, campaign mailer, or Web video.
With less than three weeks to go before Californians can cast ballots, Brown’s campaign spokesman said Tuesday that the governor doesn’t even plan to be the star of his own appeals to voters this year. Instead, he’ll focus on urging them to pass a pair of bond measures.
Neel Kashkarian, Republican
There have been three memorable things in Kashkari’s campaign for the statehouse:
**His week of being homeless in Fresno, which mostly demonstrated just how clueless the guy is. Kashkari managed to tee off the mayor of the city by painting a Republican-run area in a bad light. He doesn’t know it’s generally considered a bad business practice these days to hang “help-wanted” signs outside restaurants. And he managed to avoid the issue of how he would have lived off the monies earned from a low or minimum wage job.
**His “Crazytrain” campaign, which has consisted of him smashing toy trains with a hammer and handing out gift gasoline cards to attack California’s high speed rail project. Mostly he’s just managed to look silly. Oh, and most of the jobs from this (admittedly iffy) project would be in the Central Valley, which currently struggles with some of the highest unemployment rates in the state.
**His fantasizing about re-crafting the California economy to a North Dakota mode. I devoted a column back in August to just how bad an silly this idea is after Kashkari told folks at a Voice of San Diego gathering the state was an example of how his economic vision for California would lift folks out poverty wage jobs.
Asked about the realities of trying to get by on sub-living wage pay, Kashkari was quick to tout North Dakota, where McDonald’s workers get $15 an hour.
Yes indeedy, North-by-God-Dakota. It must be some kind of economic paradise, to hear him tell it. He talked it up three times…. if we only got rid of those pesky environmental regulations and let business have free reign, California would blossom…Just like North Dakota.
Gavin Newsom, Democrat, Incumbent
The former mayor of San Francisco is considered a rising star in Democratic politics. Newsome has had his differences with Jerry Brown; I’d say he runs just a tad to the left of the governor. Gavin is also a pragmatist, working the political system with an eye towards future elections.
From the Mercury News:
Brown isn’t the only one irked by Newsom’s frank ambition and occasional arrogance. But Newsom also is very smart and thoughtful. It’s a shame to waste his energy. Accomplishments that might propel him in his next leap, probably for governor or U.S. senator, also could help California — particularly in the area of economic development.
The lieutenant governor chairs the state’s economic development commission, and Newsom has done his best with it despite Brown’s leaving some slots vacant. He set out to write a blueprint for sustainability and, with the help of organizations such as the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, conducted business summits around the state to assess needs. Rather than seeking the spotlight at these events, Newsom mostly listened and learned. Participants were impressed.
Ron Nehring, Republican
Long time Republican activist Ron Nehring is more socially conservative than Neel Kashkari, but they’re both campaigning on the premise that California’s economy would be just so much better with them in charge.
He’s tried to tone to down the non-economic issues in this campaign, but Nehring’s get tough on crime solutions include pot smokers, a stance that’s distanced him from some libertarian elements of the GOP. For the record, Nehring doesn’t actually say ‘throw ‘em in jail.” But he mimicks the rest of the anti-legalization rhetoric out there.
Nehring will collect more than a few votes in San Diego county, where his role as local GOP chairman for many years gives him some name recognition.
From the Los Angeles Times:
Nehring is a familiar sort of Republican who rails against “the entrenched liberal establishment” and “big-government politicians.” He supports “replacing” Obamacare, has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Assn. and wants to repeal Brown’s criminal justice realignment program. He supported Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage.
If for some reason, Brown is suddenly out, Newsom — not Nehring — is the man you want to step in.
Secretary of State
Alex Padilla, Democrat
He’s considered one of the Latino rising stars in politics. Given that one of the most important things this position does is handling the registration of voters, it would seem to be the smart thing to do to have somebody who’s promising to increase access to voter registration materials, including via the expanded use of social media.
None-the-less, Padilla’s victory in the primary came with a coda. His primary competitor on the Dem side of the equation in this open primary was indicted State Sen. Leland Yee, who placed third, with 10% of the vote. Obviously Padilla had nothing to do with Yee’s misdeeds, but there was a cloud over the race.
I think Padilla also suffers a disadvantage in the admittedly poor performance of the termed out Democratic incumbent Debra Bowen. She admitted not long ago that a serious bout with depression was responsible for a failure to deal with complaints about slow election results, inadequate campaign finance reporting and archaic business-registration processes.
Pete Peterson, Republican
Peterson’s doing his best to make this a non-partisan race. He says the Secretary of State position is a personal goal rather than a stepping stone for higher office, an attempt to call attention to Padilla’s rising star status.
Peterson seems to be the favorite of many of the State’s newspaper editorial boards in that he is a) Republican and b) actually qualified. I guess they’re concerned with maintaining the illusion of a two party system in California.
Betty T. Yee, Democrat
She defeated Assemblyman John A. Pérez in the June primary, a Democrat who many assumed was the party’s likely candidate. Yee’s speech before the California Democratic convention calling upon the party to be true to its ideals and not a handmaiden for corporate interests has made her a darling of progressives throughout the state. This contest is closer than many others in the general election in part because her opponent has solid name recognition and doesn’t run with the Teahadist wing of the GOP.
Ashley Swearengin, Republican
The Mayor of Fresno seems to be many peoples choice for a token Republican in State office. Her refusal to endorse gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari has opened a rift within the GOP, but the state’s center-right newspapers have endorsed her.
It seems as though Swearengin’s track record as mayor has been given a pass. The city’s broke, unemployment’s so high that Neel Kashkari chose Fresno for his homeless for a week stunt, and her penchant for secrecy doesn’t seem to bother those who think a token Republican in Sacramento would be a good thing.
Then there’s the religious connections. While largely irrelevant to the office she’s seeking, Swearengin’s deep connections to Pentacostal churches that don’t seem to be bothered by blurring the lines between evangelism and governance ought to be of concern. We all know the office is considered a political stepping stone and electing somebody who refuses to state her views about women’s reproductive rights is, I think, a bad idea.
John Chiang, Democrat
Chiang’s making the move over from the Controller’s office, where his tenacity in challenging political/economic assumptions from both the executive and legislative branches has given him a solid reputation as a competent manager. When the San Francisco Bay Guardian and UT-San Diego agree on a candidate he must be doing something right.
Greg Conlon, Republican
Conlon is an experienced CPA who served on the California Public Utilities Commission. Here’s his plan for California–which is doomed by the way:
“Conlon will draft a pro-growth income and capital gains tax legislation to reduce the state rates to fewer than 10% and offset it with reduction in discretionary spending in the State Budget and using the small surplus that is now being generated by the State. This proposed legislation would be sponsored by one of the Republican members in the Assembly and would require the Legislation Council’s Office to calculate the exact loss of tax revenue annually and how much savings could be realized by cuts in discretionary spending and use of the current surplus being generated currently.”
Riiiight. Those GOP legislators will get right on it.
Kamala Harris, Democrat, Incumbent
She’s another rising star for Democrats. Her tenure as Attorney General has raised her profile as a pro-consumer advocate.
As this is being written Harris is considered one of the top candidates to replace Attorney General Eric Holder. She’s reportedly not interested in the job. If she were to win the election and then be tapped for the national post, speculation is that Jerry Brown would appoint retiring senate president pro tem Darrell Steinberg to fill her seat.
Ronald Gold, Republican
He’s a private practice attorney who served as a Deputy Attorney General four decades ago. His campaign site says “the legalization of marijuana is an issue whose time has come.” And that position is just about the only traction Ronald Gold has been able to come up with against Harris, whose campaigning style in this election is not that different than Jerry Brown’s.
Dave Jones, Democrat
Jones played tough with some of California’s big health insurance companies when the insurance exchanges that are part of Obamacare were set up, leading to fears consumer choices would be too limited to be meaningful. Like the death panels and just about every other tale told about the Affordable Healthcare Act, those concerns were proven wrong in the end.
Now the companies Jones took on as insurance commissioner are going up against him in two ways: they’re funding his opponent (although not lavishly) and they are fighting like hell to keep him from having a final say over health insurance rates by funding the No on 45 campaign.
He’s a keeper.
Ted Gaines, Republican
OMG. From his campaign website front page:
Covered California is out of control! Over 900,000 Californians had their healthcare cancelled as a result of their unchecked abuse. And over nine million more Californians could suffer the same fate in the coming months. What is our current Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones doing? Absolutely nothing.
There’s so much wrong here I’m not even going to start. If you’re willing to believe the underlying premises for the above hooey, please get in touch with me. I’ve got discount toll passes for the Coronado Bridge I’d like to sell you.
Now Skip Waaay down the ballot….
State Superintendent of Education
(Officially Non Partisan)
Tom Torlakson (Pssst! He’s a Democrat)
Torlakson is the incumbent and, judging by the list of people and organizations supporting him and opposing him, a really good guy. . This race has become a symbolic struggle between supporters of public education and the faux reform set.
**Be sure to read SDFP’s Jim Miller’s analysis on this most important race.**
Marshall Tuck (Pssst! He wants you to think he’s a Democrat)
Former Wall Street investment banker Marshall Tuck is in it to win it for the people and companies who think privatization of education is a winning idea.
This quote from the LA Progressive back in the primary season pretty much sums it up as far as I’m concerned.
It’s disturbing that someone so profoundly unqualified for this office — one that requires familiarity with academic instruction — is even in the running, but that’s the power of plutocracy. Billionaire Eli Broad’s dystopian vision in which his trained MBAs dismantle our public school systems from the inside-out would certainly get a huge boost if one of his acolytes was able to seize the State Superintendent of Instruction position. Tuck’s dismal (even that word is too kind) record of running schools would certainly play into the wider goals of neoliberalism and privatization. Moreover, we’ve seen that all the claims on Tuck’s campaign website are patently false. He does, however, have a “proven record”. Tuck’s proven record is one of incompetence, arrogance, failing to provide students with an equitable education, failure to listen to stakeholders, and of outright racism.
Here’s what’s coming up for the rest of the week in this series:
Wednesday, October 8th: Prop 47 (Ernie McCray), Prop 48, and Escondido’s Prop H.
Thursday, October 9th: Two Women Worth Watching: Carol Kim and Olga Diaz (Don Greene).
Friday, October 10th: Various Legislative races, with one article on US Congress and one on the California Legislature, Escondido Mayoral Debate (Rick Moore)
There will be more, but this is what we’re sure of now. (With an all-volunteer organization, a bird in the hand is all we can count on!)