Thursday, November 2, 2000
Above caricature-- Al Gore, by Tomo Y.
President of the United States
Unless you''ve been on sabbatical in Mongolia, you''re probably aware that next week the country will elect its first new president in eight years. It''s a critical election that will impact the economy, taxation, affirmative action, the environment, and general social public policy.
When it became clear that George W. was to be the Republican candidate, we were, quite frankly, surprised. Here''s a man who has had little or no foreign policy experience. He has a reputation for being an intellectual lightweight and he does not appear to grasp policy details.
Although he has served as governor of Texas for six years, the structure of the Texas legislature severely limits the power of the governor. We thought John McCain was a much better Republican candidate, and we liked his commitment to campaign finance reform. But George W. has proven himself to be a tenacious vote-getter. Prior to his public work, as we reported last month, his business successes were dependent on his family name and connections. That makes us uncomfortable.
Al Gore is a self-proclaimed policy wonk. He is a bright, intellectually curious man who has a passion for delving into complex issues. He may have the strongest environmental agenda of any presidential candidate since Teddy Roosevelt. He also has a long record of fighting for affirmative action and social justice. At the same time, he seems to have a difficult time personally connecting with the electorate, a weakness that has made this one of the closest presidential campaigns since Richard Nixon faced JFK in 1960.
In the context of this tense and extravagantly monied presidential race, Ralph Nader''s call for campaign finance reform deserves a fair hearing, as does his desire to strengthen third parties. However, if Nader gets 5 percent of California''s vote, that could swing the election. Even "Nader''s Raiders," a group of activists trained by Nader in his early reform days, have petitioned him to withdraw from the race so as not to split the vote. He should heed their call.
The next president will most likely determine the philosophical balance of our Supreme Court; three of the nine justices are 70 or older. Bush would appoint conservative judges who might overturn Roe v. Wade, outlawing women''s hard-won right to choose, and he could solidify a policy against affirmative action. The new president will appoint other justices throughout the country, including at the level of the federal courts of appeals. We support Gore''s commitment to appoint judges who have a record of supporting a woman''s right to choose.
Finally, the economy is the healthiest it has ever been. Gore''s commitment to balancing the national debt and his comprehension of important technology issues will help keep this country''s economic engine humming--and that has global ramifications. All nations'' actions impact one another as never before. The reach of global pollution and the repercussive nature of global economics demonstrate just how interconnected the world''s countries have become.
With such complex issues facing our country today, we believe Al Gore is better prepared and better qualified to serve as president. We strongly endorse Al Gore.
California is the only state in the country to have two incumbent female senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein is being challenged next week by moderate Tom Campbell.
When it comes to vicious partisan politics, the Senate may take the cake. The Republicans currently hold a majority of 54 to 46. But next Tuesday''s election could make things intriguing. Here''s why. It''s conceivable that after the votes are counted, the Senate could wind up evenly split between Republicans and Democrats for the first time since 1881. Since the vice president gets the all-powerful, tie-breaking vote in the Senate, Dick Cheney or Joe Lieberman could become one of the most powerful vice presidents in history.
The fact that the Republican leadership in the Senate is controlled by Mississippi neo-conservative Trent Lott is an important reason to vote for Feinstein and help weaken Lott''s hold on the Senate. The Public Interest Research Group conducted an analysis of 20 key votes in Congress during the past two years. Lott received a rating of 0 percent for his votes in favor of the public interest, while he received an A+ rating from the NRA. While Feinstein may not be the most progressive voice in Washington, her public interest votes earned her an 86 percent rating from the Public Interest Research Group, plus she received an A rating from Handgun Control (she''s a maverick for gun control legislation).
She deserves to be re-elected. We en- dorse Feinstein for Senate.
Congress, District 17
Democratic Congressman Sam Farr has been a Monterey County Supervisor, an Assemblymember for the 27th district and, upon inheriting Leon Panetta''s seat in 1992, the Central Coast''s man in Washington. A predictably liberal, pro-environmental, pro-gun control, pro-choice vote, Farr is knowledgeable about local issues, is an advocate for ocean protection, and has emerged as one of the chief promoters for making the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary the nucleus for marine biology research in the world.
He remains a staunch defender of the Defense Language Institute remaining in Monterey and has been involved in Fort Ord''s reuse planning and implementation since day one. Although we''ve had our differences with Farr--most recently, with his support of the ill-advised, $1 billion Plan Colombia (a plan that is supposed to prevent cocaine exports from Colombia but may strengthen an already corrupt government)--and wish he''d be a stronger leader in Congress, particularly with regards to the banning of methyl bromide, he remains the clear choice to represent the 17th District.
State Senate, District 15
In marked similarity to the presidential political landscape, the contest for District 15 features a candidate who is an incumbent public servant, is a former journalist, has supported gun control legislation, opposes school vouchers, and staunchly defends a woman''s right to choose. The state Senate candidate in question has also cast deciding votes on legislation protecting the environment, has been named legislator of the year by numerous education associations and has written bills to allow consumers to sue HMOs.
In contrast, however, to the national scene, the candidate whom the Weekly encourages readers to support on Nov. 7 is a card-carrying member of the Republican Party: Bruce McPherson.
Senator McPherson has, in his seven years in Sacramento, proven to be an effective legislator who has been on the vanguard of education reform, writing and getting passed laws governing classroom pupil limits for grades K-3. This year both the teachers union and the association of school administrators have endorsed him.
McPherson''s opponent is Anselmo Chavez, who not only talks the talk of education as an election-year priority, but also earns his paycheck as a substitute teacher in the Salinas school system. While Chavez was perhaps the most interesting and colorful of all the candidates interviewed, his total lack of political experience renders him the second best candidate in the District 15 race.
Senator McPherson is a well-spoken and thoughtful member of the Senate''s education, environment, appropriations and revenue and taxation committees. McPherson''s accomplishments as a legislator and his ability to effect positive change for Monterey County make his party affiliation his most disconcerting political trait. Not that this newspaper doesn''t relish endorsing Republicans. On the contrary, we just happen to believe that were McPherson in the majority party in the State Senate, he would be an even more effective legislator. Perhaps the Senator will follow in the honorable footsteps of former Central Coast congressman Leon Panetta and switch to the Democratic Party.
State Assembly, District 27
Since taking office in 1996, Democratic Assemblyman Fred Keeley has proven himself to be a strong advocate for the environment and a powerful figure in the Assembly. Two of his greatest accomplishments have been passing the Marine Life Management Act to enforce fisheries management at the state level and authoring the successful Proposition 12, the parks and environmental protection bond aimed at repairing years of fiscal neglect of state parks. Keeley also wrote the bill requiring the Public Utilities Commission to come up with alternatives to the Carmel River dam (Plan B) and is heavily involved in efforts to keep electricity reasonably priced in the wake of power deregulation. Keeley names education and social justice issues--gay rights in particular--as top priorities along with the environment.
Keeley has also become an able leader within the Assembly. Anointed Speaker Pro Tem two years ago, Keeley chaired the Assembly''s Democratic Caucus for a year and is now a member of the Speaker''s leadership team, which works to retain Democratic control of key seats. His influence in the Assembly translates to education- and environment-friendly policy in the district and statewide.
Keeley''s challengers, Republican Chuck "Less Pork" Carter and Libertarian David Bonino, lack the experience or understanding of policy that Keeley has, and both advance naive ideas that bespeak a lack of sophistication. Sometimes endorsements follow the "if it ain''t broke, don''t fix it" model. That''s decidedly not the case here. Keeley is a superb representative of his constituency, and we enthusiastically endorse him.
State Assembly, District 28
It is easy to salute 28th District Assembly candidate Simon Salinas for his commitment to poorly represented, low-income communities on the Central Coast. A crucial player in the lawsuit that brought district representation to the city of Salinas, as well as the city''s first Latino councilmember, Salinas is winding up a two-term stint as county supervisor during which he advocated for poor working families. We are confident that he would maintain his connection to the farmworker and laborer communities at the state level, lending support to migrant education and criticizing mandatory sentencing laws.
Simon Salinas, by Tomo Y.
Salinas isn''t perfect. His commitment to serve low-income communities becomes controversial in the realm of housing, where he has supported the affordable housing developments of Moro Cojo in Castroville and the doomed-by-referendum Rancho Chualar, both of which angered environmentalists and growth watchdogs, as did his support for the decidedly upscale Rancho San Carlos. With the goal of increasing the city of Salinas'' economic base, Salinas also threw his symbolic support behind crossing Highway 101 to build the Salinas Auto Mall. The bottom line is that housing the poor and stimulating job creation come first for Salinas, and growth concerns a very distant second.
Salinas does not take a firm stance on campaign finance reform, saying merely that he didn''t set up the current process and is not willing to handicap himself by refusing money. It behooves him not to. The 28th District is an important race for state Democrats after six years of Republican rule--important enough for the Assembly Democratic leadership to kick down $275,000 and other state Dems to contribute another $35,000 to his campaign. That''s a big chunk of a $950,000 war chest, and we find ourselves wondering how Salinas will weather the buffeting winds of money and power if he makes the trip to Sacramento.
While we believe Salinas'' competitor Jeff Denham is what you might call a true "compassionate conservative," we were dismayed by his poor record on gun control, his lack of political experience, and his refusal to draw any limits with campaign donations. In spite of our reservations about Salinas, we endorse him for the 28th District Assembly.