Thursday, November 2, 2006
GOVERNOR | Arnold Schwarzenegger
Vote for Arnold because he recently signed some of the most progressive environmental laws in history. Vote for Arnold to teach the Democratic Party a lesson about running “safe” candidates (read: losers). Vote for Arnold because doing so strikes a blow for compromise across party lines, and helps mend the polarized political rift that is crippling the state and the nation. Vote for him because he’s going to win anyway. (See Local Spin, page 13.)
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR | John Garamendi
Tom McClintock, the Republican candidate, has an excellent chance of becoming a terrible lieutenant governor. In addition to Arnold’s blessing, McClintock has strong support from a right-wing base and a lot of money. In the state Senate he was rabidly anti-choice and a big supporter of big tax cuts.
John Garamendi, a former assemblyman and state senator, is a centrist Central Valley Democrat. He was California’s first elected insurance commissioner and was a strong advocate for consumer protection. He went to Washington in 1995 as Bill Clinton’s deputy interior secretary, and when he returned in 2002 he was again elected California insurance commissioner.
Garamendi says he plans to use the lieutenant governor’s office to push for education, healthcare and environmental reform. There’s no reason to expect important things from him, but keeping McClintock out of office is important.
SECRETARY OF STATE | Debra Bowen
Frankly, we would have liked to be able to endorse sitting Secretary of State Bruce McPherson (who was appointed to the job after Kevin Shelley was forced out of office in a scandal). McPherson, a Santa Cruz Republican (!), represented the Central Coast well as a state senator.
But he has declined to take a strong position on protecting the sanctity of votes in the face of controversial changes in voting technology. That issue lies at the heart of this job.
Debra Bowen, a termed-out state senator, believes some of
this new technology could be an invitation to fraud, and we
agree. Right now California needs a secretary of state who is
rigorously skeptical. That’s Bowen.
CONTROLLER | John Chiang
A member of the Board of Equalization for nine years, Chiang has plenty of expertise in financial management and state tax policy—that’s what it takes to do the job of state controller.
His opponent, former assemblymember Tony Strickland, is
president of the California Club for Growth, an anti-tax,
anti-regulation group. Vote for Chiang.
TREASURER | Bill Lockyer
As attorney general since 2002, Bill Lockyer fought attempts by the Bush administration to roll back environmental protection regulations. He then investigated California’s oil refineries, whom he suspected of price-gouging, and fought tobacco companies over a $153.4 million lawsuit settlement.
As treasurer he says he will focus on the multibillion-dollar infrastructure bonds that are expected to pass on the November ballot, putting mechanisms in place to ensure accountability.
His opponent is Claude Parrish, a termed-out Board of
Equalization member who does not seem to be taking his
candidacy very seriously.
ATTORNEY GENERAL | Jerry Brown
While his former job as governor will be useful in helping Brown navigate Sacramento, his more recent gig as mayor of Oakland may be more useful. Brown will no doubt use the AG’s office to defend California citizens and the environment from powerful lawbreakers—and he can be expected to act both aggressively and judiciously. But he says he plans to also focus on fighting urban crime. He says he’ll do this by beefing up training for police officers, and by asking the state crime labs to help local labs. Small stuff—but it has earned him endorsements from many in law enforcement.
Brown will likely never live down his reputation as a
(ahem) visionary, but many who have worked with him over the
decades since he earned his “Moonbeam” moniker attest to his
clear-headed approach. His opponent, Chuck Poochigian, is more
ideologically driven (and in the opposite direction).
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER | No Endorsement
Somehow, early in his campaign for this post, Cruz Bustamante allowed himself to accept more than $120,000 in campaign contributions from insurance companies. After an outcry that must have sounded familiar to him (his 2003 campaign for governor was derided and fined for accepting inappropriate contributions from Indian tribes) he returned the money. But not before he revealed once again an ethical blind spot and a political tin ear.
Bustamante and his opponent, Steve Poizner, agree about the substance of many of the issues that will face the insurance commissioner in coming years. Poizner, a Silicon Valley billionaire who is self-financing most of his campaign, ran the Schwarzenegger redistricting initiative last year; that is his only experience in politics, and it was, at bottom, a partisan move masked as bi-partisan reform.
The candidates disagree on one issue involving state workers compensation. Following recent reforms to the system, some labor groups say, workers are being short-changed on compensation for injuries. Bustamante, while supporting the reforms overall, agrees that some injured workers are losing out. He says that with insurance companies making record profits, benefits should be increased. Poizner fears that reopening the debate could undo some of the fixes that in fact saved the system.
Neither of these men would be a terrible insurance
commissioner; maybe one or both of them could be great. This
one’s a toss up.
STATE SENATE, DISTRICT 12 | Wiley Nickel
It’s impossible to look at this race without feeling leftover resentment at the machinations that created Senate District 12 five years ago. As a result of cynical Sacramento gerrymandering, our district grew to encompass the Central Valley cities of Modesto and Merced, and it’s center of gravity shifted 100 miles away from us. And so both candidates for the district seat are Central Valley residents without a lot of local concerns.
Denham, the Republican incumbent, has done a surprisingly good job in Sacramento, given how green he was when he got there four years ago. Thankfully, he has focused on problem-solving rather than ideological liberal-bashing. Notably, he managed to win the chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee, no small feat.
Nevertheless, we are captivated by his upstart challenger. Wiley Nickel lists his profession as “rancher/attorney,” and is the sixth-generation scion of one of the nation’s biggest ranches. (His great-great-great-grandfather was the founder of Los Banos.)
Nickel, who is all of 30, had just started his first real job as Merced County Deputy District Attorney when he quit to run for the state Senate. With an infusion of almost a quarter-million dollars of his own money, and with the endorsement of every Democrat and labor group in the state, Nickel is putting up a serious challenge to Denham (who has more than $2 million in his war chest, collected when he thought he would be facing Simón Salinas—that’s another story).
The centerpiece of Nickel’s campaign is a “Taxpayer Protection Contract,” in which he vows not to take gifts from lobbyists, nor ride in the senators’ special elevator in the state house, and promises instead to promote local control through neighborhood committees, to value compromise, and to “walk the entire district door-to-door to keep in touch.” (We must have been out when he dropped by.)
It’s an idealistic approach—perhaps naïve, but refreshing.
We say let’s give the kid a chance.
STATE ASSEMBLY, DISTRICT 27 | John Laird
There’s really no contest in this race unless one considers
a gun totin’, loose-cannon local councilman a worthy opponent
to a well-spoken, highly-effective, two-term state
assemblyman. As Budget Committee chair, Laird worked with the
governor and both houses to deliver the first on-time budget
in years. During the most recent legislative session, 17 of
Laird’s 22 bills were signed into law. One will help Medi-Cal
cancer and HIV/AIDS patients, another protects sea otters and
yet another will protect the Pajaro River Valley from a
potentially deadly flood. Laird’s doing great things in
Sacramento. And he’s probably the smartest guy we know. Give
him a third term.
STATE ASSEMBLY, DISTRICT 28 | Anna Caballero
During her eight years as Salinas mayor, Anna Caballero has given a voice to traditionally disenfranchised members of the community such as the poor and kids. As executive director of Partners for Peace, Caballero promoted a community approach to combat gang violence and worked with local business to find summer jobs for teens.
When the budget crisis forced the city to stop funding libraries, Caballero held candlelight vigils and carried a tin can around, collecting spare change. Ultimately, she helped raise $800,000 to keep the libraries open and helped convince voters to approve a half-cent sales tax. We believe her lobbying skills will translate into money for the Salinas Valley. She’s become a major political power broker, but she hasn’t lost her advocacy roots.
US SENATE | Diane Feinstein
Despite her flip-floppy position on the war in Iraq (she was an early and ardent supporter of the violent and unnecessary fiasco, and now favors the fashionable cut-and-run approach), and despite her general lack of edge or drive (she’s no Nancy Pelosi), we are casting our lot with DiFi, as though it mattered.
She has over the years put together a pretty strong voting
record and represented the state rather well. The really good
part is that she promises to put the fight against global
warming front-and-center when she returns to Washington. That
will take courage and capability, and most of the time she
US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES | Sam Farr
Our congressman has been angry for several years now. Not satisfied to be right on every issue (he has a 100-percent voting record from every progressive group in the nation), he has felt paralyzed by the bullying Republican majority. He has railed against the way his colleagues across the aisle have refused to even allow debate on many crucial issues, depriving Democrats of not just their power but their voice.
Not that he has been sitting on his hands. He is on the House Appropriations Committee, where he serves on two subcommittees: Agricultural Appropriations and Military Construction Appropriations. He is also in the House Oceans Caucus, the Congressional Organic Agriculture Caucus and the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus, doing work that pays off in the district.
Yet he would like to have more to show in his list of recent accomplishments; he has been stymied.
That could change in this election cycle, as the Dems stand a good chance to win back the House. And if they do we can expect a lot more from Sam.