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Endorsements for primary election, June 3, 2008

As far as I know, none of the local House of Representatives primaries are seriously contested, and neither of our federal Senators is up for re-election this year (Boxer is up in 2010, and Feinstein in 2012). For what it's worth, I support all of the local incumbent Dems. (Eshoo, Lofgren, Honda, Speier, Pelosi, McNerney, Woolsey, Lee, Tauscher... anyone else?) I also support various uncontested incumbents in the Senate and Assembly (e.g. my own legislators, Ruskin and Simitian).

For the 19th Assembly District (south of San Francisco, to the north end of Redwood City), I support both Richard Holober and Jerry Hill. Holober has worked as a trustee in the community college system, and as an advocate for labor rights (he ran a recent minimum wage campaign); he is generally the stronger of the two on economic issues and on support for universal healthcare, and is more of a "traditional" Democrat. Hill is slightly more moderate. He's actually an ex-Republican, who joined the GOP to support Pete McCloskey, didn't like what the party was doing through most of the last couple decades, and re-registered Dem when Bush was running for president. When the Peninsula Young Dems interviewed him, we asked some skeptical questions on this issue, but we ultimately decided that he's built a respectable record of progressive work on healthcare (as a supervisor in San Mateo County) and on environmental issues (most recently fighting the weakening of the Zero Emission Vehicle rule at the CA Air Resources Board; the board was going to cut the requirement from 25k to 2500, and he at least got it bumped back up to 7500). Hill is stronger on environmental and business/tech issues. I personally lean to Hill (though it'd be a tough choice, if I were actually in the district), because I tend to consider environmental issues particularly important, and he engaged enthusiastically when I asked him about some of the technical issues I care about (gerrymandering, voting systems, details of AB 32 implementation like the various kinds of cap and trade system). You can read more on their websites; they both have strengths, have been endorsed by major local politicians, etc.

For the 22nd Assembly District (which runs from Mountain View south to the edge of San Jose), I strongly support Paul Fong. Paul has a 35+ year history of community activism in the district. He was involved in organizing events for the original Earth Day. He has worked hard to get Asian Americans more involved with the community at large and with local governments (rather than just organized in an insular fashion in opposition to whatever they might dislike that those governments were doing); considering how many local officials are now Asian Americans, I'd say he's been pretty successful in that area. He has been a political science professor in, and trustee of, the local community college system for over two decades, and helped sponsor the effort to establish the Environmental Studies program at the Kirsch Center, which Xta has been quite impressed with. With his expertise on education, environmental, and community activism, Paul will make an excellent addition to the state legislature. Fong's opponent, Dominic Caserta, is very much worth voting against. He was a Republican up until he wanted to run in a partisan race, where he knew that would lead to an automatic loss. Note that this would not have automatically disqualified him from a PYD endorsement -- we endorsed Hill, after all -- but he doesn't seem to be an authentic progressive; as far as we can tell, he's still a Republican at heart. He's raised close to a million dollars in funds from the usual roster of business interests, and talks about how we need to cut back on government regulation. (What, so we can get more poisoned toys from China?) Also, on a personal note: Caserta scheduled an interview with the PYD endorsements committee (on which I sit), and then stood us up, without even having an aide call us to say he couldn't make it. Personally, I would not buy a used car from this man; he has a record of lying to his own constituents and supporters.

In the 3rd Senate District, I support Mark Leno. That's the east half of SF, and much of the Northern Peninsula, up through Rohnert Park. Leno is running against Carole Migden. Migden is probably actually more of a progressive than Leno (which is saying something; he's definitely not at the moderate end of the party), but she tends to be so zealous and aggressive that she alienates people, even inside her own party. She made a fool of herself at the state convention, in trying to fight Leno's successful effort to prevent the party from making an endorsement in the primary. (Her argument for why she should be endorsed largely revolved around her identity as a woman. Since Leno's a gay man -- not exactly a group in the majority in the legislature -- this bore a lot of resemblance to the stupid arguments in the presidential race over whether women or blacks are more oppressed.) I think Leno is far more likely to get stuff done.

In the 15th Senate District (the west end of San Jose, down through San Luis Obispo), I strongly support the write-in candidacy of Dennis Morris, a progressive attorney and small-business owner (he runs a small winery for fun and profit). The local incumbent Republican is Abel Maldonado, who has repeatedly done shady things to ensure he hangs onto this increasingly-purple district, where due to shifting demographics and attitudes the gerrymandering from '00 failed to keep registration titled to the GOP. Last time around, he tried to finance a Green candidate, to help pull votes away from his Democratic opponent. This time, it's believed that he traded a vote for a couple Democratic bills, for a promise from the legislative leadership not to back any Democrat in the race against him (grrr!). Once Dennis Morris jumped in, Maldonado started a write-in campaign for himself, as a Democrat. If he succeeds in getting conservative Decline-To-State voters to write him in on the Democratic side, he would be, in the fall, both the Democratic and the Republican candidate. As the Monterey Herald put it, Sen. Maldonado fails [the] straight-face test. So, please write in DENNIS MORRIS if you're in SD15. And be careful about the spelling, and about following all instructions -- under a lousy precedent from a San Diego mayoral race a few years back, ballots aren't counted if you mis-spell the name, or write the name but fail to fill in the write-in bubble.

Donna Frye would've won that race, except that a few hundred of the votes for her left off the terminal E from her last name. The judge was, of course, part of the San Diego political machine. SD politics is pretty hilarious -- aside from Duke Cunningham, and his replacement Bilbray (the lobbyist who really resides in Virginia and is thus not properly qualified to run from the district), SD also sent a couple mayors to jail in quick succession back in '05, which led to the race between Frye and Sanders.

For Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 7 I'm voting for Jerry Nastari, who is endorsed by all of the sitting judges, and is more qualified on most areas of law than his opponent Don Franchi. Franchi is pitching himself as a Family Law specialist, but the job of Superior Court Judge doesn't really allow the level of specialization he's talking about; under Prop 220, the Superior Courts cover a variety of types of case, and the judges really need to be generalists. A lawyer friend of mine from the Peninsula Democratic Coalition board thinks Franchi is basically just running to get his name out there so he can later get appointed as Family Law Commissioner.

For the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, I'm voting for the incumbents (Church, Gibson, and Tissier); in the contested races, the websites of the challengers quickly made me think ill of them.

Over in the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors races, we have progressive candidates fighting in two close contests. Otto Lee (former Mayor of Sunnyvale) is in District 3; he's a close ally of Paul Fong. Richard Hobbs is running in District 2. You can read more about both at their websites.

Propositions 98 and 99 are possibly the most important part of the ballot for this election. A little background: In 2005, the Supreme Court decided a case called Kelo v. City of New London, in which it ruled that it is OK, under the Constitution, to use the power of Eminent Domain (a power recognized in the Fifth Amendment) to seize private property and hand it over to a private developer. Most people had previously believed that Eminent Domain was supposed to facilitate construction of real public improvements (roads, parks, whatever), not shopping centers or McMansions. States are allowed to restrict what their own gov't (and local gov'ts under their jurisdiction) can do with this power, but unless they do so, the Supreme Court thinks it can be used for the "public" purpose of redeveloping poor neighborhoods to make them more hospitable to rich people.

There is a fair amount of bipartisan agreement that Kelo was a bad case, and that "Kelo Reform" (i.e. state laws banning this kind of use of Eminent Domain) are worth passing. Unfortunately, extremists decided to try to sneak in something ugly, under cover of Kelo Reform. The Fifth Amendment clause recognizing Eminent Domain reads: "... nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." The right wing interprets this "Takings clause" to cover any restriction on the use of private property. That is, if somebody wants to start an open-pit gravel mining operation in the middle of an area zoned for residence and agriculture, trying to stop them is a "taking" of the value of the land, and the government has to pay them an amount covering the difference between the value of the land if used as zoned, and the value they claim they can generate using it the way they want. (Of course, supporters of this idea wouldn't force people who want to start a gravel mine to pay for the resulting reduction in the value of their neighbors' land.) This radical interpretation basically ends land-use regulation. State and local governments would be unable to protect neighborhoods' quality of life, to encourage smart growth, to protect the environment... It would be too expensive to litigate every case that would come up. This is precisely what happened following passage of Oregon's Measure 37; the gravel pit example I gave wasn't hypothetical, it actually happened. In 2007, Oregonians overwhelmingly voted for Measure 49, which basically killed the nasty Takings clause parts of 37.

Howard Rich, a billionaire real estate magnate, has been financing these measures all over the country. We defeated him on Proposition 90, in 2006. Now he's back again, with Prop 98, which is masquerading as a proposition about rent control. Prop 98 must be defeated. Vote NO on Prop 98.

Prop 99, on the other hand, is Kelo reform without the sleight-of-hand. And because 98 and 99 are mutually exclusive, if they both break 50%, it's critical that Prop 99 do better than 98. Vote YES on Prop 99.

Note that Prop 98 is so thoroughly bad that even conservative papers like the San Diego Union Tribune opposes it. (They also oppose 99. They argue that there are loopholes in 99, so it's not a complete move to block Kelo-type uses of ED; but I think it's still a step in the right direction, and in any case it's absolutely critical to ensure that 99 scores better than 98. I also think it's a good idea to get a reform passed, to take this issue out of circulation, so the right wing can't keep trying to use it as a cover for the Takings clause stuff.)

My ballot also has the local County of San Mateo Sales Tax Measure O, which bumps up the sales tax to pay for a wide variety of county programs (after school stuff, parks, libraries, etc) which would normally be funded by block grants from the state, but are currently underfunded due to the state deficit. I'm not crazy about sales taxes (they're regressive, which sucks), but in the absence of any realistic alternative (counties don't have many ways to raise money), I'm less crazy about killing off these programs. I'm voting YES on Measure O.

ETA: The race in my district was uncontested, so I forgot to mention the County Central Committee races (which you only get to vote on if you're actually registered as a Democrat). For San Mateo District 3, I recommend Carole Dorshkind (who's an officer of San Mateo County Democracy for America), Daniel Yost (who's kind of the right-hand man of our county Chairman, who was the founder and longtime president of Peninsula Young Dems, and before that president of Stanford Dems), and Gregory Loew (who's been active in local Dem politics longer than I've been alive). I think Rob Dickinson may be on the ballot somewhere in San Mateo County, but it's also possible he's in one of the uncontested districts. For Santa Clara County I'm just listing off some names I know offhand that you may see on the ballot depending on where you are: Diane Rolfe, Anne Mack, Jim Thurber, Aaron Quigley, Carolyn Curtis, Alyson Abramowitz, Steve Chessin.
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