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Endorsements: Primary Election, June 8, 2010

Governor: Jerry Brown. He's the only serious candidate running on the Democratic side, and I do quite like Governor Moonbeam. I had dinner with him a couple times. Many years ago, I was dating his web-mistress, and offered to do some perl coding for her. She was working out of the loft apartment/office he was using, while mayor of Oakland, and if we were there around dinner time he'd come and invite us to join him at the table. He has an amazingly wide-ranging intellect, and a self-deprecating sense of humor. And his policies as governor last time around, particularly in the area of energy, were groundbreaking. Robert Batinovich (his appointee to run the California Public Utilities Commission) basically invented the concept of "decoupling", a policy under which you tell utilities that if they provide their customers with enough efficiency services to lower demand a certain amount, they will then be allowed to raise rates. The utility gets some more revenue, and has lower costs to procure power in the first place, so their profits get a boost; but the customer still gets lower bills than they would've otherwise seen. This win-win policy is the reason that CA has seen its energy-intensity per dollar of GDP shrink dramatically over the last three decades, while the rest of the country basically stayed constant, learning nothing from the '70s oil shocks.

Lt. Governor: Gavin Newsom. I had a conversation with him, at the convention in L.A. in April, about the tidal power project at the Golden Gate, and he knew the names of bidding companies, details of the technology, etc -- I found that very impressive. It's one thing to be generally on top of managing things, it's another to have lightning-fast recall on details that you could just trust to staff. And I think his don't-take-no-for-an-answer attitude in San Francisco -- implementing a city healthcare program, providing a public bank to drive out the payday-loan sharks, etc -- is commendable.

Secretary of State: Debra Bowen. Aside from the fact that she's the only candidate, she has done a superb job. I appreciate having somebody in charge of elections who actually cares that they're fair. Bowen sponsored a thorough investigation of voting machines, and disqualified the ones that had serious security holes. She has pushed registrars to do better and more standardized training for clerks. And she's been an advocate for experimenting with alternative election methods (mostly IRV and STV-PR, but I've talked to her about Range and Approval, and she is certainly not opposed to them and seems to think the law she sponsored to allow municipalities to try alternate methods out out should allow for them).

Controller: John Chiang. Only candidate, and seems to have done a competent job this term, continuing some of the good things Westly did -- setting up a free e-File system for folks with simpler returns, taking business tax evasion seriously, etc.

Treasurer: Bill Lockyer. Only candidate.

Attorney General: Kamala Harris. I've been kinda torn on this one because while I do think Kamala is the candidate whose policies I most agree with -- she's been particularly good in pushing programs to reduce recidivism -- I'm concerned about whether the charges that she's "soft on crime" will stick in the general. I considered voting for Pedro Nava, but polling suggests that the race is basically between Kamala and Chris Kelly, former chief council at Facebook. I might've actually considered voting for Kelly -- he's been endorsed by a friend of mine who's prominent in the party structure who went to law school with him, and I'm generally well-disposed towards techy folks (even if I have issues with Facebook's behavior around user privacy). But Kelly has sponsored viciously negative, dishonest campaign ads against Kamala. I am emphatically Not OK with that. So, I get to vote strategically for the person I actually wanted to vote for in the first place!

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones. I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with De La Torre, but Jones has particularly impressed me (and, apparently, a supermajority of CADem delegates -- we endorsed him) with his past efforts, as a legislator, to improve health insurance regulations. He's also sponsored a bill that would create incentives for auto insurers to validate drivers' milage (like, get verified statements about the odometer from your mechanic), and charge according to how much you drive. This makes sense on many levels. Most obviously, it's fair, since the more you drive, the more opportunities you have to get in an accident. It also creates incentives to shift from driving to alternate transportation, which is good for the environment. Jones has also been a vocal opponent of Prop 17 (more on that below), because it is likely to lead to more uninsured drivers on our roads.

Member, State Board of Equalization, District 1: Betty Yee. She's the incumbent, and seems to have done a decent job in her first term.

U.S. Senator: Barbara Boxer. Duh. Barbara is one of my heroes. (I've been kind of entertained by Mickey Kaus' stunt candidacy, and if he were running against Feinstein I'd vote for him. But not against Barbara.)

U.S. Representative: Anna Eshoo. No other candidate, and I like Anna a lot -- she's a leader in the House on energy and environment issues, and business/tech issues as well.

State Assembly, District 21: Josh Becker. As some of you may know, I've been volunteering for Josh's campaign, and have posted a bunch of links to news articles here and on my Facebook wall. I think Josh has an amazing blend of experience -- from policy work at the state and federal level, to starting multiple businesses and investing in more, to creating the Full Circle Fund and helping launch its numerous efforts to apply business expertise to difficult social problems. (One of my favorite Full Circle projects is SIRUM. It was launched as a local project a year or so ago. It's a database that taps into the inventory files of private hospitals and pharma warehouses, and alerts them when a batch of some drug that they've held in surplus is going to hit its expiration date soon, so that rather than waiting and tossing it in the trash, they can donate it to local community hospitals and clinics who have shortages. It costs basically nothing, but has delivered $300k of healthcare in our region in just one year.) I admire and respect both Rich Gordon and Yoriko Kishimoto, but I think Josh will bring a different kind of perspective to Sacramento. He'll be particularly helpful in areas such as deploying the data infrastructure our schools need in order to compete for federal "Race to the Top" funds. Anyways, I could go on for pages on this race; check out his website for more.

Santa Clara County Democratic Party Committee, District 21: Jim Thurber, William James, Diane Rolfe, Anne Mack. These are folks I know personally and who I've seen work hard to advance progressive principles.

Judge of the Superior Court, Office #7: Thomas Spielbauer. I'm not thrilled with either candidate for this slot. Spielbauer has apparently been accused of crossing the line from zealously representing his client, to misrepresenting information to a judge. (He denies this.) McCracken has "vigorously led the district attorney's fight against sunshine rules in San Jose that would have given the public greater access to police records." (And that line is from the SJ Merc's endorsement of her.) In any case, after looking at the statements and browsing a few other articles, I'm inclined to go with the person whose business was helping people fight the banks, over the person whose busines was trying to keep the public from finding out what the DA's office was up to during a period when it was (according to the Merc's own reporters) up to no good. Even if the former does look to be somewhat shady as well. :-/

Judge of the Superior Court, Office #11: Vanessa A. Zecher. I agreed with the Merc's take on this one (see the same endorsement link from the previous item -- it covers all three judicial races). Both candidates look good; Zecher looks better.

Judge of the Superior Court, Office #19: Bob Camors. Both candidates in this one look quite good. (Why couldn't one of them have run in the #7 race?!) The Merc endorsed Alloggiamento, but I'm going with Camors, because he's an expert on technical issues that are important to Silicon Valley law, and I generally think the legal world could use more people who have "studied physics, math and engineering to better deal with these cases, an unusual asset for the court." (Also, while I get the impression that Alloggiamento is not a "lock-em-up, tough-on-crime" zealot, seems to have felt the need to put a paragraph into her ballot statement where she pretends to be.)

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson. Was endorsed heavily by the party. I spoke with him at a caucus meeting and at an evening mixer at the convention. He has experience in the high school and community college systems, and focused on education during his Assembly tenure. He's worked on ensuring that school facilities are safe; on offering good options for students who would rather pursue trades than the college track; and on allowing charter schools room to experiment while holding them accountable for results. A couple of newspapers, in endorsing other candidates, have suggested that Torlakson is too close to the teachers' unions; I'm not convinced. Yes, he has their support, but in speaking to him, I didn't get the impression that he was unwilling to acknowledge that the union can be wrong.

Santa Clara County Assessor: Larry Stone. Only candidate, and he's one of the most respected non-partisan officials in the state -- he's the guy that other assessors call when they have a difficult professional question.

Santa Clara County District Attorney: Jeff Rosen. Dolores Carr, the incumbent, has been a disaster.

Santa Clara County Sheriff: Richard Calderon. The incumbent Sheriff's competence is also in question due to some of the problems brought up in the articles I linked to in relation to Dolores Carr, particularly the investigation of the De Anza rape case, where evidence was not processed by police in a timely manner. Martin Monica has gotten endorsements from a number of people I know personally and respect, but he does not seem to have much support from the law enforcement community itself. I have some internal conflicts in terms of whether I'd want to see the police organizations totally lined up behind a candidate for Sheriff -- if you think some reforms are needed, the current police might not be trustworthy to judge who best to come in and push them to change. But I would expect to see some police voices on the side of the reformer, and Calderon's statement does at least claim that he sees the problems with Smith's performance and wants to change things.

Prop 13: Yes. This alters the property tax rules to roll earthquake retrofits under the existing Prop 13 rules. While I oppose Prop 13 in general, and would like to see a split roll reform, it does seem reasonable to make the tax system not act as a disincentive for earthquake retrofits. As far as I know, nobody is seriously opposing this -- the CA Democratic Party endorsed it.

Prop 14: No. I'm plagiarizing a friend of a friend for this paragraph: The "jungle primary", where the top two under plurality enter a run-off, magnifies problems with vote splitting and tactical voting. It's the system that produced Louisana's famous Edwards/Roemer/Duke fiasco. In the primary, it was pretty clear that Roemer was the leading candidate, and the question was whether Edwards (the crook), or Duke (the racist) would be in the runoff. Unfortunately a lot of people who couldn't stand Duke voted for Edwards, and a lot of people who couldn't stand Edwards voted for Duke. Roemer unexpectedly didn't make it to the general election, for reasons of over-trusting polls and tactical voting (with a side of vote-splitting: a 4th candidate, Holloway absorbed some of the votes too). From my own thoughts, if you look at the current A.G. race, where there are (as I count) two or three serious Republicans but five serious Dems, you can see how you could have 40% of people voting for Repubs, and 60% voting for Dems, but have the larger number of candidates on the Dem side lead to a runoff between two Repubs. The parties would have to resort to backroom arm-twisting to prevent that, which I think is even worse than the kind of primaries we have currently. I might favor some kind of open primary -- say, one that worked on the principles of STV-PR, or Proportional Approval or Range, and that advanced the top 3-5 candidates to the general, where you'd use single-winner Range, Approval, or a Condorcet method. Prop 14, even if some of its proponents are well-intentioned, is a loser.

Prop 15: Yes. (Partially plagiarizing the remarks of former Asm. Speaker Pro-Tem Sally Lieber at her Facebook page.) Prop 15 creates a pilot project for "clean money" public financing for the elections of Secretary of State in 2014 and 2018. This opt-in public fund would be supported by a significant increase in the registration fees for professional lobbyists and lobbying firms. To qualify for funding, candidates would have to demonstrate grassroots support by gathering signatures and $5 donations from 7,500 registered California voters. Once opted-in, they would be prohibited from raising or spending money from outside the public finance system. If a private-money candidate enters the race against them, and raises more than the public budget provides by default (roughly $1M, which is adequate to get your message out statewide even in a state as large as ours), the public fund provides matching dollars up to a total budget of 4x the original amount. Prop 15 is our best chance at reducing the impact of special interest money in politics, please vote yes. When similar systems were adopted in Arizona and Maine, many legislators who opposed clean money at the time subsequently opted in and came to appreciate being able to take all the time they used to spend on fundraising, and devote it to their constituents. (A Republican from Arizona, I believe named Marc Spitzer, came to Sacramento to testify in favor of an effort to pass a Clean Money system through our legislature.)

Prop 16: No. This is a power grab by PG&E. Currently, your duly elected representatives at the municipal level have the option under state law to organize a "Consumer Choice Aggregation" program, under which citizens can opt-in to buy green power, the city can contract with a clean power provider to take the money and allocate capacity to the city's demand, and the utility is obligated to take the green power into its grid. Obviously the reality is that once power is in the grid, you can't tell which electrons go to who, but the overall effect of CCA is that there's more green power, and the people who wanted it pay for it. It's a good system. PG&E is taking millions of dollars -- dollars paid in by its rate-paying captive customers -- and spending them on a campaign to require a 2/3 vote at the ballot box to allow a CCA program. They find it a hassle to deal with taking in power from providers that are picked by municipalities rather than by themselves. Aside from the fact that if PG&E has millions sitting around, they ought to lower their rates to folks like me who have no choice but to pay them for power, the entire campaign is offensive. They called the proposition the "Taxpayer's Right to Vote Act", when no taxes are involved at all; they're playing to the Republican base, who will be turning out for their Senatorial and Gubernatorial primaries. They also are trying to overturn the outcome of negotiations with the legislature and CPUC with which they were extensively involved. If they weren't happy with the way CCAs were working out, they could've come back to the CPUC and the legislature and said, "Hey, you know, how about we say that CCAs can request green power, but we'll be responsible for picking the providers?" I usually actually like PG&E fairly well -- of all the private utilities in the country, they arguably perform the best at providing efficiency services to customers, and they do seem committed to expanding their green power supply and meeting the Renewable Portfolio Standard. (The RPS is actually related to Prop 16 -- I believe green power under CCAs is not being counted towards a utility's RPS requirement, which is arguably unfair.) But at the moment, I am red-hot furious at PG&E. I'd be thrilled to see my city launch a muni utility, at this point. Incidentally, part of why there has been little opposition spending, is that the parties directly negatively impacted are cities and their muni utilities -- which are forbidden by law from campaigning! I think we ought to apply some similar rule to regulated utilities -- no spending ratepayer dollars on campaigning. Maybe we could let them, if they get a two-thirds vote of approval from the ratepayers. :-P

Prop 17: No. This is a power grab by Mercury Insurance. According to analysis by Dave Jones, it would likely result in more uninsured drivers on the road. Say you're a working class citizen, and due to financial problems, you miss the due date on your car insurance by a couple days. Under Prop 17, your insurer can say that your coverage was revoked for the missed payment, and then, because you now have a "gap in coverage" in your history, can charge you a much higher premium if you want the same policy reinstated. If you're already struggling, you might just decide to give up on coverage. Prop 17 is also opposed by VoteVets and by my insurer, USAA, the non-profit cooperative which is the main insurer for uniformed service personnel and their families. (My dad served in uniform for over 20 years, hence my access to USAA.) Military personnel are particularly vulnerable to having gaps in coverage, hence the opposition of military-affiliated groups.

Measure A: Yes. Bonds for school facilities. Investing in long-term assets is the standard use for debt.

Measure L: Yes. Continues an existing parcel assessment, which would otherwise expire, to support local libraries.
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