President: Barack Obama. I think he has taken much weaker positions in many negotitations than he could have, failing to grasp just how radical and intractable his opponents are. And I am mystified and disappointed by his Justice Department's failure to uproot Bush policies on torture and spying. But side from those two things, I think he's been an excellent president, and his record of achievments in his first term arguably is far longer and more impressive than Clinton's was in his first term. (For starters, Clinton failed at healthcare reform, and for all that the Affordable Care Act could stand to be improved, it passed, and will do tremendous good for millions of Americans.)
US Senator: I still kinda hate DiFi. The Bay Guardian put it well: "She's a moderate Democrat, at best, was weak-to-terrible on the war, is hawkish on Pentagon spending (particularly Star Wars and the B-1 bomber), has supported more North Coast logging, and attempts to meddle in local politics with ridiculous ideas like promoting unknown Michael Breyer for District Five supervisor. She supported the Obama health-care bill but isn't a fan of single-payer, referring to supporters of Medicare for all as 'the far left.' But she's strong on choice and is embarrassing the GOP with her push for reauthorization of an expanded Violence Against Women Act." I'd also add that she's bad on progressive taxation -- back in '06 one of her friends / fundraisers / advisors made some public remarks in favor of Schwarzenegger over Angelides on the basis of the idea that rich people are over-taxed, and DiFi didn't make a peep to contradict her. However, there doesn't seem to be any credible Dem running against her in the primary (I considered Mike Strimling, but he seems kinda over-wrought), and she'll certainly go along with the party line on the most important bills (even if, unlike Barbara Boxer, she'll never actually be a champion of them), so, meh, I guess I'll vote for her.
US Rep, CD 14: Jackie Speier. Speier has a long and admirable history in state and national politics; repeating it here would be redundant.
State Senator, SD 13: This is a tough one for me, because I really like both Sally Lieber and Jerry Hill. Sally has a great history of work on legislation dealing with poverty issues, especially at the intersection with childhood development, education, single motherhood, etc. Jerry served on the California Air Resources Board, and has been an advocate for our region's cleantech industry. After some consideration, I've decided to go with Jerry, because, as I've remarked before, I think the legislature needs people who have his kind of technical expertise. Also, just in general, I have more direct experience with Jerry, who has been my Assemblyman for the last couple years; I've had very positive interactions with him and his staff. I have nothing bad to say about Sally, and every time I've talked with her I've liked what she had to say, but I haven't actually been a constituent, though Xta was before we moved in together. In any case, if she wins, I'll still be happy with the outcome.
State Assembly, AD 22: Kevin Mullin, who's the only Dem running.
County of San Mateo Board of Supervisors, District 4: Shelly Masur. This was another difficult one. There are two other candidates I seriously considered. One is Warren Slocum, who served for many years as the head of the county's staff (clerk / assessor / recorder), and as far as I know is widely seen as having done a competent job in that role; however I'm really not impressed with his campaign for the supervisor office; he doesn't seem to have done a lot to stake out clear positions, and hasn't collected any notable endorsements that I can see. The other is Memo Morantes, who did a much better job than Masur at laying out his positions on his website, and specifically mentioned in his statement for the voter guide one of the local policies I care most about (support for electrifying the CalTrain corridor and ultimately bringing through a high-speed rail route to SF, even if there's a Palo Alto / Menlo Park / Atherton crowd who insist on being whiny NIMBYs about it). OTOH, Masur also does support the "blended option" for high-speed rail (which is to say, use of the CalTrain corridor -- this seems to be the consensus position except among local politicians in a few of our wealthier towns), and she has a list of very strong endorsements, including the local party (which I've been involved with before, and generally like, and their endorsement works pretty well as a proxy for "she must largely agree with me on the stuff where Morantes has done a better job publishing his takes on issues like the local jail, high speed rail, etc"). Morantes got Speier's endorsement, which is certainly important as well. Ultimately, I'm deciding on the basis of the fact that Morantes is opposing Measures T, U, and X (he says he's in favor of finding new revenue, but dislikes these particular measures). I am in favor of them, and I worry that he is trying to court votes from anti-tax voters in general (which is a dangerous road to go down, because if you're dependent on those people, you can basically never vote for any revenue). I understand his arguments against, but disagree, and I'm having trouble finding any stronger way to differentiate between him and Masur.
ETA 6/1: In a late-breaking development, the Friends of CalTrain organization sent out a questionnaire on transit issues, the results of which are here. As of this writing, I'd say Masur's answers are the most persuasive; Morantes hasn't responded. I'm feeling reassured about my choice to go with her.
Prop 28: Yes. This changes the term limit structure for the legislature from "six years in the Assembly, eight in the Senate" to "up to twelve years total across the two houses". I'm opposed to term limits in general. As President Bartlett put it: The Constitution already gave us term limits; they're called elections. Legislating -- especially leading a push for major reforms -- is a difficult, complicated job. It takes a long time to learn to do it well, and to build up the relationships and alliances that are necessary to get a complex bill passed. If you believe that big issues sometimes require big solutions, not just small, piecemeal, uncomplicated adjustments, then you pretty much need to have at least some legislators who will work on those issues over the course of many years. Under our current system, by the time a legislator has learned the ropes enough to even start working on such things, he has maybe four more years to get stuff done. Furthermore, the constant churn through the Capitol enhances the position of the lobbyists, who are a permanent long-term presence. So: I'd much rather see us scrap term limits altogether. But still, this changes the system so that people go from the "farm team" of lower offices to a longer period in one house rather than to a really short stint in the Assembly and then maybe the Senate. It also should reduce the problem of feuds between Assembly members who are eyeing the same Senate seat.
Prop 29: Yes. Raises the tax on cigarettes from $0.87 to $1.87 per pack, to fund cancer research conducted in CA. This will move us from being one of the lowest-tax states on tobacco, to kind of the low end of the middle of the pack. It will still put us far short of the level where I'd expect to develop a major black market / tax evasion problems. (New York, at $4.35 a pack, has serious problems with people buying cigs in other states and then bringing them to NY for illegal resale.) I'd prefer it if they let the money go into the general fund, b/c I'm not a fan of ballot-box budgeting, but frankly, even if they were going to take all the money collected from this, pile up the cash, and have a nice bonfire, I'd vote for it solely for the Pigovian benefits.
Measures T, U, and X: Yes. These impose taxes on businesses operating in unincorporated San Mateo County -- vehicle rental, hotels, and commercial parking, respectively. These are all taxes that cities can and do take advantage of, but which currently you can mostly avoid if you operate in an unincorporated area. These taxes are more about restoring parity between the cities and unincorporated areas than really about "new" taxes. Furthermore, the usual crowd of anti-taxers have been particularly disingenuous in their campaign against these measures, e.g. trying to mislead people into thinking that T is a general "car tax" that would affect personal vehicles.