I haven’t ever done official endorsements before, but blogging is all about trying new things. So here goes.
Proposition 13: Provides that certain kinds of seismic upgrades to existing structures will not trigger reassessment and thus property tax increases. I suggest voting yes on this initiative. The impact on property taxes will be negligible and this is an appropriate use of tax policy — to incentivize desirable behavior, such as hiring contractors to make buildings more resistant to earthquakes, thereby stimulating the economy and reducing the amount of capital losses in the event of a disaster.
Proposition 14: Changes the way primary elections are run so that all candidates participate in a “jungle primary” in June and then the top two vote-getters will compete in a runoff election in November. I am torn, because I believe that politics are too polarized, and the theory is that a “jungle primary” would produce more moderate candidates making it into the general election. However, experience suggests that the result of open primaries is more political polarization, not less. Consequently, I think that this well-intentioned initiative will be counterproductive and I therefore suggest voting no.
Proposition 15: Would provide for public funding of political campaigns, to be paid for by a tax on lobbying, and available to candidates who accept spending limits for their campaigns. A silly idea that will not work. Well-heeled candidates may still voluntarily eschew the public funding and the “voluntary” spending limits if “traditional” fundraising proves more productive for them — remember Barack Obama’s pledge to adhere to spending limits, quickly discarded when he found he could raise, and spend, much more money than John McCain? Same thing would happen here. No major candidate for office in either major party has accepting existing Prop. 34 spending limits; why should Prop. 15 produce any different results? Vote no.
Proposition 16: Would require local voters to approve, by two-thirds vote, local utility and service districts establish electrical service to be paid for by taxpayer bonds. In theory, this sounds “pro-democracy,” and it is certainly the case that local districts in California exercise shocking amounts of power with shockingly little effective public oversight — including those districts which have elected boards, sometimes seeing voter turnout as high as the low teens for most elections. However, the practical effect of this initiative, if passed, would be to force local districts out of the electricity-generation business, and some of them are doing good things like putting up windmills and other “green” power generators — and competing with the duopoly of Southern California Edison and PG&E. (Who, unsurprisingly, are the major financial backers of Proposition 16.) It’s not that I hate PG&E, but there is a lot of dishonesty in the very slickly-produced campaign here, and that turns me off. More competition is better; more electricity is better; more green power is better. No on 16.
Proposition 17: Allows auto insurance underwriters to consider an insurance applicant’s past insurance payment history when setting rates and issuing quotes. In practice, this is a premium-polarization effort. Poor people are more likely to have spotty records of insurance and therefore will be charged higher premiums. Rich people are more likely to have records of continuous coverage, and therefore will be charged lower premiums. The result? Insurance will become more difficult for the people who need it most to get it, and that will result in more uninsured drivers on the road, not less. Vote no here — it may seem like your premiums will go down a little bit, but if you ever get hit by an uninsured driver, you’ll realize that it wasn’t worth it.
Republican for Governor: As between Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman, I think Whitman presents a more appealing face for the general election and she makes for a more electable candidate. As to how they would govern, either Whitman or Poizner promises to be not so very different from Gov. Schwarzenegger, so the question for Republicans is really who has the best chance of preventing The Return Of Jerry Brown. Whitman gets my vote.
Democrat for Governor: You’ve only got one realistic vote here, and that’s Jerry Brown. To be sure, today’s Jerry Brown is not the Jerry Brown of the 1970’s. But a leopard can’t change his spots; if Brown is Governor, taxes will go up, he will likely call for a Constitutional convention to destroy Proposition 13, and there will be no consideration of any kind of fiscal or spending reform, which is badly, badly needed. I just plain can’t endorse him because I can’t imagine that anything he does is going to help the state’s financial problems, so I decline to make any endorsement for Democrats.
Republican for Lieutenant Governor: There are two major candidates, Sam Aanestad and Abel Maldonado, the incumbent. Maldonado got appointed and confirmed to the position after caving on relatively modest tax increases in the last budget impasse. Aanestad is pro-life, which I do not like, but that is not a big issue at the state level because the state constitution would largely tie a pro-life official’s hands. Other than that, Aanestad would clearly push the Legislature and the Governor to concentrate on spending reforms rather than raising taxes; Maldonado proved “reasonable” on the single issue that Republicans need to not be reasonable on. Aanestad is the better choice here.
Democrat for Lieutenant Governor: Here, the choices are between Janice Hahn, a Los Angeles City Councilmember, and Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco. Hahn is an experienced behind-the-scenes technocrat; Newsom is a firebrand willing to take risks, most notably on gay marriage. Newsom has demonstrated leadership as well as competence; Hahn has demonstrated only an ability to work below the public’s radar and to avoid public admissions of marital infidelity, which is more than Newsom can say. Still, if you are a Democrat, you’ll want to see Newsom grow and develop as a public figure for the future; he is the better choice between the two.
Republican for Secretary of State: Given that one of the two Republicans running is uber-birther, conspiracy theorist, repeat litigation-abuser, and all-around nutcase Orly Taitz, pretty much any other choice is the way to go. That other choice is Damon Dunn, about whom I know nothing other than that he is not Orly Taitz and therefore, unlike his adversary for the nomination, has not made a spectacle of a profound inability to come to grips with reality.
Democrat for Secretary of State: Incumbent Debra Bowen has no partisan competition for the nomination. My experience of dealing with the Secretary of State’s business division is that since Bowen took office, the quality and speed of service from this branch of the state government has declined. Oh, sure, she won a “Profile in Courage” award for pulling hackable electronic voting machines from use at the last minute, but that doesn’t seem like such a difficult call to me. Since Bowen has not impressed me as having delivered good service from her office, I urge my Democratic Readers to not vote for her.
Republican for Attorney General: By contrast, Steve Cooley has impressed as Los Angeles County’s District Attorney. Before Cooley took office, the L.A.D.A. could not secure convictions in any high-profile case. Cooley, however, has found a way to minimize the showboating and maximize the prosecutorial efficiency. He has also brought a degree of sanity to child support garnishment enforcement without sacrificing the effectiveness of that program. He can’t take credit for crime going down overall, but he can take credit for running a tight ship and producing better results than anyone had thought possible. He deserves a reward for that, and being California’s top prosecutor seems fitting and stands head and shoulders above Senator Tom Harmann, his only real competition for the nomination. Cooley for A.G.
Democrat for Attorney General: This is a crowded field, including Kamala Harris, the District Attorney of San Francisco; Chris Kelly, the privacy officer for Facebook; Rocky Delgadillo, the city attorney of Los Angeles; Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance); Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara); and Assemblyman Alberto Torrico (D-Fremont). Of them, I can suggest excluding Kelly and Delgadillo out of hand — Kelly because he lacks any kind of prosecutorial experience and, let’s face it, privacy on Facebook is a cruel, sick joke; and Delgadillo because he has demonstrated a significant tendency towards corruption. Harris shows the most chops as a prosecutor, although I do not have a sense for how well she has run the S.F.D.A.’s office. Torrico appears to be the unions’ choice, and Nava appears to be the choice of a number of environmental advocates and has made environmental protection a focus of his campaign. As between these choices, the bread-and-butter choice is Harris, because she, more than anyone else in this field, has proven that she can run a prosecutorial office best.
Republican for U.S. Senator: There are three credible choices here, Tom Campbell, Carly Fiorina, and Chuck DeVore. Unlike for a state-level position, there is nothing to bind a U.S. Senator from acting on a pro-life position, and DeVore’s pro-life stance should be considered here — at minimum, for the fact that in a California general election, a strident pro-life stance is a virtual guarantee that a candidate will not be elected. Campbell and Fiorina are both more socially moderate; Campbell more so than Fiorina. Campbell is a little bit too “reasonable” for my taste on the idea of raising taxes but very bright and creative on the spending reform side of things. Fiorina has made a push to the right, but there are health concerns and people coming from big business tend to not do well in government, particularly the legislative side of things, because there are different skill sets at play for success in a logrolling, compromising body like the Senate than in a corporate boardroom. Of the three imperfect candidates, Campbell possesses the better blend of attributes and should get the nod.
Democrat for U.S. Senate: I’ve never been a fan of Barbara Boxer and have always considered her a weak politician. She has only been elected as much as she has because her first opponent crashed and burned in a sex scandal one week before the general election and the Republicans could never get their crap together enough to field a real candidate against her six and twelve years after that. By contrast, Mickey Kaus is a blogger and a wise-ass, which even if I disagree with some of his opinions, makes me want to identify with him; if by some astonishing miracle he gets his party’s nomination, that would be just plain fun. Democrats, vote Kaus for Senate.
Proposition 13: Yes
Proposition 14: No
Proposition 15: No
Proposition 16: No
Proposition 17: No
Republican for Governor: Meg Whitman
Republican for Lieutenant Governor: Sam Aanestad
Republican for Secretary of State: Damon Dunn
Republican for Attorney General: Steve Cooley
Republican for U.S. Senate: Tom Campbell
Democrat for Governor: No endorsement
Democrat for Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom
Democrat for Secretary of State: No endorsement
Democrat for Attorney General: Kamala Harris
Democrat for U.S. Senate: Mickey Kaus