- Photo by David Rolland
The 2014 gubernatorial primary is June 3. Mail-in ballots became available this past Monday. Let's get right to our endorsements:
San Diego City Council
The four even-numbered seats are up for election on the City Council. Two of them are competitive; two are not.
In District 8, incumbent David Alvarez is running against one challenger, frequent also-ran candidate and retired contractor Lincoln Pickard. It would be weird for us to endorse Alvarez for mayor of the whole city but not reelection in his own district. So, we'll go ahead and endorse him—happily.
In District 4, incumbent Myrtle Cole faces three folks whom she beat in last year's special election to replace Tony Young: Blanca Lopez Brown, Tony Villafranca and Bruce Williams. In the primary, we endorsed Brown, but we won't do that again, because she's the person who submitted a ballot measure that would ostensibly raise the minimum wage in San Diego. It's really a Trojan horse that would exempt most local businesses and is meant to torpedo a genuine attempt to raise the minimum wage.
It doesn't matter, though. Cole will win easily, because: incumbent! Yet that doesn't mean we're endorsing her. We're not. We're still seething over her despicable campaign against Dwayne Crenshaw in the runoff election last year. We'll sit this one out.
The two races that matter are in Districts 2 and 6. District 2 used to belong to Kevin Faulconer, but he's the mayor now, and there are four candidates fighting to replace him. One of them is Lorie Zapf, who currently represents District 6. When the new district boundaries were drawn after the 2010 census, Zapf's home ended up in District 2. Her main competition is attorney Sarah Boot. Five candidates are running to replace Zapf in District 6, three of whom are serious contenders: Chris Cate, Carol Kim and Mitz Lee.
Our cover spoiled the surprise: We're endorsing Boot and Kim. We've sat down with both of them and found them to be energetic, motivated, smart—and sufficiently progressive in their policy agendas. Boot, until recently a lawyer in the U.S. Attorney's office, has been training for this run in what could be called San Diego's progressive farm system for about four years. Kim's been a teacher in inner-city Los Angeles and done AIDS-outreach work among high-risk populations in New York, and she currently works for an education-focused nonprofit.
Thanks to the spectacular implosion of Bob Filner, San Diego ended up with a mayor in Faulconer who's always been a reliable voice and vote for San Diego's conservative business elite: Lay out the red carpet for industry lobbyists, oppose every tax or fee, shrink government (and union influence) by threatening privatization. City Council President Todd Gloria provides a good counterweight, and not counting the temporary District 2 Councilmember Ed Harris, he has four solid votes on the council to back the sort of progressive agenda he laid out in his State of the City speech in January (rebuild infrastructure, create affordable and supportive housing, strengthen the middle class with better jobs and higher wages, combat climate change, etc.).
The election of Boot or Kim would give Gloria a veto-proof majority. The election of both would be better. We endorse Sarah Boot, Carol Kim and David Alvarez for San Diego City Council.
This is the last time you'll see Bill Horn's name on a ballot. In 2018, term limits will finally pry him loose from the District 5 supervisorial seat he's held for more than two decades. But, we wouldn't mind seeing him gone sooner. His bad-behavior list is long, from throwing a fit over not getting a sizable pay raise to fudging campaign-expenditure reports to numerous attempts to funnel taxpayer dollars to pro-life religious groups.
Horn's being challenged by Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood, a Republican. While we'd like to see more of a shakeup on the all-white board (in 2012, Democrat Dave Roberts cracked its multi-decade-all-Republican streak), we appreciate Wood's support for a smart-growth plan for North County that doesn't rely on freeway expansion—a stance that got him ousted from his SANDAG seat by a pro-development Oceanside City Council majority.
In District 4, Supervisor Ron Roberts is running unopposed for his final term. We've appreciated his support of initiatives to end homelessness and get more public art in county buildings and parks, so we're OK with him sticking around. Vote for Ron Roberts, but retire Bill Horn and pick Jim Wood.
In her reelection campaign, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has repeatedly boasted that crime is down dramatically in San Diego. What she declines to say is that crime is down everywhere. For several years, California has seen historic lows in criminal activity across the board.
Whomever San Diego picks to be the next district attorney isn't going to have a huge impact on how many people break the law in the next four years. What's clear, however, is that Dumanis plays politics in the worst way, whether it's her poorly focused run for mayor in 2012—for which she received illegal campaign contributions from a Mexican billionaire—or, as recently reported by U-T San Diego, her improper use of seized drug money to pay for an office lease for the California District Attorneys Association. Transparency is also a huge issue here. Dumanis' office has repeatedly undermined or ignored requests for public documents, from sending CityBeat a mock invoice detailing the cost of staff hours to fulfill a basic request to recently refusing to turn over emails to KPBS concerning the apparently politically motivated prosecution of a Chula Vista City Council member.
For the first time since she was elected in 2002, Dumanis has two challengers: Bob Brewer and Teri Wyatt. Wyatt, a former deputy DA, is smart and likable, but not quite ready. Brewer, a private-practice attorney, is definitely a law-and-order guy. We wish he were more progressive on ways to relieve prison overcrowding, for instance. But, he's pledged to run a transparent office and stay out of the political mud. We also appreciate his support of clear guidelines for medical-marijuana dispensaries. For those reasons, we're picking Bob Brewer for district attorney.
Assessor / Recorder / Clerk
Four years ago, we endorsed Ernie Dronenburg in this race. We described him as a "supremely overqualified 'tax geek'" who agreed with us that the cost of obtaining records from the county was too high and could be made cheaper—and more efficient—by putting documents online. The conservative Republican also promised us that if Prop. 8 were overturned, his office would honor that ruling. Well, Prop. 8 was overturned, and Dronenburg went and filed a petition with the state Supreme Court challenging the ruling.
There are three people vying for Dronenburg's seat—George Mantor, Susan Guinn and Jonathan Gordon. We couldn't find any information about Gordon; he didn't even file a candidate statement. Mantor is far too activist-y—his campaign is solely about how banks (or "bankstas," as he calls them) avoid paying land-transfer fees.
Guinn, a consumer attorney, is the easy choice here. She's gotten the thumbs-up from LGBT groups and has promised to modernize the office and make it easier to access records. We dig all that. Fill in the blank for Susan Guinn.
Right-wing "birther" attorney Gary Kreep's 2012 victory was a reminder of how little attention voters pay to judicial races. And that's usually because folks rarely challenge sitting judges—this year, of the 47 judicial seats on the ballot, there's one open seat and only four judges who've drawn challengers. We heartily endorse two of those four: Judges Ronald Prager in Office No. 9 and Michael Popkins in Office No. 19.
Incumbent Lisa Schall in Office No. 20 is being challenged by assistant U.S. attorney Carla Keehn. Schall, who's been on the bench for nearly three decades, has been admonished three times (yikes) by the state Commission on Judicial Performance: in 1995 (a private admonishment involving a juvenile-dependency case), in 1999 for improperly finding a woman in contempt of court and in 2008 for drunken driving. Schall told Voice of San Diego that she's become "a better judge out of that very bad choice" and has since spoken publicly about the dangers of driving drunk. Sure, everyone makes mistakes, but judicial admonishments are pretty rare.
There's a lot to like about Keehn. An Army vet, she was a deputy public defender for part of her career—most judges are former prosecutors—and currently coordinates the federal diversion program that gives nonviolent drug offenders the option of treatment instead of jail. We like the perspective and open-mindedness we hope that experience will bring.
For Office No. 44, incumbent Jacqueline Stern is facing attorney Joseph Adelizzi. Last August, Stern overturned a jury verdict that awarded $1.5 million to a woman who'd been sexually harassed by an Oceanside police officer. She found the award "exorbitant," but instead of lowering it, she nixed it entirely, saying that she found the plaintiff to be "not credible" though the officer admitted to—and was fired for—his behavior. Stern overturned another jury ruling in 2009, an action that was ultimately reversed by an appeals court. Though it doesn't happen often, judges have the right to amend or overturn a jury verdict. But to base that decision partly on a witness' credibility, especially when it's a victim of sexual harassment, troubles us. Because of this, we're supporting Adelizzi.
As for the open seat, Office No. 25, two of the three people vying to fill it—Ken Gosselin and Michele Hagan—have been deemed "lacking qualifications" by the San Diego County Bar Association. That makes this an easy endorsement: Deputy Attorney General Brad Weinreb.
For judge, we like Ronald Prager (9), Michael Popkins (19), Carla Keehn (20), Brad Weinreb (25) and Joseph Adelizzi (44).
San Diego School Board
There are two races on the ballot: Sub-districts B and C. In Sub-district C, incumbent Scott Barnett is not running for reelection, and only one candidate—retired teacher Michael McQuary—has qualified for the ballot. In Sub-district B, incumbent and current board president Kevin Beiser has one challenger. Beiser hasn't given us cause to boot him. We endorse Kevin Beiser and Michael McQuary.
In a frenzied rush to boot disgraced former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, city officials realized there were a few technical issues around the timing of filling the resulting vacancy. Prop. A aims to fix those issues. It would change the city charter to extend the deadline for a mayor, City Council member or city attorney to be sworn in so that elections officials have at least 28 days to certify results. It would also give the city more time after a seat has been vacated to start a special runoff election. This would give the registrar time to mail ballots to overseas voters and to military members, in compliance with state law. Yeah, go ahead and vote for Prop A.
Update: After this was published, City Clerk Liz Maland contacted us to let us know that it was in April 2013—and not amid the Bob Filner fiasco—that she alerted the City Council's Rules Committee to conflicts between the City Charter and state election code. We apologize for the inaccuracy.
Props. B & C
Last year, after years of work with the residents and businesses of Barrio Logan, the San Diego City Council made significant changes to the Barrio Logan Community Plan, which serves as a blueprint for how the neighborhood can and can't evolve in the future. It was a good and proper update, and it represented a compromise among various factions.
Well, a group called the Port of San Diego Ship Repair Association (SRA) didn't like it, because it placed restrictions on new or dramatically expanding existing industrial businesses in a small buffer zone between the waterfront shipyards and areas where people live. And by "restrictions," we mean they'd have to go through a special permit process.
The SRA demanded that the City Council go back to the drawing board, and the council refused, so the SRA launched a petition campaign to put an initiative on the ballot that would allow voters to trash the community plan. The petition drive was marked by numerous deceitful claims that were handed down in talking points by the SRA to paid signature gatherers; people were essentially given the idea that the community plan would replace shipyards with condos, eliminate 46,000 jobs and force the Navy to leave town. None of that is true.
The new buffer zone simply gives the residents and their advocates the chance to oppose new or expanded industrial businesses that they fear might worsen the air quality in Barrio Logan, which has the highest rate of childhood asthma in the city.
If you vote "yes" on Props. B and C— they're two companion initiatives for technical reasons we won't get into here—you'll be voting in favor of the updated plan and helping the folks of Barrio Logan gain a little more control over what happens in their community. If you vote "no," you'll be siding with industry over residents, and you'll be undermining the painstaking community-planning process. Maybe your community will be next—unless it's affluent, of course.
The low-income folks of Barrio Logan have been screwed for too long by city leaders and polluting businesses. We strongly urge you to vote "yes" on Props. B and C.
San Diego County is represented by five people in Congress. All five—Republicans Darrell Issa and Duncan Hunter, and Democrats Juan Vargas, Scott Peters and Susan Davis—are running for reelection, and only Peters is in danger of losing his seat.
We could go on and on about how the Republicans are in charge of the worst Congress in U.S. history, and we could write endlessly about Issa, in particular—about how, as chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he's become a sort of incompetent political assassin with a single target: President Obama. But that would be a waste of time. We'll just say you shouldn't vote for Issa or Hunter.
We've never liked Vargas, so we can't abide a vote for him, either. Davis is unspectacular, but next to the three we've mentioned, she looks like Abraham Lincoln.
The race to focus on here is Peters vs. challenger Carl DeMaio. We're not always thrilled with Peters' votes, just as we weren't always happy with him as a San Diego City Council member. But at least his views and votes match up well with the moderate, politically split 52nd District—Peters is largely about protecting the environment and serving the interests of the district's high-tech industry and military bases. DeMaio, on the other hand, is rivaled only by county Supervisor Bill Horn as the worst San Diego-area politician in at least the last 15 years and probably a lot longer.
DeMaio is just the most hideous kind of political opportunist. Sure, most politicians do it to an extent, but DeMaio is opportunism and crazed ambition on steroid-boosted steroids. It's been quite a show to watch him transform his narrative right before our eyes to this "new generation" Republican who's so gosh-darn proud of his homosexuality. Believe us, were he running in a more conservative district, he wouldn't be singing that tune. There's a reason LGBT groups don't support him—because he's only pro-LGBT when it serves his needs.
Part of us wouldn't mind seeing him go to Washington, D.C., and get buried among 435 members, but knowing him, he'd be running the place within a year. And that's not good for anyone. We beg you on our hands and knees to vote for Scott Peters in the 52nd.
Gov. Jerry Brown's recent proposal to sequester spikes in revenue from the capital-gains tax in order to build up a robust rainy-day fund—satisfying Republicans and irritating liberals in the process—is a good microcosm of his second stint in the Governor's office: He's been a steady, moderate, fiscally conservative Democrat, delivering a gut-punch to his former reputation as a flighty liberal. As such, he's matched up pretty well with the mood of the state's electorate.
Barring something unforeseen, he'll be reelected easily in November, and he deserves to be.
That's especially true in light of his competition. No sane Republican filed to run against him, but Tim Donnelly did.
Donnelly, a state Assembly member representing an area that includes Barstow, Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead, is a total Tea Party / Minutemen whackadoo who's best summed up by his own quote, delivered at a Tea Party Express rally in Barstow in 2010 and found in a recent Los Angeles Times story: "I'm going there to reach across the aisles to the enemies of freedom and annihilate them and pound them into the ground and take back our power."
We'd like Brown to shore up slashed social services better than he's been willing to, but aside from that, this is a no-brainer. Vote for Jerry Brown.
Hey, look! Ron Nehring—former chair of both the San Diego County Republican Party and the California Republican Party and mentor to current local GOP chair and first-class goober Tony Krvaric—is running for lieutenant governor.
Ba ha ha ha ha!
Pretty please, reelect pretty boy Gavin Newsom.
Secretary of State
A very important decision, folks. Among other things, the secretary of state is in charge of elections. The Sacramento Bee likes former Republican political insider and current independent Dan Schnur, as well as Democratic state Sen. Alex Padilla. The San Francisco Chronicle makes a strong case against Padilla and picks Schnur over former Common Cause official Derek Cressman, a Democrat, and Pete Peterson, a Republican who heads a civic-involvement institute at Pepperdine University and leads in the polls.
Frankly—and this isn't meant to be flippant—considering Republicans' efforts to suppress voting around the country, we don't want a Republican anywhere near this office. So, sorry, Pete, civic-involvement institute or not, you represent the wrong party.
We like Cressman over Schnur largely on the strength of his longtime commitment to good government and criticism of money's corrosive effect on policymaking. Vote for Derek Cressman.
We like to endorse at least one token Republican each election, so we're picking Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin for state controller, if only because we're having too much fun imagining her running the office like Al Swearengen ran business in HBO's Deadwood:
"Here's my counter-offer to your counter-offer: Go fuck yourself."
Now, if you're not in the mood for this sort of frivolity, or you're worried that Swearengin might be as corrupt as Swearengen—"I'm declaring myself conductor of this meeting as I have the bribe sheet"—go ahead and vote for boring ol' Betty Yee, but we're sticking with Swearengin.
"In life, you have to do a lot of things you don't fucking want to do. Many times, that's what the fuck life is—one vile fucking task after another."
He's no Al Swearengen, but John Chiang's done a bang-up job as state controller since assuming the post in 2007. He's performed with integrity and boldness. Now he's termed out and running for treasurer. He'll be elected easily, and that's a good thing. We endorse John Chiang.
Incumbent Kamala Harris is pro-gun-control, anti-death-penalty and pro-marriage-equality. That's our kind of AG. She's also a shoe-in for reelection, running against a no-name field whose highest-profile candidate, former state Sen. Phil Wyman, recently said that corrupt politicians should be executed. Vote for Kamala Harris.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Marshall Tuck says he has the fix for California's ailing education system, and he has many people convinced. Recently, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorsed him, touting the 40-year-old entrepreneur as a reformer. The two worked together on the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a nonprofit credited with improving education in low-income neighborhoods. Tuck is also the past president of Green Dot Public Schools, one of the nation's most prominent charter-school networks.
Tuck hopes to unseat incumbent Tom Torlakson, a Democrat who has the support of the powerful California Teachers Association and the Democratic Party. Increasingly, liberals support an education-reform agenda, but during his time in office, Torlakson has been lackluster, unwilling to stand up to union intransigence. Citizens now have to choose between a status-quo candidate and someone who could push for troubling changes.
Part of improving education, Tuck argues, is weakening labor protections for educators, such as seniority-based layoffs, making teachers wait longer than two years to get tenure and tying teacher evaluations to student test scores. Not everything Tuck proposes is bad, but as a former Wall Street investment banker with funding from groups that would love to see the privatization of public schools, it's unclear how far he would go to dismantle the current system.
While the superintendent's office interprets the education code, it has less power in terms of setting policy. So some feel Tuck could bring fresh perspective without being able to do too much damage.
However, Tuck is too dangerous of a choice for us. We reluctantly endorse Tom Torlakson for superintendent.
Incumbent Dave Jones has legitimate progressive credentials, including limiting health-insurance companies to using no more than 20 percent of premiums on profits and administrative salaries. He's also recently supported requiring companies such as Uber and Lyft to expand insurance coverage for drivers. His challenger is Republican state Sen. Ted Gaines, an Obamacare chicken little. For us this is an easy one. Reelect Dave Jones for insurance commissioner.
Board of Equalization
Wait, Board of what now? Let's face it: No one cares about the state Board of Equalization, which essentially ensures that various tax and fee programs are administered fairly. But politicians termed-out of other offices often seek a seat on this board, perhaps because the pay's decent—nearly $124,000 a year—and they preside over huge areas with lots of district offices, so, power.
The person currently representing the district that serves San Diego County—you know her, you love her: Michelle Steel—is termed out, and there are six candidates vying for her gig. The choices include three people who've been termed out of the state Assembly (see!): Diane Harkey, Shirley Horton and Van Tran. The other three are John F. Kelly, a Tustin cigar-store owner; Lewis Da Silva, a Rancho Mirage accountant and Realtor; and Nader Shahatit, a Highland government auditor.
Harkey will probably win, but we urge you to send a message that the BOE shouldn't be a soft landing spot for politicians with nowhere else to go. Kelly seems to be running based on a beef about how cigars are taxed. So, we dually endorse Lewis Da Silva, a Republican, and Nader Shahatit, a Democrat. From those two, you can pick based on party preference or whose name you like better.
Recently, Joel Anderson, who's currently representing the 36th state Senate District but is running this time in the 38th District because of redistricting, co-wrote legislation with Sen. Ted Lieu, a Democrat, that would ban state agencies and officials from providing any sort of material assistance to warrantless NSA surveillance activities. Good on that! But that doesn't mean we've changed our mind about the conservative East County Republican.
Anderson's been an unwavering same-sex-marriage opponent and seems dead-set on making it easier for the state to execute people, last year introducing legislation that would have allowed death-by-suffocation. That's twisted.
His challenger is a guy named Fotios "Frank" Tsimboukakis, a Democrat who's running a populist campaign that includes a plan to make California State University and University of California schools tuition-free and solar panels more affordable for property owners.
In the wide-open 36th District, there's only one person running, Orange County Supervisor and former state Assemblymember Pat Bates. The district includes parts of the OC, but it also includes Encinitas, Carlsbad, Vista and Oceanside. We repeat: It's an open seat. What's up, North County? Couldn't even muster a wacky gadfly? Bates in the past has been obsessed with sex offenders and has seemed to regard In Home Supportive Services workers as probable criminals. We can't endorse her.
Ben Hueso was elected to the 40th District seat last year in a special election, and he's running again, against South Bay community organizer Rafael Estrada. We've never been a fan of Hueso, but judging from his website, Estrada seems to be a one-issue guy—getting employers to stop classifying employees as independent contractors. So, we'll endorse Hueso. Whatever.
For Senate, we endorse Fotios "Frank" Tsimboukakis (38) and Ben Hueso (40).
Three state Assembly members are running unopposed: Republican Rocky Chavez in the 76th District and Democrats Shirley Weber (79th) and Lorena Gonzalez (80th). We endorsed all three (Chavez and Weber in 2012 and Gonzalez, who won a special election, last year) and have no problem with them staying put. Democrat Toni Atkins, who was recently elected Assembly Speaker, has two challengers in the 78th District, but they pose no threat.
In the 71st District, sci-fi author Tony Teora is challenging incumbent Brian Jones. Both are Republicans, but only one has written a book about a "neurotic computer" that "gains consciousness, and starts communicating with evil incompetent aliens from afar."
In the 75th, there's no one challenging illegal-immigrant-obsessed, spelling-challenged Marie Waldron (according to her website, she's an "ardent supporter of creating a state boarder [sic] police and completing the unfinished boarder [sic] fence"), and that's a bummer. Accordingly, we have no endorsement in that race.
We endorsed Brian Maienschein for the 77th in the 2012 primary because we appreciated the work he did as the United Way of San Diego County's commissioner of the Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. Before we wrote the endorsement for that year's general election, we phoned him up for a quick interview. No response. Nada. So we rescinded our endorsement, and he's refused to talk to us since. Maienschein's again being challenged by Democrat Ruben Hernandez, who's still got our 2012 endorsement on his website. Ruben: Keep it there! Brian: You have our number.
For Assembly, thumbs up to Tony Teora (71), Rocky Chavez (76), Ruben Hernandez (77), Toni Atkins (78), Shirley Weber (79) and Lorena Gonzalez (80).
This measure would take $600 million in bond money that had been earmarked for military-vet homeownership programs—money that's been sitting idle—and use it to instead help pay for housing for low-income vets and supportive housing (housing plus services) for homeless vets—all without raising taxes. We can't think of a reason not to support this one. Vote Yes on Prop. 41.
This one's a no-brainer for anyone who prioritizes government transparency or who suffered emotional distress last year when Gov. Jerry Brown attempted to neuter the California Public Records Act by making compliance optional. Prop. 42 would codify the obligation of all government agencies to comply with all aspects of the CPRA, which requires disclosure of government records upon request. It would do the same for the Brown Act, which requires that meetings of local legislative bodies be properly noticed and open to the public.
This proposition is especially pertinent for San Diegans, whose government is notorious for improperly delaying requests. The state is supposed to reimburse agencies for costs associated with compliance, but it often doesn't. Local governments have used this as an excuse not to comply. Prop. 42 would make it local governments' responsibility to foot the bill so there can be no confusion. Please, vote yes on Prop 42.