Who to Vote for on June 5: A Progressive’s Opinion
Progressive Humboldt County Attorney Eric V. Kirk offers his endorsements for political office in the following opinion piece:
Before I get into my candidate endorsements, let me discuss the current voting system which was passed by voters (not by me!) a few years back eliminating party primary contests. Basically, you don’t win a party nomination. Everyone interested in a position runs in a primary race regardless of party and the top two vote getters run off against each other in November (I won’t repeat my strong objections to this system – it’s the reality).
I dug up an old formula I wrote back in 2002 when I was justifying my vote for Peter Camejo, the Green Party candidate for Governor that year. Obviously I was criticized for “splitting the progressive vote” and not voting for Gray Davis (who would win that election but lose office to a recall effort less than a year later). More often I have third party supporters criticizing me for voting for a Democrat with the tired old line of voting for “the evil of two lessers.”
My approach to electoral politics is a bit different from most. I don’t see an election as an opportunity to install someone who will enact all of the policies I like. Nobody but me would enact all of the policies I like, and actually given the nature of power and politics even I wouldn’t enact all of the policies I like. It’s not necessarily about voting for someone I respect or like, though sometimes I can do that. As someone who is an activist, I vote strategically – that is I vote from the selection of candidates who have realistic chances of winning the office, and from them I select the one who would be most vulnerable to the pressures to bear from the movements of which I am a part. Usually, that person is a Democrat. But sometimes that’s just not a choice.
At the time, I wrote up the following approach:
I have a formula for voting. Basically, I vote for progressive candidates, and I’m not wedded to any particular party. Being a realist to a certain extent, I tend to vote Michael Harrington’s “left wing of the possible.” This means I vote for Democrats for the most part, unless they piss me off enough to toss a vote in the direction of a left wing “third” party. The third party of choice these days is the Green Party, having replaced the hapless Peace and Freedom Party which appears finally to have been buried in a coffin laden with nails of sectarianism. The Green Party is a bit more diverse, mature, and possessive of a surprising level of savvy and depth. The basic formula, in which I consider the following:
- Is the race close?
2. Does the ideology of the office holder really matter for the office in question?”
3. Is the Democrat worth promoting for some possible run for an office where ideology does matter?
4. Does the third party candidate have a brain?
5. How bad is the Republican?
First, my style of writing is a bit different now, but that’s not important at the moment. The approach applied to general elections with multiple parties on the ballot. Now we have the multiple parties in the primary, and despite my kvetching, I do appreciate that we have to worry less about splitting votes now. I will say that for me there is no point in voting for the frontrunner in the new primary format. That is a wasted vote. What we are selecting is the front-runner’s opponent. Who gets to go up against the front-runner? I can always vote for the front-runner in the general if the second place finisher is bad or I actually really like the front-runner (doesn’t happen often).
So at this point in California history, for the statewide positions no Republican is a front-runner, and in many cases they won’t even be in the general at all. But unless I am afraid that a second place Republican will somehow defeat the Democrat in the general, I am free to vote for the person I like for second place. Of course, the choice might be more difficult if I really dislike the front-runner.
Governor – Delaine Easton
There are four major Democrats running. The front-runner is Lt. Governor and ex-mayor of SF Gavin Newsom. He wasn’t the worst mayor, but he wasn’t the best either.
There is a slew of candidates running against him. Among them are three big name Democrats and two big name Republicans (neither of whom has a prayer of winning the office). The Democrats are former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Treasurer John Chiang, and former California Superintendent of Schools Delaine Eastin. If Villaraigosa or Chiang come in second I will probably vote for him in the Fall as they are more progressive, more responsive, and more vulnerable to pressures from the movements I support than Newsom. But it’s kind of hard to support a candidate who was at war with the teachers in Los Angeles. And Chiang is fine, but boring – hasn’t distinguished himself at all. Granted, that’s probably hard to do as Treasurer, but do you know what he stands for?
Eastin has a great record of advocating for schools, and was actually the first major education-related office holder to advocate for LGBT students as a matter of open policy. She is pro-single payer. She is backed by a number of progressive figures, including Tom Ammiano and Harry Brit of Newsom’s home town.
I wrote the above some days ago, but in a poll released on the day I’m typing this, Trump-endorsed Republican John Cox pulled ahead of Villaraigosa in the latest poll. Still well behind Newsom, but I want a better choice than that. If that poll proves to be other than an outlier, I may vote for Villaraigosa just to shut Cox out.
Lt. Governor – Gayle McLaughlin
There are several big name Democrats spending a lot of money in the race and I don’t really see much difference between them. McLaughlin is a true progressive who was voted Mayor of Richmond as a Green Party member. She helped to create the Richmond Progressive Alliance which fought the water and air poisoning by Chevron, which had pretty much run the town up until then. She also pushed for eminent domain takeover of mortgages during the financial crisis in order to cut working people some breaks. She only left the Green Party to vote for Bernie.
And why compromise politics for a position in which the office holder spends most of the time stacking paperclips?
Attorney General – Dave Jones
The incumbent Xavier Beccera has been a very effective bulwark against Trump’s legal initiatives (he’s filed over 30 lawsuits against the President) and I would love to support that continuity. But Dave Jones was really good for consumers as Insurance Commissioner and he opposes the death penalty. I really don’t appreciate Beccera’s implying that an opponent of the death penalty is incapable of enforcing the law. And I especially don’t appreciate his acceptance of max donations from oil and tobacco interests.
There are two Republicans in the race, but so far neither has really made a move in the polls. But Bailey in particular is bad news and if he makes a move like Cox appears to be doing in the Governor’s race, I may reconsider. However, it doesn’t seem to be an issue.
Secretary of State – Erik Rydberg
Alex Padilla, the incumbent, is going to win this thing. There are two Democrats, two Republicans, Two Green Party candidates, a Libertarian, and a Peace and Freedom Party candidate. Padilla is one of the Democrats of course. The second is unknown Ruben Major, who managed to collect 16 percent of the delegates at the Democratic Party convention despite having no money and no name recognition. The main Republican Mark Meuser is a nut-job attorney from Walnut Creek echoing Trump’s claims of voter fraud, but has so far failed to offer any evidence of it. He just wants a photo-ID requirement. I can’t even remember his name.
Look, Padilla is going to win, so why not support Erik Rydberg? Erik, one of the two Greens, lives in Eureka and he’s young with strong leadership potential. He’s worked hard helping to gather signatures for Humboldt Sanctuary and I’ve gotten to know him. I don’t agree with all of his politics or his broad political strategy, which is why I’m not in the Green Party. But he’s got energy, enthusiasm, and I believe his politics will evolve with experience. Not that he will mainstream his politics necessarily but remember his name. You may hear it again.
Controller – Mary Lou Finley
Only three candidates running. Betty Yee who is a decent progressive – supports alternative energy, opposes fracking, is pro-union, etc. She’s going to win. So who gets to run against her? Choices are a Republican – a boring cookie-cutter one at that – and an older hippie named Mary Lou Finley, a retired teacher from San Diego running as a Peace and Freedom candidate with all the right (left) positions on everything.
Treasurer – Kevin Akin
Fiona Ma is the only candidate whose name on Wikipedia has a hyperlink to her own Wiki page. The rest are unknown. Ma will win and be Treasurer until she makes a later move to Controller or Lite Governor or something. Ma wasn’t particularly progressive or interesting in the SF Board of Supes or the legislature, and she caters to power and wealth.
Kevin Akin supports a public bank. He helped form the Peace and Freedom Party, which probably means my parents met/knew him in the mid 1960s. He brags that he was beaten up by cops in Chicago, 1968. He was active in CORE and the anti-war movement. And he and his wife wrote a book entitled Numismatic Archeology of North America – is that cool or what?
Superintendent of Public Instruction – Tony Thurmond
Progressive in all the right ways, though a bit of a suit when it comes to politics. He was part of the progressive coalition in Richmond, but didn’t get support from the Richmond Progressive Alliance because he took corporate donations. Still he’s done well by at-risk students, immigrants, the environment, and other progressive constituencies. Known for establishing funds for effective needle-exchange program and HIV prevention. Also, he’s black, Latino, and Jewish which I think gives him an exceptionally broad range of experience and perspective.
Insurance Commissioner – Ricardo Lara
Lara is the son of undocumented immigrant parents who is a bona fide progressive. Supports single payer. Authored the Super Pollutant Reduction Act which enacted the nation’s toughest restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. He passed legislation aimed at restorative justice and protecting children from abuses in the criminal justice system. Helped pass the bill ensuring medical care to undocumented children. Introduced a bill which would prohibit state contracts with companies helping to build Trump’s border wall. Seems like a good advocate for consumers and possibly a future contender for Governor, Senator, or the Presidency.
State Board of Equalization District 2 – Who cares?
Vote for any one of the three who isn’t Mark Burns. He’s a reactionary.
The Board really does nothing of great importance. It’s just a resume position for people aspiring to a higher office, but probably won’t get anywhere. Basically a Hollywood Squares of California politics.
US Senator – Kevin De Leon
First, I want to say that I find the argument against Feinstein that she should retire on the bases of her 84 year age to be ageist and sexist. There is no indication that she is losing cognition and this kind of pressure was never put on segregationist Strom Thurmond who persisted as Senator past 100 years old. It’s a double standard applied to older women.
But my choice of De Leon as the standard bearer of more progressive politics has more to do with her politics. She is a military hawk, a consummate moderate on domestic issues, and a party functionary. I blame the current Manhattanization of the SF skyline on her opposition to growth control in the 1980s when as Mayor of the City she never met a high rise she didn’t like.
De Leon is far from perfect. His press conference for gun control in which he demonstrated a complete lack of knowledge of the weapon in his hand is an embarrassment which will follow him around for his entire career. It also appears that the company behind the Cadiz Water Project (diverting water from San Bernadino to Orange County against many environmentalist and other concerns) bought his support with large donations. And he is a bit of a suit.
But he supports single payer, has pledged to vote for Bernie’s Medicare for All bill, and has taken stands against aggressive foreign policy and for Palestinian rights which distinguishes him from the incumbent. And he relies on grassroots support which makes him vulnerable to grassroots pressure.
US Congress – Andy Caffrey
I am really disappointed in Jared Huffman’s endorsements of local candidates made without local Democratic Party input after he had pledged to consult with them after a similar controversy four years ago. There have been other disappointments, but generally speaking he supports progressive agendas, and does so effectively even with the crazy state of national politics.
But we are voting for second place here and the framing of discussion for the November election. I like Dale, the perennial Republican running because no other Republican will bother in this very blue district. I always enjoyed his conversation and humor while checking out at Ray’s Market in Redway.
But the obvious choice for second place is Andy. Most of you know him.
State Senate – Veronica Jacobi
Much more progressive than Mike McGuire. Since there are only two candidates, there is no vote splitting to concern us.
Assembly – Jim Wood
I really wish there was a progressive alternative as Wood was instrumental in blocking California’s chance at a single payer system. He’s basically a moderate party functionary. But there is a Republican in this race and he’s obsessed with the usual – opposes the gas tax and supports deregulation. You go to his website and the home page has a big red sign which reads “Freedom,” and it makes me think of the final scene in Braveheart with Mel Gibson raising his fist to the cry… It was a bad movie and Heath is a horrible candidate. And Wood is more vulnerable to movement pressure. So I’m stuck voting for Wood.
That brings us to Humboldt County, and my policy is to only endorse candidates for whom I will vote. But obviously I support Madrone in the 5th. I’m not quite sure whom I would support in the 4th, but there are good choices there. Nobody issued challenges to incumbents for D.A. (first time this century that D.A.’s race is uncontested), Sheriff, etc. We have two contested races.
Auditor-Controller – Karen Paz Dominguez
She is an enthusiastic worker at the office and her work has brought her up in the ranks, even if her blunt honesty has led to some intense opposition. I’m not even sure if her opponent, Mike Lorig, is even into the race. One gets the feeling that he was dragged away from retirement plans to run against her.
Seriously, “the establishment” is against her. Four supervisors (guess which) endorsed her opponent. Apparently, she’s reported problems to the Board and to the public and some are less than appreciative of her delivery. But that’s not a reason to vote against someone who takes so seriously her obligation to the community as a whole.
Please don’t pay attention to the whisper campaigns as anonymous people post rumors on social media that she wants to rob all the rural fire districts of their money to conduct pointless audits, or that she carried on about a microwave oven until it was removed. There is information available, so please read the stories thoroughly and even better, contact her campaign and she will tell you what these stories are about, and what they aren’t about. You will be won over by her intelligence, passion, and commitment.
In the meantime, give her your vote.
Superior Court Judge – Lathe Gill
For the third time since I’ve moved to Humboldt County (1996) we have a contested race for a vacant Superior Court judge position. The great thing this time around is that both candidates are good.
Lawrence Killoran appears to have the bulk of the local Bar support. He has the most trial experience of the two. He is basically progressive, smart, and competent. In any other race I would probably endorse him.
But Lathe Gill, currently working as local union rep for the CTA, is particularly good for the position. Among other things he has pledged to advocate for the establishment of mental health court and homeless court. He would advocate to reopen courtrooms in remote areas of the county such as Sohum and Willow Creek. He would advocate to reestablish later clerk hours and expand accessibility now that funding has improved.
But what moves me most about him is the eloquence with which he describes his passion around the recognition of trauma, particularly childhood, as a significant factor to consider in justice. Naturally he can’t promise to rule in any particular way, but his particular life and job experiences as well as his broader philosophies suggest a very progressive influence in his jurisprudence, and we don’t often have opportunities to elect a candidate of his caliber.
And the thing is, we vote Lathe into office and we can still have Lawrence, who would most likely be appointed to another Superior Court position which is opening up.
Tomorrow, we will post Eric Kirk’s recommendations for the Propositions.