Published Jun 6, 2010

Here at, we take our civic responsibilities seriously. Therefore, we’re happy to tell you how to vote. For best functioning of our state, follow our recommendations exactly. I’ve provided endorsements for both Democratic and Republican candidates below, often accompanied by pithy, meaningless statements to give you a reason to follow my recommendation. (If you want to vote for a third party, well, go for it, but I won’t pretend it matters.)

Governor - Jerry Brown (D) or Steve Poizner ®. On the Democratic side, former Governor Jerry Brown is the only viable candidate. He also brings extensive experience at every level in the state, which should give him the tools to accomplish something in Sacramento — goodness knows, nobody else has so far. On the Republican side, Whitman and Poizner have essentially labeled themselves in identical, conventionally-Republican ways. It’s hard to assess whether or not the positions they’ve taken, which seem to be driven by national trends, are particularly relevant to California sensibilities or not. Because the positions are so nationally-driven and so short on statewide content, it’s also hard predict what policies either candidate will pursue if elected. However, Poizner has been a solid Insurance Commissioner, bringing interesting ideas and a good combination of pro-business and pro-consumer sensibilities. He gets the nod on his record.

Lieutenant Governor - Janice Hahn (D) or Abel Maldonado ®. Janice Hahn has been a very effective councilwoman here in Los Angeles and is well-qualified for the higher office. Abel Maldonado, despite the mud slung against him for his role in the recent budget compromise, actually seems to be somebody who does something in Sacramento, and there are precious few people who are actually prepared to make any vote that makes any difference there at all.

Secretary of State - Debra Bowen (D) or Damon Dunn ®. Debra Bowen has done an excellent job as Secretary of State, keeping California moving towards a digital future. Dunn is running against the execrable Orly Taitz, who not only has been a strong exponent of the wacky Birther movement but also seems to have pursued her related legal battles with a singular lack of competence, being sanctioned again and again by courts.

Controller - John Chiang (D) or Tony Strickland ®. Chiang has done a competent enough job so far, and deserves re-election. Of the two Republican candidates, Strickland is the only one with a true background as a legislator and businessman. His past actions suggest that he may have ability to get things done in Sacramento.

Attorney General - Kamala Harris (D) or Steve Cooley ®. Steve Cooley has done an excellent job as DA in Los Angeles County, with an efficient record of prosecution with limited resources. This record has far exceeded that of former City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, who is perhaps best remembered for how his drunk, uninsured, not-licensed-to-drive, chronically-in-trouble wife crashed his city car, and who therefore doesn’t get my endorsement. In contrast, everyone I know in the Bay Area seems to have good things to say about Kamala Harris. Her record appears strong and, like Cooley, she has the experience for the post.

Insurance Commissioner - Pick ‘em (D) or Mike Villines ®. I’ve extensively studied the two Democratic candidates and can’t find any substantive difference between them, so vote for whomever you like. Villines has a strong record in Sacramento, although, if you’re a Republican, you may be bothered by his support for a lot of what sounds like pieces of the Obama healthcare plan.

State Board of Equalization - I seriously can’t believe that we vote for this. Who can keep track of all this?

Senator - Barbara Boxer (D) or Tom Campbell ®. The competitors to Boxer on the Democratic side aren’t strong, and, besides, she’s shockingly become the stronger of the two California Senators. Tom Campbell has an extensive political record in California, with a very California-like combination of progressive social positions and conservative fiscal ones.

US Representative - Jane Harman (D) or None ®. Jane Harman has done a great job representing our district. Her opponent, Marcy Winograd, is a smart woman with many great ideas, but her down-the-line support of mainstream progressive positions, as much as I agree with them, doesn’t match with the needs of our defense industry-heavy district. On the other side, we have to choose between two Tea Party candidates and one person who moved from DC to Venice just in time to enter the race. Just as the Easterner represents issues that aren’t relevant to this district, so does the Tea Party at large. California needs its own solutions to our problems.

State Senator - Jenny Oropeza (D) or John Stammreich ®. I think these are our only two options. Sorry if I missed a Republican candidate.

State Assembly - Kate Anderson (D) or None ®. Kate Anderson lives just down the street from me, and has been endorsed by Henry Waxman. However, it’s true that all of the major Democrats running in this race have impressive endorsement lists, particularly Betsy Butler, who is endorsed by pretty much every reproductive rights organization out there, and former Green candidate Peter Thottam, who’s got a wide left-wing roll behind him. There’s a lot to like here if you are a Democrat and want to look beyond traditional LA power structures. The GOP opponent is Nathan Mintz, a big Tea Partier. I have some respect for some of the Tea Party positions, but haven’t heard them translated into something that confronts Southern California issues, so I won’t endorse a Tea Party candidate here throughout.

Judicial - I have no idea how to develop a meaningful opinion here, and don’t think you do either. Judges should be appointed, or appointed for a term with confirmation via election, or something like that.

Superintendent of Public Education - Gloria Romero. I’m embarrassed that I don’t have a strong, educated opinion here. This is, in theory, an important position, although I will say that Education doesn’t work in California and probably won’t no matter who we vote for. Gloria Romero did very, very well in the state Senate for Southern California, so I’m inclined to endorse her here, although I should state that the LA Times likes Larry Aceves. However, it’s my inclination to believe that, when somebody has done something well, they’ll do something else that’s similar well also. Thus, Romero.

County Assessor - Anybody but John Noguez, who is endorsed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association. Not that I’m against lower taxes, but I’m against a blind adherence to them under all circumstances, and that’s what Howard Jarvis is about.

Sheriff - Lee Baca. He’s done a good job, and really reformed the police force that ol’ Sherm Block left him.

Proposition 13 - Yes. This is a simple enough proposition that I’m sure there’s a catch here, but I just can’t see what’s wrong with it. Making seismic retrofits not trigger a property tax reassessment should mean more seismic retrofits, which is a good thing.

Proposition 14 - No. This proposition totally changes how elections work, by making primary elections a free-for-all and then advancing the top two candidates to the general election. If you’re for election reform, there are a lot of good ideas of how to do that, and this proposition includes none of them. It does, however, potentially subject us to a ton of unintended consequences, including general elections with no meaningful candidate differences, if only centrists are nominated; and the ability of a party to knock another party’s candidates out of the election altogether just by mobilizing a high primary turnout. Frankly, I think if parties want to continue to make idiot nominations, they should feel free to do so.

Proposition 15 - Yes. If you’re for election reform, then this is a shot at reform that shouldn’t cost us much of anything. If you’re not for election reform, well, maybe nobody will use these public funds. This is a simple, small enough proposition that it’s worth trying.

Proposition 16 - No. This is incumbent energy companies’ shot at preventing new entrants. They’ve dragged their feet in implementing green energy and, now that voters have begun to indicate they’re prepared to approve bond issues and other expenditures to bring locally-financed green energy producers online, the big energy companies are trying to make it procedurally impossible to do so. If they’re worried about the threat of green energy, they should respond in the marketplace, not by restricting citizens’ rights by proposition.

Proposition 17 - No. Another power grab by an industry leader, this is auto insurance’s (mostly Mercury, from what I understand) attempt to find another reason to raise rates. They have a variety of reasons that are permitted under law — a much wider variety than available in most states — but want to be able to raise the rates for people who have any gap in their coverage. I had a gap in my medical coverage about a year ago when somehow Blue Cross decided not to process my automatic payment. How easy would it be for a payment to go astray, coverage to be canceled, and a gap in coverage created to justify a rate raise?

Proposition E - No. It’s hard to make this decision: I’m usually inclined to support any kind of investment in schools. But LAUSD has hardly proven itself to be well-run over the past few years, with mediocre educational results and a total clusterf**k of a payroll system. In addition, a lot of this spending is unallocated — principals can spend it as they wish. Is it good this money goes to classrooms? Yes. Is it a problem that there isn’t a consistent pedagogical goal for it? Yes. Does $100 a parcel seem high for all of this? Yes. Should we vote for this? No.