Election 2010: The Candidates

Election 2010 is upon us, with one of the longest ballots we've seen in quite some time. There are major races going on for nearly every statewide executive office, plus one at senator, one at Congress in your area, the State Assembly, dozens of judicial positions, several county offices, two city council slots, one mayoral seat, 9 statewide ballot propositions and one local measure. Let's get started why don't we?

Governor: Jerry Brown This gubernatorial election pits erstwhile governor and current sitting California Attorney General Jerry Brown against former eBay CEO and self-financed neophyte candidate Meg Whitman. It would be trite for me to take the easy way out and back my support for Jerry Brown solely by sharing with you Meg Whitman's negatives (of which there are many), so let's begin by talking about why Jerry Brown is the right candidate in this race.

During his first go-round as chief executive, Brown was often derided as "Governor Moonbeam," a label most of his supporters actually viewed as a compliment and a nod toward his forward thinking and willingness to explore new ways to tackle the state's problems. Whitman has made plenty of hay painting Brown as a tool of the labor unions and a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. These allegations are simply untrue, so much so that I have often found myself in opposition to many of Brown's policies and ideas. Brown does a remarkable job toeing the line between his personal beliefs and the "will of the people."

While Whitman castigates Brown for opposing Prop. 13, which he did, initially, once it passed he dove headlong into the work of implementing -- and enforcing -- California's landmark property tax law. In fact, he was so effective at bringing Prop. 13 into law that he was endorsed by Howard Jarvis the next time he was up for re-election.

When Whitman tries to tar Brown as a patsy for the labor unions, there are a few things she fails to mention. First of all, nearly every prominent labor union in the state endorsed Brown's opponents in the CA Democratic primary. He still won 84% of the vote. The fact that those same unions have thrown their support behind Brown in the general says much more about their opinion of Meg Whitman than it does Jerry Brown. Second, it's a little known fact that Jerry Brown, in his previous life as Governor of California, twice vetoed statewide pay raises for unionized public sector employees in direct opposition to lobbying from organized labor. Additionally, as far back as the early 1980s, Brown was calling for pension reforms that would have shifted public employees to defined-contribution pension plans...the very change reformers are clambering for today in 2010. Governor Moonbeam indeed.

Whitman also cites Brown's opposition to the death penalty, first of all as some sort of moral failing and secondly on the insinuation that Brown will not enforce the punishment once it's imposed by the courts. Tell that to Albert Greenwood Brown.

Jerry Brown remains a forward thinker to this day. He's a strong proponent of alternative energy research and implementation, he supports AB 32 (the "green jobs" bill) and opposes Proposition 23 (which would handcuff enforcement of AB32 with onerous and unrealistic economic restrictions). He views the immigration issue on moral grounds as one of human rights (as opposed to human chattel), and he has stood up to labor unions, even as he praises the value of organized labor and the contributions of the working class. Brown also supports Proposition 25, which would amend the state budgetary process so that it would only take 50%-plus-1 a simple majority vote to pass the budget, rather than the two-thirds majority that currently handcuffs the process each and every year.

Jerry Brown is the only candidate with the experience, the knowledge, the moral fiber, the historical perspective and the fresh ideas necessary to fix California's economic woes.

Meg Whitman, you ask? She's the candidate who never voted in 28 years of residency in this state and then blew $165-million (and counting) of her own money in a quixotic bid to become governor of what she herself views as a sinking ship.

US Senator: Barbara Boxer The fact of the matter here is that Barbara Boxer is a liberal lioness. She voted against the Iraq War; she's sponsored clean water and clean air legislation; she's designated more than 1 million acres of public land as protected wilderness; passed legislation protecting after-school programs for more than 1 million California schoolchildren; written laws penalizing corporations that take their profits off-shore to avoid paying taxes; helped secure funding for public transportation programs up-and-down the state; written laws expanding federal mortgage assistance programs and protecting consumers from predatory lending and mortgage fraud. The list goes on, and you can read it here. This is a track record that shouts out for a return trip to Capitol Hill.

Senator Boxer's opponent is Carly Fiorina, who has the backing of Sarah Palin and the dubious distinction of getting herself fired from her last job as the failed CEO of Hewlett-Packard (but not without taking a $120-million golden parachute) after shipping 30,000 HP jobs overseas. Fiorina, much like Meg Whitman, believes somehow that her resume qualifies her to go to Washington to represent the 6th largest economy on the world. NOT.

Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom Gavin Newsom earned the liberal vote with his fearless willingness to take up the issue of gay marriage. It was largely through his efforts that the barriers against gay marriage have really begun to fall. He's been a good steward as Mayor of San Francisco -- one of America's finest cities -- and he would do well representing the state in Governor Brown's absence. His opponent is Santa Maria's own, Abel Maldonado, a candidate whose chief purpose in holding this office is as a stepping stone to his own gubernatorial run.

One thing you should know about Maldonado is this: His hurried appointment as Lt. Governor earlier this year forced two additional unscheduled and extremely expensive elections on cash-starved counties, a June primary and an August special election to seat his replacement in the state Senate. If Ahnald had waited another couple of months to make the appointment, the special elections would have been unnecessary, but Maldonado played political hardball and put the screws to Schwarzenegger to get the seat early, costing SLO County hundreds of thousands of dollars it just doesn't have.

Attorney General: Kamala Harris If you need one reason to vote for Kamala Harris, this is it: Prop H8. Harris is on record as saying that she will refuse to defend California's ant-gay marriage Proposition 8 in the court of appeals, much the same as current AG Jerry Brown. Harris contends gay marriage is a human rights issue, and efforts to limit it are unconstitutional. Her opponent, Steve Cooley, is on record saying he'll take the fight over Prop H8 all the way to the US Supreme Court. You can see her speak out very powerfully on the issue right here. "It's about fairness under the laws of the Constitution of the United States. Let all people be free..."

Secretary of State: Debra Bowen The incumbent Democrat, Bowen has done well to implement new technologies and early voting procedures throughout the state. She deserves your vote to continue her work.

Treasurer: Bill Lockyer Again, this Democratic incumbent has provided good stewardship of the state's finances during one of the most difficult economic periods in its history. Lockyer's opponent, a right-wing, "smaller government" Republican from behind the Orange Curtain, would solve the state's fiscal woes by trying to privatize everything in sight.

Controller John Chiang John Chiang is a stand up progressive who opposed Ahnold when he wanted to reduce all state workers to minimum wage, continues to fight against furlough pay schemes and, as an added bonus, told Abel Maldonado to pound sand when the "humble" Santa Maria strawberry farmer tried to expense more than $100,000 in office remodel costs into one of his state Senate bills.

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones Dave Jones is the man with his finger in the dike holding the wall against the health insurance industry. It's a tough job and water is definitely spilling over the breach, but he's fighting the good fight. Besides, when the alternative is a free-marketeer squarely in the insurance industry's back pocket, the choice is clear: Dave Jones.

US Congressional Representative, CA 23-rd District: Lois Capps Lois Capps has settled in as one of the progressive wing's most steadfast and seasoned legislators. She opposed the Iraq War, was deeply involved in getting President Obama's health care reform bill passed, and supported the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. She's pro-choice, and she supports letting the Bush tax cuts expire on those making more than $250,000. This is my congresswoman, and I'm proud her her accomplishments, even in the face of some of the most shrill and unreasonable criticism I've ever seen in politics. This grandmother and former school nurse is a strong candidate with a proven track record on progressive issues. She'd probably even call herself a proud liberal.

California State Assembly, 33rd District: Hilda Zacharias Zacharias, the Democrat is this race, supports statewide budget reform (in the form of Proposition 25). She opposes and new offshore oil drilling along the California coastline; she supports CA Proposition 21 (which generates new funding for state parks through a small bump in vehicle license fees); she supports AB 32 and opposes Prop 23. Her opponent, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Katcho Achadjian comes down on the opposite side on each of those issues. Most tellingly, perhaps, is that the San Luis Obispo Tribune has endorsed Hilda Zacharias (a veritable unknown in our County), rather than Katcho, a fixture in local politics for years.

San Luis Coastal Unified School District Jim Quesenberry I contacted the SLO Coastal Teachers Association to talk this race over with them. They are pushing hard for Jim Quesenberry, a recently retired teacher of 39 years, including 22 years at Morro Bay High School. The goal here is to get a teacher on the school board, which is currently populated by former administrators, lawyers and a lawyer's aide. If you agree that school district budgets are top-heavy with administrators (and note that the superintendent of our County schools makes more than the CA State Superintendent) then vote for Jim Quesenberry.

SLO County Sheriff-Coroner: Joe Cortez I know this will seem odd, but I just woke up this morning with the feeling that I should have gone the other way in this race. I recall during the primary (in which I voted for Parkinson) thinking, "You know, I like a lot of what I've heard from Joe Cortez." I'll admit this is a gut feeling, but Cortez has been chief of three police departments, most recently Pismo Beach, while Parkinson has never served as a chief executive. In addition, Parkinson has been linked to some questionable dealings, including a misleading campaign mailer, a case in which he testified as an expert witness in a case involving a family member (apparently without disclosing that fact).

SLO County Sheriff-Coroner Ian Parkinson With the endorsement of both SLO County law enforcement labor unions, it's clear to me that Ian Parkinson has earned the respect of the deputies on the street, they same ones he's going to have to lead from the day he steps into the office.

City of San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx While I like Paul Brown a lot, I believe Jan Marx has shown the temperament, know-how, dedication and forward-thinking to guide San Luis Obispo along into the future. She supports green energy legislation and is an advocate for practical water conservation programs, enhanced neighborhood watch programs and expanded alternative transportation programs (including additional bike routes). Marx supports development of a large-scale homeless shelter combining the Prado Day Center and the Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter. She is against Measure H, which means, as we've discussed before, she's for the Prado Road Extension from So. Higuera Street to Broad Street.

City Council: Andrea Miller and Andrew Carter I know my endorsements in this City Council race may seem counter-intuitive, as these candidates are in many ways opposites.

I'm voting for Andrea Miller because I respect the work she did on the Planning Commission and I value her concerns for protecting the downtown core. I live right downtown, as does Andrea. Her concern for the vibrancy and vitality of the downtown area and the general welfare and day-to-day safety of our local neighborhoods are powerful issues. I've seen enough graffiti, vandalism, homelessness and over-the-top aggressive panhandling to know that these are the very problems that make tourists uncomfortable and drive residents indoors instead of downtown to enjoy our jewel of a city. I'm counting on Andrea to help win the fight on these issues.

I'm voting for Andrew Carter because, while I'll admit he's a bit curmudgeonly and sometimes off-putting, I believe he does his homework and is -- as he'll be the first to tell you -- the most qualified candidate on the ballot.

Next Up: The Ballot Propositions!

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