By now, all registered voters should have received their California State and County Information Guide and Official Vote-By-Mail Ballots. In retirement, I have decided to comb through these guides a little more carefully than before and to share some thoughts as to why I have made my choices. I will suggest some candidates, but I solicit challenges to my choices. My goal is to get this out soon so that we can advise each other on how best to serve the needs of our local, state, federal, and global communities. The June 6 primary sets the stage for the critical midterm elections in November. The very republic is at stake.
If there is one thing we have learned in the course of the past few years, it is that local elections are as vital to sustaining democracy as are elections at the state and federal level. For example, dark money forces supporting right wing extremism have already triggered an exodus of educational leadership in the Placentia Yorba Linda Unified School District. Moreover, this district has stopped being a desirable destination for the best young teachers. The current PYLUSD School Board harms institutions, programs, and people that greatly deserve our support. There is little we can do to help the PYLUSD this year, but we can limit the damage that its Board can inflict by voting properly in the County Board elections.
My method in compiling this was, first and foremost, to read the candidates’ statements. It is possible to learn a lot about a candidate’s values in a few hundred words. Very few of the politicians, however, ventured far beyond the realm of cliché and partisan code words in their statements. Predictably, all of the Republican statements promoted the array of catchphrases we have come to associate them with on issues such as taxes and immigration. Some went even further to engage the “government overreach” in regard to mask and vaccine programs on behalf of public safety. None of the Republican candidates had anything meaningful to say about the two defining issues of the present: climate change and the Big Lie assertion that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Republicans will remain the Big Lie Party (BLP) until they come to grips with the fact that their entire elected leadership has challenged the constitutional order.
Another dimension of the BLP emerged the other day with the evident decision of the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. All of the right wing justices asserted in their confirmation hearings that Roe was established precedent and that is how they would view any of the myriad challenges to it coming from the states. All people of integrity knew they were lying then. The November midterms will be the most important election of our lives. We will either revive democracy or find ourselves descending into the religious authoritarianism of Hungary and Russia.
Thank You, California
At a time when Republicans in other states are using the Big Lie to make it harder for working people to vote, California has rightfully embraced both the ideals and the technology necessary to ensure that as many people as possible can vote. As the State Official Voter Information Guide indicates: “California remains an example to the rest of the country for conducting secure elections, for its commitment to voting rights, and for voter participation.” Can we begin to imagine a country in which it will be the burden of the state to prove that certain taxpayers do not have the right to vote rather than the burden of the taxpayers to prove to the state that they do? The burdens to voting in such repressive states are structured in a way that undermines voting among minorities. In those same states, a teacher who would point that fact out could lose her or his job. California offers much that can help the rest of the country out of its present turmoil. Our state election system, like that in such places as Oregon and Colorado, offers clear remedies to the crisis in voting rights that the BLP has imposed.
Methodology: Statements, Friends, and Orange Juice
Research often involves discoveries that are good as gold, and the one I stumbled upon in compiling this is The Orange Juice Blog: The OC’s Political Mosh Pit. Two of the blog’s authors are men who embody my own political philosophy, only with far more knowledge and acumen than me. Their names are Vern Nelson and Greg Diamond. Here is a brief summary of their political orientation in their own words:
Vern and Greg are both “mid-leftist” Democrats (think AOC and Bernie) who favor politicians who value accountability, transparency, effectiveness, lack of corrupt or self-serving motives, wide-eyed clarity of vision (“climate change is reeeeeal!”), social justice, civil rights and liberties, diversity, support for functioning democracies in both parties and governments, and not being thuggish violent totalitarians or rapacious ripoff artists. (Hi, Poseidon!) So that’s where these endorsements are coming from.
This brief excerpt shows that these men are not only astute but entertaining. Vern is a musician with a powerful political vision and Greg is a trained lawyer with a razor sharp strategic mind. I’ll admit now that Greg and Vern changed my vote on a few races. In fact, you might do well to stop reading this now and simply turn to their blog’s extensive voter guide or the briefer version.
Greg and Vern embody the truth that all politics is local, and few know the OC and its legacy better than these two. I learned a great deal from them about the recent political history of OC and am beginning to understand the legacy of Tony Rackauckus, as well as the line of power that extends from him to DA Todd Spitzer and Sheriff Don Barnes. Greg and Vern also do not think highly of the Democratic Party of OC leadership.
Greg is a strategic voter who brings the complex thinking of a political scientist to the ballot. Voting is more than about who wins and loses in a race, especially in a primary. Greg is a strong advocate for alternatives to the duopoly that has contributed to our political dysfunction. He is a strong believer in alternative parties to the Democrats’ left that will keep them from complacent rightward drifting. But it is important to be extremely careful about this, otherwise confusion prevails and Trumpism emerges victorious. The issue is that parties like the Greens and Peace and Freedom need at least 2 percent of the vote to remain on the ballot in future elections. I was convinced in a couple of cases to vote outside the list of Democratic candidates, but not in all that Greg recommended.
In a Democratic state like California, the primary for statewide offices are something of a formality. For example, Gavin Newsom will win in November. The only question is who will run against him. This raises the possibility of voting for someone who deserves the elevated profile that will come with running against Newsom in November. Theoretically, it is possible that Newsom could run against another Democrat or a Green considering the fiasco of Republican candidates that emerged in the wake of the recall effort. In these situations, I will indicate whether Greg convinced me to vote for the obvious Democrat or not. In those cases where I chose not to follow Greg, I’ll indicate his recommendation without going into explanation.
Finally, Greg endorsed a couple of BLP candidates. I just cannot. His endorsement pertains exclusively to nonpartisan offices where the BLP candidate has shown great character and high professional competence. I have dabbled a lot in the history of the Third Reich and am also aware that there were many very moral, kind, and excellent administrators who worked for the Nazi Party. They were, however, still Nazis. I just cannot vote for any Republican unless they have made a clear and unequivocal statement with regard to the integrity of the last presidential election. January 6 has defined all Republicans until they convince me otherwise. I will nevertheless indicate those Republicans that Greg endorsed.
The endorsements I offer will follow the four pages of the Sample Ballot provided in the Orange County Voter Guide.
Governor: Gavin Newsom
Last year’s effort to recall Governor Newsom was a massive waste of time and about $400 million of taxpayer money. The good news is that Newsom emerged even stronger from the recall both in relation to the amount of cash his campaign solicited and to the challengers he will face in November. It is possible but highly unlikely that a candidate will emerge from the current slate of Republicans in the Primary capable of giving Newsom much of a contest.
It is likely that Newsom’s book recounting his time in office will appear in the runup to his re-election bid. My friend Mark Arax, who is helping him write the book, has indicated that Newsom might have some interesting things to say about Elon Musk. Perhaps Newsom thinks that liberal California did a lot to promote the industry necessary to make the ungrateful Musk his Tesla billions.
Greg is not so enamored with Newsom. While he will most likely vote for Newsom in November, both he and Norm are strongly encouraging a vote for Joel Ventresca, a Democrat of high character and competence whose voice deserves a wider audience. I am tempted to vote for Ventresca but am sticking with Newsom.
Lieutenant Governor: Eleni Kounalakis
She is a former ambassador to Hungary who has done much to promote economic ties and environmental collaboration with such key states as Mexico and India. Unlike Republicans, she understands that wildfires and droughts are a symptom of climate change and not the result of forest management decisions and the lack of dams in the Sierras. Treating the causes of problems rather than their symptoms is a metaphor that could be extended much further here. She understands that California is a wealthy state whose continued well-being centers on affordable housing and education. She is fully committed to women’s reproductive rights.
Greg and Norm are not as enamored with Kounalakis; and their authority on her is much greater than mine. They both encourage a Third Party vote here for Mohammad Arif, the Peace and Freedom candidate.
Secretary of State: Shirley N. Weber
The role of Secretaries of State in sustaining election integrity has come to the forefront as Republicans persistently try to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election. Shirley Weber has played a key role in making California one of the most voter friendly states in the country. Governor Newsom appointed Weber to succeed Alex Padilla. Weber clearly understands the harmful role that dark money plays in our political processes. There is no meaningful election reform without knowing who is sponsoring our candidates. Money might be speech, but we should have the right to know who is speaking. We also need greater strictures on lobbyists.
Vern and Greg both endorse Matthew D. Cinquanta, a Green Party candidate listed as unaffiliated on the Information Guide. This protest vote tempts me a lot, especially since I am far more comfortable with the Green Party than the Peace and Freedom.
Controller: Malia M. Cohen
The Controller is the state’s accountant who monitors the payroll system, unclaimed property, and state operations. Ron Galperin and Malia M. Cohen both presented well-reasoned and even inspirational statements as to why they deserve our votes. Cohen’s statement included specific assertions on the importance of the environment as she would consider how best to invest the state’s funds. I have chosen Cohen on the perception that she is willing to commit resources to something that is too often neglected: childcare shortages that keep women of limited means from engaging the workforce. Childcare is a major factor in the growing homelessness in our cities. Professional childcare as part of a broader early childhood education program is one of the most important challenges we face as a society. Much of what is stated about homelessness focuses on the symptoms and not the causes. Cohen appears to have a perspective on this that needs to be considered.
Based on candidate’s statements alone, I was drawn to all four of the Democratic candidates vying for this position. Greg and Vern convinced me that Yvonne Yiu and Steve Glazer are not worth supporting. Should Cohen and Yiu split the women’s vote, a Galperin victory would not be a bad outcome. Glazer, however, is essentially a Republican running as a Democrat.
Treasurer: Undecided but Leaning Meghann Adams
This is a truly awful race. The BLP did not endorse either of its candidates, which may indicate that they are fine with Fiona Ma. Meghann Adams might be a very good protest vote that will help ensure the continued presence of the Peace and Freedom Party on the California ballot. A good school bus driver knows a lot of things, as does a good taxi driver!
Attorney General: Ron Bonta
Bonta will win in November, raising again the question of whether this is a good opportunity to elevate a Green. Should the two Republicans split the vote here, there is more than a snowball’s chance in hell that Kapelovitz could emerge as the challenger to Bonta. But not much more. This may be a good race in which to elevate the party most devoted to environmental issues!
Insurance Commissioner: Marc Levine
According to Greg and Vern, Marc Levine is an outstanding candidate, and the incumbent Lara has been a disappointment. It is possible that the November election could have a contest between these two candidates. I would love to see a candidate engage the extent to which refusal to follow covid protocols such as vaccines have raised health insurance costs for those of us who respect the medical profession and value science.
Member State Board of Equalization 4th Disctict: David Dodson
This one is a bit tricky. This position oversees the work of county assessors and is an important part of the accountability infrastructure that sustains our state’s fiscal health. According to Greg, the incumbent Democrat, Make Schaefer, is vulnerable to a scandal that is brewing around him. The Republicans appear to be waiting to reveal the scandal so as to undermine him after the primary. Both Greg and Vern endorse David Dodson because he is both the most qualified candidate and a strong showing by him would send a message to complacent Democratic Party strategists. Because there are five Republicans vying for this spot, there is a good chance for there to be a runoff between Dodson and Schaefer. It will then be the task of journalists and not hypocritical Republicans to reveal to the public the nature of the scandal around Schaefer.
United States Senator: Alex Padilla
No equivocation here on my part, though Greg and Vern play with strategic options on their site. When it counts, they will support Padilla. I wish him many years of continued service to the people of California and the United States.
United States Representative 45th District: Jay Chen
The revised congressional map has moved me from a district represented by the dreadful Young Kim to one potentially represented by the deplorable Michelle Steel. The good news is that Jay Chen has an opportunity to unseat Steel. Jay is a dream candidate who deserves whatever support we can provide. Read Vern Nelson’s endorsement of him here. Those of you in the revised district where Young Kim is running (District 40) have the opportunity to unseat her with Dr. Asif Mahmood. In District 46, Progressive Democrats would love to see a win by Mike Ortega. May the force of Katie Porter continue to be with us all!
Member of the State Assembly: 59th District: Nancy Watkins (write in)
The incumbent Republican Philip Chen is running unopposed in this primary. Vern and Greg had no advice on this one. I am recommending that everyone who reads this write in Nancy Watkins. I have not spoken to Nancy about this, and I am not even sure if her residence qualifies. (This is not, after all, Florida.) If she gets ten votes, she might even qualify for the November ballot. (A boy can dream.)
Judge of the Superior Court, Office no. 5: Kimberly La Salle
Strongly endorsed by both Greg and Vern. She has also received the embrace of UC Irvine’s Michele Goodwin, who has gotten a lot of attention recently with her brilliant analysis of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. La Salle’s voice is one that we need at a time when people seem once again inclined to embrace simplistic and deadly solutions to complicated problems.
Judge of the Superior Court, Office no. 9: Joe Dane
Strongly endorsed by both Vern and Greg. Christopher Duff is endorsed by Michelle Steel. For that reason alone, I would vote for Dane. But he is much more than the opponent of the man endorsed by the deplorable. He seems a genuinely respected and competent judge.
Judge of the Superior Court, Office no. 11: Marc A. Gibbons
Endorsed by both Vern and Greg. Compare the websites if you have any doubt as to the extent to which this non-partisan court race is partisan!
Judge of the Superior Court, Office no. 21: Ray Brown
Rowe claims to be “tough, but fair.” As opposed to? Yeah, but no. I, like Greg and Vern, am voting for Brown.
Judge of the Superior Court, Office no. 22: Fred Fascenelli
See Greg’s statement on this one. I trust his judgment, even though Fascenelli is likely the most conservative of the three judges.
Judge of the Superior Court, Office no. 28: Jessica Cha
It seems important that the pipeline from the DA’s office to these judgeships has some restrictions. This is a chance to break the line from the DA’s office to the judicial branch.
Judge of the Superior Court, Office no. 30: Michele Bell
For reasons unknown to me, Vern and Greg are looking for the best strategy to keep Peggy Huang off the bench. Those of you with deeper roots in the Yorba Linda area may understand this better than I.
Judge of the Superior Court, Office no. 33: Brett Wiseman
Another chance to disrupt the pipeline from the DA’s office to the Superior Court bench.
Judge of the Superior Court, Office no. 45: Israel Claustro
Here’s a case where the pipeline from the DA’s office might be preferable. See Greg’s statement on the OJ blog.
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony K. Thurmond
Thurmond seems to understand the priority of working within the framework of our public school system as the best way to sustain our diverse and complex communities. Schools are the ultimate expression of the health of our communities. Even well-intentioned charter schools are too often easy escapes from addressing larger problems within a community. They tend to extract the most engaged students and parents from the public school, further exacerbating the social and political divisions within a community.
County Superintendent of Schools: Al Mijares
Greg and Vern claim that this is the most important election on the June ballot. It is hard to disagree. If we are going to rescue public education from the local varieties of Marjorie Taylor Green and Ron deSantis, this battle will need to be fought and won. Mijares best represents the interests of all students in the county.
Member, County Board of Education Trustee Area 4 Short Term: Paulette Chaffee
Ditto above (re: Mijares).
County Supervisor 4th District: Sunny Park
Greg and Vern do not offer a particularly enthusiastic endorsement here. “She’s got to be more honest and less arrogant than Doug.” But that is evidently a low bar. See the Sunny Park interview in orangejuiceblog.
Assessor: Richard “Rick” Foster
I’m following Greg and Vern here.
Greg and Vern want us to write in John Moorlach here. I’m not sure how serious they are.
OK, Nguyen is a Republican, but Greg and Vern had such nice things to say about him that even I am tempted to endorse. Maybe. I’m sorry. I just can’t!
District Attorney–Public Administrator: Brian Chehock
The important thing here is that enough people vote against Todd Spitzer to deprive him of the 50% threshold needed to avoid a November run-off. Greg and Vern refer to the SpitzKauckas political machine. Spitzer’s candidate statement is an insult to the intelligence of the voters. He needs to better defend himself against the serious charges of corruption and racism that have been raised against his office. Hardin may have a better chance than Chehock of beating Spitzer in November. But neither has much of one. The important thing is that Spitzer needs to sweat a little.
Sheriff-Coroner: Duke Nguyen (write-in)
Sheriff Barnes is the ultimate product of the Rackauckas political machine. Vern’s dream is that everyone would write-in their own name so as to deprive him of the 50% he needs to avoid running in November. I’m tempted to write Nancy in again. This year’s Kentucky Derby has restored my faith in longshots and underdogs!
Shari L. Freidenrich
See comment on clerk-recorder. But she seems so nice!
I apologize for whatever mistakes, mischaracterizations, and just bad writing that made it through to this point. I rushed this a bit for some obvious reasons and some not so obvious reasons. Please feel free to correct and advise. Your vote is your prayer.