How I’m Voting in the California Primary Election on June 5 (and why)

The June 5 primary is more important than the November 2018 general election, but few people vote in off-year primaries. California’s primary on June 5 has the potential for depressing turnout even more based on the sheer overwhelming number of names and offices on the ballot. My ballot will be five pages long and I will have 157 names to choose from, not counting write-ins and ballot initiatives.

But I’m a voter, and I regard it as my constitutional duty to do the research necessary to get a handle on this stuff. So I read candidate statements and did internet searching, waded into the weeds on some offices and only lightly glanced at others, so that I could be an informed voter. And now I’m going to share my research and my viewpoint with you, dear reader.

Governor

There are a whole lot of crazy people running for Governor of California who don’t stand a chance of winning more than a couple of decimal places of a percent of the vote. But for me, a Democrat whose top policy is stricter gun regulations, I will be happy to vote for the frontrunner, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who spearheaded the passage of Proposition 63, the ballot initiative passed by voters in 2016 that required background checks for ammunition purchases and prohibited owning high-capacity magazines.

What gives me pause is Newsom’s fuzzy stance on two projects that Governor Jerry Brown and I are both enthusiastic about: the Delta Tunnels Project and High-Speed Rail. Newsom’s strongest Democratic rival Antonio Villaraigosa is and has always been in favor of the high-speed rail project, which is a positive quality for my vote, though he seems to be against the Delta Tunnels project even though it would provide a secure and stable source of water for his southern California base. At the end of the day, my vote will go to the candidate with the proven track record of progressive policy wins and gun regulations, and it’s very helpful that he’s also the frontrunner.

Lieutenant Governor

The Lieutenant Governor of California doesn’t do much besides be a figurehead, chair some state committees, run the state while the Governor is out of town, that kind of stuff. Current Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom described his position thusly: “It’s just so dull…. Sadly I just, ugh, God.” And yet 11 people are vying for the job. So I didn’t spend much time on this choice besides reading the candidate statements. Eleni Kounalakis is probably just fine, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if Jeff Bleich or Ed Hernandez won it.

Secretary of State

The Secretary of State in California is the person in charge of running elections. I like how current Secretary of State Alex Padilla has supported expansion of voting opportunities, like mail-in ballots and streamlining the registration process, and I’ll be voting for him once again.

Controller

I’d be fine with the governor appointing people to certain offices, and this is one of them. I don’t know Betty Yee from Yeezus, but I’ll probably vote for the Democrat because her Republican opponent Konstantinos Roditis wants to waste taxpayer money on time-consuming audits of public works projects. There’s also a Peace and Freedom Party member in the race (Mary Lou Finley) whom I’m not going to vote for.

Treasurer

It’s probably a very important distinction to many folks that there be both an elected Controller (authorizor of spending) and an elected Treasurer (securer of funds) independent of the Governor’s or state legislature’s authority. But I probably lack the right skills to discern the qualities that make a good treasurer from the qualities that make a less good treasurer. Fiona Ma is the Democratic Party choice, while Vivek Viswanathan has been running Facebook ads, and there are three other non-Democrats in the race. I’ll vote for Fiona Ma, why not.

Attorney General

This is a curious race, it seems to me. Xavier Becerra, a somewhat outspoken member of the House of Representatives, was nominated by Governor Jerry Brown to fill the seat vacated by now Senator Kamala Harris. And in his somewhat outspoken way, he has been an attack dog against the policies of Donald Trump, especially when it comes to immigration policy within the state. Becerra filed at least 24 lawsuits against the federal government in 2017 against Trump’s travel ban, the repeal of DACA, the transgender military ban, and many other subjects. But now Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, another statewide office holder who is termed out, is running to unseat Becerra, and to do it from the left. Dave Jones is the only person running for statewide office to send me a mailer, which proclaims his support from the National Organization for Women. Statewide mailers are almost prohibitively expensive in the largest state in the nation, so he’s definitely running hard for the job. There are also two Republicans running.

Dave Jones seems like a decent enough liberal politician, but he also looks strikingly like John Edwards. Like, they’re the exact same person. He might even be John Edwards. We last heard from John Edwards in about 2010, the same year this obscure state assemblyman became Insurance Commissioner. What if this is all part of a really elaborate scheme to get back into a national political office? “Dave” “Jones” is never going to have to answer questions about Rielle Hunter.

Seriously though, I think Xavier Becerra is representing California the way an attorney general from a big blue state ought to be, and all other things being equal, it’s better to have California be represented by minorities and women than by John Edwards-looking white people. So I’ll vote for him.

Insurance Commissioner

Dave Jones (“Dave” “Jones”) is leaving this office behind, and the state Democratic Party wants me to vote for Ricardo Lara. But for some reason, Ricardo Lara did not buy space in the Official Voter Information Guide despite adhering to a voluntary spending limit and therefore being eligible to submit a candidate statement (unlike the leading candidates for Governor). I don’t know anything about Ricardo Lara (other than he had a float at the Long Beach pride parade this year that was occupied by U.S. Senate candidate Kevin de León). So I’m left with a Peace and Freedom candidate for the top insurance company regulator who wants to “abolish health insurance companies” (Nathalie Hrizi), Schwartzenegger’s Insurance Commissioner and owner of a company making the dubious claim of having “invented GPS for mobile phones” (Steve Poizner) and a Pakistani doctor (Asif Mahmood). I think Poizner has a compelling candidate statement, but I’m voting for Asif Mahmood.

State Board of Equalization, 4th District

According to Wikipedia, California is the only state that elects tax commissioners in the U.S. The board had close to 5,000 employees until financial mismanagement, bureaucratic bloat and widespread nepotism forced Jerry Brown to sign legislation stripping the board of most of its powers last year. Now it has 400 employees and has responsibility only for duties assigned to it by the California Constitution, which is to review property tax assessments and some other minor tax tasks.

And yet, seven people want this seat on the board. My district, the 4th District, covers Orange County, San Diego County, Riverside County, and Imperial County, so it’s likely a Republican seat. There are four Republicans and three Democrats including one Democrat who “endorses” the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, known for endorsing right-wing small government types. Basically I flipped a coin for the other two Democrats, and it came out David Dodson.

United States Senator

32 candidates! They’re mostly insane people. There’s Dianne Feinstein, Kevin de León, Alison Hartson, and 29 of the most batshit people I’ve ever had to read a paragraph of writing from. But I have known for awhile now who I will be voting for on June 5.

Dianne Feinstein is like the 37th most liberal member of the United States Senate. It has not been hard for Kevin de León to get to the left of Feinstein, and I do not fondly remember her pro-war stance during the Bush years. Would I like California to be represented by a more reliably left-wing leader, someone putting forth progressive policy, not voting for wars, and being a more outspoken obstructor of Trump’s injustices? Yes. But if we’re ever going to change gun policy in this country, I have to start voting like a single issue voter. And no one is better positioned on gun regulation than the assault weapons banning senior senator from California. Her policy position and experience on this one issue, combined with the real power of seniority in the Senate, make my decision to vote for Dianne Feinstein surprisingly easy for me.

United States Representative, 39th District

Democrats, we are going to fuck this one up. I can feel it already. I fear the top two primary is going to put two Republicans on the ticket in November.

I have been receiving mailers every single day for the last three months about this one seat, basically ever since Ed Royce announced he would not seek reelection. But even before that announcement, it was seen as a plum pickup opportunity for any Democrat willing to challenge the 13 term U.S. Representative because Hillary Clinton had won the 39th District by almost 9 points.

Unfortunately, no Democrat with political experience jumped into the race. In fact, surprisingly few Democrats who actually live in the District jumped into the race (the one major exception being Fullerton’s Sam Jammal). Meanwhile, after Royce dropped out, three strong and well-known Republicans (Assemblywoman and Royce protege Young Kim, former California Senate Leader Bob Huff, and Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson) all threw their red MAGA hats into the ring.

There are six Democrats on the ballot, and all of them are campaigning in some form or another. There used to be eight, but two dropped out, including former Royce opponent Jay Chen, who put out a statement saying he was dropping out in order to narrow the field down so that the disaster scenario (the top two finishers being Republicans) doesn’t happen. But then he refused to endorse a candidate, which is a move that doesn’t make any sense if his stated goal was to clear a path for a Democrat.

These are the flawed Democratic Party candidates we in the 39th District are left with.

  1. Gil Cisneros — never held office, has dropped $3.5 million of his own money in the race, lifelong Republican up until a few years ago, voted for John McCain in 2008 against Obama, has been accused of making sexual advances towards a candidate in my State Assembly district, lives in Newport Beach, in the 48th Congressional District.

All of these people are first time candidates, which can be a positive thing, but at least four of these people are millionaires and at least four of them live outside the 39th Congressional District.

Having said all that, any of the top four will do (assuming there isn’t any sexual misconduct). Gil Cisneros is probably running the hardest on being a supporter of stricter gun laws (though they all favor roughly the same most popular restrictions), while Andy Thorburn has the most liberal populist economic policies like $15/hour minimum wage and free 4-year college tuition (as well as support for the Equal Rights Amendment). Mai Khanh Tran has the most compelling story, having been a South Vietnamese refugee and double breast cancer survivor. But my vote is for Sam Jammal, former MALDEF civil rights attorney and an Obama appointee to a position in the Commerce Department who holds all the standard issue Democratic views, a couple of extras about congressional staff bloat, is young, is biracial, and actually lives in Fullerton.

(If you think that section was long to read, it took me way longer to agonize over my choice in this race.)

Senate District 29 Special Recall Election

Since at least 1992, Senate District 29 has been won by a Republican every time (and since 2000 by dudes named Bob). Every time but once, in 2016, in the closest state senate race in the state that year, when Josh Newman beat Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang by less than 1% in a shocking upset. He didn’t even take the lead on election day; he pulled ahead as the count slowly trickled in from mail-in votes weeks after Election Day. And Senate District 29 was the last seat Democrats needed to capture a supermajority in the State Legislature, and with it the ability to make tax law changes without any input from typically obstructionist GOP senators. So this was a double gut punch for Republicans.

But 2016 was a presidential year, when more Democrats vote, so Republicans could consider it a fluke. Yes, changing demographics in Senate District 29 and long term trends point to a more Democratic future, but not now, not yet. If there was some way to get another bite at the apple, Republicans thought, during an off-year election, or better yet, during a special election when only the most dedicated (old, white, conservative) voters pay attention, they could easily retake the seat.

So Republicans organized. They got a petition circulating after Josh Newman (and every other Democrat) voted for Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act, which increased the gas tax and used the funds to do $54 billion worth of transportation projects throughout the state. As Republicans saw it, Newman’s vote for the gas tax increase was a good enough excuse to recall him from office.

Recall elections are typically reserved for unpopular politicians who are perceived as corrupt, incompetent, or scandal-ridden, like former governor Gray Davis in 2003. But Senator Josh Newman is not widely perceived in this way. The biggest scandal Republicans could find on the guy in 2016 was when he once “used the word ‘underpants’ repeatedly”.

I am of course voting NO on the recall.

Candidates to succeed Josh Newman if he is recalled, for the duration of the term ending December 7th, 2020

Just in case Newman gets recalled, I gotta vote for a Democrat, but if there is a majority for Yes on the recall, there will not be a majority for a Democrat, and the candidate with a plurality of votes will be seated immediately (i.e. no top two primary). Joseph Cho is the only Democrat who has made a statement in the Voter Information Guide to thread the needle, to tell people to vote No on the recall but also vote for him. Another Democrat in the guide says vote Yes on the recall (wrong answer), and the third Democrat did not make a statement.

Member of the State Assembly, 55th District

Every two years since at least 2010, the 55th Assembly District primary has been full of a bunch of Republican names and one Democratic name: social worker Gregg Fritchle. Every primary election, Fritchle gets all the Democratic votes and easily makes it to the general election in November, when he gets walloped by the Republican. This year is different. There are two Democrats! They might split the vote and Fritchle might not make it this year!

The other Democrat is first time candidate Melissa Fazli. She is the one who made the sexual … not “misconduct” exactly, but something on the cringe scale… allegation against Gil Cisneros. She answers questions on the internet, participates in Democratic politics, and seems like a good candidate.

The incumbent is Republican Phillip Chen, who is on the more moderate side. He is being challenged from the right by Scott Ledba. Phillip Chen has been playing some gamesmanship in this top two primary. I have received two ads from Phillip Chen asking me, a known active Democrat, to make my choice on June 5 between Phillip Chen and Gregg Fritchle. Then it describes Fritchle in glowing terms. He’ll invest in infrastructure! He’ll create jobs! He’ll end tax breaks for big corporations and enact environmentally friendly renewable energy policies! Man, sounds great, Phillip Chen, thanks for telling me about him!

Chen is probably trying to ensure that Fritchle makes it to the November election, where Chen will probably wallop him, rather than have Scott Ledba make it to the November election. Or maybe he’s scared of Melissa Fazli? I don’t know for sure, but I think I am coming down with Fritchle fever again, baby! 2018’s the year!

Judge of the Superior Court, Office №13

Not voting, continuing my boycott of the idea of judicial elections except in the case of extreme harm or negligence

Superintendent of Public Instruction

This is the last statewide office on the ballot, and it is officially nonpartisan. The Democrats want me to vote for Tony Thurmond and have all lined up to endorse him, so in the interest of expedience, I’ll do the same.

Orange County Superintendent of Schools

Starting with this race, the top two primary only applies if no candidate gets over 50% of the vote. And as the only candidate on the ballot for Orange County Superintendent, Al Mijares is probably not going to need a second election.

Orange County Supervisor, 4th District

During the primary election of 2016, there were two Democrats vying for the 29th State Senate seat; Josh Newman and Sukhee Kang. Sukhee Kang was seen at the time as the better candidate because he had more elected experience as Irvine’s former mayor and had name recognition from an unsuccessful run for congress (the 45th Congressional District). Kang was thought to be a stronger challenger against Ling Ling Chang in the general election. He received the endorsement of the state Democratic party. Then I started to notice signs popping up all over the district a few weeks before the election. The signs read “NO KANG” in big font, and then below it, there were the words “IRVINE CARPETBAGGER”. The signs reminded the voters of the 29th Senate District that Kang made his name in Irvine politics and may have purchased a house in the district only so that he could run for this senate seat. The NO KANG signs were everywhere by the time the primary election occurred.

As it turned out, Kang came in third in the top two primary.

This is relevant because the same type of signs are out, paid for by the same guy, telling people “NO KERR” because he is a “COTO DE CAZA CARPETBAGGER”. KERR in this case is the Democratic Party endorsed Joe Kerr. Coto de Caza is a very rich large gated community 40 miles away from the 4th Supervisory District.

There are six candidates in the race, some more conservative than others, some more NIMBYist than others regarding the homelessness problem. I’ve decided to vote for La Habra councilwoman Rose Espinoza because I like her statement in the Voter Information Guide the best, but she’s done no campaigning for the job and she’ll likely finish dead last. But at least she’s not a carpetbagger.

Orange County Assessor

Claude Parrish is the incumbent assessor, and he’s running for the job again, which means he’s likely the frontrunner. His challenger is deputy assessor Richard Ramirez, who has accused Parrish of being absent from the job most of the time. There is a third guy, but he didn’t include a statement in the Voter Information Guide, so I guess I’ll vote for Richard Ramirez if for no other reason than to get the assessor’s race to the November ballot.

Orange County Auditor-Controller

Uh, next

Orange County Clerk-Recorder

Uh, nope, next one

Orange County District Attorney

Tony Rackauckas is a crook and I will happily vote against him on June 5, in favor of former Brea councilman and former Ed Royce challenger Brett Murdock.

Orange County Sheriff-Coroner

Current sheriff Sandra Hutchens will not run for reelection, nor should she after the jail informant scandal. However, she still has a lot of political power in Orange County, and her undersheriff Don Barnes is running as a continuation of the Hutchens legacy. So the only task for me is to pick one of the two Barnes alternatives. It’s a pretty easy task. David Harrington wants to allow everyone who wants a concealed carry permit to have one, regardless of whether or not they have a good reason. So he’s a no. Duke Nguyen wants to have a strong concealed carry permit review process, and he believes in community policing, so he’s a yes.

Treasurer-Tax Collector

Shari Freidenrich is the only one of these people to send me mail outside of election season (her name is on the property tax bills). She’s also the only candidate for this office.

Propositions

68 — YES ($4 billion for water projects and parks)

69 — YES (Gas tax revenues only for transportation projects)

70 — NO (Requires supermajority to spend cap and trade money)

71 — YES (Delays the effective date of ballot measures until after the result is certified)

72 — YES (Slight tax benefit for installing stormwater capture systems)

I am not actually a train. Or a roadrunner. But I am originally from New Mexico.

I am not actually a train. Or a roadrunner. But I am originally from New Mexico.