The Quick and Dirty Voter’s Guide to the 2010 California General Election

The ballot this time around is all kinds of long. I’m going to skip the local races because I assume those aren’t of relevance to very many readers (and locals probably already know how they’re voting locally). Some resources you may find handy for doing your own research: Ballotpedia provides overviews of ballot measures, Project Vote Smart covers candidates and propositions, endorsements from the California League of Women Voters, the Courage Campaign has issued a voter’s guide compiling recommendations from a number of progressive groups (irritatingly in .pdf only), and Calitics covers political issues extensively.

Be advised that this is highly biased! If you’re looking for neutral, thoughtful, well-measured assessments of the 2010 ballot, this is not the right place.

Side one of the Mendocino County Ballot, showing the statewide candidates as well as local races

Candidates:

Governor: Jerry Brown (Democrat). I like Jerry Brown, I think he’s a pretty solid guy, he’s been an aggressive AG especially for the rights of Californians living in poverty, and we absolutely do not want Meg Whitman as Governor of California. I don’t usually write anti-endorsements, but Whitman would be bad for California. You can check out Brown’s platform here.

Lieutenant Governor: Jimi Castillo (Green). Castillo’s taken a strong stance on prison reform, education, rights for indigenous people, and environmental protection. You can read more about Castillo here.

Secretary of State: Debra Bowen. She’s doing an ok job, I say, let’s keep her. She has experience that is going to come in really handy as the state deals with a cascading series of issues in the coming years. Here’s Bowen’s site.

State Controller: John Chiang. He’s not afraid to audit for waste and overspending and he’s pushing for a more functional California budget. Chiang’s campaign site.

State Treasurer: Bill Lockyer. Not that there’s much left in the state treasury at this point, but Lockyer has a reasonably good record and he’s been very outspoken about problematic aspects of the budget. Lockyer’s campaign site.

Attorney General: Kamala Harris. Harris has experience, she’s performed with distinction as San Francisco’s DA, and she’s interested in community intervention and rehabilitation to address recidivism. I think she’ll be a strong advocate for disadvantaged communities in California as AG; just for example, she’s set up outreach programs to immigrant communities in San Francisco, providing free legal clinics. Harris’ site.

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones. This man has a history of butting heads with insurance companies. Need I say more? Jones’ campaign site.

United States Senator: Barbara Boxer. I’m not always stoked with Boxer, but she has a reasonably good record and a lot of experience in the Senate, combined with extensive knowledge of California issues. Boxer’s website.

Propositions:

Quick overview: No on 20, 22,23, 26, 27. Yes on 19, 21, 24, 25.

The second half of the Mendocino County ballot, listing the state propositions and one local ballot measure.

Proposition 19 (Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010): Yes. Bring on the tax revenues! One interesting note about funding; the alcohol industry is fighting this one hard.

Proposition 20 (Redistricting of Congressional Districts): No. Redistricting is a mess right now, I agree, but this is not the solution; we need to create a framework for effective redistricting before throwing ballot initiatives around willy-nilly. Notably, this has been endorsed by a number of very conservative California newspapers. The lead contributor, with almost four million dollars, is Charles Munger, not exactly a darling of progressive politics.

Proposition 21 (Establishes $18 Annual Vehicle License Surcharge to Help Fund State Parks and Wildlife Programs.¬†Grants Surcharged Vehicles Free Admission to All State Parks.): Yes. I like State Parks, they are running out of money, and $18 more per year for vehicle registration is, in my opinion, reasonable. Notably, only one donor hates State Parks enough to contribute more than $5,000 to the ‘no on 21’ campaign, and it is, unsurprisingly, a industry lobby for car manufacturers.

Proposition 22 (Prohibits the State from Borrowing or Taking Funds Used for Transportation, Redevelopment, or Local Government Projects and Services.): No. This is both a good and bad proposition. I want to see local governments retaining more control of funds for infrastructure, but at the same time, the way funding is structured in California, social services could potentially be hit hard if this passes. Basically, California needs to reform the way it approaches funding and allocation of funds, but in the meanwhile, we have problems on the ground we need to address. Numerous progressive organisations recommend a ‘no’ vote and the ‘no on 22’ campaign is supported by folks like firefighters and teachers.

Proposition 23 (Suspends Implementation of Air Pollution Control Law (AB 32) Requiring Major Sources of Emissions to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions that Cause Global Warming Until Unemployment Drops to 5.5 Percent or Less for Full Year.): No. Anything supported by energy companies is probably bad news bears, but, seriously, people, this is not a good idea. California has been an innovator in terms of environmental policy and legislation, let’s not roll that back. Follow the money, peeps, tons of energy companies, including companies outside California that want to undermine tough action on climate. Oil companies in particular are topping the donor list.

Proposition 24 (Repeals Recent Legislation That Would Allow Businesses to Lower Their Tax Liability.): Yes. Corporations need to pay taxes too and there’s absolutely no reason we should continue to support corporate tax breaks in California with the budget the way it is. Genentech, General Electric, Cisco Systems, CBS, Time Warner, Walt Disney, Viacom, Johnson & Johnson, and Fox are all big donors to the ‘no on 24’ campaign. Hrrm, I wonder why.

Proposition 25 (Changes Legislative Vote Requirement to Pass Budget and Budget-Related Legislation from Two-Thirds to a Simple Majority. Retains Two-Thirds Vote Requirement for Taxes.): Yes. I’m tired of endless wrangling over the damn budget every year. Right now a minority of legislators get to hold up the process, sneak shit in there that doesn’t belong, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Who’s opposing this with big money? The usual suspects, including a number of big corporations, particularly energy companies.

Proposition 26 (Requires that Certain State and Local Fees Be Approved by Two-Thirds Vote.¬†Fees Include Those That Address Adverse Impacts on Society or the Environment Caused by the Fee-Payer’s Business.): No. Again, energy companies are all over this one, because they very much like the idea of having regulatory fees for pollution redefined as taxes to make them harder to implement. You want to pollute in California, you pay the price. One of the biggest donors is Chevron, which has donated over one million dollars to passing Prop 26. That’s more than the top six donors against, and Chevron isn’t the biggest donor. I think that tells you all you need to know.

Proposition 27 (Eliminates State Commission on Redistricting. Consolidates Authority for Redistricting with Elected Representatives.): No. It seems like every ballot has a new redistricting measure, and they are pretty much all bad, because every time we pass one, we don’t give it time to see if it actually works. This measure would also allow considerable backdoor dealing; why should the people being elected get to draw their own districts? A lot of money supporting this has come from members of Congress and the state legislature.

My return envelope for my ballot, warning the reader that voting twice is a crime, with an 'I voted early' sticker next to it.