OJB’s 2018 Primary Election Picks, Pt 2: Other State Exec Officers


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Tony Thurmond for Superintendent of Public Instruction!

INTRODUCTION

Your absentee “vote-by-mail” ballots are about to arrive in the mail, if that’s how you roll — and about a quarter of the vote comes by in the end of first weekend after they arrive — so: Welcome to OJB’s endorsements for the 2018 primaries, State Executive Officers other than Governor and Board of Equalization races.   (Yes, we will talk about legislative races,  judges, and ballot measures, but in later separate posts!)

For those of you new to our endorsement system, it’s different from those of most other publications, as befits our politically heterodox complement of writers.  Sometimes, we will present a single “choice of the publication” — for example, YES ON B (Irvine voters only), supporting the building of the proposed veterans cemetery at the “Strawberry Fields” site, as opposed to most likely nowhere at all — about which we will sometimes feel strongly enough that dissenting opinions will get relegated to the comments.

More often, Vern and I (Greg, who will be writing all of the commentary that is not marked as coming from someone else) will give our own opinions and invite others — our Republican writers Ryan and Cynthia, in recent years, although Cynthia may not want to participate due to her candidacy for Anaheim Mayor, and I think Ricardo and at least one other other contributor as well, though Vern and I haven’t yet discussed it– to express their choices and brief justifications “above the fold” as well.

This suits this blog’s role, in the Vern regime, as a place where reasonable people of all parties can discuss things reasonably (although sometimes we choose to do otherwise.)  There’s a Democratic tilt because Vern and I run the joint, but our Republicans and NPPs and third-parties, and anti-party people are more than able to fend for themselves.

A personal note: because I am a member of the state and local Democratic Central Committees, I cannot endorse against, or even advise against voting for, a party-endorsed candidate.  (It’s the price of staying in office and being an advocate for ethics, goodness, and sanity.)  I don’t have to favor anyone I don’t want to, though, and so in some races I will not endorse.  (That doesn’t affect this post, as there was no CDP endorsement for either Governor or Senate.  Chaos!)

Nasty anonymous attacks in comments are frowned upon, and may be cut.  This is a respectable joint, y’hear!  Now, on to the offices.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

Four Democrats, Three Republicans, Two NPPs, and one Libertarian are out to replace lying-about-going-to-rehab-after-seducing-campaign manager’s-wife-and-supervisee incumbent Gavin “Jolene” Newsom in this “learn about the state government by sitting on all sorts of state boards and occasionally take over for a while” paid internship.

Two of them have not agreed to limit their campaign spending — so they will have plenty-o’-ads but no candidate statement.  They are Republican Cole Harris and NPP Danny Thomas. The leading names seem are Democrats Ed Hernandez, “moderate” State Senator from of just over the Puente Hills and former Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Kounalakis, with leftie Jeff Bleich also making a little noise; NPP (with a Green Party agenda) and progressive darling Gayle McLaughlin, and presumably one of the Republicans — and based on the endorsements, I’m guessing that that will be statement-free  Cole Harris. Let’s take a look at each — then my choice and Vern and our other writers’ choices — focusing on endorsements, fundraising (when we know much), and any positions of note that come to mind.  (Again: no ballot statement + no other sign of competitiveness = no discussion here.  Except … well, you’ll see….)

Democrats for Lt. Gov

  • Jeff Bleich is as liberal as any other Democrat in the race, and was Ambassador to Australia — his endorsement list is filled with Ambassadors — and has Democratic Congressional support from the relative right (Adam Schiff, Ted Lieu) and left (Jackie Speier, Ro Khanna.)  Yet his campaign has never caught on, at least within the party.  He got stomped in the inconclusive endorsement vote.  These things happen!  He’s only winning against …
  • Cameron Gharabiklou has almost no presence at all.  Twenty-word + redundant-site-link ballot statement celebrating California’s resistance, presumably to Trump.   He has no Wikipedia page.  Harsh!
  • Ed Hernandez has the endorsement of many ambitious and almost every more conservative Democratic legislator out there.  He’s been one of the State Senators on whom big interests could count on in a pinch to be a deciding negative vote on progressive legislation — and is accordingly lavishly funded.  Wikipedia lists no,”0,” organizations endorsing him, and again — since anyone can edit — if he has any endorsements and wanted them there, it could.  He’s an optometrist and surely must have the support of their trade association; he also has the animus of the California Medical Association (and, more importantly, relevant PACs) because of enmity between his gang and that of the ophthalmologists — and I am not joking.  My guess is that if you found an optometrist endorsement and posted it on that Wikipedia page, it wouldn’t last an hour.  (In terms of his losing the seat to a Republican, though — would the ophthalmologists truly step in big and throw the race against him?  Sure — why not?  These people slice into eyeballs for a living!  They may stop at nothing!
  • Eleni Kounalakis is significantly more liberal than Hernandez, but she has a lot of leftist activist resistance to her campaign because her father is a wealthy developer, whose company she has helped tun — and when leftists figured that out they made repeal of the “Costa-Hawkins” law, which prevents local cities from imposing rent control, into a “litmus test” issue.  She failed their test by remaining silent and not rising to the bait.  She has the endorsements of all sorts of women’s and LGBT groups, as well as all sorts of good legislators — including Kamala Harris, Nanette Barragan, and Zoe Lofgren, plus a Dukakis-load of individual Greeks.  She’ll be well-funded, with a LOT of independent money expect to be coming in from the eye-slicing gang.  And I presume that leftists would support her over Hernandez in November; but would Republicans rather that she win on the theory that she’d be more beatable if she eventually ran for Governor?  If that were true, they’d probably try to run someone named “Hernandez” to split the “Hernandez vote”!

Republicans for Lt. Gov

  • David Fennell has an extremely earnest ballot statement.  He’s an Eagle Scout from Half Moon Bay.  There’s no community in California he won’t visit and he can’t wait to meet you.  Wikipedia lists no endorsements for him; maybe you can be the first!  Friend’s call him “Mr. California.”  He’s against waste — and yet he bought a full-sized ballot statement.
  • Cole Harris did not buy a ballot statement because he wouldn’t agree to limit his campaign spending.  Wikipedia lists two endorsements for him: Assemblyman Phillip Chen and Supervisor Michelle Park Steel, so OJB reckons that you might see him around here — and that he might as well have signed the spending limit agreement.
  • David Hernandez did not buy a ballot statement, but we’re excepting him from the rule because his being a Hernandez may take votes from Ed Hernandez and because he is endorsed by the Apartment Owners Association of California, the California Republican Assembly and  veganism and anti-revenge-porn activist Charlotte Laws, who is also a pro-Trump commentator who was also invited to dine at Bill Cosby’s place and now defends him more than you might expect.  (Take that, Kanye!)  So he may have some serious money to spend and the CRA must have seen  something in him that OJB does not.
  • Lydia Ortega is a San Jose State econ professor, and she knows how to write a cogent and sensible ballot statement about her qualifications.  No endorsements for her are listed. Of course.

3d/0 Party for Lt. Gov

  • Tim Ferreira is a doctrinaire Libertarian and having reviewed the Republican candidates OJB believes that he will get more votes than one might suppose.  Endorsements listed?  Are you kidding?
  • NPP Gayle McLaughlin is the reason that those more liberal Democratic candidates are languishing.  She was the Mayor of Richmond, California from 2007-2014 and is endorsed by the Bernie Sanders “Our Revolution” national and local groups.  Her ballot statement hits nothing but policy points that liberal Democrats want to see, which I won’t list because it would come off like an endorsement.

GREG’s pick for Lt. Governor: Eleni(ish)

I endorsed Eleni months ago and I still expect to vote for her.  I think that she has the makings of a good Governor, if it came to that.  And, as a member of state and local party central committees, I simply can’t endorse McLaughlin despite that candidate statement that as a loyal Democrat I should probably tell you not to read because it may cause blindness or something.

Yet, there is a valid reason — two, in fact — for endorsing Eleni even if McLaughlin’s ballot statement were Pulitzer Prize material — and that is, going back to the dual “representing a faction” versus “winning elections” purposes in voting.  That time, representing a faction won out over electoral arguments in the primary.  This time, I’m leaning the other way.

Here’s the first reason:

For Governor, remember, Eastin is great but (1) would give the second spot to Villaraigosa or Cox and (2) would likely (though not necessarily) lose to Newsom in November.  Chiang is very good — and he can beat Newsom.  So, with a tip of the hat to Eastin, Chiang needs our support.

For Senate, we have a different situation.  Hildebrand (and the others “H”s) are better than KDL, and a vote for him sends a more unequivocal message that our faction is to be reckoned with.  KDL is a virtual lock to make the runoff even without much of the Left — nowhere else to go — so we can safely support an alternative without losing him.  So, support him in the general, not the primary.

because Eleni is a weaker candidate for Lt. Gov than Chiang is for Governor or DeLeon is for Senate  — I have no certainty that she will finish second to Ed Hernandez, largely because McLaughlin is in the race — and McLaughlin is a stronger candidate than at least Eastin in the primary, and WAY stronger than Hildebrand — but a weaker one than either Eastin or Chiang in the general election.  If McLaughlin comes in second to Ed Hernandez, I don’t see where she picks up the rest of the votes she needs to beat him in November.  Not from Republicans, surely — he’s vendido enough to suit them fine.  Maybe from NPPs, but frankly they tend to be inattentive and I’m afraid that there are more than would support a “moderate” purple candidate like Dr. Ed than a Green (or socialist rose pink!) candidate like McLaughlin.  And as Dr. Ed is much like Feinstein, I really do want to beat him.  (He’s not godawful bad, but he’s not what we need right now to save the party — and the world.)  The Democratic Party will make stomping McLaughlin their top priority in November if she wins — and I just don’t see her surviving that.  (I do see a huge #DemExpel movement heating up, though.)

SECRETARY OF STATE

The CDP-endorsed incumbent is Alex Padilla, so if I don’t want to lose my spot on the CDP I can’t say anything bad about him in this context, nor can I endorse against him.  I will say that he’s enacted at least one good reform while in office; I can’t recall what it is, but I’m sure that it doesn’t involve election security, which is the main focus of his challenger Ruben Major’s campaign.  You can read their ballot statements and look for differences between them.  From the Republican side, you have Mark Meuser, who will presumably attract those Republicans who don’t go for the Libertarian, Gail Lightfoot, who seems to have a stronger overall presence, plus Raul Rodriguez, who does not have a ballot statement and is presumably just there to take votes away from Padilla, which would have been clever had the Republicans run a viable candidate.

Further to the left, you have one Peace & Freedomista, C.T. Weber, and two Greens, Erik Rydberg and Michael Feinstein — remember what I’ve told you about which “further left” party is organized and which is anti-organization? — but I doubt that any of the three will pick up many votes with Major on the ballot.  Padilla’s such a lock for the runoff that I’d expect some of his supporters to go shopping for an opponent — likely Meuser, given that he doesn’t have a chance and is the least disruptive.  Possibly Lightfoot, though, to help them make the ballot and to screw over Republicans — but wouldn’t she bring out more anti-Democratic voters?  So: Meuser.  If Major makes the runoff, I’ll be surprised.

“Hello, my name is Ruben!”

This is a good time to remind people that while I often submit photos for my posts, Vern can (and not infrequently does) change them, so if Major’s photo turns up there it’s not my doing.

GREG’s pick for Secretary of State: No Public Endorsement

Can’t say much more than that!

ATTORNEY GENERAL

You have appointed Democratic incumbent Xavier Becerra, termed-out Democratic Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, and Republicans Eric Early and Steven Bailey.

On the Democratic side, Becerra has most of the Democratic insiders, including most (but not all) Latinos, and Jones has most of the Democratic insurgents, as well as some Latino insiders and (oddly to me) CDP Chair Eric Bauman.  (We have to face it: the Asian versus Latino split within the party, which erupted most clearly during a conflict not long ago over affirmative action in higher education, is very evident this year.)  In terms of organizational endorsements, Wikipedia (which anyone can edit!) Becerra has the California Teachers Association, while Jones has all sorts of Young Democrats groups and United Teachers of Los Angeles.

On the Republican side: Bailey has LOTS of Police Officer Association groups, the California Republican Assembly, Gun Owners Association, and an anti-abortion group, while Early’s support is from the California Congress of Republicans (which has I don’t know how much sway and is otherwise addly centered around OC — Pat Bates, Phillip Chen, Sheriff Hutchins, and Issa.  (This may explain why, until this moment, I thought that Early was the leading Republican.)

I tend to think that Jones — who had enough sway at the CDP to deny Becerra the nomination despite his incumbency — beats out either Republican and we see a D-on-D runoff here.

GREG’s pick for Attorney General: Dave Jones

No endorsement here!  I can speak freely!  Ironically, in this race, I have not much ill will towards anyone.

Among the sextet of Latino Democratic men running for state executive office this year, I rank Becerra just below DeLeon.  (Then, in order, Lara, Padilla, Villaraigosa, Hernandez.  Not sure about ranking those last two.)  So for me, this is not about Becerra being so bad; it’s about Dave Jones being that good — and that last is a sentiment shared across the lines of ideological faction.  Becerra is more connected — hence his appointment by Gov. Brown in the first place — but not corrupt. But Jones (with whom I have strongly disagreed on occasion) is honest, industrious, hyper-capable, and smart as hell.  He is also, given the role of the Insurance Commissioner in prosecuting evildoers, qualified for the position.

CONTROLLER

CDP-Endorsed Democratic incumbent Betty Yee will win against Anaheim’s Konstantinos Roditis.  Since I endorse Betty Yee below, I believe that I am entitled to say that she has taken a sharp turn away from the Left, whose darling she was until this year, to endorse some more conservative establishment Democrats like Xavier Becerra, Alex Padilla, and Kevin DeLeon (notice a theme there?) against their insurgent incumbents  This suggests to me that either she’s had a fundamental change of heart about politics or that she’s planning on running for Governor — not until 2026, I presume, unless the incumbent flames out, which if it’s Newson or Villaraigosa is not so unlikely — and doesn’t want the likes of Dave Jones to have a step up against her.  All that I can say there is: I see you, Betty Yee, and I have a long memory.

GREG’s pick for Controller: Betty Yee

(With misgivings I had never expected to have towards her.)

TREASURER

Two Democrats here — CPR-endorsed candidate, good friend to Sharon Quirk-Silva, and prohibitive favorite to make the runoff Fiona Ma, and more insurgent candidate Vivek Viswanathan.  As with other races with CDP endorsees, I cannot criticize Ma nor endorse Viswanathan without endangering my CDP membership, though I am not obligated to endorse Ma.   There are also two Republicans, Greg Conlon and Jack Guerrero, as well as Peaceful and Freedomy Kevin Akin.  I’m content to let you read their ballot statements, as this race is all party ID anyway.   I expect the runoff to pit Ma against Conlon, but I haven’t exactly exerted myself running the numbers here.

GREG’s pick for Treasurer: No Endorsement

do endorse reading the ballot statements, though!

INSURANCE COMMISSIONER

Two Democrats here — Ricardo Lara and Asif Mahmood — former Republican and now-NPP Steve Poizner, and Peaceful Freedomer Nathalie Hrizi.  The pamphlet said that all of them accepted expenditure limits — and yet Lara did not file a statement!  (My guess: the asterisk next to Lara’s name is misplaced and he wasn’t eligible to file one.  But I’m not bothering to check.  Lara IS the CDP-endorsed candidate, so you won’t see more speculating here from me about why no statement.)

Hrizi is your far-leftie — and will take some votes from Mahmood, despite that he’d be a much more effective advocate of single-payer.  Mahmood’s candidate statement, I think, speaks for itself, and explains why there was a surprising amount of bitterness at the convention about Lara’s endorsement.  His ballot statement says that he would become the first Muslim ever elected to statewide office in the country. This is probably a lock for Lara vs. Poizer, a race in which I do expect to have an endorsement.

Lara is endorsed by almost every associated with the Democratic Party, plus the two Nurses Unions, and Mahmood by almost no one.  Oddly enough, here Betty Yee does swim against the tide.)  That suggests that people know which way this wind is blowing.  Poizner’s sole organizational endorsement listed is that of “Prime Healthcare Services.”  (Eloquent, in its way.)

GREG’s pick for Insurance Commissioner: No Endorsement

I won’t elaborate.

STATE SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT

Two Democrats are the front-runners in this non-partisan race: duplicitous charter schools ninja Marshall Tuck and qualified and reasonable Assemblyman Tony Thurmond.  The two also-rans-to-be are Lily (Espinoza) Ploski and Steven Ireland.  You already know which way the CDP endorsed.

GREG’s pick for State Superintendent of Schools: THURMOND!

It’s nice to be on the same page as the CDP when I can!  There are no ballot statements, so this may be all you will ever know about the race!  (Or maybe not.)


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)