When it comes to voting, youre damned if you do and damned if you dont, but youre a damned fool if you dont read our voter guide first. As you dive into the divine comedy that is the presidential-primary election ballot, allow us to act as your Virgil. Weve spoken with dozens of politicians in races more treacherous than the nine circles of hell, separated the saints from the sinners, the merely impish from the downright demonic, and laid it all out in this endorsement guide. If you disagree with our picks, the choice is yours to vote differently. But if youre going to complain, you can go straight to hell.
San Diego Mayor
There are four viable candidates in this race. Only one is a progressive. CityBeat is staffed by people who favor progressive policies—because we believe those are the policies that will lift all the proverbial boats, rather than trickle down on them like a rogue wave. So, Democrat Bob Filner would seem to have our endorsement locked up.
Not so fast. Weve made no secret of our disappointment in Filners sloppy campaign. As the only Democrat facing two Republicans and an independent who was a Republican a couple of months ago—in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans—Filner should be polling at 35 percent or more. Instead, hes languishing around 20 percent and could easily finish third on June 5. We think the reason for this is his unfocused, flippant, disorderly performance on the campaign trail.
Would he run the city in the same manner? We already knew that Filner can be cantankerous and overbearing and has a reputation for creating a work environment thats not always pleasant. Meanwhile, with Filner— how shall we put this?—the threat level for scandal of varying sorts is at least orange. Color us concerned.
Our worry forced us to explore alternatives. We dont believe the Antichrist is a good candidate to run San Diego, so Carl DeMaio is out. And Bonnie Dumanis has failed to effectively articulate why she even wants to be mayor, other than to say shes a solid manager of large organizations.
That leaves Nathan Fletcher.
In our book, anyone who makes a big whoopdee-doo of leaving the Republican Party, serving large portions of irritation to GOP hacks and the U-T San Diego editorial board in the process, merits consideration for president of the United States, let alone mayor of San Diego. Fletchers talk of antipartisan independence is music to our ears. Hes absolutely right to rail against the political dysfunction caused by allegiance to party orthodoxy over allegiance to the common good.
We love the attention hes given to clean water and a healthy environment, and we like that he released a citywide bike plan. We have no doubt that Fletcher has a genuine interest in improving quality of life in San Diego, nebulous though that concept may be.
Weve listened to Fletcher talk to groups big and small. While some folks like to dismiss him as all prettyboy charm, made-for-TV back-story and smooth delivery, we also see substance. He can answer policy questions on the fly and in detail, and, believe us, there are plenty of politicians who cant. Theres a high-functioning brain in that good-lookin noggin.
We were alarmed when he leapt into action in the wake of the murder of Chelsea King, worried that hed be the latest in a long line of politicians looking to score cheap, easy points off of sex offenders. And while some of his early rhetoric on the issue irritated us, he eventually showed that he was willing to at least listen to sex-offender-management experts.
Yet theres a dark side to Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome.
As much as he touts himself as a maverick independent thinker, he was a foot soldier for the Republican Party through most of his tenure in the state Legislature. When we interviewed him for an endorsement last week, we grilled him about his refusal to vote to put a measure on the ballot that would merely extend various state taxes that were set to expire. The state, as it continues to be, was under tremendous budget pressure, and social services had already been cut to the bone. Gov. Jerry Brown needed just a couple of Republicans in the Senate and a couple in the Assembly to break ranks and simply agree to let voters decide whether to extend those taxes and save vital funding.
Fletcher didnt provide the kind of leadership he now wants us to be believe hell show in San Diego. When we asked him about it, he repeatedly pointed to a later deal he struck with Brown to reform certain taxes (revenue-neutral) as evidence of his maverick-y ways, despite our urging to address the matter at hand. Finally, he said thered be no point to breaking ranks because no other Republican was willing to do so. Thats weak.
This matter of taxes points straight to national anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, whos managed to get Republicans across the country to sign his no-new-taxes pledge. Fletcher is a signatory. We were hopeful that hed admit that signing the pledge was a mistake. After some browbeating, he said he wouldnt be afraid to violate the pledge on occasion—such as with his support for raising hotel-room taxes to fund expansion of the San Diego Convention Center—but still wouldnt acknowledge that signing it was a mistake. So, hes willing to raise taxes when it benefits hotel owners, but not when it benefits children, college students, the elderly and the poor. Great.
This is what worries us about Fletcher—that hell be an advocate for moneyed business interests at times when theres tension between those interests and the interests of neighborhood advocates of middle- or working-class citizens. Not helping matters is his support for big-money philanthropist Irwin Jacobs poorly conceived overhaul of Balboa Park and Fletchers excitement about a sports complex Downtown, although he promises that hell drop the latter if the economics dont pencil out.
Fletcher says he doesnt like ballot-box policymaking, and yet he supports Props. A and B, which are both unnecessary and awash in political motivation.
We also asked Fletcher if he was still a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a shadowy, right-wing organization funded by corporations and made up of conservative legislators and corporate representatives; ALEC drafts model legislation thats brought by the legislators to their state houses for consideration without disclosure of origin.
I was never a member of ALEC, he said.
But Fletcher gave a keynote speech during ALECs annual conference in San Diego in 2010, and in it, he said, I am honored to be a member of ALEC; its a wonderful organization that helps us draw on your ideas and strengths, on successes in other states, and its also a great gathering of collaborative thinking.
Provided with this quote later, Fletcher spokesperson Amy Thoma said he was apologetic and didnt intend to mislead. He only remembers welcoming a group of legislators—not becoming a member, she said.
Fletcher brings lots of smarts and lots of potential, but that potential depends on the genuineness of his promise that hell swing across the ideological divide and grab the best ideas. We surely do enjoy talking to the guy, but we really dont know what were getting into with him.
In contrast, everyone knows who Filner is. We know that Filner will advocate for neighborhoods over Downtown and the needs of common folks over people with money and political influence. Hell be at least as good as Fletcher on environmental policy but likely better. Hes focused on energy policy and wants to push the regional transportation authority toward mass transit and away from high ways.
Hell insist on finally giving brainy environmental-justice advocates a seat at the table—Filners vow to bring in people whove long been kept from the halls of power speaks loudly to us.
Under Filner, the Mayors office would probably be Gaffe Central. Hell need calm, savvy people to serve as chief of staff and run the political and communications operations, and hed need to listen to them; otherwise, itd be chaos. But, policy-wise, hes the better, safer choice.
The problem is, you still have some math to do: For many of us, choosing between Filner and Fletcher is less important than making sure DeMaio doesnt win. The top two vote getters in June move to a November runoff. A recent U-T San Diego poll has DeMaio ahead of Filner when placed head-to-head, with nearly 40 percent undecided, and Fletcher ahead of DeMaio. We hope its Filner versus Fletcher. If you dont believe Filner can win in November, we dont begrudge a vote for Fletcher. But were going with the clear progressive in the race: We endorse Bob Filner.
San Diego City Council
Five seats, a majority of the new nine-seat San Diego City Council, are up for election this year. But in two of the districts, theres only one candidate. Incumbent Democrat Todd Gloria has no challengers in District 3, and in District 5, which incumbent Carl DeMaio has to vacate to run for mayor, newcomer Mark Kersey, a Republican, can strut to victory.
Meanwhile, Marti Emerald, the current officeholder in District 7 (she switched after the city was redistricted), is expected to coast to a win over veteran Latino activist Mateo Camarillo in the new District 9. Thats fine with us; Emerald has been one of the councils most reliably progressive votes.
That leaves Districts 1 and 7 as the competitive races and the possible indicators of the City Councils direction. Those seats aside, the likely makeup of the City Council is: strong progressives Emerald and David Alvarez, progressive-with-a-slight-establishment-fetish Gloria, business-minded moderate Democrat Tony Young and rock-ribbed Republicans Kersey, Kevin Faulconer and Lorie Zapf.
If the Antichrist DeMaio gets his way, is elected mayor and gets Republicans elected in Districts 1 and 7, the skies and waterways will burn red and San Diego will be DeMaios personal anti-government, private-sector-run-amok, screw-the-little-guy playground—his pencil-thin-moustache-twisting, fiendish-Mwa-ah-ah-saying Hell on Earth.
In Districts 1 and 7, DeMaio wants Ray Ellis and Scott Sherman, respectively. Were sure these guys are decent human beings, but we cant allow them to take those seats. Nothing personal. District 1 incumbent Sherri Lightner, a Democrat, regularly pisses off labor and environmental activists. She irritates us, too, but remember: Carl DeMaio! In District 7, we dont have to hold our nose for Mat Kostrinsky. We think hell be great, occupying a place on the political spectrum somewhere between Alvarez and Gloria.
District 1 incumbent Greg Cox, a Republican, is a decent guy. Hes fair, responsive and honest and tells us he wouldnt mind having a county-approved medical-marijuana dispensary in his district. Nevertheless, we endorse his Democratic challenger Brant Will to send a message to Cox that he needs to up his game, particularly when it comes to social services.
Weve got 99 problems with the Board of Supervisors, but Dianne Jacob aint one. The District 2 incumbent may be a Republican, but we appreciate how shes holding the electrodes to SDG&E and reformed the way supervisors dish out discretionary grants. We think challenger Rudy Reyes has greater potential to serve the community as an activist and citizen watchdog.
With Supervisor Pam Slater-Prices departure in District 3, the Board of Supervisors will have its first infusion of fresh blood in seeming millennia. Our natural choice is Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Dave Roberts, a Democrat with bipartisan support, a great environmental record and a sharp, compassionate mind. A gay man, hed bring much-needed diversity to the board, and as parent to five adopted children, hed bring firsthand understanding of one of the countys most important functions.
Freshman Assemblymember Brian Jones, a right-wing, Bible-thumpin conservative if ever there were one, is quickly moving his way up the ranks of the Republican caucus. Democrat Patrick Hurley has little expectation of winning the very conservative 71st District, but we hope that our endorsement helps him get out of the primary so that voters dont have to choose between Jones and the other Republican in the race, John McLaughlin, in November.
Escondido City Councilmember Marie Waldron may be the most repulsive front-runner in any election this cycle. Yes, even worse than Carl DeMaio, because Waldrons priorities are shamelessly targeted at brown people. Connected to the Minutemen, Waldron has pushed for voter-ID laws and for rules targeting landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and has made it clear that she plans to make these issues, along with tougher sentences for sex offenders, her top priorities. Although the 75th District is a safe election for Waldron, we strongly endorse her Democratic opponent, Matthew Herold, a precocious, 31-year-old computer scientist who enlisted in the Navy after 9/11.
All three candidates in the 76th District are Republicans. Carlsbad City Councilmember Farrah Douglas close ties to a corrupt former Arizona legislator, whom U-T San Diego recently found operating a dubious realty business, has us worried. Meanwhile, Sherry Hodges has indicated that she believes that climate change is a myth, a non-starter for us. We endorse Rocky Chavez, who demonstrates a commitment to reaching across the aisle to tackle issues such as homelessness, environmental protection and the arts. A former Oceanside City Council member, Chavez also served as undersecretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs—hes well-suited to represent the district that covers Camp Pendleton.
Many voters in District 77 may be drawn to Dustin Steiner, a Republican candidate whose campaign strategy is to name-drop Apple and Facebook at every chance to associate his name with innovation. Dont be fooled. Steiner learned to be a politician from San Diego Countys worst—Supervisor Bill Horn, whom Steiner has served as a legislative advisor. We think Steiner is so awful that were going to strategically bypass the Democrat in the race, Ruben Hernandez, and instead endorse former San Diego City Councilmember Brian Maienschein and pray that his work as the United Way of San Diego Countys commissioner of the Plan to End Chronic Homelessness translates into some sort of compassionate reform measure in Sacramento.
The 78th District is a no-brainer: Toni Atkins deserves to be re-elected.
When the group Progressive San Diego deadlocked in the 79th District and issued a three-way endorsement, we ribbed the liberal coalition for failing to make a decision. We didnt realize how tough a decision it would be until we had to make it ourselves. There are four Democrats in the race, so by process of elimination: Chula Vista City Councilmember Rudy Ramirez is an effective politician, but his campaign has accepted corporate and special-interest contributions that make us wince. Patricia Washingtons dedication to education and health-care issues warms our heart, but she has the opposite problem—she hasnt raised enough money to run a viable campaign. Shirley Webers old-school experience as a labor organizer and educator would serve her district well, and wed like to see her go head-to-head with Sid Voorakkara in the general election. If that happens, well reopen our endorsement, but for now were supporting Voorakkara, a program manager at the California Endowment, based on his impressive technical understanding of the challenges facing San Diego, along with concrete solutions, articulated to us during our endorsement interview.
As much as we enjoy reporting on Derrick Roachs sneaky moves in the game of San Diego politics, as much as we like and respect him personally, we know that hell just be another obstructionist vote in Sacramento. Instead, we hold our noses and endorse Democratic Assemblymember Ben Hueso for reelection in the 80th District.
The 39th District is the only local state Senate seat up for grabs this election. Though hes irked us at times, given that he has no comparable challengers, well endorse Assemblymember Marty Block.
We mightve endorsed Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican, for reelection to the 49th District based on his leadership in killing digital-piracy bills and preserving funding for open data, but then he went and held an all-male hearing on womens access to contraception. That was a deal breaker.
But Issas going to win anyway, so were left with choosing the dark-horse candidate we think will make the most, and most interesting, noise in a general-election campaign. Democrat and global-democracy proponent Jerry Tetalman would be acceptable, but were endorsing activist-lawyer Dick Eiden, whos running as the Occupy Wall Street flag bearer.
Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr.—who will be re-elected easily, if only because the 50th District still hasnt fully caught on that hes not his father—tends to draw eccentric challengers. Last time around, we endorsed hunger-striker Ray Lutz. This time, our endorsement goes to David Secor, the guy with the carefully crafted election costume: jaunty Bowler hat, dandy suit vest and American flag tie. Hes also a bright guy whos passionate about all the right issues.
As soon as State Sen. Juan Vargas heard that the 51st District was open, he filed papers to run for this office. We dont think he should get it—hes too indebted to corporate interests, especially the insurance and financial industries. Were very impressed with John Brooks, Democrat and retired special agent with the Department of the Interior and hope that hell consider running for a local race next time. This year, however, were backing Democrat Denise Ducheny, whom we trust to be an effective progressive legislator, particularly on border issues, from funding projects at the crossing to assisting constituents with visa issues.
In District 53, we endorse Nick Popa—just kidding. Rep. Susan Davis, a Democrat, deserves reelection, though we caution her to reconsider some of her more hawkish policies on national security.
We saved the 52nd District for last. Until a few weeks ago, this decision was a toughie. Two viable Democrats—former San Diego City Council President Scott Peters and former state Assemblymember Lori Saldaña—are vying to send Republican Brian Bilbray packing. Bilbray currently represents the 50th Congressional District but was redistricted, and the new boundaries are less favorable to him. Saldaña is a pure progressive, and, from our view, shed probably vote the right way 99 percent of the time. If that were the only consideration, wed endorse her in a second. The problem is, she also has a volatile personality and a reputation for not working and playing well with others—hardly a trait thats desperately needed in Washington, D.C.
CityBeat witnessed that volatility in April, when Saldaña pulled out of an interview with us a few days before it was scheduled to happen, because she thought a tweet from our editor indicated support for Peters. She should have done the interview and made her case to CityBeats readers in spite of the tweet; instead, she revealed herself to be shockingly sensitive and politically unsophisticated, and she missed an opportunity to reach out to tens of thousands of voters less than two months before the election. Dumb.
We knew of her alienating manner before that, but the occurrence sealed it for us. In this race, we now prefer Peters.
He was never a shoe-in for our endorsement. Numerous times throughout his eight year stint on the City Council, our editorials were less than kind to him, whether they were about his votes against protecting the harbor seals at Childrens Pool, his downplaying of the severity of the citys financial troubles or his acrimonious relationship with Donna Frye and Mike Aguirre.
However, we believe Peters is well suited for Congress and well suited to represent the middle-of-the-road 52nd District. Peters is smart, calm and savvy and has a knack for behind-the-scenes diplomacy. Hes identifying with the fledgling coalition known as the New Democrats, a group that spans the ideological spectrum from Blue Dog to progressive, and were interested to see what they can accomplish.
Most importantly, Peters represents the best chance of beating Bilbray in November, in our view, and probably wouldnt be as easy a target for Republicans as Saldaña would be during the next election. Yes, were looking pragmatically at this race.
San Diego School Board
There are three seats up for election, but in one of them, District D, theres only one candidate: incumbent Richard Barrera. So, well focus on the other two.
The San Diego Unified School District is in a world of pain; its looking at an estimated July 1 budget deficit of $122 million. It would get roughly $40 million from a November statewide tax measure, if its successful, but that wouldnt be applied until the next fiscal year, starting in July 2013. Much of the mess can be attributed to the woeful state budget, but part of the blame (about $40 million worth) can be laid at the feet of the districts current Board of Education, which voted for the current teacher contract, which calls for raises this year and next. Certainly, the teachers deserve the money, but theres no way to pay for it.
With all that in mind, District A incumbent John Lee Evans is the man on the hot seat. You can get revenge on him for the raises and choose one of his untested challengers, Jared Hamilton or Mark Powell, or you can chalk it up as a mistake and vote for stability during a crisis.
There will already be some turnover on the board because District E is up for grabs, with retired university administrator Bill Ponder vying against college educator Marne Foster. Foster is the candidate of the teachers union and board members Barrera and Kevin Beiser. Ponder is endorsed by board member Scott Barnett and was recently on the board of Up4Ed, a group that advocates for more parent power to push reform.
The Board of Education doesnt exactly need any more union-friendly members, but given our suspicion that these parent groups are fronts for pushers of privatization, Ponders association with Up4Ed worries us. As much as wed like to give the board more ideological balance, were going with Foster, who at least will provide a mothers perspective.
Superior Court Judges
The Superior Court bench is filled with too many ex-prosecutors straight from the San Diego County District Attorneys Office. Thats why we endorse two underdogs: Superior Court Commissioner Terrie Roberts for Office No. 24 and Deputy City Attorney George Schaefer for Office No. 25, who are both qualified, experienced and endorsed by progressive groups and officials we respect. In Office No. 34, we have little choice but to endorse the establishment candidate, Deputy District Attorney Garland Peed, because his opponent, Birther attorney Gary Kreep, should never be let anywhere near the robes. In all other judicial races we endorse retention. Elect Terrie Roberts, George Schaefer and Garland Peed.
This measure would ban the San Diego City Council from requiring project labor agreements (PLA) on construction projects. PLAs are pre-hire agreements that set wages, benefits and other terms of work and require that projects be completed on time and without work stoppages. They also often require that contractors hire through union halls—and theres the source of the controversy.
The effort in San Diego is part of a larger nationwide campaign headed by construction-industry lobbyists to get as many PLA bans enacted as possible. In response, state Sen. Michael Rubio authored Senate Bill 829, which would preclude charter cities that ban PLAs from receiving state funding for construction projects. San Diegos a charter city. To put this in perspective, the city received $36 million from the state in 2010 and $158 million in 2011, according to the citys Independent Budget Analyst (IBA). If Prop. A passes, San Diego wouldnt receive this sort of funding. Prop. As proponents are arguing that SB 829 is unconstitutional and wont hold up in court, but the law was vetted by the states legislative counsel prior to Gov. Jerry Brown signing it.
You can find as many anti-union think tanks that say PLAs are bad for taxpayers as you can find liberal-leaning institutions saying they benefit taxpayers. The debate raging over PLAs is complex and worth having. But its beside the point in the case of Prop. A.
Heres why: The city of San Diego has never used a PLA on a project. Never. As Prop. As campaign spokesperson said on KPBS recently, the point of the measure is to preemptively ban the City Council from even having the opportunity to consider a PLA. Not only is this measure a solution to a problem that doesnt exist; it very well could cost the city tens of millions of dollars in state funding every year, if not hundreds of millions.
In addition to banning PLAs, Prop. A would require the city to post online all construction contracts worth $25,000 or more. Youd think that folks like former City Councilmember Donna Frye, a longtime advocate for government transparency, would at least like that part of the measure. But, as Frye points out, Prop. A would allow for the contracts to be redacted and is vague on wholl be doing the redacting. The start-up cost for the database, according to the IBA, is $500,000 with an ongoing cost of $450,000 annually. Also, many contracts are already available online as part of the City Council docket, and the city posts a list of all its contracts (and their amounts) on the purchasing departments website. People wanting to see the entire contract need only request it.
This is solely about antiunion politics and not good policy. Vote no on Prop. A.
First some background: After the failure in 2010 of Prop. D, which would have raised the sales tax in San Diego to help close a budget deficit, Mayor Jerry Sanders reasoned that voters would never approve a tax hike unless they felt that the citys perceived pension problems were fixed. So, he set in motion a ballot initiative that would close the existing retirement system to new employees, except firefighters and cops. Instead, employees would get something akin to a 401(k) plan.
Enter the Antichrist. Carl DeMaio demanded that firefighters and cops be included and that the initiative also contain a provision that bans for five years any pay increases that drive up a current employees retirement benefit—thats referred to on the campaign trail as pensionable pay.
Two influential groups, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, sided with DeMaio, and the players got together on a compromise measure, keeping the pensionable-pay provision but letting new police officers enter the existing retirement system.
Thus, Prop. B was born.
To his credit, the Antichrist inserted into this thing the only part that would save any money. Adjusting for inflation, the citys Independent Budget Analyst (IBA) says the pensionable-pay freeze would save roughly $600 million over 30 years. The IBA says that the switch to a 401(k) would cost about $56 million in the same period, much of that in the first four years. The employee unions believe that imposing a pensionable-pay freeze is illegal, so this will be tied up in litigation. And if the courts invalidate the only part that saves money, taxpayers could end up on the losing end. (The unions have already sued over the measure as a whole, claiming that it amounts to an illegal end-run around state-mandated labor negotiations.)
So, a ballot measure that began as a symbolic attempt to appease voters whove been whipped into a frenzy over perceived out-of-control pensions could end up costing taxpayers money.
Meanwhile, what the Antichrist doesnt tell you when hes ranting about pensions is that while the citys annual estimated required payment into the pension fund grows steadily until about 2025, it decreases dramatically after that. Part of the reason for that is that the employee unions have agreed to major concessions during contract negotiations with the city, particularly in 2008. Proponents say voters have to impose these changes because the City Council and the unions cant be trusted to do it. Well, they already have. Theres still a short-term problem, but the best way to go about fixing it is through further negotiations—the unions understand that it behooves them now to cooperate.
This measure is unnecessary, hostile and possibly costly. Please vote no on Prop. B.
Were against term limits. Theyre antichoice, and, in the state Legislature in particular, they havent worked. In fact, one could argue that theyve made things worse than when voters put them in place in 1990.
Prop. 28 slightly alters term limits for new members of the state Assembly and state Senate. Currently, senators can serve only for eight years, Assembly members for only six years—for a total of 14 years in the Legislature. This measure attempts to appeal to angry voters by shortening the total time to 12 years in the Legislature. But it also allows legislators to serve that entire time in either the Assembly or Senate.
Like most newspapers in California, we wish this measure would abolish term limits altogether; sadly, it doesnt, but it does take one small step in the right direction. Vote yes on Prop. 28.
Prop. 29 would impose a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes, on top of the current 87-centsper-pack tax. The money raised would help fund research on cancer and diseases linked to smoking and pay for smokingprevention programs.
Prop. 29s big backers are the Lance Armstrong Foundation and (no surprise) the American Cancer Society. Its No.1 opponent, to the tune of roughly $24 million so far, is Phillip Morris (no surprise), followed by a number of other tobacco companies and the California Republican Party. They argue that Prop. 29 creates a new state bureaucracy that lacks accountability, in the words of former Schwarzenegger administration finance director Michael Genest.
But, the structure of the board thatll oversee the funds will be modeled after the National Cancer Institutes oversight board. Have you ever heard anyone accuse the NCI of being a bloated bureaucracy? Sure, the NCI uses some of its money to lobby for anti-smoking policies, but is that such a bad thing?
This one seems like a no-brainer. Smokings a no-good, nasty habit. And anything—like a sin tax—thatll make smokers consider breaking their habit is A-OK with us.
Sure, the little anti-poverty crusader on our shoulder thinks a tax like this should go to backfill state social services that have been decimated in the last several years. But Phillip Morris really, really hates this one. And being on the same side as Phillip Morris is about as appealing as licking a dirty ashtray. Vote yes on Prop. 29.
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