With California newspapers describing Sen. Barbara Boxer's record as "ineffective" and "uninspired," one might say that Republican challenger Carly Fiorina has succeeded in painting the Democratic incumbent as a lazy, lackluster politician with few memorable achievements during a lifetime in government.
Allow us to remind you what Boxer has stood for, often as a lonely voice. Boxer voted against the Iraq invasion. She spoke out against warrantless wiretapping. She defended the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from drilling. She voted against the Defense of Marriage Act and co-sponsored legislation to sanction the Sudan for its human-rights crimes in Darfur. Sure, she once asked a brigadier general to caller her "Senator" instead of "ma'am." If that's Fiorina's best case for ousting Boxer-well, that's just weak.
In fact, Fiorina's campaign has been rife with embarrassing moments. Remember the "demon sheep" commercials? A vote for Fiorina is a vote for six years of stand-up comedians dishing out cheap laughs at California's expense. Any Tea Partier worth his Gadsen Flag should have been repulsed by Fiorina's faux-populist rhetoric and Astroturf crowd of supporters at her "Tax Day Revolt" in San Diego. In her career at Hewlett Packard, Fiorina was the model of corporate irresponsibility-and that's what she'll bring to D.C. Please vote for Barbara Boxer for U.S. Senate.
Incumbent members of Congress from San Diego County don't lose their seats, and since incumbents in each of the local House districts are running, there's no point in offering endorsements. But we'll do it anyway because we don't like Brian Bilbray on immigration, Darrell Issa on his politically motivated crusades or Duncan Hunter Jr. on anything. So, we say Howard Katz in the 49th, Francine Busby in the 50th, Bob Filner in the 51st, Ray Lutz in the 52nd and Susan Davis in the 53rd.
We really, really like Republican Meg Whitman's desire to keep illegal aliens out of California's institutions of higher learning, her belief that gay people shouldn't enjoy the same rights as straight people, her vow to suspend landmark clean-air legislation and her plan to cut taxes for the richest Californians.
Ha ha! Just kidding. Those are all the reasons we're endorsing Jerry Brown for governor.
Gavin Newsom excites us. Not because he's a handsome man, but because his tenure as mayor of San Francisco has proven him to be someone who thinks big-on civil-rights issues and matters of public health and healthcare. Newsom is a strong supporter of gay marriage (his opponent, Abel Maldonado, isn't) and sees the benefits in aggressively growing California's green-tech / clean-tech sector. (Maldonado wants to suspend AB 32, the state law that's spurred the green economy.) Sure, some folks argue that the position of lieutenant governor doesn't carry much clout, but we'd hope this person would also be a key advisor to the governor. In that case, we like Gavin Newsom.
Secretary of State
This is a no brainer. Republican Damon Dunn wants to be the state's top election official even though he voted for the first time in 2009. That's like running for attorney general because you were inspired after filing a complaint in small-claims court. On substance, Dunn isn't promising anything that incumbent Debra Bowen hasn't already made great strides toward achieving, so we see no benefit in hiring a football player to do a job better suited for a lawyer.
Since being elected in 2006, Bowen, a lawyer, has taken an office in flux and given it a cohesive identity. As researchers who regularly comb the Secretary of State's campaign and business disclosures, we can attest to her efficiency. If there were a problem with competency or politicization in Bowen's office, the media would be shouting about it. Fact is, she's not a controversial candidate, which is exactly what's needed for one of the state's most crucial functions: running a fair election. Without a doubt, voters should reelect Bowen.
John Chiang's given us no reason to think he should be ousted as California's chief accountant. His audits of state spending have turned up more than $2 billion in savings to taxpayers, and we appreciate how he stood up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger when Arnold wanted to reduce state workers' pay to minimum wage. To put it simply: Chiang's a finance nerd who knows his stuff. His opponent, Republican Tony Strickland, is a right-wing ideologue. Vote for John Chiang.
Can you think of any reason incumbent Treasurer Bill Lockyer should be jettisoned from office? Neither can we. Vote for Bill Lockyer.
San Francisco District attorney Kamala Harris opposes the death penalty and would not defend the anti-gay-rights Prop. 8 in court- two big reasons we back her over Los Angeles County District attorney Steve Cooley, who would defend Prop. 8 and is an unabashed supporter of the death penalty. More importantly, though, as we said when we endorsed Harris in the Democratic primary (along with co-endorsee Pedro Nava), she's proven her commitment to finding ways to reduce inmate recidivism in San Francisco, and she says it'll be her top objective statewide if elected. That should be music to the ears of anyone who thinks bulging prisons are among California's ills. Cooley is a relative moderate for a Republican law-and-order type, and we could live with his election, but we strongly support Kamala Harris.
We want a candidate who'll make the best of new healthcare reforms rather than push against "Obamacare" or stall until Republicans can magically "repeal and replace" it.
Our choice is Democrat Dave Jones, a lawyer with an overachiever reputation. A former Sacramento City Council member and White House Fellow, he currently chairs the Assembly Health Committee (and formerly the Judiciary Committee), so he knows the intricacies of insurance law. We kind of wish this was Davey Jones from The Monkees-because how much fun would insurance regulation be then? But we're content to support Dave Jones for insurance commissioner.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Both Tom Torlakson and Larry Aceves have experience in education (Aceves as a superintendent and Torlakson as a classroom educator), and both believe school funding should be a priority. Here's what sets them apart: Aceves wants to make it easier to fire ineffective teachers and do away with the last-in, first-out system that results in innovative, younger teachers getting laid off when it's time to make cuts. Therefore, we support Larry Aceves.
Unfortunately for voters, there are no competitive local races for state Senate and state Assembly. San Diego County has been gerrymandered into safe seats. So, since the outcome of these 11 elections is a foregone conclusion, we'll be brief.
Republican Joel Anderson will win in the 36th Senate District, and that's too bad because we think the termed-out state Assembly member is ethically challenged. We support the Democrat, high-school teacher Paul Clay. Incumbent Mark Wyland will win in the Senate's 38th District, and that's appropriate for a Republican-leaning area. We don't like Democrat Juan Vargas, because he's a toadie for the insurance industry, but his challenger, Republican Brian Hendry, thinks women shouldn't be allowed to get abortions even in the case of incest or rape. So, we'll just have to hold our noses and endorse Vargas in the Senate's 40th District and hope he doesn't get on the Insurance Committee.
In the Assembly: Republican incumbent Kevin Jeffries will win in the 66th District. Whatever. So, too, will incumbent Republican Diane Harkey in the 73rd, but we can't support her because of colossally stupid comments she made about early release for some nonviolent prison inmates. Vote for her challenger, Judy Jones. We're not big fans of Martin Garrick, but he's the leader of the Assembly Republicans, so he might be useful to San Diego County; we're fine with his reelection in the 74th. In his Chelsea's Law crusade, Republican 75th District Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher showed the capacity to listen to and learn from people who are experts on sex offenders. And who are we to get in the way of his march toward the 2012 mayoral election in San Diego? We strongly support Democrat Toni Atkins in the 76th District.
Even though he won't win, we like Democrat Mark Hanson for the open 77th District seat. Democrat Marty Block is a bit of a political coward, but we'll take him over right-wing extremist Rick Powell in the 78th. We're thankful that Democrat Ben Hueso is leaving the San Diego City Council after only one term; as a token of our appreciation, we'll endorse him over (ACORN) dumpster diver Derrick Roach for the open 79th District seat.
County Supervisor, Districts 4 and 5
We've been critical of District 4 Supervisor Ron Roberts-mostly for his prickly disposition-but he's not even close to being the county government's worst actor. That distinction belongs to Bill Horn.
No current supervisor is particularly good at caring for the county's least-fortunate citizens, but the Republican Roberts is the best of the bad on social services-he clearly was affected by a recent early-morning survey of homeless people in Downtown San Diego, and that was nice to see.
However, that alone isn't compelling enough for us to abandon his challenger, Democrat Stephen Whitburn, whom we endorsed in the June primary. Honestly, Whitburn's game-show-host style creeps us out a little, and we wonder how much substance lies beneath. But the Board of Supervisors needs a political enema in the worst way. We're certain that Whitburn would at least be a voice for change when it comes to dispensing social services and protecting the county's rural lands.
And there's District 5 Supervisor Bill Horn, hands down the most repulsive, repugnant, obnoxious, loathsome, vile politician in San Diego County. His too-long list of egregious behaviors, which have been well-documented, led us to enthusiastically endorse his challenger, Steve Gronke, in the June primary.
But since then, Horn has added to his greatest-hits collection, most notably his repeated attempts to use taxpayer dollars to further the cause of a religious, pro-life nonprofit even after county lawyers deemed doing so inappropriate. Remarkably, the North County Times endorsed horn in June, but the conservative daily has since retracted that endorsement, fueled by Horn's arrogant refusal to comply with county land-use rules on his own property.
Gronke, a fiscally conservative Vista City Council member who switched from Republican to independent when he decided to challenge horn, has a demonstrated history of principled environmentalism and of not being Bill Horn.
If you live in Districts 4 or 5, please shake up the Board of Supervisors by choosing Stephen Whitburn and Steve Gronke.
When the previous assessor-whatever Greg Smith retired in 2008, he wanted his lieutenant, David Butler, to serve as a place holder until 2010. Then Butler decided to stay in the game. A Democrat, his list of endorsements includes few notable leaders, and his fundraising has been pathetic. He's lucky there aren't enough reporters around to pay close attention to this race. Fortunately, there's an alternative to the incumbent.
Ernie Dronenburg is a supremely overqualified "tax geek" who spent 20 years on the state Board of Equalization and is credited with authoring the official Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. Dronenburg's a Republican and conservative activist, and that makes us worry, sure, but he's promised us that if Prop. 8 is ultimately negated, his office will treat same-sex couples with respect and dignity. He notes-as have we-that the cost of obtaining records from the county is just plain ridiculous and that it shouldn't be hard to get everything online. Dronenburg also promises that, within a week of taking office, he will reopen several branch offices that Butler closed. Plus, he vows to wear his signature bow tie to work at least two days a week. We endorse Ernie Dronenburg.
Superior Court Judge, Seat 20
In the June primary, we endorsed Stephen Clark for this judgeship because we saw him as the Baby Bear's "just right" porridge in a three-way race that also included an establishment candidate and a right-winger. Clark forewent fundraising, which attracted our attention but also ensured his downfall.
In the runoff, we're endorsing Richard Monroy, the candidate backed by District attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Public Defender Henry Coker and City attorney Jan Goldsmith. He's had a distinguished career in the DA's office covering narcotics, gangs, hate crimes and corruption. Monroy also impressed us by agreeing (as earlier judge candidates would not) that courthouse technology could use an overhaul and acknowledging that the sky won't fall if Prop. 19 passes. Vote for Richard Monroy.
San Diego City Council, Districts 6 and 8
Democrat Howard Wayne wasn't our first choice for District 6 back in June, but he sure as hell is in November. To be clear, in appearance and demeanor, he can often come off as clownish. But this isn't a beauty pageant. Wayne's heart is kind, and his mind is sharp. He's like Rainman when it comes to public policy, except that he's able to articulate his views, Steve Gronke in detail, to the layman. He isn't, as some critics claim, a career politician. He's a career public servant, whose work in the state Attorney General's office has mostly consisted of nailing fraudsters and, in the Legislature, passing environmental protections. If Wayne loses, you can be sure he'll continue to serve the public admirably.
The same can't be said of his Republican opponent, Lorie Zapf, whose experience is mostly limited to low-level political campaigning. She fronted the organization Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse in San Diego, but near as we can tell from its public filings, she didn't do much beyond throwing fundraisers to pay her own salary. As we've reported, Zapf 's financial history is fraught with shady mortgages and questionable business deals. Worst of all were Zapf 's shocking statements on gay people in 2006 in e-mails to a hardcore anti-gay activist.
We're far less fired up about the race in District 8, but that doesn't mean we don't have a strong favorite. We picked David Alvarez in June, and we're sticking with him.
Alvarez is a lot like Todd Gloria, who's become our favorite member of the City Council. Both grew up in working-class families in the very neighborhoods they represent-or seek to represent, in Alvarez's case. Alvarez says he hopes to emulate Gloria when it comes to rebuilding community infrastructure. Alvarez became a neighborhood activist before his 20th birthday and went on to work for state Sen. Denise Ducheny; his experience shows when he talks articulately about public policy.
That's how he sets himself apart from his opponent, attorney Felipe Hueso, the brother of current City Council President Ben Hueso. While we believe Felipe has the best of intentions, he tends to become untethered when talking about municipal issues. Alvarez is by far the superior candidate.
We emphatically endorse Howard Wayne in District 6 and David Alvarez in District 8.
Escondido City Council
Aside from San Diego, we've not endorsed in other City Council races-there's something that doesn't feel right about parachuting into cities we rarely cover. But we couldn't keep out of Escondido, a city that catapulted itself into the national-news spotlight by requiring landlords to check a potential tenant's immigration status. This resulted in a lawsuit from the ACLU that cost the city, which lost, $200,000.
Councilmember Marie Waldron, who authored the landlord law, deemed it money well spent. On the abhorrent-politician spectrum, Waldron is in line with County Supervisor Bill horn. She believes the right to bear arms is "God-given" and thinks Sarah Palin is the best thing since Tupperware; her views on immigration verge on racist. We'd like to see Jason Everitt, a research and policy analyst for the left-leaning Center on Policy Initiatives, replace Waldon. We like Everitt. He's a rising star in local politics, holds a graduate degree in public administration, and has as his chief campaign platform a focus on local job creation. We think that's much more important than Waldron's obsessive immigrant scapegoating. Oust Waldron and vote in Jason Everitt.
San Diego School Board, Districts B and C
Generally speaking, the San Diego Unified School District is in the hands of a trio board members that are friendly to the teachers union, a response to the failed tenure of reform-minded but diplomacy-challenged former Superintendent Alan Bersin. That's not going to change in November; that threesome isn't up for reelection until 2012.
However, voters here have the opportunity to strengthen the educators' hand just as political pressure on teachers unions nation wide is increasing, thanks largely to Waiting for "Superman", Davis Guggenheim's documentary that skewers union protection of lousy teachers and holds up semi-autonomous charter schools as the shining hope for a crumbling U.S public-education system.
In District C, longtime educator and great-grandfather John de Beck is seeking his sixth term. A fiery critic of Bersin, de Beck now finds himself at odds with the teachers union. He's being challenged by longtime local politico Scott barnett, whose career has included stints as a Del Mar City Council member, a taxpayer advocate and a political consultant. De Beck's a conservative Democrat, and barnett's a moderate Republican. Both men have demonstrated the capacity to be independent, making them hard to pigeonhole politically, which is a good thing.
Barnett thinks de Beck needs to step aside to that he can pop the hood on the district's dire financial circumstance and get in there with a calculator and tinker. He lost union support when he decided he couldn't support Prop. J, the parcel tax also on the November ballot that will benefit the school district-he thinks it's asking too much of a citizenry struggling to emerge from recession.
The choice is much starker in District B, whose voters sent incumbent Katherine Nakamura packing in the June primary, leaving Kevin Beiser, who teaches math in National City, and businessman Steve Rosen to battle for an unexpectedly open seat. Beiser is a union guy through and through; Rosen, who jumped into the fray as an angry parent, is critical of the union and the contract it agreed to with the district that included a week less of instruction (furlough days) in exchange for a small pay cut.
We've long liked barnett-one of our favorite local Republicans, in fact-but he isn't making a compelling case for why de Beck must go. We believe Barnett truly wants to be the financial fix-it man, but he doesn't yet know how he'll do it, and the desire alone doesn't warrant giving de Beck the heave.
The other race is trickier because it's truly a matter of choosing sides, and, frankly, we're not precisely sure which side we're on. We'd have preferred to see the union take the pay cut without penalizing the kids, who need all the classroom days they can get. When we asked Beiser if he could offer any critiques of the teachers union, big or small, he couldn't-or wouldn't- answer the question. He dismisses criticism of teacher-tenure policies as ginned-propaganda from Fox News, and we think that's a gross misreading of things. There's no doubt he'll be a reliable union advocate on the board. However, there's no questioning his energy, and having been teaching for just six years, he's still fresh. Rosen, on the other hand, would be a union antagonist; he'd speak plainly and bluntly about what he sees. He'd ask tough questions of district staff and probably spar with fellow board members.
The District B race has been our most agonizing decision. We remain supportive of unions in general, but we're worried that the local teachers' negotiators are overreaching, and we're nervous about increasing their power on the school board. Because the unions will emerge with three friendlies on the board, we're going with Rosen as a protest vote against the five furlough days and to retain a healthy tension among decision makers. We hope Beiser backer and former school board member Fran Zimmerman doesn't hunt us down, chop us into little bits and feed us to the squirrels. We cross our fingers and say vote for Steve Rosen and John de Beck.