We'd love to be able to our readers advice on which judges to vote for on June 6, which county assessor candidate to select and which state Assembly hopeful from each party to support, but, frankly, CityBeat just doesn't have the manpower to research each of these races, so we've picked a handful of the ones we're confident enough to write about.
We'll be adding to this endorsement list throughout the rest of the week, adding them little by little, starting with our thoughts on the county Board of Supervisors and the San Diego City Council. We hope you find this useful, and, if not, at least enjoyable.
Posted 6/02/06 4:19pm
We're weighing in on this one because there are two high-profile Democrats running in a very nasty race, but we're going to sidestep who might have paid whose wife for what, and who's linked to what convicted felon, or who tried to bribe what other candidate to do what. We're going to focus on issues, and who, frankly, would be the more progressive member of Congress.
Juan Vargas, who's termed out of his 79th District Assembly seat and is trying, again, to unseat Congressman Bob Filner, is fine on most issues important to progressive voters, but he's troubled us at times. We'll give you a couple of examples. First of all, he seems to be a ringleader of a string of politicians coming out of the South Bay (think: Inzunza clan) who act like they're entitled to public office and have an air of arrogance and power-lust about them.
But, more importantly, he's cast some disturbing votes. One was the 2003 vote on Senate Bill 1, which would allow Californians greater control over how financial institutions sell and share information such as account balance, account type, name, address, phone number and Social Security number. Vargas, who, according to published reports, accepted more than $200,000 in campaign contributions from the financial-services industry between 2001 and 2003, voted against SB 1 at the committee level and was one of a group of campaign-cash recipients who voted in favor of it only after it had been watered down and "only after the lobbyists let them off the leash," according to a San Jose Mercury News editorial. Vargas took a lot of heat from consumer groups as a result. The Consumer Federation of California even has a web page titled "Juan Vargas Watch" detailing money he's received from banks, brokerages and insurers.
Last year, he irked the gay and lesbian community when he voted against the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Act, which was aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage in California and lost by a mere four votes. Vargas had done pretty well by the gay community up until then, leading some observers, such as the Gay and Lesbian Times, to speculate that Vargas was suddenly conservative because he needed issues to set him apart from Filner in a district populated by socially conservative Latinos.
And earlier this week, Vargas voted against a bill that would have put caps on out-of-pocket spending by people enrolled in high-deductible health-insurance plans, to the chagrin of affordable-healthcare advocates who believe people of modest means are often duped by the hidden costs of these plans. According to Opensecrets.org, a campaign-finance watchdog group, Vargas has received nearly $37,000 from the insurance industry in his current bid for Congress.
We worry that Vargas is too susceptible to lobbyists bearing candy and too much of a political opportunist to be counted on to vote his conscience.
On the other hand, while no one's perfect, Filner can be counted on to vote liberal or progressive just about every time on the most important matters for our time-war and peace, civil liberties, civil rights, education, immigration and healthcare. Lately, as the ranking Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, he's been raising much awareness of the plight of veterans, who may get a lot of support-the-troops lip service but get next to nothing when it comes to real health-and-welfare support. It's also worth noting that local Latino groups strongly support Filner. Our unequivocal endorsement goes to Bob Filner.
Posted 6/01/06 3:26pm
We're not going to go into any depth on these, but, for what it's worth, we like John Garamendi for lieutenant governor, Debra Bowen for secretary of state, Jerry Brown for attorney general, Bill Lockyer for treasurer and Jack O'Connell for superintendent of public instruction. Yes, many of them are usual suspects, but this delightful game of musical chairs is what we get for approving term limits.
And besides, we're comfortable with this brood. Garamendi has taken on the insurance companies while Lockyer has gone into battle against the big utilities. Brown has always been a refreshing independent thinker. O'Connell has been a strong voice for education dating back to his days in the state Senate (he helped bring us smaller class sizes). And Bowen will be big supporter of voter rights.
If you need a usual-suspect Democrat to throw to the lions, pick Cruz Bustamante, who's running for insurance commissioner. We can do without him.
Posted 6/01/06 1:23pm
We know something you might not know: There's a really important election happening next Tuesday that will decide which Democrat will face off against Arnold Schwarzenegger in November for the chance to lead the most populous state in the country for the next four years.
The reason you might not know it is because the candidates are limiting their campaigns pretty much to 30-second TV spots that are useless to people who want to make an informed choice, and because the media has paid little attention (because the candidates aren't making much news).
Hell, we at CityBeat are as much to blame as anyone else; this thing snuck up on us, too.
Your options are two middle-aged, pasty-white, male multimillionaires. One, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, made his money by being a housing developer. The other, state Controller Steve Westly, made his by being an eBay executive. Angelides is super-nerdy. Westly is only slightly less nerdy. Both want to beat up on the Anti-Nerd, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Many pundits have opined that there's not much difference between Angelides and Westly, but, while there may be some truth to that, in terms of policies, we think there's a world of difference in style and approach.
We like Angelides, who's sewn up all the big Democratic establishment endorsements, for his boldness, his fearlessness, his unabashed liberal-ness. He is a classic populist liberal, having built a strong record of advocacy for working-class Californians. His issues are full funding for public education, unimpeded access to college education and access to affordable healthcare. As treasurer, he's built a reputation as the guy who invests money in inner-city neighborhoods and stands up against corporate interests. He's a union guy all the way, having been the loudest single voice hollering back at Schwarzenegger's attacks last year on teachers, nurses, cops and firefighters, and fighting off attempts to turn public pensions into dicey 401Ks, which were never intended to serve as people's retirement funds.
Westly is more moderate and has articulated a less concrete plan. We fear he'll play it too safe-we need someone who's not afraid to pick a direction and move full steam. We think Angelides is that guy. He's already shown that he's not afraid to invoke the T word-"taxes"-which means he may be willing to tell voters that providing public services actually costs money; there's no free ride. It may be akin to handing Schwarzenegger the lumber and nails needed to build Angelides' own political grave, but we hope voters find it a piece of badly needed, refreshing honesty. We endorse Phil Angelides for governor.
County Supervisor-Districts 4 and 5
Posted 6/01/06 12:10pm
The County Board of Supervisors is filled with five men and women who are all Republican, and who all share the same skin tone and hair color. It's truly disturbing to look at. This body needs new blood in the worst way.
While 4th District incumbent Ron Roberts is not-by a long shot-the worst of the bunch, his challenger is precisely the kind of fresh face we're looking for. Richard Barrera would be a badly needed energetic advocate for low- and lower-middle-income county residents. He'd focus mostly on accessible healthcare, affordable housing and reliable public transportation, and we think that's a winning menu. Some of his ideas might not be workable, and some might be too expensive, but at least he's talking. He'll be a great guy to have in the conversation. Richard Barrera gets our vote.
Bill Horn, the 5th District incumbent, is the worst of the bunch. Horn voted against approving financing documents necessary in order for the county to make improvements to a skilled-nursing facility in Santee because-get this-his board colleagues refused to give each supervisor a 25-percent raise. Horn, a wealthy rancher, wasn't satisfied with his $115,000 salary; he wanted $143,000. You might recall his famous quote about how supervisors aren't "Franciscans" and shouldn't be expected to take a "vow of poverty." County governments are tasked with looking out for the neediest citizens-people who actually live with poverty. If there's one person who shouldn't be a county supervisor, it's Horn.
His greed and lack of scruples are bad enough, but he also would love nothing more than to crisscross the county with highways so his developer friends could make out like bandits; he has nothing but disdain for public transportation; and now he wants the county to conduct a time-consuming, and ultimately useless, study of the costs of illegal immigration so that the federal government can reimburse the county, which ain't gonna happen.
If Horn were running against a giant, drooling, mutant, two-headed sloth, we'd endorse the sloth. As it happens, Horn's running against a human-Bruce Thompson, a former state assemblyman. Thompson was one of six co-chairs of George W. Bush's California campaign in 2000, and Thompson has eight children-these are two things that lead us to seriously question his judgment. He's was also chairman of an offshore oil company (yikes!), and he's been endorsed by Dana Rohrabacher, one of the looniest members of Congress. Scary stuff.
It would have been nice to have a better choice, but, you know what? He's not Bill Horn, so Bruce Thompson gets our endorsement.
City Council-Districts 2, 4, 6 and 8
Posted 6/01/06 12:10pm
How strange it is that, given the mess the city of San Diego finds itself in, none of the four City Council races are competitive this year. Doesn't anyone want these jobs?
It's a strange election year, indeed. Two of the four seats were up for grabs just a few months ago, when Republican Kevin Faulconer won in District 2, and Democrat Ben Hueso prevailed in District 8. We supported neither candidate. This time, Faulconer is running against a candidate who's dropped out of the race, and Hueso's running against a pair he beat the last time-Tim Gomez and Remy Bermúdez.
We supported Bermúdez then because we considered Hueso arrogant; it was like he thought of himself as entitled to the seat, and that reminded us too much of his pal Ralph Inzunza. But Hueso won his runoff election in January with an overwhelming voter majority, and he hasn't behaved badly enough to merit our support of either of his opponents. He was wrong when he voted to continue the legal battle to save the Mt. Soledad cross, but he was right to vote against a settlement with the Building Industry Association over affordable housing. We still have concerns about Bermúdez. An advocate for the less fortunate, she'd cast many of the right votes, but she's not terribly articulate in public and at times borders on hysterical.
In District 4, Tony Young will easily beat Bruce Williams. We enthusiastically endorsed Young when he first ran to replace the late Charles Lewis. Since then, he's been a mixed bag. We don't like his support for carrying on the doomed fight over the cross, and his vote for the BIA settlement really concerned us. He's a tireless fighter against gang violence, and he's bent on injecting some economic investment into his district, which are both admirable goals, but we'd like to see him be a better advocate for his lower-income constituents. Still, he's a better choice than Williams, a staffer to former Mayor Dick Murphy.
The one candidate who continues to impress us is District 6 incumbent Donna Frye, our favorite hardworking populist public servant. We'll not even bother naming her opponents.
We're holding our nose and supporting Kevin Faulconer and Ben Hueso, lukewarmly endorsing Tony Young and wholeheartedly backing Donna Frye.