Merlin 2018 Voting Guide – California Statewide Races

Here it is – the meat. The most contentious bit of voting – WHO to vote for. Ballot initiatives are important, but not all that engaging. Who needs an initiative about the cost of kidney dialysis when you’ve got a Senate race to attend to? 

US Senate
Dianne Feinstein (D) vs. Kevin de León (D)
Six-year term. This seat will next be contested in 2024. 

Who is Dianne Feinstein?
Senator Feinstein was originally elected to the US Senate in 1992. She’s the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Prior to the Senate she was Mayor of San Francisco from 1978 to 1988. She’s 85 years.

Who is Kevin de León?
Kevin de León, a California State Senator, has been in office since December 6, 2010. Prior to that, he served in the State Assembly since 2006. He’s 51 years old. 

They’re both Democrats…. so…uh… where do they differ?

Senator de León believes in Medicare for all, a.k.a, single payer. Senator Feinstein does not, choosing instead to support “Medicare for everyone over 55,” and a “Single Payer option.”

Mostly though, they agree. From The Daily Bruin:

  1. The Economy: Feinstein and De León both agree that raising taxes on the highest earners and lowering taxes for the middle class and below will allow the government to expand social programs while decreasing the deficit. De León has supported a $15 minimum wage in California; Feinstein signed on as a co-sponsor of Bernie Sanders’ $15 national minimum wage bill last year.
  2. Education: Feinstein and De León both want to increase access to quality public education by making public universities more affordable. In 2007, Feinstein co-wrote a bill that increased funding to the U.S. Department of Education and expanded Pell Grants for students across the country. De León has backed a bill that makes the first year of community college free for California students.
  3. Immigration: De León championed a 2013 bill to protect undocumented immigrants in California and allow them to access social programs like insurance and driver’s licenses. Feinstein has been a fierce advocate for the undocumented community and voted against the government spending bill earlier this year because it did not include a clean DACA provision.
  4. Reproductive Rights: Both Feinstein and De León have a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood and boast pro-choice and pro-women records. Feinstein has championed bills that require sexual assault education and accountability on college campuses. De León has done the same at the state level.
  5. Health care: The only big issue Feinstein and De León disagree on is health care. While De León is a proponent of Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan, Feinstein argues the plan has no real funding mechanism and insteadwants to improve “Obamacare” by increasing funding and accessibility.

My vote goes to…
Feinstein’s age worries me somewhat, but after watching her at the Kavanaugh hearings, and after watching her during the only debate she had with Senator de Leon, nothing about her cognitive abilities worries me (as it would if I were writing about Senator Grassley). What’s more is that if age is a concern, all polling seems to point at the Governor’s race going to Gavin Newsom. Should something happen to Senator Feinstein, future-Governor Newsome would appoint her successor. 

So, putting age aside, do I think Senator de Leon will make a better Senator than Dianne Feinstein? As a technologist, I worry about the next six-years of cyber policy and internet laws and don’t see Feinstein as a champion for that anymore. With the importance of immigration and his personal connection, and his position to fight for Medicare-for-all, I also see de Leon as a champion that more closely represents me. He’s also endorosed by the California Democratic Party. Pretty compelling stuff.

My hesitation on going all in here is that Dianne Feinstein has been a champion for decades, championing many of the things I agree with, including, but certainly not limited to, women’s rights, and LGBTQ+ equality.

So, they’re very close in policy – but who gets it?

For me – Dianne gets my vote until she decides she’s out. She’s earned it. 

I vote Dianne Feinstein. 

California Governor
Gavin Newsom (D) vs. John H. Cox (R)
Four-year term. California Governor will next be decided in 2022.

Who is Gavin Newsom?
If you’ve been living in California, but under a rock (and still paying $3,200 a month in rent), Gavin Newsom is the current Lt. Governor of California and the former mayor of San Francisco.  He’s 51 years old. 

Who is John H. Cox?
A businessman from Chicago who moved to California in 2007, John H. Cox is best knows for his time as a Conservative Radio host in Chicago. He ran for the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination. This would be his first held office if elected. 

I can get into the issues here but this is pretty plain and simple. Newsom is a progressive in every sense of the word. He’s championed LGBTQ+ issues, women’s rights, immigration reform, and has been a staunch supporter of progressive causes. 

John H. Cox is endorsed by President Trump. 

Not surprisingly (considering I’m a donor), I’m voting for Newsom.

California Lt. Governor
Eleni Kounalakis (D) vs. Ed Hernandez (D)
Four-year term. California Lt. Governor will next be decided in 2022.

These down ballot races are hard, particularly when they’re both from the same party and essentially are championing the same issues. 

CBS Sacramento has a great breakdown of where they stand on the issues, but for me, as I read through her statements, Kounalakis’ is more compelling for me as a father. Her statements are written by her, his are written about him. I’m sure he’d do a fine job, but this is type of stuff I love: 

“As a mom, mentor to other women, and hardworking activist for marriage equality and gender and racial equity, I have dedicated my entire life to public service and fighting for equal rights.

I’m proud to have intersectional support in this race, and there is no doubt that I will fight hard for racial and gender equality in policy, government and every aspect of society. We need more protections and more advocates, and we need to empower people from marginalized communities to have a louder voice in our state government.

I believe California must lead the way into the future – and that means doubling down on our California values. This starts with never tolerating discrimination and ensuring equal rights for all.

Even in 2017, we’re still fighting to protect a woman’s right to choose. We need leaders tough enough to stand up to those who threaten to undermine Roe v. Wade. I will always support our rights as women to have control over our bodies, and to make our own decisions about our health, including having access to safe and legal abortions.”

Eleni Kounalakis has my vote.

California Secretary of State
Alex Padilla (D) vs. Mark P. Meuser (R)
Four-year term. California Secretary of State will next be decided in 2022.

I know – you don’t care, right? You should. This one is less about these two candidates as it is about Alex Padilla’s job performance thus far. 

The LA Times sums this up quite nicely:

No need for a big wind-up here: Democratic incumbent Alex Padilla has by and large done a solid job in his first four-year term as California’s secretary of state and he should be returned to Sacramento for a second term.

Padilla, a former Los Angeles City Council member and state senator, won his first term by promising, among other things, to register more California voters, improve the use of technology in voting, replace the cumbersome Cal-Access database system for tracking campaign contributions and spending, and make it easier for people to vote through early voting and other such programs.

He has managed to deliver on most of those, with 2 million more voters on state rolls now than when he was elected, an increase aided by the rollout of VoteCal online registration and the system created by the 2015 New Motor Voter Act (which Padilla sponsored) that automatically registers eligible voters when they receive or renew a driver’s license. And the new “Voter’s Choice” system that Padilla championed, which allows voters more options for when and how they vote, has been launched in five counties, with more expected to join in 2020 (it’s a voluntary program and not all will adopt it).

Editorial Board, LA Times

Padilla has done a fine job and has earned a second term from me.

California Controller
Betty T. Yee (D) vs. Konstantinos Roditis (R)
Four-year term. California Controller will next be decided in 2022.

The impact to this race in my neck of the woods would be a different signature on paychecks around the region. Betty T. Yee’s name is ubiquitous to those who’ve received either a paycheck or a tax return in California, so Konstantinos has an uphill climb for name recognition. More importantly is that the State Controller acts as the head of accounting for the State and ensures everything runs smoothly. 

We know Betty can do that, so the electoral question is can Konstantinos do that better? Well, reading his Candidate statement doesn’t encourage me. He takes the opportunity to laud his credentials in favor of partisan talking points. I looked into his positions and he says he doesn’t take “lobbyist, PAC, union, big business, corporate, or special interest money.” Those are all good things, until you realize his campaign is basically self-financed and I’m not in favor of someone trying to buy their way into Government. 

The LA Times Editorial Staff again puts this best:

When Democrat Betty Yee ran for state controller four years ago, we weren’t persuaded that she was better prepared for the post than her Republican opponent, Fresno’s then-Mayor Ashley Swearengin, whom we endorsed. Yee won, of course, and we’re pleased to acknowledge that she has performed her official duties well. We enthusiastically endorse her for reelection.

The choice was made even easier by the doldrums in which the California Republican Party has found itself. This is yet another statewide race in which the best the Republicans could come up with is a candidate — Anaheim businessman Konstantinos Roditis — with little public service history, no statewide name recognition, comparatively few donors (his campaign is primarily self-financed) and a limited sense of how the office that he seeks actually works. Roditis also is pushing a hare-brained “trickle up taxation” proposal to have local governments collect all taxes and set policy for many programs, then pass on to the state government only the money it needs to fulfill its statewide responsibilities, which would be a logistical and policy nightmare.

Editorial Staff, LA Times

Betty Yee has my vote. 

California Treasurer
Greg Conlon (R) vs. Fiona Ma (D)
Four-year term. California Treasurer will next be decided in 2022.

This one is pretty easy. Greg Conlon is an 85-year-old, twice-unsuccessful candidate, who lives in Atherton. I can’t see him being a progressive voice in the administration, and he doesn’t seem to have a plan to address housing, student loans, or anything else really other than cutting taxes. Fiona Ma has basically every endorsement in the book.

Even if you’re a party-line Republican, I can’t see how Conlon is your candidate. Not only is Fiona Ma fairly non-partisan (in a non-partisan position for the most part), but she’s been proven to be a staunch crusader against waste and corruption.

Again, the Editorial Staff at the LA Times has done all my hard work here. 

Ma currently sits on the Board of Equalization. She served as member of the state Assembly from 2006-2012, where she was speaker pro tempore under Speaker John Perez, and, before that, was on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Her background is in accounting — she’s a CPA who worked for Ernst & Young before starting her own accounting practice in San Francisco. As a member of the Board of Equalization, she (along with Controller Betty Yee) was instrumental in sparking an investigation into a scandal involving nepotism and improper use of civil servants for political purposes by her fellow board members. The scrutiny culminated in a 2017 law that stripped the Board of Equalization of nearly all of its duties and staff, leaving it with only the core duties required under the state Constitution.

Easy choice. Fiona Ma. 

California District Attorney
Steven Bailey (R) vs. Xavier Becerra (D)
Four-year term. California DA will next be decided in 2022.

Sometimes I’m an issues voter. Becerra is not without his controversy, but when Bailey goes on the record to say “I do not support net neutrality,” that tells me all I need to know about who I want to be our top legal official in the State. 

Lest I be accused, here’s the whole quote from an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribute:

Union-Tribune: California lawmakers have set up their own “net neutrality” law because of unhappiness with the FCC’s abandonment of “net neutrality.” Is it time for the attorney general to take up online privacy issues as well in the face of inaction by Congress?

BAILEY: I do not support net neutrality.

The internet has functioned fine without government getting in the middle of it and screwing things up by imposing regulations. Therefore, I am naturally opposed to a state-run net neutrality rule. Having California try to interject itself and impose net neutrality rules that are supposed to govern the internet in our state is mindless, stupid and won’t work. These new rules more than likely also violate the interstate clause of the Constitution.

That’s a particular issue I’m very passionate about and I expect California to defend it. I don’t think Bailey will do that. 

Becerra gets my vote

California Insurance Commissioner
Ricardo Lara (D) vs. Steve Poizner (NP)
Four-year term. California Insurance Commissioner will next be decided in 2022.

In searching for information on this race, the best information I’ve found is from a San Francisco Chronicle article.

It was a mistake, said Poizner, who calls himself a social progressive and a fiscal conservative.

If there is a phrase that irks me more than anything it’s this one. What is a fiscal conservative? Someone who still believes in the fantasy of trickle down economics? Someone who thinks the state with the most billionaires and the largest companies in the country has an over-regulation problem?

My other problem with Poizner is that he ran for Governor as a Republican and became an “Independent” when he got into this race. What’s more is that during his Gubernatorial run he ran on a platform that California has been over-run with illegals and they were causing all out problems. 

He wasn’t right for Governor. He isn’t right for any public office. 

Lara doesn’t necessarily have any substantial qualifications beyond his time in the State Assembly and State Senate, which is at least something. What I do love about Lara is his vision regarding making California “a pioneer in climate insurance.”

Lara has my vote.

For the four State Board of Equalization districts – I’m not going to lie here – I didn’t know what the board did. I’m guessing you might not also. Apparently, they are “a public agency charged with tax administration and fee collection,” and, are “the only publicly elected tax commission in the United States.”

What’s more is that in June 2017, Governor Brown signed a law basically removing most of the board’s powers. Even one of the Candidates in this very race, Tom Hallinan, in his CVG Candidate statement says, “The Board of Equalization is no longer necessary. I will work to close it down. If you agree, I’d appreciate your consideration. Thank you, Tom Hallinan.”

That’s some baller shit right there. 

So what does it do now? According to Wikipedia, “The Board still has its constitutional powers to review property tax assessments, insurer tax assessment, alcohol excise tax, and pipeline taxes.[10] The Board will retain 400 employees, with the rest of its 4,800 workers being shifted to the new departments.”

So, given all that – I’m trying to care. I really am. 

District 1
Ted Gaines (R) vs. Tom Hallihan (D)

District 2
Malia Cohen (D) vs. Mark Burns (R)

District 3
Tony Vasquez (D) vs. G. Rick Marshall (R)

District 4
Mike Schaefer (D) vs. Joel Anderson (R)

I think the sane thing to do here is read up on this one yourself. I’m voting for Hallihan, because that guys has nuts. I’m also voting for Tony Vasquez, because he didn’t even bother submitting a statement. I’m voting for Malia Cohen, because she’s been a dedicated advocate for a higher minumum wage. She’s experienced and deserving. Lastly I’m voting for Joel Anderson. 

Superintendent of Public Instruction (Nonpartisan office)
Tony K. Thurmond vs. Marshall Tuck

Both of these men seem genuinely interested in being champions for our schools. If it matters to you, the ACLU awarded Tony Thurmond with a 100% Legislative rating

On the other side, reading through Marshall Tuck’s plan  I see a lot of stuff that isn’t what I’d call “in the know.” It’s a lot of obvious stuff that I don’t find overly compelling. I’m not saying he’s not genuine, or won’t do a good job, but ultimately, what I see on his public facing site isn’t as compelling as what I see on Tony Thurmond’s. 

Thurmond has my vote on this one.


In California, our State Supreme Court (SCOC?) works a little different thanother places. Our judges are appointed by the Governor, which is standard, butthen, at the next Gubernatorial election (and at the end of a twelve-year termfrom their appointment) that Judge is subject to “Retention” elections wherewe, the electorate, decide if they should continue on in that position. If amajority of the voters say “no,” that seat is declared empty and the Governorwill appoint someone to fill it.

In this election, California has two judges are on the ballot for retention.

Carol A. Corrigon has been on the SCOC since 2006, appointed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. She has reached her 12-year term and as such is up for a retention vote. She is 70 years old.

Her most notable case is in regards to marriage equality, where she dissented. This has caused a movement by some to keep her from being retained as a Judge.

For me, I read through the opinion and dissent, and while she was ultimately on the wrong side of history, her reasoning is what I look for in a judge.

Her dissent begins:

“The majority correctly notes that it is not for this court to set social policy based on our individual views. Rather, this is a question of constitutional law. (Maj. opn., ante, at pp. 4-5, 109.) I also agree with the majority that we must consider both the statutes defining marriage and the domestic partnership statutes.”

She’s not anti-marriage equality. She was giving a legal argument based on her understanding of the Constitution, and it’s not a bad argument. I think holding her to an account as a judge is about her loyalty to the law as it is so much about her loyalty to herself as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Ultimately she ended up on the wrong side of history, and it’s easy to blame her for making a legal argument when a moral one may have been more proper.

She concludes her dissent with the following:

“The processof reform and familiarization should go forward in the legislativesphere and in society at large. We are in the midst of a major social change.Societies seldom make such changes smoothly. For some the process is frustratinglyslow. For others it is jarringly fast. In a democracy, the people shouldbe given a fair chance to set the pace of change without judicial interference.That is the way democracies work. Ideas are proposed, debated, tested.Often new ideas are initially resisted, only to be ultimately embraced. But whenideas are imposed, opposition hardens and progress may be hampered. Weshould allow the significant achievements embodied in the domestic partnershipstatutes to continue to take root. If there is to be a new understanding ofthe meaning of marriage in California, it should develop among the people of ourstate and find its expression at the ballot box.”

So, yes – I personally think she was wrong. And history thinks she was wrong.Does choosing a legal argument over the moral argument of equality make her ajudge we should fire?

I don’t think that’s a precedent I want to set.

I vote to retain her.

Leondra R. Kruger was appointed in 2015 by Governor Jerry Brown. This is the first Gubernatorial election since she was appointed, putting her retention on the ballot. She is 38 years old.

So far I just don’t see any reason to not retain her. I skimmed through her opinion in Barry V. State Bar of California and nothing in it I find controversial in the slightest.

Vote to retain.

That’s it for now. I’ll be working on my local Yolo and West Sacramento guide shortly. 

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