Overview and Research
This guide is ordered from most general to most specific. I’ll start with Federal and work my way down to Santa Clara County so you can stop reading once it’s no longer relevant to you.
Yes, I’ve read most of the details of the propositions and would recommend that you do too as the summaries often hide the important aspects of any given proposition.
Here’s what I’m using to guide my opinions (in alphabetical order):
- Friends and Family (especially those who are extremely active in politics)
- Ballot FYI
- Courage Campaign
- Pete Rates
- Secretary of State Quick Guide
- Secretary of State Full Guide
- Voters Edge
- Vote Save America
- Why You Should Vote No On Most Popositions
Obviously, I’m also looking at candidate websites (although Ballotpedia is generally much more useful).
Senate - Kevin de León
It’s time to replace Feinstein. Sure, she’s got pull in Washington, but she’s also a hawk and California can manage someone far more progressive. de León has a strong progressive track record on climate, housing, DACA and health care, so I feel reasonably confident that he’ll take a progressive approach to the senate. The downside of de León is that he seems to be a little bombastic of late and that may not play well as far as actually getting things done.
There are many ways of looking at the voting record of Feinstein:
While no Republican, for California, she’s not as liberal as we would expect and desire. Honestly, I’d prefer another Karmala Harris (or, better yet, someone to the left of center from a European perspective) over de León, but that’s not available at this point. Also, Feinstein seems to be absent from votes way above normal (7% vs 1% median for senate Democrats).
House District 17 - Ro Khanna
Not a contest. Cohen is campaigning on a pro-Trump, anti-San Francisco and family values (aka anti-marriage equality/anti-abortion) platform. Given all of these are untenable positions for a California representative, he’s a non-starter.
Governor - Gavin Newsom
I have mixed feelings about Newsom, but Cox is abhorrent so Newsom gets the vote.
Cox’s approach to reducing Caltrans spending is to support the gas tax repeal and this is typical of the rest of his platform (X is having trouble, cut money in X or Y). He also opposes public transportation projects such as high speed rail and his health care policy is just an attack on Newsom.
Lieutenant Governor - Ed Hernandez
Lt. Governor is a mostly ceremonial job which is used as a path to Governor by most. Hernandez has been working in public service since 2008 in both the assembly and senate, making Lieutenant Governor an obvious next step. Kounalakis main work has been raising money for the DNC and working as a political appointee (Ambassador to Hungary). She is also a housing developer millionaire running a campaign via self funding. Given what I’ve seen of rich business people injecting themselves into politics of late, color me completely disinterested.
Secretary of State - Alex Padilla
Hasn’t done anything to justify kicking him out and I don’t see anything overly attractive from his opponents.
Attorney General - Xavier Becerra
He’s doing a good job protecting California from Trump and I’d like to see him continue what he’s started.
Treasurer - Fiona Ma
The only one with experience who bothered to answer voter questionnaires, so no contest.
Controller - Betty Yee
Solidly progressive and hasn’t done anything worth looking for a replacement.
Also, her opponent supports Prop 6.
Commissioner of Insurance - Ricardo Lara
This is almost a coin toss, but it came down to single payer support: Lara introduced legislation for it, Poizner actively opposes it.
Poizner has an impressive track record as the insurance commissioner and is running as independent this year (he used to run as Republican) due to the ineligibility of Republicans across much of California. He’s pro-consumer, negotiates heavily with insurance companies and his campaign shows him to be an insurance geek.
Lara is a progressive state senator looking for his next big step. He co-introduced the single-payer health care bill and advocates heavily for immigration & LGBT rights.
Superintendent of Public Instruction - Tony Thurmond
I was really not expecting that the most contentious race would be Superintendent of Public Instruction. These are both excellent candidates with solid plans and excellent histories of public service. I think the decision criteria here is breadth of experience (Thurmond is an assembly member and has experience in social work) vs depth (Tuck has been focused on education for the last 15 years). I’m going for breadth, mostly based on Thurmond’s work in lower income communities.
State Board of Equalization: District 2 - Malia Cohen
Cohen is a solidly progressive candidate with a history of public service who has clear plans for improving the board of equalization. Burns, from what I can tell, seems to support Prop 13, which immediately makes him unsuitable for public office.
State Senator: District 10 - Bob Wieckowski
State Assembly: District 25 - Kansen Chu
Chu hasn’t done anything I want to kick him out for and is solidly progressive, Brunton is running a California skinned MAGA campaign. So, it’s not really a contest.
- Supreme Court: Carol A Corrigan - No
- Supreme Court: Leondra R. Kruger - Yes
- Court of Appeal: Mary J. Greenwood - Yes
- Court of Appeal: Allison Marston Danner - Yes
- Court of Appeal: Nathan D. Mihara - Yes
Ugh, here we are again voting to create bonds because California has decided to vote the middle class out of the taxation system via Prop 13 and Prop 218. Many of these problems really should be solved as part of the general fund as they are ongoing expenses and doing them as bonds sets us up to do this again in a few years, but the California Assembly has its hands tied.
CA Prop 1 - Yes
Should be part of the general fund, but there’s no good reason to say no here. We have significant housing and transport issues which are exacerbated at the lower income levels so this is money put to good use.
CA Prop 2 - Yes
This directs funding of a 2004 tax to housing the mentally ill. It’s [considerably cheaper][HOMELESS_HOUSING] to provide housing to the homeless than to leave them on the street, so this is a great use of those funds. The ability to use them this way is currently hung up in the courts, so this clears the way to do so. While it’s not mentioned in many of the arguments, the fact that providing housing is cheaper than just providing direct services will make the money used for direct services much more effective.
Also, we have a housing shortage and this incentivises new housing.
CA Prop 3 - No
I’m generally a proponent of infrastructure and, especially in California, water infrastructure. Having said that, this is an interest group getting pissed off at the legislature and trying to go the voters instead (via this pay to play proposition). It’s entirely solvable at the legislative level and that’s where we should send it. We also did a $4.1B water bond in June, asking for another $8.9B 6 months later is just silly.
The Mercury News has a good write up of the problems in this initiative.
CA Prop 4 - Yes
I’d rather prefer that the private hospitals weren’t getting any handout here, but our children’s hospitals are in serious need of some attention and a bond is, unfortunately, the California way of solving these problems.
CA Prop 5 - No
This would extend Prop 13, the ruinous proposition that is the cause of so much of California’s financial woes and the reason for the regular bond propositions for things which should be solved in the general fund.
CA Prop 6 - No
There are so many things wrong with this proposition it’s not funny. Not only would it reduce the taxes on petroleum (already criminally low), it would also add yet another thing that politicians need to go to the voters for in order to alter in any way.
Increased petroleum taxes are a great incentive towards more fuel efficient vehicles (including electric vehicles) and the use of public transit (which suffers from low usage due to the extremely low price of fuel).
CA Prop 7 - Yes
Daylight savings is a criminal waste of time and money, increasing traffic crashes and health issues. This doesn’t force the legislature, but it at least makes it possible for them to switch to permanent DST if the other roadblocks are removed.
CA Prop 8 - No
This is an argument between dialysis clinics and unions. It shouldn’t be on the ballot and if it needs to be solved legislatively, that’s what we pay the legislature for.
CA Prop 10 - No
The Bay Area has significant housing issues and, from what I can tell, rent control ordinances result in lower volumes of lower quality housing. Apparently, it can be used positively for short term fixes, but there’s nothing so permanent as a short term solution, as anyone in SF will tell you.
CA Prop 11 - No
Ambulance companies trying to strong arm workers out of their breaks. This is a pay to play of the worst kind and should be kicked to the curb.
Ambulance companies complain that it’ll put patient lives at risk if this is not supported. What they’re not mentioning is that having excessively tired ambulance staff currently puts patients at considerable risk and the main thing the ambulance companies are trying to avoid is having to put more staff on in order to ensure that we have safe ambulances. Also, no ambulance rejects a call when it’s truly an emergency.
The right answer for patient safety is to vote no on this, hopefully forcing ambulance companies to put some of their profits into more ambulance staff.
CA Prop 12 - No
This shouldn’t be a proposition, it should be handled by the legislature.
There’s a lot of feel good pressure around voting yes on this measure and I’m somewhat tempted to do so, but ultimately this shouldn’t be a proposition as changes to it are then locked into being made by proposition which is less flexible than the legislature.
Santa Clara County
County Board of Education: Area 2 - Kathleen King
Oh, joy. King lines her pockets with the public purse and Chang is both loose with contribution reporting and highly divisive (although he may have learned his lesson in this regard, by the time he became mayor he was much more collaborative).
I’m going with King as she’s a calming and collaborative force on the board.
County Board of Education: Area 6 - Peter Ortiz
Ortiz is at least running a campaign, which is more than can be said of his opponent.
County Board of Education: Area 7 - Claudia Rossi
Borgioli supports Arpaio and Trump, making him completely unsuitable for any position in the Bay Area. He also faked endorsements, which speaks a lot to his lack of morals.
Board of Supervisors: District 4 - Don Rocha
Both of these candidates seem to be quite good, but I think Rocha has a more thorough plan, providing at least limited details on what his priorities are (e.g. safe routes to schools and pedestrian/bicycle safety) rather than blanket statements such as improve transportation.
Santa Clara Unified School District: Trustee Area 2
This is a pick two ballot.
I’m going with the teachers on this one, they have direct experience in the system they’re asking to govern.
- Jodi Muirhead
- Vickie Fairchild
Sheriff - John Hirokawa
Smith has been badly mismanaging the system and needs to go (among other things, there’s the death of an inmate in the county jail which had an alleged cover up and a botched follow on investigation).
Hirokawa retired before the controversy surrounding Smith and has a solid plan to improve organizational culture. Unfortunately, he’s not completely clean either as his management of the texting scandal was less than stellar. I think that failure to reprimand bias is less damaging than an actual death followed by interfering in the investigation. Hirokawa still gets my vote although there are very solid arguments to be made the other way as systemic bias is a huge problem, especially with police.
Santa Clara Prop A - Yes
Keeps the current sales tax, which funds everything from police to affordable housing.
Santa Clara Prop M - Yes
Collects taxes on marijuana, which is one of the reasons for legalizing it. While I’d prefer to see the funds used for things like drug education campaigns, the listed uses include emergency response so it seems like a reasonable approach.
Santa Clara Prop N - Yes
The wording is vague and it’s just advisory, but it looks like a request to find a voter palatable approach to the mid year measure A. Given A should have passed, anything which has another go at it is a win in my book.
Santa Clara Prop W - Yes
This bond increases property taxes in order to pay for school infrastructure. Given it’s one of the few ways in which property taxes can be increased, it sounds like an excellent way to fund these improvements. I’ll happily pay $100/year to improving schools.
Santa Clara Prop BB - Yes
Same as W, but for the primary/secondary school district. As for W, I’ll happily apply $350/year to improving schools.
City of Santa Clara
Mayor - Lisa M. Gillmor
She’s been working hard to improve transparency and work for the city to get the most out of the 49ers and successfully stopped them from taking the soccer park (I strongly dislike city subsidization of stadiums, but now we have it we have to make the most of it). She’s also driven affordable housing and is running a positive campaign.
Becker has a few good positions, however he’s also running a negative campaign against Gillmor and it couldn’t be more incompetent (a 40 minute “truth about” video, really!?!?).
Member of Council: District 2 - Raj Chahal
Mario Bouza didn’t participate in questionnaires, so is not a serious candidate. Both Chahal and Biagini have a lot of good aspects and are active in the community.
Chahal gets my vote for having a clear set of priorities which are well articulated and for his position on mixed use development. Biagini also got knocked for replying to my email with a phone call, despite not supplying my phone number.
City Clerk - Peta Roberts
This is really a contest between O’Keefe and Roberts; Stampolis is an angry bully and should not be in any public office, MacDevitt doesn’t seem to really understand the job and I couldn’t find any worthwhile statements from the rest.
Both Roberts and O’Keefe seem to have a good understanding that this is not a fluff job and a long history of public service. The main differentiator, from my perspective, is immigrant with a diverse background vs someone who’s never left the city. I’ll take the diverse background every time.