This is a primary election, meaning for the races I’ve marked with an asterisk below we’re choosing candidates to decide between in November. California has an open primary, meaning we choose among all the options (regardless of party affiliation) and the top two go to the November ballot. Primary elections can seem less important, but they are actually when we have the greatest opportunity to create political change.
Governor:* Gavin Newsom
He’s been working well with Jerry Brown and is ideally positioned to carry on that work. The Governor of California is an internationally significant role—5th largest economy in the world—and Newsom can take the heat.
Lieutenant Governor*: Jeff Bleich
This role’s involvement in state environmental issues puts Bleich in front for me. Kounalakis and Hernandez both have too much oil money in their campaign coffers to make me want them in that seat on the California Coastal Commission. Also, Bleich has served on the board of trustees of California State University, including a year as chairman, so he’s ready for the seat on the University of California Board of Regents.
Secretary of State*: Alex Padilla
Easy choice here. Glad to have him keep fighting to protect our voting rights.
Controller*: Betty T. Yee
Another easy one. Delighted to have her long experience with state financial matters continuing to serve us.
Treasurer*: Fiona Ma
Sound financial background and has a seriously impressive endorsement list.
Attorney General*: Xavier Becerra
Both current Attorney General Xavier Becerra and outgoing Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones would be good in this position. Becerra has stepped in well since being appointed by Governor Brown in January when Kamala Harris went to the U.S. Senate. Jones did a great job protecting consumer interests without driving insurance companies out of the California market as Insurance Commissioner, and has more experience running a state agency. Given the amount of legal challenges to come while maintaining California values and policies against the Trump/Pence administration, I’m going to stick with the jockey currently doing fine on the horse.
Insurance Commissioner*: Ricardo Lara
His opponent Steve Poizner’s got the experience, but Poizner’s anti-immigrant stance in his 2010 campaign (back when he was a Republican) takes him off the list. Lara’s political experience gives him the edge over Asif Mahmood.
Board of Equalization Member, District 2*: Malia Cohen
Whether California’s Board of Equalization, the only elected tax board in the country, should exist at all is definitely a question. Certainly we need more protections against money flowing as campaign contributions to someone who may make a judicial decision for the donor. But while it exists we need good people elected to it. Cohen’s goal for the position is to conduct any remaining business for the BoE as transparently as possible, while rebuilding relationships between remaining staff and county assessors. She can be very beneficial in transitioning the BoE to an improved role.
U.S. Senate*: Dianne Feinstein
With a different administration in Washington, D.C., and another candidate that offset the losses of Feinstein’s experience and Senate rank, I might consider an alternative, but we are fighting for people’s lives against Trump/Pence and we need to keep her power working for us. To my relief, Feinstein has moved left on some issues and has been a strong force for good in the Senate over the past year, so I’m not holding my nose here.
U.S. Representative, District 12*: Nancy Pelosi
Again, we need this experienced, powerful woman continuing to fight for us at the national level. If you don’t want to vote for Pelosi—and I admit she has significant issues particularly around privacy protections and internet freedom—my next choice would be Shahid Buttar. (I continue to oppose Kevin de León because of his lack of action against his former housemate, sexual harasser Tony Mendoza.)
One More State Office
State Assembly Member, District 17*: David Chiu
Love this guy and always delighted to vote for him. He works hard and smart.
City and County Offices
Judge of the Superior Court, Office #4: Andrew Y.S. Cheng
Judge of the Superior Court, Office #7: Curtis Karnow
Judge of the Superior Court, Office #9: Cynthia Ming-Mei Lee
Judge of the Superior Court, Office #11: Jeffrey S. Ross
We need to support our existing judges against this bizarre power grab by the public defender’s office. When as eclectic a group as Jerry Brown, Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, London Breed, Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin, Angela Alioto, Scott Weiner, David Chiu, Dennis Herrera, all 50 SF Superior Court Judges, the SF Police Officers Association, the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, the SF Republican Party, and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy all agree on an issue (endorsing these four) you know something weird is going on with the other side.
Superintendent of Public Instruction*: Tony K. Thurmond
Good endorsements and solid experience.
Mayor: London Breed (first choice), Mark Leno (second choice), (no third choice)
You can read my whole statement on why I support London Breed for Mayor of San Francisco (and why Mark Leno’s my second choice and I do not support Jane Kim), but the short version is:
London Breed is rational and resourceful in her approach to civic leadership. A very capable administrator, she comes from local experience of achieving progress in a complex, rapidly-changing economic and climate situation. All our options have tradeoffs and she weighs them well. This has been particularly visible in her work on housing, which is the most pressing issue in San Francisco. Breed has been great as Supervisor for my District, and an excellent, level-headed President of the Board of Supervisors. She governed well as Acting Mayor after Ed Lee’s sudden death, and will be an excellent mayor.
Authorizes Bonds Funding Parks, Natural Resources Protection, Climate Adaptation, Water Quality and Supply, and Flood Protection
California should apply its economic strength to protect and strengthen its resources, particularly its water resources. This is supported by a very wide range of groups from the Nature Conservancy to the American Lung Association in California to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. As the Sacramento Bee put it, it’s a reasonable ask.
It’s opposed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the Republican party, and others who think bond debt is a terrible thing.
Requires That Certain New Transportation Revenues Be Used for Transportation Purposes
This locks funds already approved into use on transportation. Basically a tidying up proposition. It seems to just be opposed by a few legislators (who perhaps don’t want to be thus locked into where those funds go) or by those who wish that the gas tax generating the funds didn’t exist.
Requires Legislative Supermajority Vote Approving Use of Cap-And-Trade Reserve Fund
This is a Republican and oil-industry-backed attempt to make it harder for this already established fund to be spent for its legislated purpose—reducing climate pollution. Some Republicans backing this proposition are particularly hoping to stall high-speed rail projects.
Sets Effective Date for Ballot Measures
This is a super smart change to explicitly rule that measures become effective five days after the Secretary of State certifies the election results. As it is now, it could be argued that they take effect the day after the election, but we have too many ballots by mail and provisional ballots to be certain of all election results that night. Rather than risk having to implement and then roll something back when an election result wasn’t what was predicted, this eliminates the problem.
Permits Legislature to Exclude Newly Constructed Rain-Capture Systems from Property-Tax Reassessment Requirement
This is a great change to incentivize property owners to add these rainwater gathering systems to their buildings, giving them the same tax protections as solar panels, fire sprinklers, disabled access and other improvements. Because it removes a tax penalty it requires voter approval.
We need these infrastructure improvements to address the gap between Bay Area transit and highway needs and our current reality, let alone the demands on these systems from the tens of thousands of new residents expected to come to the area in the next twenty years. This measure has broad support across a variety of interested organizations and elected officials, and is primarily opposed by regularly-appearing Sample Ballot arguments character Dr. Terence Faulkner and some guy who owns a stamp and coin company.
(One neat thing about the sample ballot this time is the Bay Area Traffic Relief Plan this measure would approve is included beginning on page 54. This plan will do a LOT.)
City and County Propositions:
Public Utilities Revenue Bonds
This is a good bond plan to provide for continuing upgrades to the way San Francisco gets its power. It allows us to take advantage of technological advances, ensure we’re using cleaner sources and reducing our carbon emissions, and protect against damage to these systems from earthquakes or other disasters. This is unsurprisingly opposed by the Libertarians who just don’t like us to all pitch in and buy ourselves nice things like sustainability together. It is also opposed by Angela Alioto and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce who think it gives the PUC too much power, even though all projects would also require approval by the mayor and a supermajority of the Board of Supervisors.
Prohibiting Appointed Commissioners from Running for Office
Apparently this has been the unofficial ethical rule for 40 years, since Mayor Moscone’s administration, and this codifies it. The point of it is to keep people who are seeking endorsements in a campaign from conflict of interest when those potential endorsers appear before their commission. The only opposition statements in the sample ballot were from our ol’ pal Dr. Terence Faulkner, though YIMBY Action opposes on the tenuous grounds that having to give up their commission position when running for office would deter commissioners from ever running and thus lower the quality of candidates.
Additional Tax on Commercial Rents Mostly to Fund Child Care and Education
My heart does not bleed for the Building Owners & Managers Association of San Francisco, nor for Shorenstein Realty Services, nor the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, all of which are providing funding in opposition to this measure. And of course the Libertarians and Republicans hate it because it is spending money on collective goods.
However there is one reason you would want to vote ‘No’ on C: the same tax is in question for Measures C and D, so only the one with the most votes would get funded, assuming both win. As important as child care and education is, housing is an even more vital issue in San Francisco. To ensure Measure D’s success, I recommend a ‘No’ on C.
Additional Tax on Commercial Rents Mostly to Fund Housing and Homelessness Services
Housing affordability is the critical issue in San Francisco. This will help. It imposes an additional 1.7% tax on some of those benefitting most from SF’s current boom times and uses the funds to help those hardest hit right now. There are specific cut outs so it doesn’t apply to leases to businesses doing PDR (production, distribution, repair), retail goods and services direct to consumers, arts/entertainment, or certain non-profit organizations. 45% of revenue goes to housing homeless, 35% to acquiring or rehabilitating rent-controlled apartments to protect from displacement and to create permanently affordable homes for middle-income households; 10% similarly for SRO (single-room occupancy) and extremely low and very low income people; 10% for permanent rent subsidies to extremely low income seniors in income-restricted developments. The measure has wide support including endorsement from YIMBY Action. This is opposed by an intense supporter of Measure C and by Angela Alioto because she doesn’t want to “throw money at various pieces of the problem”.
Prohibiting Tobacco Retailers from Selling Flavored Tobacco Products
Candy-flavored tobacco and smoking products are bad for public health, and that costs us all. Even if you don’t care about kids getting addicted early with these products, vote no to keep us all from bearing the cost of another generation’s cancer care. When you get yet another glossy mailer opposing this measure with “funding from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company” in the disclosure box, you know they’ve got a big corporate profit incentive to work against our public health. This measure is opposed also by retailers who say they vigorously enforce the existing age 21 sales limit, but come on; does anyone remember high school? The smoker kids could always score smokes when they wanted them. Oh and the Libertarians are against it because it’s gonna be like the War on Drugs all over again!! Only about flavored vape smoke, I guess.
City-Funded Legal Representation for Residential Tenants in Eviction Lawsuits
The San Francisco Apartment Association in their big argument against this say only 1,657 of 172,000 rent-controlled apartment tenants faced eviction in 2017-2018. When we look at the costs of homelessness, that’s a whole lot of households potentially at risk of displacement because they lacked the resources to fight an unjust eviction. (Yes, some evictions will be reasonable, but we know not all.) The supporters of this measure counter that its been 40,000 tenants facing eviction in five years and over two-thirds of them were without legal representation. From years of observation, I trust the housing advocates and community organizations in San Francisco more than the landlords. In addition to that from big landlords, this measure is also opposed by the Republicans.
Note that there is a version of this legislation already in progress with the Board of Supervisors, so a lot of the ground work has already been done (going back to work done by then-Supervisor David Chiu) and implementing it should go pretty smoothly.
Parcel Tax for San Francisco Unified School District
With property values rising in San Francisco, a parcel tax is a super smart way to raise revenue for increasing teacher salaries and benefits, adding staffing, and other improvements to education resources. The measure exempts parcels which are the primary residence of a senior citizen owner. We need to be able to attract and retain educators, and they deserve a wage that gives them a fighting chance of living near their work. This is opposed by the Libertarians because spending money bad.
Policy for the Use of Tasers by San Francisco Police Officers
This is not a vote on the use of Tasers, that’s already been going through a very thoughtful year-long process. This is an attempt by the Police Officers Association to set policy for Tasers which subsequently can’t be altered by the Police Commission or the Police Department. The POA shouldn’t be permitted to overrule the police chief, current and former police commissioners, and the San Francisco district attorney. Specifically, they shouldn’t be permitted to eliminate the requirement that police use de-escalation techniques before Tasers are used on people. As YIMBY Action notes, “Police Chief Bill Scott himself called it the ‘antithesis’ of community-oriented policing as recommended by the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama.”
This measure is very widely opposed, both within law enforcement and among elected officials, and within the communities that keep a critical eye on law enforcement such as the ACLU and homeless and mental health advocates.
Relocation of Professional Sports Teams
This is a bizarre measure apparently attempting to stop the Warriors move to SF because it would be rude to Oakland to steal them. Dude, that ship has sailed. Vote No on this waste of ballot space and our collective mental energies.
As usual the Sample Ballot booklet has tons of other useful info tucked in between things. A few highlights:
– Page 89 Voter Bill of Rights
– Page 125 Info on being a Poll Worker on election day
– Page 155 an actually useful index
– Page 156 Ballot Worksheet
– Back cover Vote-by-Mail application