Monday, February 24, 2020

Endorsements for the March 2020 San Francisco election

This may be Nancy Pelosi's last primary
Welcome to Super Tuesday! For the first time in my lifetime California is going to play a major role in choosing a Presidential candidate. This is great because the diverse Golden State grapples with large issues better than most of the country. The Presidential primary alone makes this ballot an exciting one.

But there are other people and issues on the ballot, and I'm going to write about those, because you simply won't get much advice elsewhere.

For some reason the San Francisco Chronicle, after running its best endorsement page ever just a few months ago, has decided to put its endorsements behind a paywall. Why? I am very sympathetic to the need of newspapers to increase revenue, but I doubt that the Chronicle will gain 5 new subscribers with this strategy, and even 5 new subscribers wouldn't be worth it. Why limit the reach of your endorsements? Don't you want to share your knowledge and help elect the candidates you prefer?

Fortunately the very liberal San Francisco Bay Guardian is still doing online endorsements years after the print publication ceased. Thank you, Tim Redmond. I also drew on candidates' statements at, and stories from the Mercury News, 48 Hills, Mission Local and The Bay Area Reporter.

To the ballot!

President: I'll get back to this.

District 12, US House of Representatives: Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi has been a national, not local, figure for much of her time in the House and it will be nice to get a representative to pay attention to local issues again. She has had very limited success in opposing Trump despite the House Democratic majority. We love her dismissive gestures, but the decision not to impeach after the Mueller Report -- which was far more damning than the Ukraine fiasco -- hasn't been criticized enough. It might be time for new leadership in the House. But she doesn't have impressive opposition this time. If she retires as expected before 2022, this seat will be a free-for-all.

Scott Wiener
California State Senate: Scott Wiener

Wiener introduced a bill to extend bar and nightclub hours, which takes chutzpah, but he represents an urban area where people go out late. He introduced a bill to buy up all of PG&E's stock and turn it into a public company. Since PG&E can't figure out how to not start fires, we might as well give state ownership a shot. The Guardian won't endorse him because of a housing bill he supports. I disagree with him on that bill also, but not only does he have no qualified opposition; he's on the right side of issues more often than not.

California Assembly, District 17: David Chiu

He's unopposed. It wouldn't be surprising to see Chiu and Wiener fighting over Pelosi's seat in 2022. That'll be fun.

Pang Ly
Judge Office 1, San Francisco Superior Court: Pang Va Ly

Judicial elections with no incumbents are a rarity, but this year we have three. Two years ago, a slate of attorneys from the Public Defender's office decided to challenge sitting judges, which is rarely done. Apparently this inspired judges who wanted to retire to do so at a time that allows voters to choose, rather than the governor to appoint someone who can then run as an incumbent.
This is not an improvement. Judgeships shouldn't be political. Raising money to run requires building relationships that can later be leveraged. But it's where we are.
I'm not going to vote for Maria Evangelista because she was one of the attorneys who ran against a sitting judge last time. Pang Ly has the support of 32 Superior Court judges; Evangelista has none.
They have similar stories. Both are first-generation immigrants. Either would probably make a good judge. But Ly is more likely to be apolitical, and that's better.

Judge, Office 18, San Francisco Superior Court: Dorothy Chou Proudfoot

Michelle Tong and Dorothy Proudfoot are both good candidates. Proudfoot is an administrative law judge at the San Francisco Rent Board; Tong is a public defender. They're both daughters of immigrants. You can't go wrong here but I'm going to vote Proudfoot because of her greater judicial experience.

Judge, Office 21, San Francisco Superior Court: Carolyn Gold

This is the one judicial race which seems to have a clearcut difference between the candidates. Gold is an eviction defense attorney. Her opponent Kulvindar "Ravi" Singh is a prosecutor. Gold is the more liberal candidate and for that reason she's likely to win.

Democratic Party Central Committee: John Avalos, Hillary Ronen, David Campos, Christopher Christensen, Matt Haney, Frances Hsieh, Shanell Williams, Kevin Ortiz, Nomvula O’Meara, Jane Kim, Honey Mahogany, Gloria Berry, Peter Gallotta, Anabel IbaƱez

I hate voting for this because I hate that it exists. These folks will basically try to subvert democracy by making backroom deals to decide who gets what office. I'm going to recommend the Guardian's slate because maybe liberal backroom dealers are less corrupt than centrists. But I wish the whole Central Committee concept would go away.

State proposition 13: No

This bill sneakily lets developers off the hook for paying toward school construction in areas where they build multi-family projects. California schools need money for construction, but this bill is dirty when it doesn't need to be. If we reject it maybe we'll get a straightforward bill next. For more details read this Mercury News editorial.

San Francisco Measure A: No

This will pass, so I'm wasting my time here, but I'm tired of throwing money at the ongoing debacle that is San Francisco City College. Even people who support this $845 million bond aren't happy about it: read this.

San Francisco Measure B: Yes

Bonds for earthquake retrofitting for city infrastructure, especially the water supply. We have to do it.

San Francisco Measure C: Yes

City voters are usually too generous with public employees, but in this case it's necessary. Some public housing officials who used to be federal employees will now be city employees. They're doing the same job, essentially, but without this measure they wouldn't get full (generous) benefits. Which they deserve.

San Francisco Measure D: Oh Yes!

This bill would set a tax on vacant storefronts, and it's a great idea because those storefronts are vacant in this economy because greedy landlords evict businesses (often restaurants) by trying to triple their rent. A tax on vacant storefronts will provide incentive to get a tenant in there, and might keep some longtime businesses going.

San Francisco Measure E: No

San Francisco office space is already capped by a 1986 ballot measure. This measure would tie office space construction to affordable housing construction. It doesn't do anything to build the latter, which means it will end up making it difficult to build the former. Is that a good thing? San Francisco is unaffordable to live in, but it does have better transit links than, say, Pleasanton, which might get a lot of the Bay Area office space instead. It's a complicated bill that will almost certainly pass, but this is not the kind of legislation that should be written at the ballot box.* Joe Eskenazi wrote about the political realities at Mission Local.

* (My long history of writing these endorsements has often been to say, We shouldn't pass these ballot propositions because they often have unintended consequences that are much harder to fix than legislation passed by the Board of Supervisors or the state Legislature. The classic example is Proposition 13, still screwing us more than 40 years later. Our default position should be No unless there's a good reason. Instead it's Yes. Sigh.)

US President: A Democrat

I'm going to vote in November for whoever gets the Democratic nomination. Period. Exclamation point. And you should too.

In the primary, I'm going to vote for whoever I think has the best chance of winning in November. Normally I vote with my heart in the primary and my head in the general election. This time it's pure pragmatism. I'm going to wait until the most recent matchup polls vs. Trump are out next week before making my decision. (Here's a good polling page.)

I will share my decision next week if you really want to know; I'm not going to start being secretive now.

UPDATE: I'm voting for Bernie Sanders. It's not because I like him, although I do. A lot of his policies that freak out moderate pundits actually make sense and are popular with Democratic voters, which is why he is thriving despite intense negativity from the mainstream media. He continues to do better than the others in matchup polls against Trump, something that pundits keep ignoring. And he particularly outshines the others in matchup polls against Trump in the three states that cost Democrats the White House in 2016: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Warren was my favorite candidate for the longest time, but on the eve of Super Tuesday she's still struggling in matchup polls against Trump. Maybe that's because she's a woman, and that's a shame. I'd love to see her in the White House, but we gotta win. I also strongly considered Bloomberg, who has an interesting electoral case and good matchup polls right now, but I'm afraid of where his polls will go as more voters scrutinize him. Sanders is a known quantity; it might be his greatest strength.

But it doesn't matter who I actually vote for on Super Tuesday. Biden, Sanders, Bloomberg, Warren, Klobuchar -- any of them, if they get the nomination, I will vote for them in November. And you should too. That's what matters.