Monday, May 30, 2022

Endorsements for the June 2022 election in San Francisco (including the Chesa Boudin recall)

Chesa Boudin's philosophical predecessor, Judge Jonathan Crane

Welcome to a very ho-hum primary election, with one exception at the very end.

All of the statewide office elections on the ballot are primaries, but unlike most states, California allows the two top candidates into the November general election, regardless of party. Democrats will ultimately win most if not all of the statewide offices, and it's unlikely that any of the incumbents will fail to reach the November ballot.

Let's go to the endorsements. It was challenging to write these because once again the San Francisco Chronicle has chosen to put its endorsements behind a paywall, which I never understand. So has the Sacramento Bee. Fortunately, the San Francisco Bay Guardian rose from the dead to support Boudin and also weigh in on the local ballot issues. And there's no paywall! If the Chronicle wonders why it doesn't have the influence it should in a one-newspaper town, that's why.

Governor: Gavin Newsom

There are 26 candidates on the ballot for this job; it's like last year's recall election all over again. But none are serious challengers.

Lieutenant Governor: Eleni Kounalakis

Kounalakis is the incumbent; she used her family's wealth in 2018 to run a successful campaign for this do-nothing office. I didn't vote for her before, and I haven't had any reason since to improve my opinion of her, but there isn't any serious opposition, a Democrat is going to win this, and she's the Democrat. Her investment might pay off in 2026 if she's a serious candidate for governor.

Secretary of State: Shirley N. Weber

Despite the title, the main job for the Secretary of State is overseeing elections. Weber is a former professor of African American studies and California assembly member who was appointed to this post by Newsom after he appointed Alex Padilla to Kamala Harris' former Senate seat. There isn't any serious opposition. But Weber is just the first of a series of Democratic machine candidates, getting incumbency despite not actually having been elected.


Controller: Ron Galperin

This is a wide open race because incumbent Betty Yee is term-limited out. I am impressed by Galperin's very relevant experience as controller for Los Angeles. One of his first initiatives was the city's first open data portal. He has been trying to get LA to rein in spending because it is over budget. One doubt I have is that the LA Times has seen Galperin's work yet endorsed somebody else: Republican Lanhee Chen, apparently agreeing with Chen's argument that with Democrats in charge of almost everything in Sacramento, it would be sensible to have a Republican watching the money. But I can't get past the fact that Chen worked for Marco Rubio's presidential campaign.
Malia Cohen, a member of the state board of equalization, has the Democratic Party's endorsement and that's probably enough to get her into the general election. I don't support putting a former member of the profligate San Francisco board of supervisors, with no relevant experience for this job, in charge of state finances.

Treasurer: Fiona Ma

Ma is the incumbent. Her first term has not been without controversy, but she faces only weak Republican opposition and will easily land on the ballot in November.

Attorney General: Anne Marie Schubert

Rob Bonta was appointed last year to fill the shoes of Xavier Becerra, who joined the Biden administration as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Bonta was pretty good on crime-and-punishment issues in the legislature, but
he has solicited donations to his wife's high-paying charity from companies with business before him
. I like him on the issues but I don't think Newsom should have appointed someone with such an ethical challenge to the Attorney General's office. I also don't think it's fair, under the circumstances, for him to waltz into re-election as an incumbent.

Schubert, Sacramento's District Attorney, is running as a sort of anti-Chesa Boudin. It's a good election cycle for that; I probably don't need to say more. She's not as progressive as Boudin, but her record shows nuance. She oversaw not only the arrest and prosecution of the Golden State Killer, but also the DNA-based exoneration of Ricky Davis, who spent 15 years in prison for murder. Someone is going to make the final one-on-one showdown with Bonta; she's a good choice.

Insurance Commissioner: Marc Levine

Incumbent Ricardo Lara got caught accepting money from insurance companies shortly after taking office, and must be voted out.
This is an increasingly important job, as wildfires have become an annual event. Policies made by this office in the next four years could either save state residents whose houses burn from being homeless, or bankrupt the state, or both. This job could use a fiscal conservative, but none of the Republicans on the ballot are very impressive.
Levine, a state assembly member from Marin County, won endorsements from the Chronicle and the LA Times.

Board of Equalization Member, District 2: Michela Alioto-Pier

The Chronicle refused to endorse a candidate in this race because it thinks the board should be eliminated: most of its powers were taken away in 2017. The Chronicle is right, but the job pays $164,000 a year to do nothing and somebody's going to win it. Alioto, from the San Francisco political dynasty, was smart enough to see a stepping-stone opportunity (see Malia Cohen, above) and is hopefully smart enough to not blow it.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony Thurmond

This is my least favorite vote on this ballot. Thurmond wasn't very good in his first term. The LA Times and Sacramento Bee refused to endorse anyone; the Chronicle endorsed Thurmond, but not enthusiastically. The problem is, the opposition is very weak, unless you're a Trumpy Republican, which I am not. Thurmond doesn't deserve to win as easily as he will. Apparently the Democratic Party leadership kept the field clear for him.

US Senator: Alex Padilla

Speaking of the Democratic machine ... I don't really know whether Padilla is a good Senator or not. He was appointed to fill Kamala Harris' seat and he hasn't been terrible (in fact he's better than Dianne Feinstein.) Nor has he done anything noteworthy. He's just another appointed official who gets to run as an incumbent, for the rest of his life. That's how we do things here. It works: I don't see anybody better on the ballot.
You have to vote twice, once for the rest of the term, and also for him to inherit the seat for the next term.

US Representative, District 11: Nancy Pelosi

It's not Pelosi's fault that the Democrats haven't been able to get much done despite controlling the House, Senate and White House; that's on the Senate. She has kept a fractious House coalition together and deserves not only another term, but also another term as Speaker.

State Assembly, District 17: Matt Haney

This race was decided in the April election; David Campos conceded and has stopped campaigning. So it's a zombie race, and we'll have to vote on it again in November. I wonder how badly Haney would have to screw up to make it a race again?

Proposition A: Yes

This $400 million bond would help Muni improve its facilities. We need to keep public transit operating, especially after a difficult two years because of the pandemic.

Proposition B: Yes

This would bring some accountability to the Department of Building Inspection, which has a corruption problem.

Proposition C: NO

Brought to you by the supporters of the recently recalled school board members, this would make recall elections more difficult. Bad timing for this: the Boudin recall is a divisive, close, emotional issue, but the school board recall was necessary to get rid of incompetent members elected by a tiny minority of voters who nearly put our schools under state control. We need to keep the flexibility to fire people like that.

Proposition D: No

The idea of an Office of Victim and Witness Rights sounds good in the Boudin era, but in fact this would just create more bureaucracy -- and cost more money -- without actually giving victims any more rights. Boudin's lack of concern for crime victims is a problem, but this isn't a good solution.

Proposition E: Yes

Above, I said I won't vote for Rob Bonta because of the "behested payments" he requested from people doing business with the Attorney General's office. This bill would prevent the Board of Supervisors from seeking such payments. It's a good anti-corruption bill that the state should also consider.

Proposition F: Yes

We have a monopoly in garbage collection and a single overseer of the contract. This would create a three-person board to oversee it, which would include a ratepayer advocate. It's a good idea that should have been done years ago.

Proposition G: Yes

This would require companies with 100 employees or more to give workers 80 hours of paid medical leave during a public-health emergency. That's two weeks off if they get Covid. It would have been great to have had this law in place in March 2020, but better late than never.

Proposition H: Yes

Photo by Jonathan Gonzalez

In 2021, nearly 500 people died of fentanyl overdoses in San Francisco. Fentanyl dealers operate openly in the Civic Center. You might wonder why the police don't arrest them. It turns out they do, but Chesa Boudin refuses to prosecute them for fentanyl dealing, instead offering plea bargains to lesser offenses.

Boudin did not convict a single person of dealing fentanyl in 2021, even though our drug crisis is worse than in 2018, when his predecessor George Gascon -- also very progressive -- secured more than 90 convictions.

Why? Because many of the drug dealers are Hondurans here illegally, and Boudin is concerned that if they are convicted, they might be deported.

 Boudin's father David Gilbert (in cuffs)

That sums up Boudin quite neatly. He is who he is: the son of felons, terrorists convicted of driving the getaway car in a bank robbery. He grew up visiting them in prison. He sympathizes with criminals, so he became a public defender. That's the perfect job for him, because all criminals deserve a vigorous defense. He had the chutzpah to run for DA on a platform of being tough on cops and soft on crime, and he won fair and square. Now he's enacting the program, and he might be recalled for it.

Is that fair? Philosophically, it might not be. I have written several drafts of my endorsement on this ballot measure in both directions. Most were more than 2000 words long. But it comes down to this: I don't want Boudin as DA. My head says that he won the election and he's doing what he promised. My heart says, I want to see criminals prosecuted. But Boudin doesn't believe in that.

I agree with much of Boudin's judicial philosophy, but he is inflexible. He is an ideologue who apparently does not believe that there is such a thing as a career criminal. His office is so poorly managed that judges are chastising him for it. He won't keep people in jail awaiting trial, so they are free to commit more crimes. He doesn't care about crime victims, and he doesn't care about anti-Asian violence. We are less safe with him in office.

If you want to protect Honduran drug dealers from deportation, vote no. Otherwise, let's get a DA who believes in prosecuting criminals.

  I had to stop allowing comments on endorsement posts because people just pasted in campaign statements. But I wish there was a place for intelligent discussion of the Boudin recall. If you want to talk about it, let's do so at The Gray Report page on Facebook.