Edie and Janet’s June 2018 Primary East Bay Voter Guide

June 2 update from Janet: I just want to say that on this long, long ballot—I’m convinced the two most important contested races, to me, are electing Dave Jones as Attorney General and Tony Thurmond as Superintendent of Public Instruction. California’s climate leadership and the effectiveness and viability of our public school system are at stake.

Edie has been making voter guides for more than 10 years, and teaming up with her politically active mom, Janet Cox, to produce a guide for the last few elections.

We do our own research, look at other endorsements, have some insider knowledge from 12+ years of local political involvement, and had a ballot info party with friends and neighbors to talk it all through.

You are welcome to share this far and wide. It’s fine to disagree, ask questions, or engage in constructive, respectful debate offline or in the comments.

This voter guide contains:


US Senate –  Kevin De León (Edie) or Dianne Feinstein (Janet)
There are fine reasons for voting for either of these candidates. Edie is voting for Kevin De León (which is funny, because Janet is a big fan and wanted him to run for Governor) because it’s time for new Democratic leadership. KDL is super charismatic, a climate crusader, and a very effective legislator. Feinstein has been in office for 26 years, she is 84 years old, and it’s time for a change. She’s been pretty good standing up to Trump, but has never been a favorite of progressives.

That brings us to why Janet is (surprisingly) voting for Feinstein. She wanted de León for Governor, and she’s afraid if he goes to the Senate he’ll never come back to California. Feinstein has stood up to Trump (especially since De León is biting at her left heel), and if Democrats take back the Senate, she’ll chair the Judiciary Committee — she can be Trump’s Sam Ervin!

US Representative – Barbara Lee
Luckily nobody credible is challenging Lee, because she still speaks for me (us)!

Governor – John Chiang (Janet) or Delaine Eastin (Edie)
Gavin Newsom is most likely to win the Primary (and the General), but he is not our favorite. Janet doesn’t trust a word that comes out of his mouth (although he is good at saying the right thing). Villaraigosa seems a bit washed up, more conservative, less creative, and less experienced than the ones we like. Teachers oppose him and he’s backed by charter school interests and an increasing number of Republicans. But enough trash talk!

John Chiang is the first person to have held all three of the state’s major financial offices (Treasurer, Controller, and Board of Equalization member). He’s very progressive and great on climate change, housing, education, etc., with viable plans to structure a sound budget and actually pay for the programs he supports. Edie likes him too.

Delaine Eastin is super progressive and experienced, one of those rare politicians who oozes integrity and is genuine and accessible. Both Edie and Janet have met her and like her. Edie is in the habit of voting for underdog primary candidates who I just love, even though they have no chance of winning. That’s what primaries are for, right? Though she’s polling in single digits and has little chance of being in the top two.

(At TransForm, Edie made a questionnaire about transportation and land use for gubernatorial candidates, who shared their positions on climate action, high-speed rail, housing affordability, autonomous vehicles, and more. Check it out!)

Lieutenant Governor – Jeff Bleich (Janet) or Eleni Kounalakis  (Edie)/
Edie is voting for Eleni because progressive political friends I trust like her, and feel she has the best chance of beating Ed Hernandez in the General, who is more conservative.

Janet likes Jeff because he’s strong on climate, and she likes his credentials (diplomat, close to Obama, CSU trustee, etc.) She liked his speech at the state Democratic convention, and Edie quite liked his speech at a fundraiser for Dreamers at Berkeley City College.

Secretary of State – Alex Padilla
The incumbent seems to be doing a good job, no need to shake things up.

Controller – Betty Yee
We love Betty! She’s a personal friend and another one of those progressive politicians who oozes integrity. Doing a great job at this and absolutely deserves a second term.

Treasurer – Fiona Ma
We like Fiona Ma, who has led reform efforts at the Board of Equalization. Luckily, she’s most likely to win.

Attorney General – Dave Jones
Dave Jones is termed out as Insurance Commissioner, and he would be a great AG. Jones is fearless and dedicated to climate, justice, and immigrants’ issues. He has taken the pledge not to take oil/gas money in this election and in fact has NO “independent expenditures.”

Becerra is, as Janet says, Nothing Special. He won’t agree to investigate Exxon for obfuscating climate truth for many decades. His cautious campaign has significant independent expenditures from an industry group that is contributing to only the most conservative Democrats running in the state.

Jones will stand up to Trump, but he gets that the job is more than that (while it’s about all that Becerra has done).

Insurance Commissioner – Asif Mahmood
We are voting for Mahmood because Lara seems like the kind of politician who is just playing for power. Mahmood is a doctor who may have a lot to learn about the office, but he’s willing and open to do that (Janet had a long phone convo with him). And Betty Yee is endorsing him.

Lara has basically all the other big endorsements though. Edie figures he would probably do okay; Janet isn’t so sure. But it rubs us the wrong way that his website doesn’t really talk at all about the job of the insurance commissioner. Mahmood’s is much more detailed and he sounds good.

Edie considered for a few minutes voting for Steve Poizner, the former Republican Insurance Commissioner and candidate for Governor who wants to make the job nonpartisan and has a lot of good ideas… but he also has the very bad idea of opposing a statewide single payer system, probably in any form.

Board of Equalization Member – Malia Cohen
SF Supervisor following in the footsteps of Fiona Ma and Betty Yee, Cohen will build on their good work to reform the Board of Equalization. They both endorsed her and so do we. On the board of the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System, she worked to significantly strengthen staff’s flabby proposal to study divestment from fossil fuels… which may still happen and will be a big deal if it does.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction – Tony Thurmond
We admire and respect Tony (who has given Janet her delegate spot on the state Democratic Party, just saying), and we know how committed he is to public education and to the most vulnerable students in the state. Tony Thurmond is perfectly qualified to lift up California’s public schools, and he’s completely dedicated to the task.

But the Charter School Billionaire Boosters are opposing him with more than $8 billion in independent expenditures. Their support of Marshall Tuck (who ran for the job in 2014 and lost), is part of the same group’s support (under different monikers) of Villaraigosa for Governor and Buffy Wicks for our open Assembly District 15 seat. We really fear what will happen to our schools if those folks have their way. Betsy DeVos was not an isolated phenomenon—this is a movement, and I hope you’ll join us in opposing it.

Everybody else whose political opinions we respect supports Tony too. And FYI, Marshall Tuck was booed off the stage at the state Democratic Convention, where Tony had the strongest endorsement of any candidate running for any office in the state.

15th Assembly District – Dan Kalb
Dan Kalb will be a champion for climate and the environment in the Assembly at a critical time for those issues. He leads and votes well on other issues too of course, but his passion and expertise on environmental issues has always been a big selling point for us. (This is also true of our friend Andy Katz, but Kalb seems to have the better shot of making the top two.) We know Dan Kalb very well as our Councilmember, friend, and longtime ally in Democratic Party politics, and we think he is well-suited to the Assembly (maybe better than to the Oakland City Council).

18th Assembly District – Rob Bonta
Doing an ok job, no credible opponent.

Yes on State Proposition 68 – For parks, clean water, climate change mitigation
We’re not sure why we need a bond for this, rather than the legislature just paying for it out of the general fund. But we do know that state parks will suffer badly if this doesn’t pass, and these are important things to get done. Disadvantaged communities that especially need more parks, safe drinking water, and protection from the impacts of climate change will get special priority for certain Prop 68 funds.

Yes on State Proposition 69 – Spend transportation funding on transportation
This proposition was part of the deal to pass a huge and important transportation spending package for the whole state, aka the gas tax. More than $1 billion a year goes to public transportation and safe walking and biking, not to mention all the sorely needed road repair. We wouldn’t want that money redirected to other uses. And yes, it’s a sad state of affairs that CA has to pass laws to ensure we honor the letter of laws we just passed.

NO on State Proposition 70 – a corporate/conservative attempt to undermine CA’s climate leadership
Putting this proposition on the ballot was a concession to former Republican minority leader Chad Mayes for support for the Governor’s cap-and-trade spending plan. Frankly, it stinks. This measure would subject cap-and-trade expenditures (Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund) to a two-thirds vote by the legislature in 2024…and expose this critical source of funding, currently used to fight climate pollution and improve community health, to corporate lobbying and legislative horse-trading. FORTUNATELY it requires a 2/3 vote to pass. In fact, the current process already has plenty of transparency and accountability built in.

Yes on State Proposition 71 – Common sense election reform
Ballot measures should go into effect after the vote is certified, not the day after the election in which they are passed. Seems pretty obvious to ensure every vote counts.

Yes on State Proposition 72 – No tax penalty for rainwater systems
Given our drought problems, CA should be encouraging more homeowners to install rainwater catchment systems. This would change tax law so installation of a rainwater system no longer counts as “new construction” and triggers a property tax reassessment. If only rainwater systems meaningfully increased the value of a house, anyway!

Yes on Regional Measure 3 – Improving public transit and relieving traffic
Regional Measure 3 (RM3) will make big regional investments to expand the reach of transit and make it more reliable and accessible. It will gradually increase Bay Area bridge tolls by $3, adding $1 every other year for 6 years. Most of the money raised will go towards improving public transit and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. It also expands funding for Safe Routes to Transit and the Bay Trail. It requires an overall majority vote from all nine Bay Area counties to pass.

Yes, we’re concerned that higher tolls may be a hardship for low-income drivers who must use the bridges, but 75% of toll payers make more than $75k per year. On the whole RM3 will be a fee on relatively high-income drivers to make transit (and traffic) better for everyone. Bridge tolls should reflect the true social and environmental cost of driving, and it’s progressive to tax drivers to fund public transit. Read more from TransForm about why you should support RM3.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge – Karen Katz
This is a tough one… Edie met Tara Flanagan several times when she ran the first time, and likes her personally. She is one of very few out LGBT judges, and it’s important that the bench reflect its entire community.

However, this East Bay Express article raises some serious concerns with Flanagan, and it is well worth a read. She committed a major campaign finance violation in her previous campaign, and Katz claims she is insensitive to the people in her courtroom. Some of Flanagan’s own comments in that article do sound out of touch. While many judges, Flanagan included, are former prosecutors, Katz is a public defender. Katz wants to establish a restorative justice court and minimize the use of money bail. Our friend Pamela Drake is endorsing Karen Katz too.

The Judge race echoes the DA race in some ways (see below). The challengers are focused on the experience of low-income people of color who get the worst treatment and outcomes in our criminal justice system. There’s a movement afoot to elect reformers as DAs, judges, and sheriffs. Edie wants Alameda County to be on the leading edge of reform, actively working to root out racial bias, and moving away from money bail. A new judge or DA can’t do those things single-handedly, but Edie wants to vote for the ones who are promising to try. Janet also supports Karen Katz.

Alameda County District Attorney – Pamela Price
This race may be the toughest and most contentious one of all. There is a lot of mudslinging going on from both sides, and whoever wins will have pretty dirty hands.

  • A note from Edie: My vote here is more symbolic and a statement of my values and desire for change than an endorsement FOR Pamela Price. This vote is based on my belief that the criminal justice system is rotten to the core — rooted in and perpetuating racism, economic inequality, an ethos of punishment, and denial of humanity. I want to support a candidate who will directly challenge the status quo. That said, I can respect anyone’s decision to vote for O’Malley, and am more interested in examining and explaining my own point of view than changing minds.

We don’t have much personally against Nancy O’Malley. She has been a legal champion for women, survivors of domestic violence, and reproductive rights, and it sounds like she has been a relatively progressive DA. The fact that Black people moving through the courts here have disproportionately worse outcomes than Whites is not unique to Alameda County, but that doesn’t make it okay.

But Edie is concerned about the fact that O’Malley hasn’t prosecuted police for misconduct or killing of unarmed people, while she has accepted significant campaign contributions from police and their unions. This East Bay Express article raises concerns about both candidates, and that paper opted not to endorse in this race (the East Bay Times endorsed O’Malley, as did the SF Chronicle).

Note that Price says her vow not to prosecute misdemeanors (which include domestic violence, drunk driving, and other significant offenses) was taken out of context, and she has walked it back. Edie’s friend at the Public Defender’s office agrees it was taken out of context, and thinks she was saying misdemeanors should be sent through diversion and pre-charging programs. Many misdemeanors shouldn’t be prosecuted. The DA’s office currently overcharges, and it ruins people’s lives. While Price may not be perfectly qualified, Edie thinks she is competent enough. Remember there is a whole staff in the office — it won’t cease to function.

Edie believes unseating O’Malley would be a huge step forward for the movement for racial justice and criminal justice reform. And if Pamela Price loses but makes a strong showing, it may motivate O’Malley to address her blind spots and be even more progressive.

Some smart and thoughtful voters are going to blank this race because both candidates are compromised by this amazingly ugly race.  Janet is going to hold her nose and vote for O’Malley. Seems to her that Price just isn’t ready for this huge job…and her statement about misdemeanors should have been far more nuanced than it was, context or no context.

Alameda County Board of Education – Joaquin Rivera
No reason not to reelect him that we know of.

Alameda County Assessor – Phong La
We were woefully ignorant of this race, I gotta say. So more info is welcome…

A website comparison shows that La has ALL the endorsements, and seems well-qualified to bring a taxpayer-focused approach to the bureaucracy of property value assessment and assessing of taxes. East Bay Times endorsed him, the Express didn’t take a position.

Jim Johnson has three endorsements on his page, from current and past staff at the Assessor’s office, where he has worked for over 20 years. His website has some compelling critiques of La, but I’m not convinced… Apparently it’s time to clean out the closets at the Assessor’s office!

Alameda County Auditor-Controller – Irella Blackwood
Edie had to do a little digging for this one too, but she’s more confident about it. The East Bay Times editorial did a good job of giving the lay of the land of this race… Basically Blackwood seems highly qualified and trusted to bring an outsider’s perspective to the office and increase focus on performance audits, as the Berkeley and former Oakland Auditors have done (we like Anne-Marie Hogan and Courtney Ruby, who also endorsed Blackwood). This is another office shake-up hoping to upset the internal heir-apparent candidate (Melissa Wilks).

Yes on Alameda County Measure A – Child Care is important!
A slight sales tax increase seems well worth it to fund something as important as child care and early education, especially for low-income youth. Child care really ought to be universal and free for all, so anything that gets us closer to that has our support.

Yes on Oakland Measure D – Keep libraries open, expand library services
A small parcel tax ($75/year) to support Oakland libraries also seems like a no-brainer. This is the kind of thing taxes are for! Strong libraries make for strong communities, and the funds from Measure D will prevent library closures, extend hours of service, expand literacy programs for kids and adults, and other good things.