Edie Irons has been making voter guides for more than 10 years, and teaming up with her mom, Janet Cox, to produce a guide for the last several. We each do our own research, look at other endorsements, have some insider knowledge from 12-50 years of local political involvement, and host a ballot info party with friends and neighbors to talk it all through.
Our recommendations are also informed by our work. Edie is the Communications Director at TransForm, a trusted Bay Area nonprofit working on climate and equity through the lens of transportation and land use. Janet worked on environmental and water policy in California (among other things) for a few decades; the last few years she’s focused on fossil fuel divestment and pension finance with Fossil Free California, and has two big legislative victories under her belt — SB 185 and SB 964.
About this guide:
With everything at a fever pitch right now — Trumpism, our rage at Trumpism, the housing and homelessness crisis, worsening racial and economic injustice, runaway climate change, you name it — we are mostly coming down this year on the side of more radical change. Think about it: what aspect of our city, government, or culture does not need deep and profound change right now? (h/t Carroll Fife for that question)
For statewide candidate races, we basically plan to vote for Democrats, and won’t waste space here on the obvious whys of most of those. (See our Primary voter guide for more background.)
We usually agree politically, but not always. We hope you find both our differences and our agreements useful as you make your own important choices. 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.
One thing we can all agree on: nothing will change if we don’t DO SOMETHING. All of us. Voting is a great start. If you can do more, this year we have planned and researched other opportunities for action to turn things around nationally. Whether you have an hour, an evening, a weekend, $20, or $500, we have suggestions for where to put your time and treasure.
Download and print the condensed version of this guide – add your own notes and take it to the polls!
This voter guide contains:
- Statewide candidates
- Statewide propositions 1 through 12
- Alameda County and Special Districts
- Oakland candidates
- Oakland measures
- Other East Bay measures and races (including Berkeley measures)
US Senate – Kevin De Leon (Edie) or Dianne Feinstein (Janet)
Edie is voting for Kevin De León because it’s time for new Democratic leadership. KDL is charismatic, a climate crusader, and a very effective legislator. Feinstein has been in office for 26 years, never been my favorite, and it’s time for change. While I wasn’t thrilled with KDL’s shrill naysaying during the Kavanaugh hearings, I do think Feinstein handled it pretty weakly. I’m even less thrilled with the Democratic Party, and I generally want the old guard to stand aside.
Janet considers herself KDL’s biggest fan… and that’s why she is planning to vote for Feinstein. Janet wants de León to be Governor, and she’s afraid if he goes to the Senate he’ll never come back to California. Plus, the Senate isn’t exactly a good place for a Democrat—let alone a Democrat from California—to get stuff done right now. (If Democrats take back the Senate this year, which is devoutly to be wished and worked for, Janet may take a big bite out of her hat.) So for the first time ever, this year Janet is advocating for Feinstein. Feinstein will continue to stand up to Trump , and if Democrats DO take back the Senate, she’ll chair the Judiciary Committee — she can be Trump’s Sam Ervin!
US Representative – Barbara Lee
Governor – Gavin Newsom
Holding our noses and holding our breath for this corporatist centrist, but John Cox (no relation!!) would be a nightmare.
Lieutenant Governor – Eleni Kounalakis
More progressive than the other Democrat running.
Secretary of State – Alex Padilla
Controller – Betty Yee
Treasurer – Fiona Ma
Attorney General – Xavier Becerra
Board of Equalization Member – Malia Cohen
Insurance Commissioner – Surprise…Steve Poizner! (Feel free to disagree)
Steve Poizner was Insurance Commissioner before, when he was a Republican. Now he has shed his party affiliation and wants to make the job nonpartisan (which it arguably should be). He has a lot of experience and good ideas. The reasons he opposes a statewide single payer system are valid (it’s not doable with Trump in office). He also seems to regret some of his ugliest conservative positions (which have nothing to do with the job of insurance commissioner). We like a politician who can apologize and learn.
Ricardo Lara’s platform and experience have little to do with the job of insurance commissioner. He seems like a climber using this as a stepping stone. Janet was unimpressed with his responsiveness, as a Senator, to environmental issues and something was fishy about the way he chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee this past year. Finally, the single-payer bill Lara co-authored (SB 562) was an unworkable, grandstanding bill, designed to give him something to campaign on in this election—in Janet’s opinion. She says, ‘We need single payer, but we need the right vehicle. SB 562 wasn’t it!’
State Superintendent of Public Instruction – Tony Thurmond
We know Tony well and trust him, and he was made for this job. Everybody else supports him too, except some misguided newspapers and charter school advocates, who support his opponent, Marshall Tuck.
15th Assembly District
Edie’s choice: Jovanka Beckles
Edie says: “I’m voting for more radical change here, with some reservations. Jovanka may be the most progressive viable candidate this district has ever had. She’s endorsed by ALL her former primary challengers and many progressive leaders, orgs, and unions. She doesn’t take corporate money, and I like her bold and uncompromising platform. We need people who will push the envelope hard towards justice and equity, and you know what? They may not sound like, look like, and act like the politicians we are used to. So while I have some doubts and see my mom’s points, I want to give Beckles the chance to push. Hopefully she will also know how to bend and make a deal when the time is right.
Janet’s choice: Buffy Wicks
Janet says: “Neither of these is my preferred candidate for this important position. But for me, in light of all the work I’ve done with the legislature, Wicks is a better choice. It’s a truism that politics is the art of compromise, but California puts a different spin on that: With our tenuous supermajorities in both houses of the legislature (touch wood) the compromise that leads to passage of a tough climate/environment bill is between liberal Democrats and ‘moderate’ Democrats. The California legislature is no place for a purist, in my view—let alone one who voted for Jill Stein in 2016.”
16th Assembly District – Rebecca Bauer-Kahan
18th Assembly District – Rob Bonta
20th Assembly District – Bill Quirk
All these judges!
All these state Supreme Court and Appellate Court judges are already serving, having been approved by a panel after Governor Brown appointed them. But they ALSO need to be approved by the voters in the first gubernatorial election following their appointments and every 12 years: these are “retention votes.” Normally we’d all just vote yes, or blank the races. On the other hand we could just vote no! Is it fair to ask voters to approve judges???
One exception: for Associate Justice of the state Supreme Court, Vote NO on retaining Carol Corrigan, who dissented in the 2008 same-sex marriage case.
We welcome comments and further suggestions about the judges if you know about them!
YES on Prop 1 – State bond for housing assistance programs
Prop 1 authorizes $4 billion in bonds (over 35 years) to finance a variety of sorely needed housing programs and housing construction throughout California. It includes $150 million for transit-oriented development, and specific programs to house veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, and those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
YES on Prop 2 – Authorize bonds for supportive housing programs for people with mental illness
Prop 2 will provide $2 billion for housing programs to support individuals with mental illness, including those experiencing homelessness. Prop 2 authorizes money from Proposition 63, the Medical Health Services Act of 2004, to be spent on safe and supportive housing for people with mental illness. This enables a more holistic approach to our housing and homelessness crises, strengthening coordinated wrap-around services for some of our most vulnerable neighbors. Read TransForm’s blog post for more reasons to support Props 1, 2, and 10.
YES! on Proposition 3 – $8.9 billion water infrastructure bond (over 40 years)
Janet has worked on water policy issues in California for many, many years—and she cannot understand the near-hysterical opposition to this essential bond issue. A close read of the list of projects shows no new dams, and no new tunnels. While the single biggest ticket item ($750 million) is for repairs to the Friant-Kern canal system—which does indeed benefit agriculture in the Central Valley—most of the money will go to groundwater monitoring and protection, water rights oversight and enforcement, stormwater capture and reuse, repair of the Oroville Dam, and wildlife habitat protection: all of which are essential in a state where water conservation will be more and more important as global warming advances. A state bond issue is the right way to pay for these public benefits, as local agencies don’t have the money and the U.S. Congress has outlawed earmarks, which historically would have supported projects such as these.
Yes on Proposition 4 – Bonds to support children’s hospital renovation and construction.
Most of the stated opposition to this measure ($1.5 billion in bonds to be sold over 35 years, which doesn’t seem like much) is from people who don’t like bond issues in general (especially when they benefit non-governmental organizations such as private non-profit hospitals that will benefit from this measure), and fallaciously conflate bonds with assaults on Proposition 13. Some of the resistance comes from people who say that it should be easy to raise private money for children from rich people (who enjoy putting their names on buildings). But we aren’t convinced that huge capital campaigns are all that quick, or successful, in places where sick children are poor, brown, or undocumented. And remember that children’s hospitals treat seriously ill children regardless of their ability to pay.
No on Proposition 5 – Tax breaks for up-sizing, not-that-old rich people
Current law allows people over 55 to transfer their property tax bill from one home to another once in their lifetime, when moving to a less expensive residence within their county or to one of 11 participating counties in California. It’s specifically designed to facilitate downsizing. This measure, put on the ballot by the CA Association of Realtors, allows that same tax transfer unlimited times and when moving to a larger, more expensive home. Fiscal effects are likely to be complicated, but this bill will ultimately cost local governments $1 billion a year in property taxes (leaving the state to make up that loss in school funding), while making realtors and their wealthy clients richer…and compounding the bad effects of Prop 13.
NO WAY on Prop 6 – Don’t eliminate vital state transportation funding
Prop 6 is a nightmare! It would eliminate $5.4 billion per year in transportation funding, including almost $1 billion per year for public transportation, safe walking and biking, and multi-use trails. This politically motivated measure would repeal the increased gas tax and vehicle fees passed by the legislature in SB 1, the landmark transportation improvement bill passed last year. There is so much more to say about No on Prop 6.
Yes on Proposition 7 – Allows the Legislature to change Daylight Saving Time
We don’t really have an opinion on whether Daylight Saving Time should be extended year round (or done away with)—but that’s not the point of this law. Federal law allows states to opt out of DST. In 1949, California passed a ballot initiative establishing DST, which says that DST can only be changed by a vote of the people. This measure would change that and allow the legislature to make a change with a two-thirds vote. We’re supporting this bill mainly because the initiative process is no way to run a railroad, let alone a state. Or our alarm clocks.
Yes on Proposition 8 – Caps profits for for-profit outpatient kidney dialysis centers
This one was tough… we actually originally said “no” but changed it to yes after reading this article and hearing from a number of trusted friends and sources. For-profit dialysis centers are apparently exploiting Obamacare to bleed insurers dry (and drive up costs for everyone) and make enormous profits. They also have problematic labor practices and poor conditions in many clinics, which supporters hope would improve if Prop 8 passes. We’re still worried that some dialysis centers may close, or reduce hours, staff, or capacity, which could make life harder for very sick patients who rely on outpatient dialysis to stay alive. Still, Edie is voting yes. We did find the Friends’ Committee on Legislation of California’s analysis of Prop 8 a persuasive argument for the No side… if you’re interested in learning more, read that and the other link above.
YES on Prop 10 – Repeal Costa-Hawkins restrictions on rent control
Proposition 10 would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and its ban on certain types of rent control, including protections for tenants of single-family homes, condos and apartments built after 1995. Costa-Hawkins also allows landlords to raise rents as much as they want when a unit becomes vacant.
Repeal will give cities and counties the ability to decide what rent control protections make sense for them, and address the affordability and displacement crises wracking our communities. Passing Prop 10 does not create any new rent control laws. It just allows an incredibly important debate to happen in cities around the state, and hopefully some common-sense legislation will be passed where it’s most needed. If you need more info, here’s a helpful editorial from the LA Times.
No on Proposition 11 – Prohibits real breaks for ambulance drivers
This measure, which would allow ambulance companies to require emergency responders to stay on call during breaks, is proposed by ambulance companies in response to a lawsuit. Labor opposes it. EMTs do NOT ignore an urgent call while they finish a sandwich, although they do need to take real breaks when they can. Edie’s EMT friend says, “Prop 11 is AMR’s attempt to get out of compensating employees for missed breaks, including getting out of the class action lawsuit it already lost! The fearmongering from AMR about costs is ridiculous. No upstaffing is needed, just pay for the breaks as legally required!”
Yes on Proposition 12 – Specifying cage sizes for livestock
Argh, why is this on the ballot? Sigh. Most animal welfare groups are for it, and that’s enough for us. (Though PETA opposes, presumably to remind us that one square foot per chicken does not a happy chicken make.) Speaking of which, here’s a helpful organic egg scorecard, shared by a friend at our ballot party… seems like a better way for an individual to influence animal welfare than with this proposition!
Alameda County Assessor – Phong La
La has all the endorsements, and seems well qualified for the office. East Bay Times endorsed him, the Express didn’t take a position.
Jim Johnson has just a few 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!
AC Transit District Director (at large) – Joel Young
A friend who knows the AC Transit District Board well says that Joel “is an effective board member who always reads and understands the packet and did an amazing job in fundraising for measure C1.” We trust our friend’s recommendation here.
BART Board of Directors, District 4: Robert Raburn
BART Board of Directors, District 6: Anu Natarajan
BART Board of Directors, District 8 (yeah, it’s SF): Janice Li
Peralta Colleges Board of Trustees Area 3: Corean Todd
Peralta Colleges Board of Trustees Area 5: Cindi Reiss
These recommendations come from a friend who works closely with the Board and knows first hand how badly it needs new blood, and change! The incumbents these two young candidates are running against have been on the Board for 16 and 20 years. Reiss and Todd are also endorsed by other individuals and organizations we trust.
Yes on Measures E and G: Peralta Community College District Funding
Measure E – Extends an existing $48/parcel parcel tax for eight years, to pay for tutoring and teacher support. The district depends on this $8 million per year.
Measure G – Issues $800 million in bonds (to raise $44.2 million annually) over 40 years, to pay for facility upgrades including technology, science labs, and job training classrooms. This is the right use of bonds if the state isn’t paying up (lord knows community college tuition shouldn’t be high enough to pay for that, or required at all)
Oakland Mayor – Cat Brooks
Here’s a race where we are both voting for radical change. Despite all of Oakland’s recent success, and in part because of it, this city is a study in inequity. We want a mayor who finds the intense suffering of too many neighbors — and the complacency about it by too many others — literally unacceptable. A mayor who will push back when police overstep and implement community-rooted programs designed to keep all residents safe. Who will do whatever it takes to shelter every person who wants it, and keep vulnerable Oaklanders in place. We all need to demand—and do—better in this political moment.
This is Oakland, it’s a year for big change, and ranked-choice voting makes an upset very possible (more on that below). If not here and now, then where and when else could such a mayor be possible? Democracy for America and the Working Families Party endorsed Cat Brooks, and this sentence of theirs sums it up well: “People all around the country look to Oakland to set an example of what is possible when elected officials have the support of a truly progressive electorate.” Let’s show ‘em.
What about second and third choice? Cat Brooks and Pamela Price have endorsed each other and are recommending supporters to vote for them in the #1 or #2 spots, with Saied Karamooz as #3. This strategy DOES work to beat a front-runner.
WE are going to vote Brooks #1, Karamooz #2 and either Schaaf or nobody #3. Just not that confident in Pamela Price as mayor, would rather re-elect Libby.
PS: Here’s how RCV works.
Oakland City Auditor – Courtney Ruby
This will sound familiar, because Courtney has been our auditor before! She did a fantastic job in the role for eight years. Brenda Roberts, who replaced her, created a toxic work environment and got little done, sounds like a total nightmare. Oakland is VERY lucky Courtney wants her old job back!
Oakland City Council District 2 – Abel Guillen
Abel has served his district well and has smart practical ideas for addressing Oakland’s challenges. He knows how to negotiate with developers for community benefits and affordable housing, and Edie is okay with with where the controversial East 12th St public land sale ended up (though Oakland def needs to improve its public lands policy). Abel’s finance and budget expertise is an asset to the council and the city.
You might be wondering, what about radical change and Nikki Fortunato Bas? Edie has nothing but respect for Nikki and her years of awesome work, and thinks she would make a strong councilmember. If you want to vote the straight radical change ticket, vote for Nikki. But we have known Abel for more than 10 years and still believe in him to navigate the realities of a very tough job with integrity.
Oakland City Council District 4 – 1. Sheng Thao, 2. Nayeli Maxson, 3. Pam Harris
Important note: Charlie Michelson withdrew from this race on October 14! Don’t throw your vote away! He is the second endorsed candidate of Libby Schaaf and Annie Campbell Washington (departing D4 incumbent) to withdraw.
Sheng Thao is the chief of staff to Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. She knows the job and the issues, and seems ready to hit the ground running. She’s the only candidate endorsed by Oakland Firefighters, and fire prevention is a big issue in D4, which includes most of Montclair and the hills. Like Kaplan, she’s likely to be critical of Mayor Schaaf. Top endorsement of East Bay Express, too. The breadth of her endorsements is striking.
Nayeli Maxson used to work in the D4 office, has relevant experience, her platform looks pretty good. East Bay Express have Maxson and Harris tied for runner-up to Thao.
Pam Harris now has the sole endorsement of departing D4 incumbent Annie Campbell Washington and Mayor Schaaf. Her resume looks a little thin, but people seem to like her.
Oakland City Council District 6 – 1. Natasha Middleton, 2. Loren Taylor, 3. Mya Whitaker
More change needed. We’re splitting the difference between the East Bay Express and Wellstone Club. Middleton and Whitaker are running on a slate with Marlo Rodriguez. Taylor is endorsed by Schaaf and other big names (from Perata to Quan).
OUSD Director District 4 – Clarissa Doutherd
Most sources we trust, including Edie’s neighbors, are endorsing Clarissa as the more independent candidate. OUSD needs change, not more of the same.
YES on Oakland Measure V – Lower cannabis taxes
Combined city, county, and state taxes for cannabis businesses in Oakland is a whopping 35%. Maybe that’s why there are so few storefronts? Learn more (excuse KALW for typos).
YES on Oakland Measure W – Tax on vacant parcels and condominiums
Vacant properties contribute to blight, illegal dumping, and the housing crisis. Measure W will tax property owners $6k per year for each vacant parcel, or $3k per year for vacant condominium units, to generate an estimated $10 million annually for homeless services and illegal dumping cleanup. Hopefully this tax will also help motivate landlords to rent apartments and develop vacant lots into more housing.
YES Oakland Measure X – Real estate transfer tax reform
This measure makes Oakland’s real estate transfer tax more progressive. The rate—currently 1.5% of the sale price of any property—would be lowered to 1% for properties under $300,000; and raised to 1.75% for properties over $2 million and to 2.5% for properties over $5 million. And it rebates up to a third of the tax to low- and moderate-income property owners who add solar or do seismic retrofit work in the first year after buying a place. Seems fair, and right.
YES on Oakland Measure Y – Expand Just Cause eviction protections
Measure Y would protect more Oakland renters from eviction by removing the Just Cause exemption for owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes. It would also allow the city council to place additional limitations, without returning to voters, on landlords’ rights to evict tenants. Like Prop 10, this measure removes restrictions on renter protections, it does not enact new renter protections.
YES on Oakland Measure Z – Raising the minimum wage for hotel workers
This measure is an important step for some of the most oppressed workers around—female hotel workers. Measure Z raises their pay to $15/hour with healthcare benefits or $20 without; but maybe just as important it protects these vulnerable workers from abuse by supervisors, co-workers, or hotel guests, and outlaws retaliation against workers who exercise their rights. Unfortunately the measure applies only to hotels with 50 or more rooms, (Note: it also sets up an enforcement agency, the city Department of Workplace and Employment Standards, which the auditor says would cost $2.8 million for staffing and operations. If this scheme actually reduces instances of abuse and protects workers, it will be worth it!)
NO on Oakland Measure AA – Parcel tax for preschool and other educational support
It seems scroogey to be opposing this measure that claims to expand access to preschool and boost. But it’s a lot for a parcel tax, $198/year, rising with inflation, for a single family residence, The estimated $30 million raised per year would only help an estimated 10,000 youth per year, and woudn’t go to OUSD but to a new Early Education Fund and Oakland Promise fund run by the city. It’s a pet project of Mayor Schaaf, and requires ⅔ to pass.
Recall that just this past June, Alameda County voters very narrowly rejected Measure A, a 0.5 percent sales tax for early childhood education and support for homeless and at-risk children throughout the county. That measure, which was approved by 66.20 percent of voters (.4 short of a win), was put on the June ballot by the Board of Supervisors, and we would rather see that come back again than support Measure AA. Some education-oriented friends quietly agree with us.
Alameda Mayor: Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft
Anyone but Trish Spencer.
Alameda City Council: John Knox White and Jim Oddie
Yes on Berkeley Measure O – Affordable housing bond
Placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote by the Berkeley City Council, Measure O is a $135 million affordable housing general obligation bond to create more affordable housing options and opportunities for the people who need them most.
Yes on Berkeley Measure P – Transfer tax for homeless services
Measure P will raise $6-8 million annually for navigation centers, mental health support, rehousing, and other services for the homeless, including homeless seniors and youth. It does this by increasing the transfer tax 1% for ten years on property sales and transfers over $1.5 million, adjusted annually to capture the top approximately 33% of transfers.
Yes Berkeley Measure Q – Rent control changes in case Prop 10 passes
If Prop 10 passes, cities with pre-existing rent control policies will automatically revert back to those old policies (i.e. the parts that Costa-Hawkins invalidated will go back into effect). So Berkeley planned ahead, and agreed on this compromise between the city council and the rent board. No organization formally opposes it. Rather than get into the details here (there are a lot), I’ll refer you to this supportive article that explains it, and this article written after the council placed it on the ballot, which also has helpful background.
Yes on Berkeley Measure R – Community engagement in Vision 2050
Measure R advises the Mayor and Council to involve residents and experts in devising a general plan update. We have always been for more community engagement in local planning decisions and processes.