How I'm Voting in California's Overwhelming June Primaries

I've finished going through the June 5th California primary election for Oakland, and below are my picks. If anyone disagrees with my choices, please make your case—most of these I do not feel strongly about, and I did not have time to thoroughly research all of them.

In general, the issue I care most about is opposing or at least not supporting animal agriculture. In most cases that's irrelevant, as I could not find any relevant positions. The rare exception is incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein, who spearheaded the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which is disqualifying. On top of that, she's historically supported mass incarceration and has buckled under to Trump until she started fearing primary challengers. Senator Feinstein deserves to lose badly. Everyone should vote for her most plausible opponent from the left, Kevin DeLeon, both now and in November. On top of that, if you can state publicly that you voted against her because of the AETA, that would be powerful.


As a further reason to vote for De Leon, let me note that the Senate candidate with the second-highest level of support in a recent poll is a neo-Nazi who has called for exterminating Jews. Take your Senate vote very seriously, and remember that anti-Semitism still exists.

Following animal agriculture, the other issues top on my mind are the housing crisis (where I favor candidates who oppose zoning laws including building height restrictions), mass incarceration (I oppose it), immigration (I support mostly-open borders), and climate change. In most cases, positions were not well-defined and I chose candidates based on endorsements I could find online and my reading through the lines.

As a final note and reminder, California has an unusual voting system. We vote in non-partisan primaries, and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, are on the ballot in November.

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Offices

Senate: Kevin DeLeon—See above. It just baffles me that Dianne Feinstein is California's Senator. There are others who I probably prefer to DeLeon on policy alone, but I am voting for DeLeon strategically because he is the progressive challenger most likely to make it through the primary. I'm also voting strategically so that Feinstein faces him rather than a neo-Nazi in November.

State Assembly: Rob Bonta—He seems like a reasonable candidate with a decent background on housing. He's a Democrat running against a Republican, and the Republican Party is increasingly fringe and dangerous with each year.

Superior Court Judge: Karen Katz—This is one of the harder decisions. Katz is challenging incumbent Flanagan, saying that Flanagan is overly harsh with poor and black defendants. Flanagan, in turn, has endorsements from the California establishment. Flanagan claims Katz is opposing her because she's a lesbian, while Katz claims to be bisexual and have a gay son in response. I'm not impressed with what seem like contrived identity politics. In short, I'm voting for Katz because I believe that overly harsh criminal justice is one of the biggest problems in the U.S., though I'm aware she might be a bit wacky.

State Superintendent: Tony Thurmond—I'm fairly moderate on education. I don't like the union-busting trends of recent years since as a teacher I saw how vital a union is to teachers' having decent lives, and I think the decline in unions across society is tragic. At the same time, I think there's a lot to fix in education. Thurmond seems like a good mix of union support and reform orientation.

Assessor: Phong La—From what I can tell, La is at least tied for the most experience in the race, and he claims to care about the "most vulnerable, "which is not others' top goal.

Auditor-Controller: Not Voting—I could not get a sense of who was better here, so I'll let others decide.

District Attorney: Pamela Price—This seems to be the key election for criminal justice reform in Northern California. O'Malley has made some moves for bail reform and other changes, but she also has a history of supporting racist police practices. I'd like to see Alameda get a DA like Philadelphia's, and Price is that hope. This election could be huge if Price wins.

One thing that nearly swayed me to O'Malley's side was that East Bay Animal PAC endorsed O'Malley. I was not initially very compelled by the endorsement, because it seemed to be based on O'Malley's persistence in prosecuting dog or cat abusers, which I think is largely irrelevant to most animals harmed by humans (i.e. farmed animals) or even a harmful distraction. I think a prosecutorial approach to criminal justice does a lot of damage to humans and not much good for animals abused by humans (the vast, vast majority of whom are on farms, not in our homes). More recently, I learned that O'Malley had expressed support to the PAC for prosecuting factory farms for unfair competition, but Price has apparently said she would support similar actions, and so far any action for farmed animals is hypothetical. Given that, concerns with aggressive criminal justice practices outweigh the PAC's endorsement for me.

Governor: Gavin Newsom—It's a mark of political shame that not a single gubernatorial candidate supported SB 827, which would have made a huge dent in California's housing crisis by overturning zoning laws throughout the state. Newsom was the least opposed, though, so that's a mark in his favor. He also displayed true political courage in 2004 when he started allowing same-sex marriages in San Francisco City Hall—way before it was cool. That's the stuff great leaders are made of, and I'm excited to vote for him. I won't deny that's in part because I plan to exercise a right very soon that he helped people like me to get.

Lieutenant Governor: Bleich—I changed my mind since originally posting this blog. It seems there are two decent candidates here, Kounalakis and Bleich. Kounalakis seems more dedicated to addressing the housing crisis, but she advertises her experience as a bird hunter on her website, which does not bode well for support for animals. Given how marginal their other differences are, I'm prefering Bleich.

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla—He's a respected incumbent, and all of his opponents are weirdos.

Controller: Betty Yee—She's a respected incumbent, and all of her opponents are weirdos.

Treasurer: Vivek Viswanathan—Both he and Fiona Ma seem like fine candidates. From what I can tell, Ma is more experienced, and he's the Obama of the race, very young, ambitious, technocratic, and progressive. He's literally running on foot from Sacramento on south and meeting with Indivisible groups. I like his profile, and given that Ma will almost certainly place first, it's good to vote for him so they are the two choices in November.

Attorney General: Xavier Becerra—Becerra has been doing an admirable job sticking it to the Trump administration. He's a progressive with solid experience. He's up against a prosecutor, which I do not think is good for the culture of incarceration, and two Republicans.

Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara—I don't have a strong pick here. Some newspapers have endorsed former-Republican-turned-Independent Steve Poizner for his apparent experience, and there's also the Democrat and physician Mahmood. They all seem like decent candidates, but Lara seems the most forward-thinking and would also be the first LGBT statewide office-holder in California.

Board of Equalization (2nd District): Cohen—The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that this position should not exist. Given that it does, though, it appears that Cohen is the least incompetent.

Ballot Measures
68: No (weakly)—This would issue bonds to support conservation projects. In general I support government programs, but I don't understand why we need to borrow to pay for them when the state has a surplus and the economy is thriving. Is this because of California's strange constitutional restrictions on taxes? For now, I'm leaning no.

69: Yes—Normally, I oppose measures to tie the legislature's hands, and I initially opposed this, but apparently this measure is actually part of a pre-negotiated budget deal and should be passed. It's actually the anti-tax crowd that's opposing this measure so that they can use it to fight a deal that the state legislature worked out (see the LA Times and Sacramento Bee on this). Vote Yes to confirm a good deal that supports infrastructure.

70: No—Same reasoning as for 69.

71: Yes—This would make it so that there is time between counting of signatures and implementation of ballot measures, which makes sense.

72: Yes—This would give a tax incentive for rain catchment systems, which seems desirable.

RM3: Yes—This would increase tolls to pay for infrastructure and mass transit. Given our insufficient and crowded infrastructure and that mass transit is more housing- and climate-friendly than cars, I support this.

A: Yes—This would levy a tax to pay for early education, which is probably one of the most effective social programs.

D: Yes—This would use a light tax to support public libraries, which I think are probably worth more than they cost in taxes.

[I updated my blog since publication to support Jeff Bleich rather than Eleni Kounalakis for Lieutenant Governor based on her advertised bird hunting, to recommend a "Yes" vote on Proposition 69, and to weakly recommend a "No" vote on Proposition 68.]

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