Absentee ballots just went out last week, which means we’ve reached the point in the campaign where it’s time to really begin paying attention.
One new wrinkle this year that’s been flying under the radar a bit is the debut of the “top-two” primary format in statewide races. (It debuted two years ago for local races.)
To refresh, the top-two system was approved by voters in 2010 under Proposition 14, authored by our former state Sen. Abel Maldonado. Rather than allowing voters to pick only from candidates within their own party affiliation, this new system opens the entire primary field, sending the two candidates with the most votes in a statewide race on to a November run-off, even if one earns an overall majority.
The system hopefully forces candidates to speak to the entire electorate rather than their core base — or risk getting dumped in the first round. It also opens up a variety of quirky possibilities depending on how many candidates run from various parties and how they split the vote.
We’ve already seen cases in local elections where the primary balloting has sent two candidates of one party on to the general election. But this vote will be the first to cast that formula across the entire state electorate.
And it offers some unique potential for strategic voting. A great example of this is in the race for governor, where Jerry Brown will surely be the top Democrat vote-getter while a pair of Republicans are leading the charge to challenge him.
Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that in the end, this discussion won’t matter a whit, because Jerry Brown will be re-elected and he will crush whatever sacrificial lamb advances to face him.
In a heavily Democrat-leaning state, Brown is a popular governor overseeing a period of growth and recovery. Accordingly, it’s pretty much a given that enough traditional voters will vote for Brown to ensure his spot on the November ballot.
So this leaves some of us with the chance influence the selection of the No. 2 competitor. Because this high-profile candidacy might be a launching pad to future political aspirations, it’s an opportunity for voters to help steer California toward a future of responsible statewide office-holders.
And no place on the ballot is this potential more notable than in those two GOP front-runners, which include a moderate Republican of Indian-American heritage who guided the federal TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) to success across two administrations in the midst of the Great Recession, and a right-wing assemblyman whose positions are so odious that even firebrand Congressman Darrell Issa can’t stand him.
The first is Neel Kashkari, the second Tim Donnelly. And if we do one other thing with this governor’s race besides sending Brown back to Sacramento, can it please be also sentencing Donnelly to permanent political banishment, never to be seen or heard from again?
How loathesome is this guy? Let me count the ways:
• Donnelly thinks Kashkari, who is Hindu, supports extreme Sharia law because he once attended a conference on Islamic finance.
• He compared President Obama’s gun control policies to the politics of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Kim Jong Il.
• He once got caught with a loaded gun in his carry-on luggage at Ontario International Airport and pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges.
• He founded a branch of the Minuteman group so he could play citizen soldier and patrol the border looking for undocumented immigrants. (I’m surprised he’s not cozying up to Cliven Bundy right about now.)
• And, most recently, he was the one vote against — in a 72-1 tally on an Assembly bill last week — to prohibit state government from displaying or selling items picturing the Confederate flag.
I think that’s enough of a resume to conclude this guy doesn’t deserve a position of influence in California government. That he’s an assemblyman now is an affront enough.
Said Issa on the Sharia law thing, “As far as I’m concerned, this type of stupidity disqualifies Tim Donnelly from being fit to hold any office, anywhere. Donnelly is no longer a viable option for California voters.”
So, with all that in mind, and considering the new “top two” primary, I recommend we carve off a few votes that might otherwise go to Brown and instead give them to Kashkari. In doing so, we can elevate reason to November and send ignorance packing.
Joe Tarica is senior editor for The Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joetarica.