Round One is almost history, and not a day too soon.
For San Luis Obispo County, this has been a crowded and oftentimes contentious primary election season.
It's also been marked by heavy citizen participation: Some candidates' forums have featured standing-room-only crowds (special thanks to the Latino Outreach Forum and League of Women Voters, which sponsored several forums); it's hard to go 100 feet without seeing a political sign; and we've been overwhelmed with letters to the editor. (Apologies for not being able to print them all.)
Several local races are certain to be decided outright on Tuesday: sheriff, district attorney, assessor, Fourth District supervisor, two judgeships and the marijuana tax in the unincorporated areas. In most statewide races, we'll be narrowing the fields down to two finalists, who face off in November.
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We recognize that many of you have already voted, but If you're still in decision mode, we offer a roundup of endorsements from The Tribune and our sister paper, The Sacramento Bee.
Notably missing from the list are endorsements for San Luis Obispo County sheriff and district attorney.
As we've explained previously, we do not believe the performances of either Sheriff Ian Parkinson or District Attorney Dan Dow merit the stamp of approval conveyed by endorsement, especially in light of the horrific jailhouse death of a mentally ill inmate was held in a restraint chair 46 hours.
However, we have reservations about the two challengers. Greg Clayton, who is running for sheriff, has been a private investigator the past 25 years and never had management experience in law enforcement. Dow's challenger, Judge Mike Cummins, has an extensive background in the law. He was a judge, a prosecutor and more recently, a defense attorney. However, the bulk of his experience was several years ago, in Stanislaus County, making if difficult to assess his qualifications to lead the DA's Office.
Also, we generally do not offer endorsements in elected offices that are largely administrative in nature, such as county assessor. We believe a good case could be made for making theses offices appointed, rather than elected. But that's a discussion for another day.
SLO County Races
Superior Court judge, Office #2: Hernaldo Baltodano
We’ve observed him in the courtroom and in campaigning, and we’ve found him to be smart, efficient and respectful, but also assertive when he needs to be. Plus, he's a workhorse; he’s among the first to arrive and the last to leave the courthouse.
Superior Court judge, Office #4: Tim Covello
He strikes us a thoughtful, patient and respectful commissioner. We believe he'd make an outstanding judge, provided he's not a rubber stamp for the District Attorney's Office, where he spent much of his career.
County supervisor, 2nd District: Bruce Gibson
In terms of qualifications, experience and knowledge of the issues, Gibson is by far the strongest of the three candidates. He knows the political landscape, and while his frustration with the board's current dynamic is at times clearly apparent, he doesn't give up fighting for his constituents and for important causes, including affordable housing and help for the mentally ill.
County supervisor, 4th District: Jimmy Paulding
We need someone with a willingness to learn, to listen with an open mind, and to compromise. We also need someone who is concerned about all constituents, no matter their political persuasion. We also believe it’s time to start turning the reins of government over to a new generation of office holders.
Measure B-18, the marijuana tax in unincorporated areas: Yes
The county must be able to recoup what it spends to regulate a burgeoning cannabis industry, especially since legalization was promoted as something that would generate revenue for public agencies, not pile on more expenses.
Proposition 68: Yes
It has been more than a decade since California voters were last asked to approve a statewide bond to upgrade parks and make sure the state’s water supply is clean and protected. This $4.1 billion bond measure is intelligently constructed and a reasonable ask.
Proposition 69: Yes
The 12-cent gas tax increase passed last year by California lawmakers was the first in 23 years, and, gauging from the number of potholes in need of filling, was way overdue. This companion measure would ensure that $5 billion in new revenue only gets spent on transportation projects. While most transportation revenue is already constitutionally earmarked, some of the new funding falls outside those protections, so this is just common-sense cleanup, endorsed by a long list of good government groups. Nonetheless, some anti-tax hardliners and talk radio chatterers oppose this measure, largely because they hope to repeal the whole gas tax in November, and failure of this "lockbox" measure would give them more ammunition. They’re wrong. The gas tax is a bargain, costing most Californians little more than the price of a beer a month.
Proposition 70: No
In the last-minute deal-making that extended California’s landmark cap-and-trade law regulating greenhouse gas pollution, Brown gave Republicans this gift in exchange for their critical votes. Prop. 70 would set up a 2024 showdown in which the allocation of cap-and-trade money would be put to a two-thirds vote of Legislature, thus giving the minority party more control over the fruits of the program.
Proposition 71: Yes
Of all the initiatives, this is the most needed. Right now under the state Constitution, all propositions that appear likely to pass on election night automatically become law the next day. That may have been fine when the state was young, but absentee and provisional ballots and voting by mail can now add weeks to the time it takes to determine an election’s outcome. The result is a real potential for ballot measures to take effect, and then turn out to be defeated and have to be rolled back. This would enact a simple change, making ballot propositions effective on the fifth day after the election results are certified.
Proposition 72: Yes
Homeowners who install systems to capture rainwater – and irrigate lawns and gardens with it – should be encouraged. Instead, they can now be dinged on their property taxes for adding the improvement, which can cost thousands of dollars. Prop 72 would remove that tax penalty.
U.S. Senate: Dianne Feinstein (D) and Kevin de León (D)
In every way – credibility, financial support, public opinion – Feinstein and De León are the top two candidates in a field of more than 30. We wish a viable Republican were on the ballot, but alas, there is not. We endorse Feinstein as our first choice and De León as our second. Trump is waging war on this state, and California can’t afford to sacrifice Feinstein's clout and experience.
Governor: Gavin Newsom (D) and John Chiang (D)
Like Gov. Brown, Newsom is strong on climate policy, locally focused school finance and aggressive use of the courts to beat back overreaches of the Trump administration. But he departs from the governor on some other popular but expensive points. He says higher education should get more state funding, as should universal preschool, and he advocates — rashly, given the cost — single-payer health care, a position that has endeared him to California progressives.
Since his 1997 appointment to the state Board of Equalization, Chiang, a child of Taiwanese immigrants and a graduate of Georgetown law school, has served in a series of statewide offices with, as he puts it, “no drama.”
That hasn’t meant no guts: As controller, he withheld legislators’ paychecks after they blew a voter-approved deadline for passing the budget; some still haven’t forgiven him. During the recession, he also refused an order from then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to slash state workers’ pay.
Lt. governor: Jeff Bleich (D) and Eleni Kounalakis (D)
Bleich was a special counsel to President Barack Obama and U.S. ambassador to Australia. He is endorsed by U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and the Sierra Club. Kounalakis was Obama’s ambassador to Hungary. She has served on the California First 5 Commission and the San Francisco Port Commission and led the California Advisory Council for International Trade and Investment. Her endorsements include U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, Equality California and NARAL Pro-Choice California.
ttorney general: Xavier Becerra (D) and Dave Jones (D)
Becerra, the current attorney general and a longtime congressman, has relentlessly defended the state againt Trump, filing lawsuit after lawsuit and taking the lead in multi-state efforts. He has also taken some strong state and local stands on other issues, including overseeing the Sacramento district attorney’s investigation of the Stephon Clark police shooting. Jones is the outgoing insurance commissioner, a former assemblyman and Sacramento city councilman. He has been an effective consumer advocate as insurance commissioner, and has pushed good legislation to protect policyholders reeling from recent natural disasters.
Insurance commissioner: Steve Poizner (Independent) and Ricardo Lara (D)
Poizner was California’s insurance commissioner from 2007 to 2011, and he was a very good one. In a critical statewide job that balances consumer protection against the solvency of insurers, he stood up to big health and auto insurance companies that tried to gouge policyholders while making sure the industry stayed in the state and made enough profit to pay its claims. Lara, the Bee's second choice in this top-two primary, has solid experience as a state lawmaker representing Bell Gardens, but he is far too joyful a labor partisan to safeguard a balance between insurance corporations and the progressive agenda.
Superintendent of public instruction: Tony Thurmond (D)
This is a nonpartisan post and thus an exception to the top-two primary; if a candidate wins a clear majority on June 5, there is no runoff in November. Richmond Assemblyman Tony Thurmond gets The Bee's nod by a narrow margin. He and charter school pioneer Marshall Tuck both want more reliable school funding and more transparency to ensure that money for kids doesn’t go for teacher salaries.
Secretary of state: Alex Padilla (D)
In the crowded field of candidates competing in the June 5 primary, incumbent Padilla is the only serious choice.
State treasurer: Fiona Ma (D) and Greg Conlon (R)
Ma is, by far, the best choice. A certified public accountant, former speaker pro tempore of the Assembly and current vice chairwoman of the Board of Equalization, she has broad knowledge of tax policy and state government. Conlon served as president of the California Public Utilities Commission and on the California Transportation Commission. He’s a CPA and has worked as a consultant and conducted financial audits of Fortune 500 companies.
State controller: Betty Yee (D)
Betty Yee has served admirably as California’s chief financial officer and deserves another term. So far, she has focused on getting the state ready for a downturn, rooting out fraud and waste by conducting audits of small cities and Central Valley water districts with weak financial controls and, of course, gutting the Board of Equalization