By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
SECRETARY OF STATE - Michela AliotoThe 30-year-old granddaughter of onetime San Francisco mayor Joseph Alioto is a former staffer for Vice President Gore and was the unsuccessful 1996 Democratic nominee for Congress in California's north coast district (the one that Dan Hamburg represented from 1992 to 1994, see above). Partially paralyzed at age 13 in a ski-lift accident, she's campaigning for the position of what is effectively the state's top election officer on a platform of making it easier for the disabled to vote, and making the process more accessible generally. With voter turnouts tumbling to pre-Jacksonian levels, Alioto could provide a welcome antidote to the culture of civic indifference. Despite our regard for Peace and Freedom Party candidate Israel Feuer, Alioto's our choice.
CONTROLLER - Kathleen ConnellNearing the end of her first term as controller, Connell has overseen audits and identified savings in the state's Medi-Cal and lottery programs and a number of school and special districts, as well as in the state's costly prison system, where she argues for the redirection of nonviolent offenders to less pricy facilities. She's also put together a program offering tax credits to companies donating the equipment they use in their workplace to community colleges. Connell has a clear vision of the state's larger needs and how she can address at least some of them in her current position, to which she clearly deserves re-election.
TREASURER - Phil AngelidesA former chair of the California Democratic Party, Angelides is a Sacramento developer who's devised a plan by which smaller municipalities and school districts can pool their bond issues to get a better deal on Wall Street. Angelides has the business smarts and the (moderately) progressive principles to make a first-rate chief investment officer for the state - which is essentially what the state treasurer is.
ATTORNEY GENERAL - Lynn SchenkThree major Democratic candidates are vying to succeed Dan Lungren as the state's top cop - the key position not only for criminal law enforcement, but, if the attorney general is so inclined, for enforcing the civil rights, employee and consumer rights, and environmental laws of California. One of the three candidates, San Gabriel Valley state Senator Charles Calderon, would be an out-and-out disaster in the position. In his years in the Legislature, Calderon's become the chief defender of the state's insurance industry, at various and frequent points outraging organizations such as the Consumers Union and the California League of Conservation Voters for such bills as the one making it easier for home builders to avoid liability for shoddy construction and another that would have had the state assume the risk for insurance companies' high-premium, low-coverage earthquake policies.
The other two candidates are former San Diego Congresswoman Lynn Schenk and longtime East Bay state Senator and Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer, and these two present progressives with a difficult choice. Both are predictably tough on crime, though both favor restricting third-strike prosecutions to violent offenses. A daughter of a Holocaust survivor, Schenk actually worked while a young lawyer in the criminal appellate division of the state Attorney General's Office. In the latter years of Jerry Brown's governorship, she served as the state's secretary of business, transportation and housing. She was elected to Congress in 1992 from a Republican-leaning San Diego district, and lost the seat in the Gingrich jihad of '94. Outside the public sector, she's been an in-house counsel for San Diego Gas & Electric and an attorney in private practice specializing in international law. Her campaign emphasizes her commitment to enforcing the civil law - consumer protection, antitrust and the like - that has taken a back seat during Lungren's time on the job.
Lockyer, by common consent, is Sacramento's reigning legislative genius, the closest the Legislature has come to Willie Brown since - well, since Willie Brown. In 1997, with rookie Speaker Cruz Bustamante fumbling in the Assembly, Senate leader Lockyer was widely considered the force that made both houses work, and the legislator most responsible for thwarting the machinations of Pete Wilson (deep-sixing a good number of the gov's more problematic appointments). In his years in the state Senate, Lockyer steered to enactment legislation that reduced the state tax liability of working-class families, restored food stamps for legal immigrants, made California the first state with a hate-crimes statute, enabled the state public defender to better pursue death-penalty appeals, created the state's first "whistle-blower" protection law, strengthened the collection of child-support payments, and required mediation in child-custody disputes. We think that Schenk and Lockyer would each bring humane values, a relevant resume and considerable zeal to the attorney general's post.
We are troubled, though, that in his role as legislative leader, Lockyer has frequently made himself beholden to such major funders as the trial lawyer and tobacco lobbies, and while we don't doubt he'd be an excellent A.G., Schenk certainly would bring less baggage to the job. In a very close call, she's our choice for attorney general.
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER - Hal BrownIn 1994, Republican Chuck Quackenbush was elected to this position, which had been created in 1988 by the passage of Ralph Nader's Proposition 103. Quackenbush, however, is not what Nader had in mind. In his first campaign and then first term in office, he accepted $6.1 million in contributions from the industry he's charged with regulating, and, not surprisingly, proved to be one very industry-friendly commissioner. Nonetheless, only two Democrats, neither one remotely inspiring, are seeking the office. Diane Martinez, daughter of Eastside Congressman Marty and herself a termed-out Eastside member of the Assembly, is regarded by colleagues and staffers of all ideologies as the single most erratic and ineffective member of the body, with a penchant for assessing legislation not by its merits but by her relationship to its author.