After years of being poorly represented by the loopy Diane Martinez, voters in this Monterey Park/Alhambra/Eastside district are in for a pleasant shock. Democratic nominee and Assembly-Member-in-Waiting Gloria Romero is a hard-working progressive who, like her allies and sponsors Antonio Villaraigosa and Gil Cedillo, brings a labor-left pedigree to the job. Romero, a psychology professor at Cal State L.A., serves as the new "reform" vice president of the L.A. Community College Board, and on the city's Elected Charter Reform Commission. We expect she'll bring the same kind of intelligent liberal perspective to the Assembly that she's brought to these other bodies on which she's served.
50th DISTRICT - Marco
Firebaugh, an activist in the No-on-187 campaign, brings idealism and a fresh face, if not much experience, to this rather onesided race to succeed the term-limited Martha Escutia in this Eastside district.
51st DISTRICT - Rex Frankel
Former Inglewood Mayor and current 51st District Representative Ed Vincent is doing great things for the gambling and tobacco lobbies, but he'll have to do them without our support. Green Party candidate Rex Frankel, a longtime opponent of Ballona Wetlands development, represents a progressive and unbought alternative to the current incumbent.
52nd DISTRICT - No Endorsement
The high point of former Yvonne Burke aide Carl Washington's first term in the Assembly was his public announcement during an otherwise unremarkable committee hearing that he was swapping his vote. We don't know if it's a tribute to his honesty or his gaucherie, but he's running unopposed.
53rd DISTRICT - George Nakano
The race to succeed Democrat Debra Bowen in this Republican-leaning South Bay district pits Republican Bill Eggers, a researcher formerly at the right-wing Heritage Foundation and currently at the libertarian Reason Foundation, against Democrat George Nakano, a centrist member of the Torrance City Council. With state investment in public resources having declined for the past 20 years, pulling down with it the once-stellar educational and economic standards for which California was famed, the case for sending an anti-statist ideologue to the Assembly seems less than compelling. Nakano's centrism won't remake the world, but, unlike Eggers' schemas, it at least addresses real world problems.
54th DISTRICT - Alan Lowenthal
The race in this Long Beach-area swing district pits Republican Julie Alban, a city prosecutor, against Democrat Alan Lowenthal, a Long Beach City Council member, an alternate on the state Coastal Commission, and a psych professor at Cal State Long Beach. Lowenthal has a long record of activism on behalf of environmental and gun-control causes, and he's our clear choice in the 54th.
55th DISTRICT - No Endorsement
Blustery Dick Floyd, who returned to the Legislature from this Harbor-area district in 1996, a has grown steadily less steady and increasingly more erratic, at times subverting his own bills on the floor of the Assembly. He has no serious opposition, and no support from us.
56th DISTRICT - Sally Havice
First-termer Havice, a reliable Democratic vote from this Cerritos-area district, faces a tough challenge from former Republican Assemblyman Phil Hawkins.
57th DISTRICT - Martin Gallegos
Chiropractor and Democrat Gallegos is author of this year's Patients Bill of Rights, and will be a key player on any HMO reforms the Democrats put forth next year.
58th DISTRICT - Thomas Calderon
Montebello school-board member Thomas Calderon, brother of outgoing state Senator Charles Calderon, is certain to win this seat, being vacated by Congress-bound Assembly Member Grace Napolitano.
JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT
Chief Justice Ronald M. George - No
Associate Justice Ming William Chin - No
Associate Justice Janice R. Brown - No
Associate Justice Stanley Mosk - Yes
In theory, judges and justices don't bring ideological perspectives to their interpretation and enforcement of the law. In practice, judges and justices author decisions and find meanings in state and federal constitutions that reflect, at the deepest level, their political and philosophical beliefs. At the highest rung of the judiciary, the supreme courts of the United States and of each of the 50 states, judicial philosophy is of paramount importance, for the justices are frequently engaged in altering the previous meanings of laws (hence, to cite one particularly famous decision, the constitutional provision for separate-but-equal school systems was transformed in 1954 by the U.S. Supreme Court into the constitutional mandate to end segregation in the schools).
California has a peculiar system of judicial appointment and retention, and it's our belief that it calls upon voters to exercise their judgment on the performance - which means, the applied philosophy - of its Supreme Court justices. The state's Supremes are appointed by the governor, confirmed by a three-person committee (the attorney general, the chief justice and the senior appellate justice), and then confirmed by the voters at the next election, after which they're presented to the voters for reconfirmation at what are essentially 12-year intervals. Under this system, it seems to us that the chief criteria by which voters should judge the justices are those of political philosophy and its public-policy consequences - though if a justice should prove egregiously incompetent, that should obviously be a factor as well.