Voter Guide for June 3, 2014: L.A. Weekly
You know the incumbents. So our June 3 voter guide is about the other stuff - like a comedic race for judge featuring candidates so bad the bar association finds both "Not Qualified." One is Charles Calderon, who L.A. Weekly previously reported as one of the worst legislators in California.
There's Proposition 41, whose passage could hobble and embarrass Westsiders who insist a park be built on that sweeping VA land in Westwood - land deeded in 1888 solely to vets.
One county supervisor's race feels like a YouTube tryout: activist WeHo councilman and fiscal nerd John Duran versus child-actress-turned-bossy-political-maven Sheila Kuehl, versus Kennedy scion and flighty Santa Monica pol Bobby Shriver.
And in California Congressional District 33, a crazy upset could usher in the next Henry Waxman.
Voting is fascinating. You just have to give a damn:
Governor: Jerry Brown, Tim Donnelly, Neel Kashkari
Jerry Brown will win in November. The interesting part of this race is the proxy fight over the future of the dying GOP in California. A USC poll shows that Neel Kashkari and Tim Donnelly, the Republicans vying for the November ballot, are statistically tied - but Kashkari is pulling ahead. (The June 1 USC Dornsife College of Letters poll shows Brown with 50 percent, Kashkari 18 percent, Donnelly 11 percent.)
Here's the quick lowdown on Kash/Donn:
Kashkari is a sharp guy who ran the federal government's TARP bank bailout program, he's moderate for a Republican and shuns the GOP's anti-immigrant, anti-abortion social obsessions.
Conservative state assemblyman Donnelly has condemned immigrants and embarrassed himself by temporarily confusing India with the Middle East - wrongly suggesting that Kashkari, a Hindu whose parents came here from India, supported Islamic Shariah law.
Secretary of State: Derek Cressman, Alex Padilla, Pete Peterson, Dan Schnur
When Democratic state senator Leland Yee, considered a big contender for this job, got arrested in March for allegedly engaging in gun-running with the Chinese mafia, a weird thing happened: a Republican from Santa Monica, Pete Peterson, surged in polls and nabbed the endorsement of the hardcore Democrats at the Los Angeles Times.
A Field Poll released a lifetime ago on April 11, when 41 percent were undecided, showed Peterson, executive director of Pepperdine's Davenport Institute for Public and Civic Engagement, with 30 percent. He was followed by Democratic L.A. state senator Alex Padilla with 17 percent, an MIT grad who has pushed through a lot of smart legislation and who everybody knows wants to be mayor of L.A.
Because of the new "top two" rule in which anyone can advance to November, regardless of party, this race is crowded with talent from across the political spectrum. Voters can pick from Democrat Derek Cressman, a honcho with Common Cause, or independent Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute at USC, both smart cookies.
Controller: John A. Perez, Ashley Swearengin and Betty Yee
California Speaker Perez is sucking in millions of dollars to win this one, but polls continue to show him fighting for second place, while the leader remains Republican Ashley Swearengin, the popular mayor of Fresno who entered the race late and is far behind Perez in fundraising.
Perez got poked badly in the eye by the Sacramento Bee, whose editorial board has watched Perez more closely than other journalists in California. They think Perez will cave to his greatest allies and wealthy campaign contributors, the government employee unions, instead of addressing the state's ugly employee-pension debts. (Those "unfunded liabilities" that Gov. Jerry Brown tried but failed to fix.)
Making life harder for Antonio Villaraigosa's first cousin are Democrat Betty Yee (who serves ably on the tax body the Board of Equalization) and Swearengin, who has created chatter inside and outside California for being a moderate GOP woman with pizzazz, brains and executive ability.
Perez's real problem in November will be Yee, if she makes the runoff. She's a Democrat and she's gutsy - she urged then-Gov. Gray Davis to curb wild overspending (including on employee pensions), but he kept right on, leading to his historic recall. Unlike the sleazeballs tainting Sacramento's statehouse, Yee is careful not to take money from too-powerful groups such as Big Tobacco.
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson, Marshall Tuck, Lydia Gutierrez
This is a classic "old blood vs. new blood" race, and could easily be the mostly costly contest of the season - even though voters don't even know what the state Supe does for a living.
The two Democrats, Marshall Tuck and Tom Torlakson, could not be more different in their views of how to fix bad schools. Here's the cheat sheet:
Torlakson toes the line of the big teachers unions like California Teachers Association, and Tuck is aiming to reduce CTA's influence. Tuck wants teachers tested - well, evaluated, based on how much their students improve or fall behind in math, reading and other subjects while under the teacher. Torlakson does not. Torlakson believes California schools will greatly improve if they are provided a lot more revenue in the right areas. Tuck does not. Tuck is strongly pro-charter schools. Torlakson is not.
Lydia Gutierrez, a teacher who ran for Supe in 2010, has been unable to raise money or her profile.
No polls exist to sort this out. But because this race is officially non-partisan, if the incumbent (and thus frontrunner) Torlakson wins 50 percent plus at least one vote June 3, he wins outright - no race in November.
Torlakson's blast of unending negative ads against Tuck could do the trick. But if Tuck survives on June 3, this Dem-on-Dem race becomes a nationally watched, nationally-funded education war in November.
Judicial races: Los Angeles Superior Court
We vote for judges by placing one hand over our eyes and using the other to push the InkaVote pen in the hole. Nobody knows a damn thing about judicial candidates. Tens of thousands of voters just make blind guesses.
To the rescue: the Los Angeles County Bar Association - specifically its Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee, which interviews the candidates and digs into their track records as lawyers, their ability to work with others, their integrity history.
See Also: Superior Court Judge Race: Charles Calderon and Carol Rose Outdo Each Other in Awfulness
L.A. County Supervisorial District 1: Hilda Solis, Juventino Gomez, Saucedo Hood
The former Secretary of Labor under Barack Obama, Hilda Solis is the subject of a federal inquiry into whether she asked her subordinates in Washington to give money to the president's re-election campaign. She says she did nothing wrong. She is popular, even iconographic in the Latino community, and will be the next District 1 supervisor.
L.A. County Supervisorial District 3: John Duran, Sheila Kuehl, Bobby Shriver, Eric Preven, Pamela Conley-Ulich
Sheila Kuehl began sending out word she was raising money for District 3 back in a previous decade - or that's how it felt - hoping to scare off well-known Democrats and enjoy a cakewalk to the post being vacated by Zev Yaroslavsky. She got tons of endorsements from key Democrats.
But then former Santa Monica City Councilman Bobby Shriver and West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran jumped in - and Shriver injected loads of his own money into his campaign. Shriver then eclipsed Kuehl on supporter fundraising even as he and attorney/activist Duran picked up some big endorsements.
Kuehl is probably going to do fine on June 3. If she doesn't, she can look to the prima donna problem she acquired in Sacramento, and her difficulties debating two equally talented liberal Democrats.
LAUSD School Board District 1 Special Election: Genethia Hudley-Hayes, Alex Johnson, Omarosa Manigault, George McKenna, many others
The shorthand: McKenna, as a respected principal, fixed schools against great odds - he was so good they made a TV movie about him. Hudley-Hayes was on the LAUSD board years ago, but didn't show the grit many expected when it came to remaking schools that were churning out kids who couldn't write or do math. Reality star Omarosa's abilities remain a mystery. Johnson is able but hasn't got the name ID of the others.
California Congressional District 33: Elan Carr, Wendy Greuel, Ted Lieu, Matt Miller, Marianne Williamson, many others
This heavily Democratic coastal Congressional district stretches from Malibu/Agoura Hills to the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The race for Henry Waxman's seat is a toss-up among smart and able potential frontrunners.
Carr, an appealing Republican Iraq War veteran and deputy L.A. County district attorney, may nab one of the top two spots because the three well-known Democrats are splitting the Dems - and spiritual leader Marianne Williamson could attract some of the beach crowd.
Former Clinton aide Matt Miller threw out a lot of new ideas and won some of the debates that nobody watched. If Miller had more money he'd present a threat both to Ted Lieu, a respected legislator burdened with being a Sacramento pol during an ugly period, and to Wendy Greuel, still coming back from her mayoral thumping by Eric Garcetti.
Proposition 41: The lush grounds at the VA on Wilshire Boulevard were deeded in 1888 as a home for old veterans, but rich folk in Brentwood and environs want a park. With the nationwide VA treatment scandal brewing, the upscale neighbors are looking grabby.
Prop. 41 gives teeth to angry vets who have been protesting the land's misuse for years, but were betrayed by the VA in 2005 when it proposed ignoring the deed and developing - this being the Westside - luxury hotels, hipster housing and high-tech medical.
The bond measure would create permanent "supportive housing" in California to help ruined vets bounce back from war via mental health and drug counseling. Possibly in response to pressure from Brentwooders who don't want scruffy vets living nearby, Henry Waxman and Dianne Feinstein are pushing to renovate the site's dilapidated buildings solely for "therapeutic" housing, which is strictly temporary.
Right now, the lands are being rented out for upscale people's needs: a UCLA baseball stadium, Brentwood School's athletic complex, a private prep school and a hotel laundry. The ACLU won a lawsuit proving this has naught to do with the VA's mission - the VA appealed.
But this was all before VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned amidst damning media coverage of secret medical waiting lists and veterans dying for lack of care in Arizona and elsewhere. Expect this bond measure to do well.
Proposition 42: Proponents say this tweaking of the California Public Records Act ends the fights over which government entity has to do the work of finding and releasing often obscure - but nevertheless public - reports, emails and documents. Opponents say the cost to local government is too high.
But Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom argues that the law will finally force California government to think creatively by putting scads of information online to let people do the work of finding the docs themselves.
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