In some instances, this symbol accompanies an endorsement to signify that our choice is the lesser of two evils or just one of lifes gloomier compromises.
. . . how great webs of sorrow
Lay hidden in the small slate-colored thing!
Yeats, Fergus and the Druid
Great webs of sorrow may not be a precise description of what Gray Davis has
inflicted on California, but hes surely been a governor of dashed hopes, missed
opportunities and gratuitous meanness all emerging from the great webs of
calculation that are the very essence of our small, slate-colored governor.
Davis took office at the start of 1999 with an almost unparalleled opportunity
a booming state economy and a solidly Democratic Legislature. Not since the
administration of old Pat Brown had there been so clear a chance to invest in
the states future, and after two decades of malign neglect largely occasioned
by the fiscal strictures of Proposition 13 the state certainly needed it.
Once the nations leader in education and infrastructure, the California that
Davis inherited was near the bottom of the list in things like school spending
and passable roads. Nearing the end of Davis term, its in a little better
shape but nowhere near good enough.
This is not to say Davis has been an unmitigated disaster: A Democratic Legislature,
with principled liberal leaders like Senate chief John Burton, has mitigated
Davis plenty, and to good end. With legislative prodding, Davis backed school
and park bonds that have brought long-overdue funding to the states crucial
institutions. He signed into law a restoration of overtime pay for workers who
put in more than eight hours a day, a patients bill of rights that affords
limited recourse toward balky HMOs, and a series of significant gun-control
bills, though he vetoed and blocked still more. Like a number of governors,
he sought to get around limits on affirmative action, in his case by prodding
the University of California to admit the top 4 percent of high school graduates
regardless of test scores. He also signed domestic-partner benefits legislation
and, perhaps most remarkable, legislation allowing longtime resident but illegal
immigrant students to get the state-resident rate for tuition when attending
public California colleges.
On issues of workers rights and benefits, Davis has tended to approve legislation
that furthers the institutional interests of unions institutions that have
written fat checks to the governor but to ignore legislation that helps working
people when the interests of unions and the working poor dont coincide, since
working people cant forward him a check. Only recently has he finally signed
an increase in the states ludicrously low workers-compensation payments, and
that only because the state labor movement made this its top priority. Until
then, Davis acceded to the states business interests, from whom hes raised
tens of millions of dollars by vowing to keep legislative liberals from bolstering
working peoples interests at businesss expense.
This year, he has proposed to balance the budget by refusing to expand, as
planned, the states Healthy Family low-income health-insurance program to hundreds
of thousands of eligible Californians.
On the whole set of issues around the states crisis of power deregulation,
Davis has been both sinned against and sinning. It was Pete Wilson and a credulous
Legislature who saddled us with a dysfunctional system, and federal regulators
dead set against price caps who made things worse, but Davis himself moved far
too slowly to address the crisis, taking particular care never to tread upon
the toes of his generous supporters at Southern California Edison.
Davis is not without his achievements, then, but at a rare moment of genuine
opportunity to rebuild the state and reshape its politics, he has looked consistently
to his right. This rightward turn has been driven both by political strategy
and fund-raising strategy, to whatever extent the two can be disaggregated.
No elected official we can think of has ever been so consumed by raising money,
as both a means and an end of politics seeing to it that his fund-raisers
bring in a steady million dollars a month for every one of the 38 months hes
now been in office. Meeting that kind of quota means you cant be too picky
about your donors. In fact, Davis has courted some of the most reactionary forces
in the state, with woeful consequences for public policy collecting millions
from agribusiness, for instance, and then vetoing legislation making growers
more responsible for their contractors mistreatment of agricultural workers.
Nowhere has this rightward fixation been more apparent, or disastrous, than
in Davis policies on crime and punishment. He has appointed virtually no liberals,
no matter how stellar their qualifications, to the bench, often opting instead
for undistinguished centrists. He supported Proposition 21, which allowed prosecutors
to try, and judges to sentence, 14-year-olds as adults. While governors across
the nation, Republicans as well as Democrats, have had second thoughts about
the death penalty, Davis remains as steadfast a supporter as George W. Bush,
and he has overturned every single parole recommendation that his officials
have granted for prisoners convicted of capital offenses. Davis, who against
all odds still harbors presidential ambitions, fears being attacked as soft
on crime for having served in the gubernatorial administration of Jerry Brown,
who opposed the death penalty, and, worse yet, having had anti-death-penalty
Rose Bird, then the state chief justice, preside at his marriage. The only way
to expiate these youthful indiscretions, apparently, is to overrule parole boards
and keep the San Quentin death chamber as busy as possible.
Davis has attacked his once-presumptive GOP opponent, former Los Angeles Mayor
Richard Riordan, as soft on the death penalty and in truth, good Catholic
that he is, Riordan has expressed misgivings on the death penalty. Catholic
social gospel has been known to inform the best of Riordans politics: He worked
alongside Cardinal Mahony, for instance, to help bring management to the table
and to accede to some of the workers demands during L.As tumultuous janitors
strike two springs ago. Then again, opposition to Catholic doctrine informs
some of Riordans other best positions notably his pro-choice stance and his
signing domestic-partner legislation into law while mayor.
But in their understandable disgust with Davis, some progressives have created
a Dream Riordan who bears scant resemblance to the guy who was in charge at
City Hall for eight years. The Actual Existing Riordan took charge admirably
in the aftermath of the Northridge quake, soon after he took office. Thereafter,
in one major civic issue after another, he came down fairly consistently on
the wrong side. Lest we forget, Riordan vetoed the citys unanimously passed
living-wage ordinance. (The council overrode his veto.) He then opposed applying
it to workers at LAX (though he privately urged airline CEOs to extend it voluntarily;
they didnt). He supported breaking up the MTA even if (especially if)
that meant reducing L.A.s transit workers salaries by 50 percent.
As deregulation mania swept the land in the mid-90s, Riordan favored the
privatization of the Department of Water and Power; only a stellar performance
by director Dave Freeman made Riordan stay his hand. He also tried to privatize
the central L.A. Public Library, virtually selling it off to the bibliophiles
at Philip Morris, of all people. He consistently denied that there was a proper
role for the city in alleviating its massive crisis of affordable housing; on
occasion, hed deny the city even had such a crisis.
On crime and punishment, Riordans record is as dismal as Davis. It was Riordan
who saddled L.A. with Bernie Parks and who, side by side with the chief, opposed
the key reforms urged on the LAPD by the Christopher Commission way back in
1992. Even as the worst police scandal in decades came to light, Riordan joined
Parks in opposing increased civilian control over the department, in undermining
the departments civilian inspector general, in failing to enact an officer-tracking
system, in standing against the consent decree with the federal government.
When his own appointee to chair of the Police Commission tried to prompt the
chief to accept at least some reforms, Riordan cashiered him. And by calling
for tougher enforcement and resisting all attempts at oversight, Riordan clearly
bears a share of the responsibility for the Rampart scandal.
Finally, despite handily winning election twice, Riordan consistently managed
to alienate every single member of the L.A. City Council. (Riordan believed
his judgment on policy matters was vastly more sophisticated than that of anyone
on the council, just as Davis believed his judgment on all things political
was vastly more sophisticated than that of anyone in the Legislature. Choose
your arrogance.) This does not portend a Riordan governorship that will boast
a productive relationship with the Legislature which is sure to remain under
total Democratic control.
For all that, Riordan is vastly preferable to either of his Republican-primary
opponents, fading Secretary of State Bill Jones and Bill Simon, the centimillionaire
son of the centimillionaire treasury secretary in the Nixon and Ford administrations,
a creature of right-wing think tanks and Christian Right gospel, every bit as
out of sync with the state as the last GOP gubernatorial nominee, Dan Lungren.
Nonetheless, the California GOP death wish dies hard, and Simon has a shot to
upend Riordan next Tuesday. Next to Simon, both Davis and Riordan seem positively
So much is seriously wrong with all the major-party gubernatorial options
before us that were going to punt until the fall, when an endorsement of someone
will become necessary. This Tuesday, though, we have the luxury of abstaining.
Under the California constitution, lieutenant
governors dont actually do very much, and in his term in office thus far, Cruz
Bustamante hasnt really pushed the constitutional limits. On the plus side,
hes actively promoted a more diverse admissions policy at the University of
California (where hes a regent) and introduced legislation to prosecute energy
companies that manipulated the markets. On the downside, there was that speech
to an African-American group where he inexplicably used the N word. Bustamante
is no bigot, but hes not an unswerving champion of the underdog, either: He
was uncommonly nice to agribusiness during his years in the Legislature. Among
neither the more creative nor progressive of California Dem-ocrats, Bustamante
does hold the distinction of having been the Assemblys first Latino speaker,
but his speakership was soon eclipsed by those of both his successors, Antonio
Villaraigosa and Bob Hertzberg. Of the three down-ticket Democrats seeking re-election
to office (the other two are Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Treasurer Phil
Angelides), hes the one we cant imagine becoming a first-rate governor.
The Republican whos sure to be his opponent in November, state Senator Bruce
McPherson of Santa Cruz, has quite a decent record on issues of choice, the
environment and gun control, but putting a Republican of any stripe this close
to the governorship is risky business. With no great enthusiasm, were backing
Bustamante for lite-gov.
SECRETARY OF STATE
As Americans all learned from the notorious example
of Floridas Katherine Harris, secretaries of state are charged with the conduct
of elections (subject to the whims of Justices Rehnquist and Scalia). Californias
current secretary of state, the termed-out Bill Jones, is busily losing the
Republican primary for governor, and three Demo- crats are among those vying
to succeed him. The first, March Fong Eu, has long been an icon of California
politics the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the Legislature,
way back in the 60s, then secretary of state during the 80s and early 90s.
Eu, who is 78, has lost none of her charm or vigor, and has a range of good
ideas for improving the tabulation of votes. But her two opponents impress us
Michela Alioto, granddaughter of a onetime mayor of San Francisco, first ran
for this post, unsuccessfully, four years ago, in her late 20s, on a platform
of improving polling-place access. Since then, she served as a domestic-policy
adviser to Al Gore, and has proposed a broader range of voting reforms. She
lacks, however, the broad range of accomplishments and commitment to progressive
causes we find in the third candidate, Assembly Democratic Majority Leader Kevin
Shelley. The son of yet another San Francisco mayor, Shelley served his legislative
apprenticeship as an aide to legendary Congressman Phil Burton, then was a key
member of San Franciscos board of supervisors. In the Legislature since 96,
hes authored key gun-control and nursing-home-standards legislation. On voting
issues, he steered to enactment a law granting permanent absentee status to
voters who apply for it, and authored another bill, pending in the Senate, that
improves training of poll workers and provides more multilingual ballots. Hes
authored Proposition 41, which appropriates funds to replace the states antiquated
voting machines. Shelleys our clear choice.
The race to succeed the term-limited Kathleen
Connell as state controller features two able Democrats either one of whom
can be counted upon to steer state pension funds into more socially responsible
and relevant investing, and to protect state lands from questionable development
(two tasks that come under the controllers portfolio). Steve Westly is a longtime
liberal state-party activist who was the ranking economic-development official
for the city of San Jose, and a professor at Stanfords graduate business school.
In the mid-90s, he left academe for Silicon Valley, and as a senior executive
of eBay, hes prospered mightily. Johan Klehs also hails from the Bay Area,
which he represented in the Assembly for 12 years, much of that time as a progressive
chairman of the Revenue and Taxation Committee. Since 1994, hes served on the
state Board of Equalization, the body before which businesses come to seek tax
breaks. There, in a series of behind-closed-door struggles over the valuation
of intangible assets and the retention of a Franchise Tax Board chief who conscientiously
collected business taxes, Klehs repeatedly and effectively championed the public
interest when powerful private interests were arrayed against him. Frequently,
he prevailed persuading reluctant fellow members (including Controller Connell)
to side with the public. In short, Klehs has a sterling record of doing the
right thing when nobodys looking, and if thats not a good recommendation for
controller (or any other public office), we dont know what is.
After one term as treasurer, Phil Angelides has
emerged as the outstanding elected official in California state government.
Angelides, who came to office after a career as a developer of environmentally
sensitive and innovative communities, has shown himself to be a creative and
farsighted progressive. His Smart Investment and Double Bottom-Line initiatives
have directed more than $12 billion in state-infrastructure and community-development
funds away from new suburban sprawl and toward inner-city and inner-ring-suburb
construction and rehabilitation. He led the successful battle to reduce the
percentage of voters required to enact a local school bond from two-thirds to
55 percent. When the power crisis hit, Angelides helped create a renewed role
for public power, and today, the state power authority he advocated is already
a force for distributing more renewable energy and in holding down power prices.
And to counter the current recession, Angelides recently began a national campaign,
with banker Felix Rohatyn and New York Controller Carl McCall, to mobilize public
and private investment in the kinds of projects the Smart Investment program
has undertaken. In short, Angelides has the vision, smarts and determination
that California sorely needs in a governor a position we assume hell seek
in four years time. For now, we have to content ourselves with supporting
avidly his re-election as treasurer.
In his first term as A.G., Bill Lockyer re-focused
the state Justice Department on consumer protection (rejecting the feds antitrust
settlement with Microsoft by continuing to pursue the case in court), health
standards (successfully suing nursing homes for elder abuse) and environmental
protection (battling the Bush administration over offshore drilling). That is,
the former state Senate leader has restored the departments reputation after
its plunge into right-wing insularity under predecessor Dan Lungren. We support
Lockyers re-election enthusiastically.
Youd think after the misadventures of Chuck Quackenbush
the Republican insurance commissioner who was forced to resign in midterm
for feathering his various nests with insurance-industry money and rewarding
his industry buddies with outrageously favorable treatment in return that
the last thing a candidate for this office would do would be to raise oodles
of money from the insurance industry. But thats just what one Democratic candidate
That candidate is Montebello-area Assemblyman Tom Calderon, who has banked
almost $2 million from the very companies he aspires to regulate. More troubling
yet, Calderon chairs the Assembly Insurance Committee, from which position he
has, shall we say, encouraged insurance-industry donations from the get-go.
Indeed, industries with legislation pending before Calderons committee (most
recently, medical service centers) have this odd tendency to write him checks.
And, as if all this werent enough, the campaign of Calderons brother Ron,
whos running to succeed Tom in the Assembly, is also being funded chiefly by
insurance companies. (Apparently, theres a Calderon bulk rate.)
Fortunately, two other Democratic candidates in the race have considerable
abilities and an ethical compass, and neither one is taking industry contributions.
Tom Umberg represented an Orange County district in the Assembly from 1990 until
1994, and amassed a first-rate consumer-protection record. In Bill Clintons
second term, he served as a deputy director under drug czar Barry McCaffrey
(though he is critical today of the overmilitarization of Plan Colombia). John
Garamendi served as the states first elected insurance commissioner, a position
to which voters elevated him (from the state Senate) in 1990. There, he endeavored,
not always successfully, to enact reforms laid out in Proposition 103; he won
generally favorable reviews from consumer advocates. After losing the 94 gubernatorial
primary to Kathleen Brown, he took the number-two position in Clintons Interior
Department, where he played a key role in blocking the proposed Ward Valley
Both Umberg and Garamendi would work to create a more viable lifeline auto-insurance
program for low-income Californians. Garamendi, obviously, has a clear edge
when it comes to experience. He also has a clear edge when it comes to name
identification among California voters, and thats no small thing. The differences
between Umberg and Garamendi pale compared to the difference between Calderon
and either one of them, but Garamendi seems better positioned to defeat Calderon
next Tuesday. The goal here is to avoid the re-Quackenbushization of the state
insurance department, and to that end, our choice is John Garamendi.
MEMBER, STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION, 4TH DISTRICT
Chiang has been notably receptive to the claims
of little guy taxpayers whove been caught in the labyrinth of the state tax
Democrat Shermans district has moved more toward
the center of the San Fernando Valley, while his center-left politics he remains
a particularly zealous defender of the mountains ringing the Valley havent
moved at all.
This very able Democratic veteran remains the
chief advocate of farm workers in the negotiations to revive a bracero program.
His opposition to fast-track trade authority last fall was important in re-positioning
the Democrats away from global laissez-faire economics.
First-termer Schiff, fresh off his epochal defeat
of James Rogan in November 2000, has established himself as a highly competent
There are 13 congressional committee chairmen
with jurisdiction over the Enron affair, and not one has uncovered more skullduggery
than Henry Waxman, who, as the ranking minority member on his House committee,
doesnt even have subpoena power. Long the most able House strategist on behalf
of clean air and water and expanded health care, Waxman has burnished his credentials
this year as its most fearless investigator as well, compelling Congress to
sue the administration to uncover the list of energy honchos Dick Cheney met
with while cooking up the White House energy plan. With that rare combination
of moral rectitude and tactical brilliance, Waxman towers over his 434 House
Xavier Becerra remains a talented and progressive
representative, but his best-known endeavor this term was his campaign for mayor
of L.A. an exercise in self-indulgence and spite that turned quite nasty as
his underlings waged a ridiculous campaign of dirty tricks against rival candidate
Antonio Villaraigosa. We hope Becerra, his mayoral fling behind him, will concentrate
now on re-establishing his reputation as a thoughtful and committed legislator.
First-termer Solis has taken up where she left
off in the California Legislature, as an exceptional champion of Californias
make that, Americas diverse working class. In the rush to federalize airport
security screeners, she attempted to make legal residents, not just citizens,
eligible for the jobs; and shes working to secure more federal dollars to re-naturalize
the L.A. River.
Election Day will mark nine months since Watson
won a special election to succeed the late Julian Dixon as representative from
this South-Central-to-Westside district. During that time, this former longtime
state legislator has introduced a bill banning the use of mercury in dental
fillings just the kind of working-class health-protection legislation Watson
was known for in Sacramento.
Roybal-Allard remains an effective tribune for
her constituents in this district, which is probably home to more immigrants
than any other.
For decades, Maxine Waters was a fighter for the
dispossessed chiefly, the inner-city young who were routinely the rhetorical
target of her fellow pols. In recent years, though, her voice fell mute as the
racial composition of the inner-city young began to change. In particular, she
said very little about the wave of police abuse that came to light in the Rampart
scandal. But then, many of Ramparts victims were Latino immigrants, not African-Americans.
Waters local politics have long been dubious recall, for instance, her
support for Richard Riordan over liberal Mike Woo in the 93 mayors race. Over
the past year, however, Waters reached a new low. First, she vilified mayoral
candidate Antonio Villaraigosa, presumably a fellow progressive, with a series
of ad hominem attacks. Next, she attacked those African-American leaders who
did support Villaraigosa as insufficiently black. Then, she conducted a vendetta
against those leaders after Villaraigosa lost in one instance, allegedly intervening
to cause one to lose his job. Most recently, she has attempted to rally the
black community to defend LAPD Chief Bernie Parks, whose unalterable opposition
to police reform should make him anathema to an old ACLU-nik like Waters.
In sum, Waters has become an altogether noxious proponent of ethnocentrism,
exuding a particular animus against her fellow black leaders who work to build
black-Latino coalitions. Most of her votes in Congress are still solid, but
shes consistently made the wrong choices when it comes to the civic and political
life of Los Angeles.
Back in Congress after two years out (the result
of a failed gubernatorial bid), Harman remains an intelligent New Democrat,
though her South Bay district has become more liberal in the new reapportionment.
Fortunately, shes also enough of an Old Democrat to have opposed fast track
As representative from this Carson-Compton district,
Millender-McDonald has championed voting rights for the homeless and domestic-violence
insurance, but on the whole shes been a lackluster representative.
But the lackluster sweepstakes goes to Grace Napolitano,
who was a dim bulb (if reliably Democratic vote) in Sacramento and has grown
no brighter in D.C.
California picked up one additional congressional
seat out of the 2000 census, and the Legislature plunked it down here in southeastern
L.A. County. The newly created 39th is a heavily Latino and Democratic district,
and three Latino Democrats are the front-runners.
The first, term-limited Assemblywoman Sally Havice, had an utterly undistinguished
career in the Legislature. South Gate City Councilman Hector De La Torre, by
contrast, brings a wealth of experience as a legislative staffer for two House
Democrats and an aide in Robert Reichs Department of Labor. In the overheated,
occasionally insane politics of South Gate, hes managed to avoid the taint
His chief opponent, Orange County Central Labor Council executive secretary-treasurer
Linda Sanchez, is an attorney who interned for federal Judge Terry Hatter Jr.
and the National Organization for Women. The sister of Congresswoman Loretta
Sanchez, shes worked as a union lawyer and for several years has headed up
the Orange County labor movement, where she assisted in the unionization of
the countys janitors.
Sanchez and De La Torre both have cosmopolitan horizons and progressive politics;
either would likely be a fine member of Congress. We suspect, however, that
Sanchez might be just a tad more indefatigable in championing the working people
of the 39th, and in a very close call, were backing her.
Creating the Democratic 39th District required
the Legislature to extend the Republican 46th District north from coastal Orange
County to include the L.A. and Long Beach harbors and parts of Republican Palos
Verdes. The longtime incumbent in this district (though new to L.A. County)
is GOP-er Dana Rohrabacher, an old Reagan administration staffer whos close
to a certifiable lunatic. His Democratic opponent, Gerrie Schipske, is a principled
progressive stuck in the wrong district.
In his first term in the Senate, Alarcon has become
an effective legislator and, perhaps just as important, a powerful opponent
of the ethically dubious Cardenas-Padilla machine in the Northeast Valley.
One of L.A.s most stellar progressives since
his days as head of the county employees union, Cedillo authored some significant
laws during his tenure in the Assembly, including an expansion of Medicaid,
a bill making legal immigrants eligible for food stamps, and another (over which
hes still haggling with the governor) making as-yet-undocumented immigrants
eligible for drivers licenses. Cedillos running unopposed for the state Senate,
with our enthusiastic support.
Romero remains one of the Legislatures feistiest
Incumbent Kevin Murray is consumed by politics-as-deal-making
as was evident when, to accommodate the governor, he gutted his own bill to
make police agencies monitor their racial-profiling practices. Running unopposed,
he neither needs our support nor has it.
This South Bay legislator has long been one of
the most forward-looking environmentalists in the Legislature. In the past session,
she also played a key role untangling the threads of the state power crisis,
and was an effective critic of the governors more dubious energy panaceas.
Escutia has become a strong advocate for urban
environmental programs from safe school sites to cleaning up brownfields.