In some instances, this symbol accompanies an endorsement to signify that our choice is the lesser of two evils or just one of life’s 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 he’s 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 state’s future, and after two decades of malign neglect — largely occasioned
by the fiscal strictures of Proposition 13 — the state certainly needed it.
Once the nation’s 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, it’s 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 state’s 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 don’t coincide, since
working people can’t forward him a check. Only recently has he finally signed
an increase in the state’s ludicrously low workers’-compensation payments, and
that only because the state labor movement made this its top priority. Until
then, Davis acceded to the state’s business interests, from whom he’s raised
tens of millions of dollars by vowing to keep legislative liberals from bolstering
working people’s interests at business’s expense.
This year, he has proposed to balance the budget by refusing to expand, as
planned, the state’s Healthy Family low-income health-insurance program to hundreds
of thousands of eligible Californians.
On the whole set of issues around the state’s 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 he’s
now been in office. Meeting that kind of quota means you can’t 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 Riordan’s 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.A’s tumultuous janitors
strike two springs ago. Then again, opposition to Catholic doctrine informs
some of Riordan’s 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 city’s 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 didn’t). 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, he’d deny the city even had such a crisis.
On crime and punishment, Riordan’s 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 department’s 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 we’re 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 don’t actually do very much, and in his term in office thus far, Cruz
Bustamante hasn’t really pushed the constitutional limits. On the plus side,
he’s actively promoted a more diverse admissions policy at the University of
California (where he’s 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 he’s 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 Assembly’s 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), he’s the one we can’t imagine becoming a first-rate governor.
The Republican who’s 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, we’re backing
Bustamante for lite-gov.
SECRETARY OF STATE
As Americans all learned from the notorious example
of Florida’s Katherine Harris, secretaries of state are charged with the conduct
of elections (subject to the whims of Justices Rehnquist and Scalia). California’s
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 Francisco’s board of supervisors. In the Legislature since ’96,
he’s 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. He’s
authored Proposition 41, which appropriates funds to replace the state’s antiquated
voting machines. Shelley’s 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 controller’s 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 Stanford’s graduate business school.
In the mid-’90s, he left academe for Silicon Valley, and as a senior executive
of eBay, he’s 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, he’s 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 nobody’s looking, and if that’s not a good recommendation for
controller (or any other public office), we don’t 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 he’ll 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 department’s reputation after
its plunge into right-wing insularity under predecessor Dan Lungren. We support
Lockyer’s re-election enthusiastically.
You’d 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 that’s 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 Calderon’s committee (most
recently, medical service centers) have this odd tendency to write him checks.
And, as if all this weren’t enough, the campaign of Calderon’s brother Ron,
who’s running to succeed Tom in the Assembly, is also being funded chiefly by
insurance companies. (Apparently, there’s 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 Clinton’s
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 state’s 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 Clinton’s 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 that’s 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 who’ve been caught in the labyrinth of the state tax
Democrat Sherman’s 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 — haven’t
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,
doesn’t 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 California’s
— make that, America’s — 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 she’s 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 Rampart’s 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 mayor’s 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
she’s 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, she’s 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 she’s 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 Reich’s Department of Labor. In the overheated,
occasionally insane politics of South Gate, he’s 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, she’s 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 county’s 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, we’re 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 who’s 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
he’s still haggling with the governor) making as-yet-undocumented immigrants
eligible for drivers’ licenses. Cedillo’s running unopposed for the state Senate,
with our enthusiastic support.
Romero remains one of the Legislature’s 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 governor’s more dubious energy panaceas.
Escutia has become a strong advocate for urban
environmental programs — from safe school sites to cleaning up brownfields.
MEMBER OF THE STATE
In the race to succeed the term-limited Tony Cardenas
in this Northeast Valley district, Yolanda Fuentes was a last-minute recruit.
This Cardenas staffer was managing her boss’s campaign for the L.A. City Council
when it became apparent that no one else from the Cardenas–Alex Padilla machine
would oppose Cindy Montanez, the young mayor of San Fernando who’d earned the
machine’s ire. And abruptly, Fuentes — a well-meaning young woman of no particular
depth — was transformed into a candidate.
Montanez was elected to the San Fernando City Council three years ago, at
a ripe old 25. There, she opposed a large downtown development — then used her
considerable community-organizing skills against that development until the
city was up in arms. That won her the machine’s enmity, since the project’s
consultant was James Acevedo, Cardenas’ lead henchman. Montanez then established
the historic- homes preservation program and promoted businesses like coffeehouses
and bookstores. This remarkable young leader claims the backing of virtually
every L.A. progressive institution. She surely has ours.
Andrei Cherny is a wunderkind-and-a-half. While
still a Harvard undergrad in 1996, he became a writer for the Clinton re-election
campaign, and ended up contributing some lines to Clinton’s second inaugural
address. Ten days after graduating, he was an official speechwriter for Vice
President Gore, and then he went on to edit Blueprint, the magazine of
the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Two years ago, he authored The
Next Deal, in which he ruminated on big ideas, then became a protégé of
term-limited Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, who tapped him to run to succeed
him in this Van Nuys–Sherman Oaks district.
Unfortunately, while the 26-year-old Cherny is an affable and brilliant exponent
of big ideas, they’re not invariably good ideas. His is a litany of New Democrat
nostrums — school choice (verging on vouchers), Social Security partial privatization,
and the kind of deregulatory nonsense that led straight to the Enron debacle.
Even worse, he became Hertzberg’s guy on the board of Valley Vote, that nest
of secessionist yahoos whose collective IQ Cherny probably exceeds all by himself.
Cherny’s primary opponent is Lloyd Levine, the legislative director for San
Bernardino–area Assemblyman John Longville. Levine is a solid liberal and a
skilled legislative craftsman. In a contest between a brilliant champion of
some second-rate philosophies and a workmanlike champion of some deep progressive
values, we’re opting for the latter: Lloyd Levine.
In her first term, this Westside–West Valley member
has lived up to expectation as a champion of the environment, and exceeded it
as a voice for economic justice.
This first-term chair of the Assembly Labor Committee
authored a law curbing aggressive credit-card marketing to college students,
and a bill establishing Vermont-style civil unions.
In his first term representing this Glendale-centered
district, Frommer has shown impressive legislative skills, particularly in the
cause of urban parks.
And in her first term, Liu has authored a range
of valuable, second-generation civil rights legislation — the most memorable
being her bill legalizing the sale of room-temperature Korean rice cakes.
The invaluable Goldberg authored laws creating
a statewide landlord registry (to help track down slumlords) and requiring an
additional 45 minutes of kindergarten in multitrack schools.
The race to succeed Gil Cedillo as Assembly member
from this district in the heart of immigrant L.A. pits Pedro Carrillo, a staffer
for Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, against Fabian Nunez, a onetime union
strategist and all-round political phenom of the new Los Angeles. Carrillo has
attempted to gain some mileage by portraying Nunez as a tool of unions. Nonetheless,
the Central City Association (of downtown businesses) has backed Nunez — a testament
to Nunez’s deep familiarity with community needs, since the merchants had to
overcome their reservations about his labor bona fides.
Those bona fides run deep. In his 20s, Nunez became a leader in One-Stop Immigration,
and helped assemble the campaign against Proposition 187. Later, as a staffer
for the Utility Workers, he became one of a handful of voices in Sacramento
trying to stop the disastrous energy deregulation of the mid-’90s. Shortly thereafter,
he became the political director of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, which
is to say, a key player in the transformation of Los Angeles into the home of
an urban progressivism. In the cauldron of local Latino politics, his was an
eloquent voice for class-based, rather than race-based, politics. More recently,
he’s been the Sacramento lobbyist for the L.A. school district, and he succeeded
in defusing some of the Legislature’s animus toward the district.
In the Legislature, Nunez would be the champion of the working poor — an advocate
of affordable housing and funding for the most disadvantaged schools. All in
all, he’ll be a worthy successor to Gil Cedillo, and we endorse him wholeheartedly.
HERB WESSON JR.
Ah, term limits! Without actually amassing any
notable legislative achievements, Herb Wesson has just become the new Assembly
speaker. May his good acts increase with his power.
In his years on the L.A. City Council, Mark Ridley-Thomas
has usually been a liberal vote and occasionally a liberal force. His district
Empowerment Congress has been a model for elected officials seeking to build
a regular dialogue with — and a structure of accountability to — constituents.
In the last mayoral election, Ridley-Thomas was the key figure in black L.A.
to mobilize support for Antonio Villaraigosa — a move totally in keeping with
his careerlong commitment to multiracial progressivism.
Ridley-Thomas has long been on the outs with an older generation of more ethnocentric
African-American pols. They in turn are backing the candidacy of longtime Maxine
Waters and Yvonne Burke staffer Mike Davis. No, not the author: This Mike Davis
is a journeyman political functionary of decidedly limited horizons and no discernible
agenda for state government. Ridley-Thomas would be a bright addition to L.A.’s
When she was mayor of Monterey Park, Judy Chu
was a most effective opponent of nativism and xenophobia. Since going to the
Assembly last year, she’s become that body’s leading author of anti-hate-crime
legislation, and an altogether sterling progressive. We support her enthusiastically.
Firebaugh authored one of the state’s most remarkable
new laws — granting in-state tuition rates at California public colleges to
longtime resident students who also happen to be undocumented immigrants.
Horton is a legislator of modest talents, but
at least he uses those talents on behalf of the low-income Californians one
finds in abundance in his Inglewood-centered district.
The presumed front-runner in the race for this Compton-area
seat was first elected to the state Assembly some 40 years ago. Mervyn Dymally,
a onetime pioneer of black politics in California, is not just a former assemblyman,
but also a former lieutenant governor of the state and a former U.S. congressman.
Now, at 75, he’s seeking office yet again.
Not that Dymally hasn’t kept busy during his decade in retirement. La-mentably,
he’s sold himself again and again to some of the most morally repugnant entities
on the planet. He’s been the registered lobbyist for two nations under attack
for permitting the practice of slavery: Sudan and Mauritania. He’s also lobbied
for the People’s Mujahedeen, the Iraqi-funded underground in Iran. Closer to
home, he’s signed an amicus brief for Lyndon LaRouche against the Democratic
National Committee, and a petition urging Bill Clinton to hire LaRouche as an
economic adviser. Closer still, he was a front man for the Cato School of Reason,
a chain of charter schools that collapsed in scandal after the Weekly
disclosed in 1998 that it was collecting public-education funds for students
who were actually paying to attend private schools.
Dymally could win this election because black voters are loyal and because
Dymally remains active and respected in the community. More amazing still, the
Democratic Party seems unconcerned that Dymally might win. Fortunately, there’s
a clear alternative. Alexandra “Alex” Gallardo-Rooker is a 23-year activist
in (and now vice president of) Communications Workers of America Local 9400.
In that capacity, she helped coordinate the remarkable effort of harbor truckers
to win recognition from the steamship companies, and has run a number of successful
organizing drives and political campaigns. She’d bring to the Legislature a
keen sensitivity to the needs of California workers. We shudder to think what
Merv Dymally would bring.
In the last session, this Torrance-area assemblyman
authored a bill that upgrades the testing of coastal waters for pollution.
The two-term incumbent from this harbor-area district
has emerged as an effective tribune for environmental justice and economic equity.
The new chair of the Assembly Budget Committee
remains a dedicated champion of California’s working poor.
CHARLES “CHUCK” FUENTES
Longtime Democratic Party activist Fuentes may
not boast the most distinguished record, but his opponent, Ron Calderon — brother
of incumbent member Tom Calderon — is, like his brother, funded chiefly by the
insurance industry. If the Calderons want to work for insurance companies, do
they have to do it while in public office?
JUDGE OF THE SUPERIOR COURT
Office No. 2
Office No. 39
Office No. 40
Floyd V. Baxter
Office No. 53
Office No. 67
Paul A. Bacigalupo
Office No. 90
Office No. 100
Richard F. Walmark
The race to succeed Delaine Easton in the nonpartisan
position of state superintendent of public instruction features two term-limited
state legislators — Dem-ocratic Senator Jack O’Connell of San Luis Obispo and
Republican Assemblywoman Lynne Leach of Walnut Creek — and two long-shot candidates.
Since this is a nonpartisan race, any candidate who wins a majority in the primary
wins the office outright.
Leach is a Republican moderate, generally (but not always) opposed to vouchers,
and almost always opposed to gun-control legislation. O’Connell, a mainstream
Democrat, is a longtime legislative advocate of class-size reduction, as well
as of lowering the requirement for passing a local school-bond measure to 55
percent. He has our support.
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES
Auerbach has endeavored to make the workings of
his somewhat mysterious office more accessible online and by phone to L.A. taxpayers.
Lee Baca continues to impress. No local law-enforcement
leader has done remotely as much to break down the “us vs. them” mentality that
has enduringly characterized L.A. policing. Of his own volition, he’s established
a cultural-sensitivity program for deputies and, more far-reaching, an Office
of Independent Review, consisting of six civil rights attorneys, to investigate
and adjudicate alleged officer misconduct. This office not only goes well beyond
anything the LAPD has contemplated; it marks a welcome departure in big-city
policing virtually anywhere. Lee Baca is one of America’s foremost police reformers
— and a welcome, if all too anomalous, addition to the L.A. law-enforcement
SUPERVISOR, 1ST DISTRICT
Though Molina is still on occasion a gratuitously
difficult figure for her colleagues to get along with, she has fought effectively
to improve the access of the indigent to medical care in the San Gabriel Valley.
She has also led the county’s program to develop a master plan for greening
the L.A. River.
SUPERVISOR, 3RD DISTRICT
Zev Yaroslavsky remains the indispensable figure
within county government. Whether he’s working to impress upon his MTA colleagues
that the future of local transit is buses, or looking ahead to consolidating
specialized services in L.A.’s chronically underfunded health system, he has
become something of a one-man reality principle in the county. And though we
might differ with him on certain county labor issues, he played a key role on
behalf of L.A.’s striking janitors two springs ago. Of the five county supes,
Yaroslavsky is one we generally trust with the workings of the county.
LOS ANGELES CITY SPECIAL MUNICIPAL ELECTION
MEMBER OF THE CITY COUNCIL, 2ND DISTRICT
The race to succeed Joel Wachs in this far-flung
and diverse Valley district has come down to a runoff between term-limited Assemblyman
Tony Cardenas and DreamWorks SKG public-affairs executive Wendy Greuel, a onetime
aide to Mayor Tom Bradley and two of Bill Clinton’s HUD secretaries. Both candidates
are L.A. centrists. Greuel, unfortunately, has taken a wait-and-see attitude
toward Valley secession that must have her mentor, Mayor Bradley, spinning in
But the most significant difference between the two candidates is in their
records — and there’s a good deal in Cardenas’ record that should give the city
the shakes. His rise to power in the Assembly and as a player in local politics
has been fueled by his cultivation of wealthy special interests, most especially
California’s Indian casinos. At their behest, he’s made it more difficult for
casino workers to unionize. In return, they’ve dropped major bucks into Cardenas’
favored campaigns. Last spring, out-of-town tribes spent a cool $350,000 on
a scurrilous independent campaign against mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa.
Until several weeks ago, Cardenas steadfastly denied any responsibility for
the attacks — until District Attorney Steve Cooley documented the contrary.
As an aide to Bradley, Greuel created the city’s first AIDS task force and
helped shape L.A.’s Best, the after-school program for low-performing schools.
At DreamWorks, she worked with the L.A. Metro Alliance on a program of inner-city
hiring. Despite DreamWorks’ Playa Vista controversy, she’s backed by the Sierra
Club and the League of Conservation Voters. Greuel is our clear choice.
40 — YES
This $2.6 billion bond measure would provide money for
open-space preservation, river protection and inner-city parks — programs we
41 — YES
This is the first of two No-More-Florida measures on
the ballot. Prop. 41 floats $200 million in bonds to help counties buy voting
equipment and scrap those punch-card machines that spelled Al Gore’s demise.
With bipartisan support, this measure strikes us as a small price to pay to
ensure majority rule.
42 — NO
What price transportation? Currently, the state levies
an excise tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, and two distinct sales taxes, one
on diesel fuel and the other on gas. The proceeds from the first two taxes go
to roads and transportation needs, but the proceeds from the gas sales tax go
to the state general fund. Proposition 42 redirects this last tax to specified
transportation uses only — which would cause a reduction (of about $1.2 billion,
currently) in spending on other state programs, such as health care and emergency
services. We like roads as much as the next guy, but not at the expense of other
43 — YES
No-More-Floridas, Part 2. This measure creates an explicit
state constitutional mandate to count every vote. The practical consequences
of this measure are murky, but it at least would create constitutional sanction
for the state to go into overtime to finish tallying everyone’s ballot.
44 — YES
About 80 years ago, Californians passed an utterly ludicrous
initiative requiring that all changes in laws governing chiropractors be submitted
to the voters. Hence, Proposition 44, which requires the state Board of Chiropractic
Examiners to revoke for 10 years the licenses of practitioners convicted of
at least two counts of insurance fraud. We’d feel even better if the Legislature
could decide this kind of thing without bringing us into it.
45 — YES
At best, term limits are a mixed curse. As enacted by
California voters in 1990, Californians may serve no more than three two-year
terms in the Assembly, two four-year terms in the state Senate, and two four-year
terms in statewide office. This has transformed the Assembly into a rolling
amateur hour — a body with no collective memory and few legislative skills,
where brand-new members become committee chairs, and speakers are unable to
serve much longer than one year — with predictable consequences. It was the
newcomer Legislature of the mid-’90s that voted to deregulate the state’s electricity
market, and the newcomer Legislature of the past year that has been largely
unable to fix things. Nor have term limits reduced the sway of money in politics;
indeed, by compelling many newly arrived pols to plan their campaigns for their
next seat almost as soon as they take office, term limits have actually provoked
more fund-raising than existed in the ancien régime. On the plus side, we should
note, the frequent turnover has led to a much more diverse Legislature.
Proposition 45 proposes to tinker a bit with this dysfunctional system. It
permits Assembly members to seek two more two-year terms and senators one more
four-year term if a specified number of their registered-voter constituents
sign a petition requesting it. The required number of signatures is 20 percent
of the total number of voters who voted for that office in the preceding general
election. In short, it gives voters a right to keep voting (for four more years)
for state legislators they like. Sounds good to us.
A — YES
Measure A places a limit of three four-year terms on L.A.
County’s elected officials — the supervisors, sheriff, district attorney and
assessor. We’re for it.
Wait a minute, you protest. You guys just made the case — not 50 words north
of here, in your Prop. 45 endorsement — against term limits. Now you’re
for them. What gives?
The electoral politics of L.A. County, that’s what gives. In L.A., to be elected
to county office usually means to be elected for life, to never even have a
serious opponent. Consider the supervisors: On Tuesday’s ballot, Zev Yaroslavsky
is running unopposed, and Gloria Molina has one token, utterly unserious opponent.
Essentially, the most powerful elected officials in Los Angeles no longer stand
for re-election. And this isn’t because they are perfect in every way.
Rather, it’s because the county has grown so huge that their districts cannot
be contested unless a challenger has a gazillion dollars to drop on the race.
A supervisorial district today encompasses nearly 2 million people.
There are far better solutions than term limits, but either voters have rejected
them or they stand no chance of enactment. Smaller and more numerous districts
would surely help create more competitive elections, but county voters have
kiboshed such proposals. Which leaves term limits — in this case, of the 12-year,
non-draconian variety — as the only remaining way to make supervisor an elected
As with the supervisors, so with sheriffs, who tend to die on the job here.
Only district attorneys seem to draw real opponents for office — we suspect
because D.A.s, like football coaches and baseball managers, are held responsible
by an aroused public if they lose a big one.
The fact is, an entire level of government in Los Angeles — the county, which
is responsible for health, welfare, law enforcement and much else in our community
— is no longer democratically accountable. Term limits are a rather blunderbuss
approach to restoring accountability. But they’re all we’ve got.
B — YES
Measure B enacts the same three four-year term limits
on county supervisors as Measure A, but stops there — exempting the sheriff,
D.A. and assessor. We supported A in the belief that the sheriff, no less than
the supes, shouldn’t be allowed to govern for life, but if we can’t get A, we’ll
settle for B.
Measures A and B were reluctantly placed on the ballot by supervisors, to
settle a lawsuit after the county mistakenly disqualified an earlier term-limits
petition. If both measures pass, Measure A would prevail because it is more r
C — YES
This measure enables the Sheriff’s Department to increase
the number of assistant sheriffs from two to three and the number of division
chiefs from eight to 12, and permits hiring civilians for some technical positions.
For arcane reasons, these modest proposals require a county charter amendment
and thus a popular vote.
LOS ANGELES CITY SPECIAL