Update: The normally obscure race for state Superintendent of Public Instruction has turned into a wrenching Dem on Dem national battle over how to fix schools. Polls show it neck and neck. See next page.
Want to meet new people worth having over for poker or with whom to swap your second-hand novels? Try your voting precinct's active voters — also known as neighbors. There are about 1,000 of you per precinct, and it's always interesting to see who's out and about from your enclave on Election Day. Chat 'em up about ebola, Eric Garcetti or Paula Deen. Be sure to joke about voting for "none of the above" for a hearty chuckle. It's an American experience, free of charge, and as weirdly cleansing as a visit to a juice bar.
To find your Nov. 4 polling place in less than 30 seconds, go to lavote.net/locator. There are 4,649 places to vote in L.A. County, and yours will likely be in someone's garage, a church cafeteria, a funky Elks/Moose/VFW Lodge, or some other place perfect for a reality show. Now that you know where to go, here is L.A. Weekly's Nov. 4, 2014 California Voter Guide:
Governor: Jerry Brown vs. Neel Kashkari
The governor’s race has been a sleepy affair. Gov. Jerry Brown is popular, and is leading by 20 points in polls. The dominant theme of the race has been the long, slow fade of the California GOP, now shut out of statewide offices and down to 28 percent of registered voters. Neel Kashkari, the Republican standard-bearer, vowed to lead the party out of the wilderness by taking moderate positions on social issues and focusing on poverty, jobs and education. But he had a harder time than he should have fending off Tea Party candidate Tim Donnelly, and emerged from the primary with no money in the bank and a badly divided base. From there, Kashkari had to resort to stunts to get attention. He wandered Joad-like through the streets of Fresno, looking vainly for work with videographers in tow. He held a student contest to create his campaign ads. He gave away gas cards to attract supporters to a rally. He made a video depicting a drowning child. To date, none of it has kick-started his campaign. With the exception of a single debate, Brown has ignored him, focusing instead on two propositions: the water bond and the rainy day fund (see below). Kashkari may be angling for a future state post, but to be considered a serious contender he’ll need to avoid a blowout.
Secretary of State: Alex Padilla vs. Pete Peterson
An interesting contest between two brainiacs — Democrat Alex Padilla, who graduated MIT but chose politics, and Republican Pete Peterson, a former Hoover Institution fellow at Stanford who runs the Davenport Institute at Pepperdine. The Secretary of State's office is in tatters under Democrat Debra Bowen, who has neglected it while living in a dilapidated trailer and fighting personal demons. The department is charged with overseeing elections and registering new businesses, and has fallen behind other states. Legislator Padilla showed independence from Democratic Party groupthink in Sacramento when he pushed through a ban on cell phones in prisons, then tried (but failed) to enact a fundraising blackout on legislators that would apply to the last 100 days of each legislative session, when critics say laws are up for sale. Similarly, Peterson, an expert on public policy, is not aligned with GOP hardliners.That makes this a rare race between relative moderates. A Field Poll in September showed Padilla ahead by 43 to 36 percent with 21 percent undecided. Peterson faces the daunting task of breaking the Democrats' lock on statewide office without ever holding political office himself. On the other hand, this job has proved disastrous for two highly experienced pols, Debra Bowen and disgraced Democrat Kevin Shelly, who resigned as Secretary of State in 2005 after misspending $3.6 million in federal Help America Vote Act funds.
State Controller: Ashley Swearingen vs. Betty Yee
Democrat Betty Yee was well ahead of Republican Ashley Swearingen, the mayor of Fresno, in a September Field Poll, but this hard-fought race over who will become California's chief check-writer and a key member of the state pension board got a tiny jolt when the usually Democratic editorial board of the Sacramento Bee endorsed Swearingen in October. The editors praised her mayoral moves that kept Fresno, long one of California's poorest cities, out of bankruptcy and noted that Swearingen, unlike Yee, opposed the state pension board's recent watering-down of Jerry Brown's new pension controls on public employees. On the other hand, Yee, who has worked in state finances for decades and sits on the Board of Equalization — which rules on business tax disputes — shows independence from her party with her plan to radically overhaul California's tax system. Plainly said, she'd even the tax burden by spreading it across a whole lot more people, meaning the working-class and middle class. That stance is a slap in the face to Democratic Party bosses. At the same time, Yee is campaigning competently and even fiercely and has Democratic voter registration and campaign spending on her side, and should sail to victory.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson vs. Marshall Tuck
The State Superintendent of Public Instruction is California’s highest-ranking education official. He doesn’t set education policy – that would be the California state Board of Education, along with the legislature and governor. Though the job has some power, it's mostly a bully pulpit. Former State Sen. Tom Torlakson is the incumbent, and strong favorite of the teachers unions. Marshall Tuck, who used to run the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, is the challenger. Tuck has the support of the reform side, a mix of well-to-do philanthropists, technocrats and educators who support charter schools and using test scores to evaluate teachers. Torlakson was considered a shoo-in after he bested Tuck in the primary, garnering 47 percent to Tuck’s 29. But something may be in the air – a September Field Poll, although early in the game, showed Tuck with a three-point lead but large numbers of undecided voters. Gobs of money have been spent, mostly in the form of “independent expenditures,” or super-PACs. The teachers and other public employee unions are spending on Torlakson, while Tuck’s cause is fueled by wealthy school-reform proponents, notably laundromat king Bill Bloomfield and art baron Eli Broad.
Updated November 4 at 7:22 a.m.: The respected USC Dornsrife/Los Angeles Times Poll shows Torlakson and Tuck in a virtual dead heat, with an unusually large chunk of voters still undecided. Money is pouring in from around the nation for both sides as the "Tuck v. Tork" battle morphs into the latest wrenching war among Democrats over whether to stick with teachers unions' traditional methods for improving the schools, or to go with reformers arguing for more charter schools, detailed evaluations of teachers and an easier path to firing ineffective ones.
L.A. County Sheriff: Jim McDonnell vs. Paul Tanaka
A year ago, Lee Baca was considered a favorite to win re-election to a fifth term as sheriff. Historically, incumbent sheriffs have needed only to be able to fog up a mirror in order to win. And though Baca was beset by scandals in the county jails, it was an open question whether voters would care. How times change. After 18 sheriff’s officials were indicted last December, Baca was forced to resign. That created a wide open race for sheriff, something L.A. County had not seen since the 19th century. Seven candidates got into the race, including two assistant sheriffs. But the political establishment quickly consolidated its support behind Jim McDonnell, the Long Beach police chief. McDonnell is a veteran of the LAPD, having twice been considered for the job of chief. He also has the great advantage of being the only candidate who’s not a Sheriff’s Department insider. Voters gravitated to him as well, and he nearly avoided a runoff, picking up 49.3 percent of the primary vote. He’s up against former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who finished a distant second. A citizens commission — on which McDonnell served — found Tanaka to be largely responsible for many of the scandals on Baca’s watch, and Tanaka remains the subject of a federal probe. Most of Tanaka’s campaign team departed after his dismal primary showing, and he has barely campaigned in the fall.
L.A. County Assessor: John Morris vs. Jeffrey Prang
John Noguez was elected county assessor in 2010 and almost immediately found himself embroiled in a career-destroying scandal. Though he remains the assessor in title, he has not been inside the office in more than two years, and is facing dozens of counts of embezzlement and bribery. John Morris and Jeffrey Prang are running to succeed him. Morris is a Republican and an L.A. County prosecutor. He touts himself as an outsider who can bring needed perspective to the job of cleaning up the department. Prang is a veteran of Democratic politics. He’s a West Hollywood city councilman and worked as a political aide to former Sheriff Lee Baca. He went to work for Noguez just before the scandal erupted. Prang was an early defender of Noguez. But once the full scope of the bribery scandal became known, Prang helped persuade Noguez to go on leave. Morris argues that Prang is tainted by his work for Noguez, while Prang contends that Morris knows little about the inner workings of the department.
L.A. County Supervisor District 3: Sheila Kuehl vs. Bobby Shriver
The five-member body that controls a $26 billion budget is about to experience a breathtaking turnover, thanks to term limits. Former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, who won her primary outright, will replace termed-out Gloria Molina. And that lion of Westside politics, Zev Yaroslavsky, will be replaced by one of two liberal Democrats, Bobby Shriver or Sheila Kuehl. Shriver belongs to the Kennedy family tree – his uncles were John Fitzgerald, Robert and Ted; his sister is Maria Shriver. He’s rich. He’s energetic — even a bit manic. He decided to run for Santa Monica City Council after the city demanded he trim his hedges. Kuehl, a former child actress turned legislator, is 73, blunt, no frills, a bit gruff and the hands-on type. Womens’ and environmentalist groups back her and the local Democratic Party endorsed her. Government employee unions are pouring in more than $1 million on her behalf. The 60-year-old Shriver is more a big-picture kind of politician. Stylistically, he’d be an enormous break from Yaroslavsky, and indeed from the entire Board of Supervisors. Most of the business community backs him, including the Mickey Kantors, the Richard Riordans and the Edges (as in the guitarist from U2) and a lot of money is flowing his way from Hollywood.
Proposition 1 Water Bond
With the drought in California so severe that some cities haven't had running water in six months, there's no denying that water management is a big problem. But is it a $7.5 billion problem? According to Public Policy Institute of California polls, 58 percent of Californians say yes. This $7.5 billion water bond enjoys the bipartisan backing of the legislature as well as Gov. Jerry Brown. It sets aside funds for surface and groundwater storage, watershed protection and water recycling systems. Of interest to Angelenos is the chance that money could go to cleaning up the contaminated San Fernando and San Gabriel Valley aquifers, which can’t be tapped for use. A problem with this measure is that it fails to specify where the money goes, beyond general categories. So expect years of aggressive lobbying among cities, contractors and private agricultural firms to cut this pie. Opponents say that at 5 percent interest this bond will cost taxpayers up to $14 billion and 40 years to pay off. And while a more efficient water system helps, $7.5 billion won’t put snow on top of the Sierras. If legislators and watchdogs keep a close eye on who lobbies for and gets the money, Proposition 1 may help to make California's water future less uncertain.
Proposition 2 Rainy Day Fund
The 120 legislators, no matter their names or the decade, spend like crazy when a boom in state revenue from California income and property taxes arrives by the truckload in Sacramento, creating big permanent programs they know can't be sustained during bust times. Nobody has ever figured out how to stop them (and few governors have had the nerve to defy them). Gov. Jerry Brown says the existing rainy day fund, created to guard against legislative overspending, is too small and too easy to tap. Proposition 2, which has worried some education groups because it oddly caps how much the schools are allowed to keep in reserve, would set aside 1.5 percent of the general fund each year. That's half of the current set-aside. Instead, the new law would snag piles of money from capital gains — taxable profits people earn from selling stock, real estate and other investments. This plan needs a simple majority of voters, but the most recent poll, in September by Public Policy Institute of California, found that 43 percent of voters approved, 33 percent opposed and 24 percent undecided.
Proposition 45 Insurance Rates
Proposition 45 would give the insurance commissioner the power to reject health insurance rate increases. The proponents are Consumer Watchdog and the California Nurses Association, who argue that without rate regulation, customers will be at the mercy of insurance companies and HMOs. The opponents are — you guessed it — insurance companies and HMOs, who have spent $43 million trying to defeat the initiative. A major complicating factor in the debate is the role of Covered California, the state board that runs the Obamacare health exchange. Some on the Covered California board are worried that the initiative would throw a wrench into negotiations with the insurance companies over health plans offered on the exchange. Consumer Watchdog contends that Covered California cannot stop excessive rate increases by itself, and that many of its members are compromised by close ties to the insurance industry. A PPIC poll shows the measure losing, with just 39% support.
Proposition 46 Medical Malpractice Limits
Proposition 46 is three initiatives in one. The most important provision is one that would quadruple the cap on “pain and suffering” damages for medical malpractice cases. The cap was set at $250,000 back in 1975. At the time, a string of successful malpractice lawsuits had led to a sharp jump in doctors’ insurance premiums. The California Medical Association led the charge to cap damages — and won a remarkably durable victory. For the last 40 years, the CMA has done battle with the California Trial Lawyers Association (later renamed Consumer Attorneys of California) over the cap. But the cap has not budged. Frustrated in the legislature, Consumer Watchdog and the Consumer Attorneys of California have turned to the ballot box. Proposition 46 would raise the cap to $1.1 million to account for inflation since 1975, and index the cap in future years to inflation. Opponents include the Doctors Company, the state’s leading malpractice insurer, and physician and hospital groups, which together have raised $57 million to defeat the initiative. The proposition would also address prescription-drug abuse by requiring doctors to check a state prescription database, in an effort to crack down on “doctor shopping.” The measure would also mandate drug testing for doctors, which has raised concerns among civil liberties groups.
Proposition 47 Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes
Twenty years ago, California led the nation in its attempt to get tough on crime — our three-strikes law, passed overwhelmingly in 1994, was tougher than any other state in the union. But times have changed. Reacting in part to soaring prison populations and mounting costs, in 2012, voters rolled back the three-strikes law for some repeat offenders. Now Prop. 47 asks California voters to consider another reduction in penalties, in this case for non-violent, non-repeat offenses. The details are fairly simple: Unless a defendant has previously been convicted of murder, rape, other sex offenses or some gun crimes, he or she would be charged with misdemeanors for numerous crimes now considered felonies. That includes shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, forgery, fraud, writing bad checks, and most drug crimes involving personal use. Costs savings from the plan would benefit the state's schools and neighborhoods. The law would apply retroactively — it's estimated that 10,000 felons could find convictions reduced to misdemeanors. Predictably, a host of the state's district attorneys oppose the proposition, as does Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Backers include the state Democratic Party, San Francisco district attorney George Gascon, Jay Z and that maverick Newt Gingrich. Major funding — to the tune of $1.2 million — comes from a D.C.-based think tank, the Open Society Policy Center.
Proposition 48 Indian Gaming Casino
This measure asks you to approve a pair of three-way deals cooked up by Gov. Jerry Brown, the legislature, and Native American tribes, “compacts” that essentially allow the development of a 2,000-slot casino near Madera, California in the San Joaquin Valley. What’s the big deal? Proponents say it will let the North Fork Rancheria band of Mono Indians reclaim land that was once theirs and help create local jobs and revenue. Opponents, including competing tribes with gaming interests of their own, say Proposition 48 ignores the voter prohibitions against tribal casinos on non-reservation land, and thus creates a precedent that will open the way to tribal casinos in urban areas. Opponents have raised millions of dollars to defeat the measure, while, strangely, proponents, some of whom stand to earn millions of dollars from the new slots, haven’t attracted six figures to their war chest. The state Legislative Analyst’s Office says taxpayers will gain financially because local governments in the area will get one-time payments adding up to $51 million and the casino is expected to generate $10 million a year for local and state government coffers.
L.A. County Measure P (Parks)
This year, they saved all the excitement for one single L.A. County ballot measure, Measure P, aka the Safe Neighborhood Parks, Gang Prevention, Youth/Senior Recreation, Beaches/Wildlife Protection Measure. Sounds like a public safety thing, right? Nope. This one would renew a parcel tax, passed by voters in the 1990s, for another 30 years. Parcel taxes require every land owner, regardless of land size, to pay the same annual tax, in this case $23. The money would go to maintaining parks, beaches, hiking trails and other open spaces. Some small part of the money should also make its way over to graffiti prevention and at-risk youth programs. This one needs to win 2/3 of the vote in order to become law.
State Senate District 18: Bob Hertzberg vs. Ricardo Benitez
Former California Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, who came in third in the 2005 race for L.A. mayor that went to Antonio Villaraigosa, has gotten itchy after years as an environmental entrepreneur and attorney, and is back for what is probably a big victory on Election Day. He faces an earnest and serious civic activist from Sylmar, Republican Ricardo Benitez. Both men know their communities: Benitez has served for seven years on the Neighborhood Council, and knows what it's like to live in an edge part of L.A. all but forgotten by City Hall. Hertzberg, known for hugging everyone, is a broad-focus guy who says that being in business has showed him that success arises from challenging the status quo. He says he plans to challenge the legislature — which is, essentially, the status quo on steroids. It's hard to see how anyone can alter the scandal-filled, special-interest-dominated legislature, and Hertzberg has struggled to make a dent there before. He was Speaker in the early 2000s when the legislature's heavy spending morphed into the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. Still, Hertzberg is an inventive thinker, so it should be fun watching him at least try. Senate District 18 includes all or part of Sherman Oaks, Toluca Lake, Van Nuys, Arleta, Northridge, Pacoima and Sylmar.
State Senate District 24: Peter Choi vs. Kevin de Leon
Kevin de Leon is the new president pro tem of the California state senate, a powerful post whose occupant chooses which of his colleagues runs which powerful Sacramento committees and who plays a lead role in state budget negotiations. He's widely seen as smart, but there's been concern about his judgement already. This thanks to his near-coronation at Disney Hall on Oct. 15 that rang in at $50,000 and was paid for by a foundation awash in donations from special interest groups seeking to influence the legislature. De Leon is a certain win on Election Day, and as of late September had nearly $1 million on hand to spend on his race. Senate District 24 represents half of DTLA, East Los Angeles, Pico Union, East Hollywood, Silver Lake, Eagle Rock, Boyle Heights, Chinatown and Montecito Heights. His Democratic opponent, Peter Choi, is president and chief executive of the Temple City Chamber of Commerce and holds liberal Democratic views indistinguishable from De Leon's.
State Senate District 26: Ben Allen vs. Sandra Fluke
When state Sen. Ted Lieu announced for veteran Congressman Henry Waxman’s open seat, that created an opening in the 26th Senate District stretching from West Hollywood to Palos Verdes. Ben Allen, a Santa Monica school board member, won the most votes in June. He will face Sandra Fluke, best known as the Georgetown law student whom Rush Limbaugh called a “slut.” Both liberal Democrats, Allen and Fluke agree on almost everything. The difference is one of emphasis. Fluke has vowed to focus on campaign finance reform and early childhood education, while Allen talks more about open space preservation and increasing funding for K-12 education. Allen also emphasizes his local roots. He was class president at Santa Monica High School. Fluke, meanwhile, grew up in rural Pennsylvania and moved to L.A. in 2007. She’s only been active in local politics for the last couple of years. She has better name recognition, thanks to her encounter with Limbaugh, which made her a national figure in the cause for reproductive justice. But that cuts both ways, with many more conservative voters leaning to Allen out of antipathy to Fluke.
See Also: Sandra Fluke Endured Rush Limbaugh's Attacks. Now She Wants a State Senate Seat
State Senate District 30: Isidro Armento vs. Holly Mitchell
Establishment candidate Holly Mitchell doesn't have anything to worry about on Nov. 4, but her opponent's story is an interesting one: Isidro Armento was raised by a single mom, went to inner-city schools and rose to become student body president at San Francisco State University, where he made the Dean's List and got his B.S. in business administration. He apparently grew troubled by the political system as an insider working as a legislative aide to a member of Congress and a member of the LAUSD School Board, and is running on a platform that "career politicians in Sacramento have violated our trust." Mitchell, who raised a lot of money from the big public-employee labor unions and a key Realtors association, briefly represented SD 26, but it was redrawn during redistricting so she's running in the new SD 30 that covers much the same territory: All of part of Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, East La Mirada, Huntington Park, La Mirada, Montebello, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, Whittier, and South El Monte.
State Senate District 32: Mario Guerra vs. Tony Mendoza
This district takes in Cerritos, Artesia, Montebello, Downey, Norwalk, Hacienda Heights, La Mirada, Whittier and much of southeast L.A. County, and had been the seat of power for indicted legislator Ron Calderon, accused in a federal corruption case of taking a $100,000 bribe to push legislation expanding film tax credits. Calderon refused to leave office and was instead "suspended with pay" all year by his colleagues in the legislature. He's now being termed out. The battle in this heavily Democratic district is between the Democratic establishment's choice to replace Calderon, former legislator Tony Mendoza, and moderate Republican business owner Mario Guerra, a Downey City Councilman. Both have raised substantial sums of money. While Guerra has his backers on both sides of the political aisle, the voter math favors Mendoza. A bitter debate in Whittier on Oct. 13, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, showed that both are taking this hit-piece-heavy race personally.
Assembly District 39: Raul Bocanegra vs. Patty Lopez
First elected in 2012, East San Fernando Valley Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra comes out of the powerful Latino political faction that includes L.A. City Council members Felipe Fuentes and Nury Martinez, U.S. Congressman Tony Cardenas and State Sen. Alex Padilla, who’s running for California Secretary of State. Bocanegra was an aide to Padilla when Padilla was president of the L.A. City Council. With the new “top two” elections in California, this is a race where a challenger Democrat is taking on the widely presumed favorite Democrat in the general election. The distant challenger is Patty Lopez, who won 24 percent of the primary vote to land on the ballot. Her political experience includes a stint as a commissioner for the San Fernando City Council.
Assembly District 50: Richard Bloom vs. Bradly Torgan
After a difficult victory his first time out in 2012, Assemblyman Richard Bloom is cruising to re-election. Bloom, a former Santa Monica city councilman, is probably best known for his attempt to shut down the orca show at SeaWorld, which was inspired by the movie “Blackfish.” Though that bill failed, another Bloom bill to restrict bobcat trapping around Joshua Tree National Park was signed into law. Bloom is facing Republican attorney Bradly Torgan, who has raised just $9,000 to Bloom’s $513,000.
Assembly District 54: Sandra Mendoza vs. Miguel Santiago
This race is for a seat left vacant by termed-out California Assembly Speaker John Perez, who despite his political connections didn’t click with voters outside of L.A., got beaten in the State Controller primary and is currently out of public life. The strong favorite is Miguel Santiago, Perez’ former aide and Los Angeles Community College board member. Santiago is part of the East San Fernando Valley political clan that produced recently convicted felon and former legislator Richard Alarcon and California’s new State Senate president, Kevin de Leon. Santiago will face Sandra Mendoza, who won 24 percent in the primary to Santiago’s 56 percent. She works for the City of Los Angeles and sits on the board of a charter school. Mendoza is among a number of Democrats who are challenging the presumed shoo-in Democrats under California’s new “top two” election system. The heavily Latino AD 53 encompasses Downtown L.A., Westlake, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Pico-Union, Boyle Heights and Huntington Park.
Assembly District 62: Autumn Burke vs. Ted Grose
District 62 comprises a bit of the Westside – Venice Beach and Marina del Rey – as well as Inglewood, Hawthorne and LAX. Its representative since 2009, Steve Bradford, retired to run for convicted felon Rod Wright’s state senate seat – and then promptly dropped out of the race. The two candidates who made the runoff for this seat were Democrat Autumn Burke, who finished first with 41 percent, and Republican Ted Grose, who earned 20 percent. Burke, daughter of former L.A. County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, has been endorsed by every elected official and ex-elected official within spitting distance, from former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan to Congresswoman Janice Hahn to Compton Mayor Aja Brown. In a district that’s 60 percent Democrat and 3 percent Republican, Grose, a real estate agent, is the longest of shots.
Assembly District 64: Mike Gipson vs. Prophet Walker
Prophet Walker has a great story. His mother was a heroin addict. At 16 he was sentenced to six years in prison for robbery and “great bodily injury.” Thanks in part to "Hangover" producer Scott Budnick, Walker pulled himself together, went to college after prison and became an activist. Now, the tall, strapping 27-year-old wants to serve in public office. Unfortunately for Walker, his fellow Democratic rival Mike Gipson looks to be in the stronger position. Walker made the runoff with 21 percent of the vote, Gipson 51 percent. Gipson has been a Carson city council member, political staffer for Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Yvonne Burke and union organizer for UTLA, the teachers union. Very much the establishment candidate, Gipson is backed by Congresswomen Maxine Waters and Janice Hahn and many other electeds. Walker, meanwhile, is backed by Compton Mayor Aja Brown, LAUSD board member Monica Garcia and Congressman Tony Cardenas. The 64th Assembly District comprises Compton, Watts, Wilmington, Carson and parts of Long Beach. It was represented by Isadore Hall, but Hall is now running for the seat Rod Wright resigned from when a judge this year banned Wright from politics for life. Hall has endorsed Gipson.
California Congressional District 33: Elan Carr vs. Ted Lieu
An older generation of L.A. politicos is passing from the scene, with the defeat of Howard Berman and the retirements of Zev Yaroslavsky and Henry Waxman. Waxman, first elected to Congress in 1974, announced he would not seek another term in January. Eighteen candidates entered the race to succeed him in the 33rd District, which runs from Malibu and Agoura Hills to Palos Verdes. Among them were self-help guru Marianne Williamson and radio host Matt Miller. The top vote-getter was Elan Carr, a Republican prosecutor. But he’ll have a steep hill to climb in the runoff against Democratic State Sen. Ted Lieu. Democrats have a 43-27 registration advantage in this coastal district, so Lieu only has to remind voters that he is the Democrat in the race. Carr has argued that he is not a Tea Party candidate, and will have the independence to reach across the aisle. It’s a tough argument to win, but he can take comfort from the fact that Waxman nearly lost in 2012 to Bill Bloomfield, a former Republican who ran as an independent. So while Lieu has the upper hand, he can’t take it for granted.
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California Congressional District 35: Norma Torres vs. Christina Gagnier
This Inland Empire seat features a Dem-on-Dem Nov. 4 race that looks to be a mere formality. State Sen. Norma Torres finished in first place in the primary with a landslide 67 percent. Christina Gagnier managed 15 percent, enough to snag second place and a spot on the ballot. Torres was born in Guatemala. After her mother died, when Torres was five, the family moved to L.A.. By the mid-1990s Torres was working as a 911 dispatcher, and was active in her union. She jumped into politics, serving as a city council member and then mayor of Pomona. Political neophyte Christina Gagnier is an intellectual property rights attorney from Chino and could be Reese Witherspoon's sister. She specializes in privacy and cyber security, and is also a tech entrepreneur – she founded JobScout, a site that teaches people how to use theI Internet to find work.
Updated Oct. 28 at 2:45 p.m.:
If you still don't know how you feel, check out the ballot explanations at SeePolitical, a non-partisan and non-profit organization whose policy analysts have created a series of simple videos explaining the ballot measures. SeePolitical says its cartoon-like videos deliver "a fair and balanced explanation for both the 'Yes' and 'No' side."