By Michael D. Evans
With the California Primary Election scheduled for June 5, it appears that most of the exciting national drama will play out long before we go to the polls. Nevertheless, there will be presidential primary elections for Republicans and Democrats, as well as a new twist with the open primary for Congressional, State Senate and State Assembly races.
With only two propositions on the June ballot, and neither particularly controversial, the national agenda will likely be what drives turnout. It will be interesting to see how California, and specifically the Central Valley, responds to the right wing’s war on women, efforts nationwide to disenfranchise voters of color and rhetoric to reduce the tax burden on the well-to-do at the expense of the poor and the middle class.
With virtually no opposition, President Barack Obama has been racking up primary wins throughout the country (to little fanfare). He will be the Democratic nominee.
The Green Party has three candidates vying for its nomination (see http://fresnoalliance.com/wordpress/?p=4675).
As for the Republicans, well, one would have to say it has been an interesting primary season. With no concern for facts, logic, sincerity or even civility, the candidates have been beside themselves trying to express the most disagreement with President Obama (even when they actually agree with him) and to be seen as the most conservative of the bunch (no matter how out of sync with the electorate that makes them). Lost in all this media drama is their policy proposals, such as they are, which would guarantee an American quagmire.
One would have thought the Republican nominee would be determined well before the California primary in June. That may still be the case, but the continuing uncertainly could end up making California a critical state for the eventual nominee. The Republican race has devolved into Romney versus Not Romney, and the most stable Not Romney at this time is Rick Santorum. Should no candidate have enough votes to win the nomination before the California primary, Republicans would likely get a boost in down-ballot races because of increased turnout for their presidential primary.
The presidential race and the local parties’ central committee races, if there is one on the ballot in your supervisorial district, are the only partisan elections on this year’s Primary Election ballot.
Because of the passage of Prop 14 in 2010, elections for the U.S. Congress, the State Senate and the State Assembly are now handled as an open primary. That means the top two vote-getters in the Primary Election, regardless of party, will advance to the November General Election. (This differs from the county and city version of the open primary, whereby the top two vote-getters in the primary advance to the November election only if no candidate receives 50% plus one of the votes in the primary.)
In practical terms, what this means is that your ballot will be a lot longer. Rather than seeing one or two names, for example, for U.S. Senate, you may now see dozens. And understand that it is now possible for two Republicans to advance (or two Democrats, although that is less likely in the Central Valley) and no Democrat.
Incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein is seeking reelection. She appears to have no serious opposition, although numerous candidates have filed to run against her.
House of Representatives
Four Congressional districts cross into Fresno County. In two of the four districts, CD4 and CD22, there are only two candidates and therefore both will advance to the November ballot. Each of these districts has a Republican incumbent and a substantial Republican voter registration advantage, so what the Democratic candidates want to achieve in the June election is a strong enough showing to reflect their viability to be competitive for dollars, volunteers and votes in November.
In CD 4, incumbent Rep. Tom McClintock is being challenged by Jack Uppal, an engineer. Uppal is running because he’s “outraged that middle-class families have been forced to bear the burdens of the last decade of Congressional mismanagement. It’s time to eliminate this self-serving Congress and elect one that serves us.”
In CD22, incumbent Rep. Devin Nunes is being challenged by Otto Lee, a commander in the Naval Reserves and a former mayor and City Council member in Sunnyvale. The Central Valley “has suffered difficult times for the past few years,” says Lee. “We need to bring good paying jobs back to this area.”
In CD16, the incumbent is Democrat Rep. Jim Costa. Both Costa and Rep. Dennis Cardoza reside in the current district, and Cardoza opted to retire rather than challenge Costa. Costa is being challenged by Republicans Brian Whelan, an agricultural attorney, and Johnny Tacherra, a dairy farmer, as well as Loraine Goodwin.
The most interesting race will likely be CD21. The district includes rural western Fresno County, all of Kings County and part of Kern County. Republican David Valadao is leaving the Assembly to run for the seat. And there are two Democrats vying for the seat—John Hernandez, the president of the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Blong Xiong, currently on the Fresno City Council. Despite some last-minute drama, both Cruz Bustamante and Dean Florez opted not to run for this seat.
Hernandez: “Economic recovery is the biggest problem facing the district. With some of the highest unemployment rates in the United States, [the district] has been facing a chronic employment problem for many years that was only deepened by the recent economic hardship facing the entire country.”
Valadao: “Having to live and operate a business while suffering the consequences of rules and regulations imposed by out-of-touch bureaucrats in Washington and Sacramento is one of the reasons I’ve decided to run.”
Xiong: “I will devote all my energy to securing [Central] Valley needs. No one will outwork me. It will never be me-first or politics-first.”
None of the State Senate districts that cross into Fresno County are on the ballot this year.
There are now only two Assembly districts in Fresno County. In AD31, incumbent Democrat Henry T. Perea has nominal opposition from Geof Lickey, who was the volunteer coordinator for Perea’s 2010 opponent, Brandon Shoemaker.
In AD23, incumbent Republican Linda Halderman decided at the last minute not to seek reelection. Democrat Richard Rojas, a labor representative, had already stepped forward to challenge her, but her announcement opened the door for a number of others to enter the race, and four Republicans came out of the woodwork: David DeFrank, an attorney; Vong Mouanoutoua, a paralegal; Jim Patterson, former mayor of Fresno; and Bob Whalen, a member of the Clovis City Council.
There are three Board of Supervisors races in 2012.
In Supervisorial District 3, incumbent Democrat Henry Perea is unopposed.
The most competitive race will likely be Supervisorial District 2, where an opening was created by incumbent Susan Anderson’s decision not to seek reelection. Three candidates have stepped forward:
Independent Debbie Harkness, a behavior healthcare specialist and small business owner, who says that “we need greater fiscal responsibility, and we need our precious tax dollars to be spent in more efficient ways…I plan to bring about change and bring back safety and stability to Fresno County.”
Republican Larry Fortune, a business owner, who claims that “we need more competition in government. By introducing managed competition, private-sector companies can compete for county contracts so we can find the most efficient way to deliver services to residents.”
Republican Andreas Borgeas, currently on the Fresno City Council, who stresses that he “won’t allow the continued release of dangerous criminals back into our community because of turf wars over jail funding.”
In Supervisorial District 5, incumbent Republican Debbie Poochigian has some unexpected competition. Her challenger is social worker Maria Kril, also a Republican. Poochigian is part of the three-person bloc on the Board that repeatedly blocks rational progress.
City of Fresno
The mayor and three City Council races are on the 2012 ballot.
Although Mayor Ashley Swearingen is well positioned for reelection, she does have four opponents: Democrat Barbara Hunt, a trustee for the West Fresno Elementary School District; Republicans John Worona, retired clergy, and Joe Garcia, Jr., a sanitation engineer; and Rick Morse, a medicinal herb specialist.
In City Council District 2, there are five Republican candidates: small-business owner Steve Brandau, communications professional Randall Reed, business manager Sue Saigal, food manufacturer Pat DiCicco and business owner Kelly Miller.
In City Council District 4, there are two Democratic candidates: Susan Good, who formerly worked on the staffs of State Sen. Jim Costa and State Sen. Dean Florez, and Paul Caprioglio, an attorney. Good has been endorsed by a variety of labor groups, and Caprioglio briefly served on the City Council as the replacement for Larry Westerlund, who has endorsed him.
In City Council District 6, incumbent Republican Lee Brand is running unopposed.
Each of the registered parties also has their central committee elections this year.
The Green Party had one candidate file for the seven available positions countywide. Richard Gomez is automatically elected. Contact him at 559-408-3320 or firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to become a part of the Green Party central committee.
For the Democrats, there will be a ballot election in one supervisorial district. In the other districts, there were fewer candidates than openings available and those candidates who qualified are automatically elected. But in Supervisorial District 2, there are seven candidates vying for five seats. All registered Democrats who vote in this district will receive a partisan ballot with the presidential race and this central committee race. The candidates are as follows:
Michael D. Evans, the current chair of the committee
Bev Fitzpatrick, the current president of Peace Fresno and a homeless advocate
Gail Gaston, who currently serves on the committee
Nancy Griesser, a leader in Volunteers for Change and currently an alternate on the committee
Gary Lasky, who currently serves on the committee
Linda Traynor, the current vice chair of the committee
Alex Valdez, chief operating officer of I-5 Social Services Corp.
For the Republicans, there will be ballot races in two districts. For additional information, visit their Web site at www.fresnogop.org/.
Prop 28: Legislative Term Limits
Official summary: Reduces the total amount of time a person may serve in the state legislature from 14 years to 12 years.
Allows a person to serve a total of 12 years either in the Assembly, the Senate or a combination of both. Applies only to legislators first elected after the measure is passed. Provides that legislators elected before the measure is passed continue to be subject to existing term limits.
Proponents: Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor
Opponent: California Republican Party
Prop 29: Tobacco Tax
Official summary: Imposes additional five cent tax on each cigarette distributed ($1.00 per pack), and an equivalent tax increase on other tobacco products, to fund cancer research and other specified purposes. Requires tax revenues be deposited into a special fund to finance research and research facilities focused on detecting, preventing, treating and curing cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other tobacco-related diseases, and to finance prevention programs. Creates nine-member committee charged with administering the fund.
Proponents: American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Stroke Association, Lance Armstrong Foundation
Opponents: Americans for Prosperity, California Republican Party, California Taxpayers Association, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, FreedomWorks, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds
Michael D. Evans is a political activist, editor and writer. Contact him at email@example.com.