2010 Election Preview

The national narrative for the 2010 elections has been defined by the mainstream media as an impending success, perhaps even landslide, for Republicans, with the strong likelihood that the Republicans will take control of both houses of Congress. Yet, Republicans have shown such dissatisfaction with their own incumbents that they have been turning them out in droves. It is no longer OK to be a right winger in the Republican Party; you must now have Tea Party cred as well.

How will this national narrative affect elections in Fresno County, if at all? The most apparent effect could be turnout. The conventional wisdom is that the Republicans (and, to a lesser extent, independents) are angry and motivated to vote, but that Democrats are not excited about this year’s election and therefore will not vote. But locally, that turnout equation is no different from any other election. Henry T. Perea lost the 2008 mayoral race in large part because Democrats did not turn out at anywhere near the percentage that Republicans did. And that was in an election when Democrats maxed out on “excitement.”

Nevertheless, turnout will be the key to outcomes in elections countywide this year. There are only a handful of races in play in the county, but if either side can effectively increase their turnout by 2–5 percentage points above the norm for an off-year election, that side will have greatly improved the likelihood of victory.

The following is a breakdown of some individual races on the ballot. The discussion of the Republican candidates for local and legislative office gets rather redundant; each has defined him/herself as “conservative,” has taken basically the same set of positions and, at least on the individual campaign Web sites, avoided direct affiliation with the tea party movement.

U.S. Senate

Sen. Barbara Boxer recently won a nationwide poll by Democracy for America as America’s Progressive Senate Hero. As head of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina, Boxer’s opponent, shipped 30,000 American jobs overseas and laid off thousands of California workers. The contrast here could not be greater.

Statewide
The gubernatorial race so far has been defined by two things: money, as in the obscene amount being spent by Republican candidate Meg Whitman, and hypocrisy, as seen in Whitman’s flip-flopping on issues of importance to minorities since her primary campaign. One must question what she is actually buying with all that money. Her motives are certainly suspect. Brown, on the other hand, has been at the center of California government for the better part of four decades. If anyone can maneuver the narrow confines of the governor’s office to make it work for California, it would be him.

All of the statewide Democratic candidates have spent embarrassingly little time in the Central Valley. It seems the area has been ceded to the Republicans. This is a strategic mistake that could have an impact on close races. The Republican candidates have spent a lot of time here, perhaps to shore up their base or perhaps wanting to appear as often as possible before a friendly audience.

U.S. Congress
In District 18, incumbent Democrat Dennis Cardoza is being challenged by Republican farmer and Turlock Irrigation District board member Mike Berryhill. Cardoza is a moderate who votes with the President most of the time (his 2009 ADA rating was 90%). Berryhill is a textbook conservative Republican.

In District 19, which is the seat being vacated by Republican Rep. George Radanovich, Republican Jeff Denham faces off against Democratic primary winner Loraine Goodwin. Denham will win this race easily even though he has yet to consolidate the support of all the warring right-wing factions still upset about the primary results.

In District 20, Democratic Rep. Jim Costa is opposed by a Republican farmer, Andy Vidak. Costa is a moderate who puts the concerns of the Valley at the forefront of his agenda. Vidak is a garden variety conservative Republican.

In District 21, Republican incumbent Devin Nunes has no formal opposition. Democrat Ruben Macareno is mounting a write-in campaign. Nunes has outlined his extremist right-wing agenda in a recently published book.

State Legislature
In Senate District 14, former airline pilot Larry Johnson, a Democrat, faces off against Republican Tom Berryhill for an open seat. Johnson is a thoughtful progressive who has some good ideas on how to fix things in Sacramento. Berryhill says on his Web site, “I believe that Ronald Reagan had it right.” This decision should be an easy one.

In Senate District 16, Democrat Michael Rubio is vying for the Senate seat being vacated by Dean Florez and will face
Republican Tim Thiesen. Rubio is an energetic young man who currently serves on the Kern County Board of Supervisors. He has a reputation for coalition building and getting things done. Thiesen spouts the usual conservative lines.

In Assembly District 29, Democrat Michael Esswein, a self-described “moderate for Assembly,” is attempting to become the youngest member of the Assembly. His opponent, Republican Linda Halderman, refers to herself as a physician, a small business owner and a conservative.

In Assembly District 30, Democrat Fran Florez is facing off against Republican David Valadao for an open seat. This is an opportunity for the Democrats to take a seat back from the Republicans. Florez has been endorsed by labor, Democratic groups and progressive organizations, whereas Valadao’s endorsement list reads like a Who’s Who of Valley Republicans.

Henry T. Perea easily won the Democratic primary in Assembly District 31 and will face Republican Brandon Shoemaker in November. Perea has established a strong reputation in serving eight years on the Fresno City Council. His opponent works in law enforcement and has the backing of many conservative groups.

County
In the race for Assessor/Recorder, Carole Laval, a Democrat, and Paul Dictos, a Republican, survived the primary. Laval brings more than 30 years of relevant appraiser experience to the table. She intends to focus on protecting the public from scams and informing the public of potential benefits. Dictos is a perennial candidate who has run unsuccessfully for a number of offices.

In the all-important Board of Supervisors race in District 1, Democrat Cynthia Sterling is facing incumbent Republican Phil Larson. The District 1 race is a key because the winner of this seat will determine the balance of power on the Board of Supervisors. Sterling says that she will focus on generating jobs, protecting the social safety net of services available to persons who fall on hard times and obtaining the county’s fair share of the state’s water. The Republican’s Lincoln Club says that “Larson will defend this seat against the SEI union candidate. This is a must win for the County Board to keep its current conservative tilt.”

City of Fresno

Louise Bauer Davoli

For City Council District 3, there will be a runoff between Mike Briggs, the leading vote getter in the primary and a Republican, and Oliver Baines, a Democrat. Baines, a local police officer, is focused on “jobs, jobs, jobs!,” economic development through infrastructure improvement, safe neighborhoods and accessibility. Briggs is trying to sell the conservative agenda in a district that least needs the upheaval of conservative “solutions.”

In City Council District 5, the fall election will be between former City Council representative Sal Quintero and Fresno State instructor and small business owner Louise Bauer Davoli. Both candidates are Democrats. Davoli has been endorsed by the Central Valley Progressive PAC and the National Women’s Political Caucus, whereas Quintero has been endorsed by the Central Labor Council.

Propositions
(The arguments herein are paraphrased from those made available by the League of Women Voters. Note that the League does not challenge the veracity of those arguments.)

Prop 19: Changes California law to legalize marijuana and allow it to be regulated and taxed.

The supporters claim that the state wastes millions of dollars a year arresting and imprisoning nonviolent citizens for marijuana-related offenses, that marijuana has fewer harmful effects than alcohol or cigarettes and that legalizing marijuana would generate new direct tax revenue, reduce government expenditures and expand California’s economy with new jobs.

The opponents assert that the proposition is a legal nightmare that would make the state’s highways, workplaces and communities less safe; that legalization would result in additional substance abuse; and that the measure is misleading because it would not establish a regulatory framework.

Prop 20: Transfers authority for the redistricting of Congressional districts to the recently authorized Redistricting Commission.

The supporters believe that the measure would create fair Congressional districts, making elected representatives more accountable and therefore more willing to solve the state’s serious problems.

The opponents state that the measure would needlessly waste taxpayer dollars by adding work to the Commission, which creates an irresponsible bureaucracy; that the process does not guarantee fairness; and that the Commission is not accountable to the voters.

Prop 21: Establishes an $18 annual vehicle license surcharge to help fund state parks and wildlife programs and grants free admission to all state parks to surcharged vehicles.

The supporters state that this proposition would ensure the funding needed to keep state parks open, properly maintained and safe; that it contains fiscal and accountability safeguards to assure the funds are used solely for parks and the preservation of natural areas and wildlife; and that it would free up more than $130 million a year in the General Fund for other vital public services.

The opponents contend that the proposition is a ploy to bring back the “car tax” and would allow politicians to play budget “shell games” that could leave our state parks dilapidated while diverting money into other government programs.

Prop 22: Prohibits the state from taking funds used for transportation or local government projects and services.

The supporters say that the proposition would stop the state from diverting fuel taxes to local road repairs and public transportation and would keep more local tax dollars where there is more accountability to voters.

The opponents respond that the proposition would cause schools to lose funds immediately, would reduce the funding available for healthcare just as the safety net for children is collapsing and would limit the state’s flexibility to deal with a budget crisis.

Prop 23: Suspends air pollution control laws that require major polluters to report and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming until unemployment drops below a specified level for a full year.

The supporters assert that the proposition will save more than a million jobs, while preserving California’s clean air and water; that other states have postponed their global warming laws; and that billions of dollars could be saved in higher energy taxes and costs.

The opponents state that the proposition was written by Texas oil companies to kill California’s clean energy and air pollution standards, would eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs in the clean energy industry and would harm efforts to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

Prop 24: Repeals recent legislation that would allow businesses to carry back losses, share tax credits and use a sales-based income calculation.

The supporters believe that the proposition would end $1.3 billion per year in special corporate tax loopholes that do not require the creation or protection of California jobs; would prevent the legislature from making even deeper cuts in funding for public schools, healthcare and public safety; and would ensure tax fairness and end tax breaks that unfairly benefit less than 2% of California businesses.

The opponents say that the proposition would tax new job creation and penalize businesses when they try to expand in California; that it does not guarantee that a single dollar will go into classrooms, public safety or other vital programs; and that it would hurt small businesses by removing tax incentives.

Prop 25: Changes the legislative vote requirement to pass a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority. Retains the two-thirds vote requirement for taxes.

The supporters claim that the proposition would break the budget gridlock by allowing a simple majority to approve the budget, would help avoid late budgets, would continue to require a two-thirds vote to increase taxes and would prevent a small minority from holding up the budget.

The opponents say that the proposition would allow politicians to raise taxes by only a majority vote, would preclude voters from being able to use the referendum process to reject hidden taxes and would eliminate the two-thirds vote requirement that could keep the majority from passing unrealistic budgets.

Prop 26: Increases the legislative vote requirement to two-thirds for state levies and charges. Imposes an additional requirement for voters to approve local levies and charges with limited exceptions.

The supporters contend that the proposition would close a loophole that allows taxes to be approved by calling them “fees” so that they can be passed with a majority vote, would repeal budget-solution gimmicks if those majority-passed bills cannot muster two-thirds approval and would preserve California’s strong environmental and consumer protection laws while protecting legitimate fees.

The opponents say that special protections for polluters should not be drafted into the California Constitution, changing the rules to repeal tax laws already passed in 2010 would create havoc in an already unstable budgetary environment and the proposition would make it harder to enact fees on large companies that cause harm to the environment, leaving taxpayers to pay for the cleanup.

Prop 27: Eliminates the state commission on redistricting. Consolidates authority for redistricting with elected representatives.

The supporters believe that the proposition would bring redistricting back to representatives elected by and accountable to the people and that it would save the taxpayers millions of dollars by limiting the costs of redistricting.

The opponents claim that the proposition is about politicians wanting to keep their power and that it would gut the significant reform (of the Redistricting Commission) passed by the voters in 2008.

Measure Q
This Fresno-based ballot measure would improve school campuses in every neighborhood of the Fresno Unified School District, without raising the current authorized tax rate, by upgrading and improving all schools, supporting the work of the district to prepare career-ready graduates, investing in the renovation and repair of all schools, continuing classroom technology upgrades, and addressing the dropout issue by investing in alternative and continuing education facilities. Support is widespread for this measure from a variety of progressive groups to the Chamber of Commerce.

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