Fresno City Council map. There are about 65,000 people living in each district.

Local Elections: How Should Progressives Vote?

The June 8 primary election features a large field of candidates-from City Council to Congressional races. There are also five state propositions on the ballot. How can progressives get the information necessary to make informed choices in this election? Fortunately, there are groups like the Central Valley Progressive Political Action Committee (CVPPAC) that take the time to figure out who the best candidates are for each race and which propositions to support.

The CVPPAC has endorsed the following candidates:
Fresno County Supervisor District 1: Cynthia Sterling

Fresno County Assessor-Recorder: Carole Laval
Fresno City Council District 3: Oliver Baines
Fresno City Council District 5: Louise Bauer Davoli

The group recommends the following votes on the state propositions:

Proposition 13: Neutral
Proposition 14: No
Proposition 15: Yes
Proposition 16: No
Proposition 17: No

The CVPPAC did not make a recommendation in Fresno City Council Districts 1 and 7. Neither of the two candidates in the District 1 race responded to the group’s questionnaire, which asked questions of interest to the progressive community. In District 7, Clint Olivier returned the questionnaire, but his opponent, Marcelino Valdez, Jr., did not.

The CVPPAC had an easy time supporting Louise Bauer Davoli for City Council District 5. Davoli is running against Jose Leon Barraza, Patricia Pinedo, Valerie Davis, Luis Chavez, Sal Quintero, John Worona and Daren Miller. There was discussion in the CVPPAC about the importance of Latino representation in this district, which is located in southeast Fresno, but it was Davoli’s consistent support of progressive issues that won her the support of the CVPPAC.

Eight candidates are vying for the City Council District 3 seat, which represents west and southwest Fresno. The CVPPAC endorsed Oliver Baines, who works for the Fresno Police Department in the southwest precinct. Baines is a Democrat, and members of the CVPPAC were particularly impressed with his presentation before the group several months ago. Although Baines is not progressive on all issues, he does listen and will change his position if presented with compelling information. Baines is opposed to a nuclear power plant in his district, supports the reestablishment of the Human Rights Commission and supports the public financing of elections.

In the District 7 race, Olivier is progressive on some social issues, like changing the City of Fresno ordinance that prohibits medical marijuana dispensaries and his opposition to video surveillance cameras. But he is an economic conservative, citing the importance of a “free market” in response to questions about urban sprawl and the gentrification of low-income neighborhoods. Progressives believe that free market proponents who support deregulation and the privatization of essential services are responsible for the economic crisis we are in now and should not support candidates who promote these economic policies. Valdez, who is also running in District 7, did not respond to the CVPPAC, but several progressive activists described his politics as significantly to the right of Olivier.

Cynthia Sterling, who currently represents Fresno City Council District 3, is running for the Board of Supervisors.

The CVPPAC choice in the Fresno County Board of Supervisors (BOS) District 1 race is Cynthia Sterling. Sterling currently represents District 3 on the Fresno City Council. The BOS 1 race is of particular interest to progressives because if Sterling wins, it will change the balance of power on that powerful governmental body. Conservative Republicans currently have a 3-2 advantage on the BOS. Electing Sterling, who is a progressive Democrat, would mean big changes on a wide range of issues addressed by the BOS. The importance of progressives supporting Sterling, either financially or by walking precincts in this race, cannot be overstated. Call 559-486-0535 or go to www.vote4sterling.com to see how you can help.

Carole Laval, who is running for Fresno County Assessor-Recorder, was also
supported by the CVPPAC. Although this office is not high profile, CVPPAC members had a strong preference for Laval, who they believe is best qualified to hold this office. She has three opponents for the position.

The CVPPAC questionnaire and the complete responses of all candidates who replied are on the CVPPAC Web site (www.cvppac.org).

In April, the CVPPAC tried to hold a debate on Proposition 16 but was unable to find anyone willing to speak in support of it. PG&E is funding an avalanche of TV ads, mailings and radio spots in support of the measure, which would make it harder for communities to establish municipal utility districts. Instead of a debate, Mark Toney, executive director of TURN (The Utility Reform Network), spoke about why voters should vote “no” on Proposition 16.

Toney said that Proposition 16 would lock PG&E’s high rates into the California constitution forever by locking out public power and community choice. If this special interest initiative passes, PG&E’s high rates would be given the protection of California’s Constitution. No other entity receives such special treatment, and no other private company is constitutionally shielded from competition from public entities. The CVPPAC urges you to vote “no” on Proposition 16.

There are many other important local races taking place on June 8 in which local progressives will be involved. The race for the 20th Congressional District, which extends from Fresno to Bakersfield, is an opportunity to make a statement about whether voters will continue to support Jim Costa. Costa’s Democratic challenger, Steve Haze, believes the people in that district are tired of being represented by a Blue Dog Democrat and are ready for a progressive alternative. Visit www.hazeforcongress.us for more information.

In the 19th Congressional District, Les Marsden (www.marsdenforcongress.com) and Dr. Loraine Goodwin (http://drgoodwin.info/) are the Democratic candidates running for the seat being vacated by George Radanovich. While the Republicans (Richard Pombo, Jim Patterson, Larry Westerlund and Jeff Denham) slug it out, spending more than $1 million in the primary, Marsden and Goodwin have spent only about $20,000 each.

The huge amount of special interest money going to Republicans makes it difficult for progressives to run viable campaigns to challenge the status quo. What the progressive community lacks in money, it must make up for in numbers. There are more poor and working people in the Central Valley than the super-rich. A good place to start getting involved to elect candidates that represent your core values is www.cvppac.org.

Mike Rhodes is the editor of the Community Alliance newspaper. Contact him at editor@fresnoalliance.com.

  • Mike Rhodes is the executive director of theCommunity Alliance newspaper and author of the book Dispatches from the War Zone, about homelessness in Fresno. www.mikerhodes.us is his website. Contact him at mikerhodes@comcast.net.

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