Semi-random thoughts on California’s primary

In case anyone was waiting for my thoughts…

It is a pretty dull election when by far the contest that excites you most is a referendum on which there was no opposition argument submitted for the ballot pamphlet: Whether to ban write-in candidates in nonpartisan runoffs in San Diego County (County Proposition B). A bad idea, I say.

Had I only known in time, I would have submitted such an opposition argument myself! Instead, I wrote an op-ed for the main county paper, posted here on Friday. Elections in this county tend to be minimally competitive already without decreeing that–even if a critical issue arose only in the long period after the first round and the runoff–we were stuck with just the two candidates with the most votes in the first round.

As if to underscore my point about elections not being very competitive, we have a Board of Supervisors race with only two candidates in this first round. It is a shame they can’t both lose. The incumbent, “Bulldozer” Bill Horn (so-nicknamed for his noted coziness with developers), is a good argument for term limits. Well, no, there is no such thing as a good argument for term limits to non-executive posts. (Much better to open up competition with electoral reform–the very opposite of the “reform” proposed by the Board itself in Prop. B.) But if there were, Bulldozer Bill would be it. After 12 years, it’s time for Bill to go. The only thing is, his opponent is another Republican Ultra. But then this is northern San Diego, after all, and we have winner-take all elections, so tough luck for us non-ultras.

Oh, how I wish just for one day I still lived in the 50th congressional district.* I have to root from the sidelines. Go Francine!

The Democratic primary for gubernatorial nominee features eight candidates, but only two with any chance: Steve Westly and Phil Angelides. It has been an ugly campaign. Too bad they can’t both lose. Well, probably they both will, as I don’t expect either to defeat Arnold in November, despite the Governator’s less-than-stellar poll ratings.

Angelides is more likely to win the nomination, on recent polling. And he is also more likely to lose to Arnold, according to the same polls. (Apparently, voters know a party hack when they see one.) Neither runs as strong in the trial heats for the fall as one would expect in a soldly Democratic state if the Republican incumbent were likely to lose.

About a quarter of likely Democratic voters is undecided. Too bad they can’t coordinate on one of the unknowns! Looks like I’ll be casting an undervote in June and a Green vote in November.

Then there is the Democratic race for Attorney General nominee. Jerry Brown! For old times sake. I like the subtle advertisements his opponent, Rocky Delgadillo (great name) is running. He says to vote Rocky–for the future. It took me a while to realize what he was getting at: Brown is the past. But I liked 1970s California politics, and I admire Brown for having been a resonably effective mayor of a very troubled city after his service as Governor and his failed Presidential and Senatorial bids. The guy deserves respect. Brown has my vote; one of the few votes I’ll feel good about this year or probably for many years (aside from that Prop. B vote, that is).

Perhaps the most refreshing thing about this ballot is what has to be a record (in my lifetime) low number of statewide ballot measures. Just two! One would sell bonds to upgrade libraries. Good cause. More debt. Snore. The other would tax the rich to pay for preschool education. Good cause. Bad tax and revenue-allocation policy. (I did see on some blog months ago a suggestion of why this sort of earmarking was a good idea, given California’s deadlocked policy-making process. I wish I could remember where I saw it, as I am not convinced, but could be persuaded.)

Then we have judges and a sheriff to vote for. Snore.

If it were not for Prop B (the write-in ban), I am not sure I would even bother to turn out. But if I were in the 50th, I’d sure be motivated. Neighbors: Fire a shot to be heard ’round the country!

*The last time I lived anywhere with a competitive congressional race was when I was in central Orange County in 1984 and incumbent Democrat Jerry Patterson was defeated by Bob Dornan.

0 thoughts on “Semi-random thoughts on California’s primary

  1. I agree, this is a snoozer. Hardly worth showing up for. It would be nice if I could vote online.

    Regarding the preschool ballot measure, I hate to vote against education funding but this does seem like money better spent elsewhere or not spent at all.

    Lastly, I appreciate your comments here and elsewhere about the lack of competitive districts in the U.S. I know you support a move to PR. I was wondering what your thoughts are on the idea of starting with the senate as a first step: Each state’s senators elected at the same time on the same ballot with the highest two vote-getters winning. Would this be a palatable step in the right direction? What negative ramifications might this move have? It seems like to me it would make one-party states slightly more competitive and might also lead to a few independent/third-party senators over time. But it wouldn’t really alter the two-party system too drastically. After some time, folks might then be agreeable to real PR reform. Any thoughts?

  2. ..still looking state-wide..

    .. through my very-own crystal ball..
    My deep-blue Democratic soul favors Angelides.. but that’s not the issue here, at least for me. After all, I am not voting for governor tomorrow.
    It’s about voting for the man who will have the best chance of garnering the most votes against Ahhnold in November. Period.

    Westly will appeal to a much broader political cross-section of voters to unseat Ahhnie. A Democratic win is all I’m after here.

    I’ve had my fair-share of “for the principle-of-it” as well as straight party-line voting over the years.
    But when I take-off my deep-blue glasses, what I see is Westly as the best shot at beating Ahhnie.

    PS – Go Francine!

  3. Well I also thin Westly will win – and I think he shouls win. Angelides is a developer being backed by developers. Besides Happy Snapshot is righ about Westly being the one who can beat Angelides.

  4. Count me in on a vote for Westly for the same reasons mentioned above…

    I also support Rocky Delgadillo for AG. He’s done a good job as City Attorney in Los Angeles. He went to the same high school (Benjamin Franklin High) that my wife attended and daughter attends. You’re right F&V, Jerry Brown does deserve respect. He’s had a remarkable political career. Problem is that the object is to win elections, and not everyone in this state gives Mr. Brown the respect that he deserves…

  5. This is a response to the post byPhloo above: “Each state’s senators elected at the same time on the same ballot with the highest two vote-getters winning. Would this be a palatable step in the right direction?”

    No. Overall, it would be a step in the wrong direction. The part about filling two seats at once is a (baby) step in the right direction, but then the writer takes a giant step backward in the phrase “highest two vote-getters winning”. This procedure is call bloc voting, and is the only voting system I know of that leads to *less* representative results than single-member plurality. To put it simply, the largest bloc of voters wins both seats, leaving one or more minorities completely unrepresented.

    For this to be a step forward, the writer needs to specify either choice voting (single-transferrable vote) or cumulative voting in his/her two-senators-at-a-time elections.

    Even with one of these proportional voting methods, two-seat districts are such a small step that I wonder whether the results would be worth the trouble. Illinois used three-seat districts for the state legislature (and cumulative voting) for 100 years. The results were very good for the two largest parties but (if memory serves me) absolutely nil for smaller parties. My guess is that two seat districts would routinely yield one Republican and one Democrat in all but the most lopsided states. Does that sound right to others?

  6. Bob, I agree that Phloo’s proposal must specifically say one vote per voter and/or how seats would be allocated. MNTV (so-called bloc voting) is one of the worst electoral systems. (See the post linked under “preserved fruit” on the left sidebar regarding Hamas and how it was aided by a similar component to the Palestinian electoral system).

    I have proposed moving to three Senators per state, all elected at the same time by a non-plurality method (see the link under “core” on “Reform the Senate.”

    There is, as Bob mentions, a real problem with PR (or SNTV) in 2-seat districts: The second party in a state could elect a senator even with 1/3 or less of the votes. Basically, every state would have one R and one D senator–and the threshold effectively would remain too high for third parties to have much chance. Of course, Bob is right also that 3-seat districts (as formerly used in Illinois) are only marginally better for third parties. So, how abouot 4? Better, but some of the same pathology mentioned here with respect to 2-seat districts. So, five? It is pretty hard to imagine a 250-seat Senate (though why not?)

    It would not be any easier to implement the electing two at the same time as it would be to move to three at the same time. Neither could be done without a constitutional amendment.

  7. I see HS and JL are both voting tactictly–voting the ‘lesser evil.’ That’s throwing one’s vote away!

    Why vote for X when you like Y better just because you think X has a better chance of beating Z, whom you dislike? That actually less rational than voting itself! I vote expressively, not based on any calculus.

    People have died for the right to vote; that right is too precious to be treated as anything but a solemn preference for how you, as one citizen of a republic of free citizens, want to manage your society.

  8. I don’t know if I agree with what you are saying, MSS. As a primary voter, we have to think about what is best for the party we belong to, not just our own narrow political beliefs. I think of the primary as a huge political convention, instead of as an another election. I can vote my beliefs in the general election.

  9. Jack indeed takes a broad view when he advocates thinking of the best interests of the collective. But he means the collective party interest (as he sees it). I mean the collective interest of the entire jurisdiction (as I see it).

    The interests of the party are by definition narrower than those of the jurisdiction whose executive and legislative offices a party nominates candidates to. Thus, by thinking beyond the party’s interests, I am not voting based on “narrow beliefs.” It is not as though I am voting for the candidate who will bring pork or other government goodies to me or some interest group I belong to or the region I live in. Many (perhaps most) party-oriented voters vote in primaries based on interest-group endorsements, which is narrower still than the party.

    The key point here is that I am not a member of any party. I agree that primaries are about nominating a collective representative of the party, and if you identify with a political party, indeed you should think about what is best for the party.

    I am currently a registered Democrat. But not out of identification with the party. So I don’t have much interest in the party’s nominating the candidate most likely to defeat the Republican in the next general election. I am thinking broader and more long term than that.

    (Arguably, with these views, I should not be participating in any party’s nomination process, but the state gives me the right do so so, and so I intend to exercise it as a means to express my preference for how our society should be governed, and not in the narrower interests of any party.)

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