Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Reflections on the 2018 California Primary: Part I
The first half of this blog was written before the close of balloting at 8:00pm. It’s been a veritable feeding frenzy at the California primary. All 8 statewide offices are up for election. Several office holders are termed out. Democrats are salivating over four Republican Congressional seats in Orange County. California’s top two primary system, a legacy of Governor Schwarzenegger, sends the top two finalists to the November election, regardless of political party. Thus the November ballot could have two Democrats, two Republicans, one of each, or independents. We are voting today, unless we are among the millions who cast an early ballot. We are flooded, inundated, and blitzed with annoying robot calls, throwaway flyers, and forgettable radio and TV ads. At least the TV ads can be fast forwarded. California is such a large state, both in population and size, that traditional retail, door to door, politicking, will often be inadequate to win. Advertising and media endorsements are critical to election. Over $100 million is being spent on Congressional ads in California. Democrats are salivating. They are hoping to turn California into a true one party state, taking as many as 7 of the Republicans 14 Congressional seats and reaping a super, super majority in the state legislature. Hillary Clinton carried California by 4.2 million votes, even winning the traditional republican stronghold of Orange County. The Democrats’ campaigns have several themes: Fight against Trump and the War on California, climate change and environmental protection, women’s and reproductive rights, and protecting sanctuary cities and immigrants. A quiet issue is health care: do we protect and improve ObamaCare or do we go to a single payer, the state? Many of the ads reflects the diversity of California echoing the Obama campaigns with a Rainbow Coalition, but often without a white male. The rising Hispanic and Asian population overshadows the shrinking Caucasian population. Ironically the Democratic candidates are cloaking themselves with President Obama. Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State is a person whose name shall not be mentioned by Democrats. Nor are they touting the endorsement of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Let’s start with the Governor race. The early prediction was that November’s battle would be between the two former Mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Both former mayors have dodged the #MeToo Movement, so far. Gavin Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor, was shacking up with his campaign manager’s wife during his reelection campaign. Antonio Villaraigosa was a serial philanderer. Newsom is the frontrunner. The presumption therefore is that the current battle is for second place. The Santa Clara grad has raised $17 million, much of it from Silicon Valley. Gavin reminds me of the Gavin in the Silicon Valley TV show. The Lieutenant Governor is running a quiet campaign, mixing positive and negative ads. His theme is “Courage. For a Change.” He claims great courage in allowing gay marriages in San Francisco and fighting the NRA for gun control. Those acts require no courage in San Francisco, Courage and political suicide would have been opposing gay marriage and gun control. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been running a large number of positive ads, as well as some negative ads. He is being independently funded by charter school advocates. The former United Teachers Los Angeles organizer took on the teachers union as LA’s Mayor. He gave large salary increases to the city’s public union workers prior to the economic collapse, but kept his promise to hire 1,000 new police officers and laid off employees elsewhere during the crisis. He favors charter schools. Republican Joh Cox is currently running a strong second. Political and celebrity endorsements don’t usually carry mane votes, but John Cox has been endorsed by President Trump. That should bring votes to Cox. The assumption is that Democrats will win a statewide race over any Republican. Probably, most likely. California though may be heading for a Howard Beale, Network, Donald Trump moment. A survey a few days ago said about 50% of Californians want to leave the state. Net migration out of the state exceeds newcomers by a 2:1 margin. If the remaining Californians vote with their ballots and bot their feet, then John Cox has a strong chance of winning. Senator Diane Feinstein has been running millions in TV ads against the challenger, State Senator Kevin De Leon. She emphasizes her fights for California’s environment and his decades long fight for arm control. A clever ad is the 80 year old Senator saying she “is leading a new generation” in the fight. Eleni Kounalakis has been blitzing the TV with ads, surrounding the San Francisco democrats with scores of supporters. Eleni is strangely silent. She doesn’t say a word! Perhaps because the outside funding is supported by at least $5 million from her father. Outside groups have no spending limit, but cannot coordinate with the candidate. Eleni is in favor of affordable housing, infrastructure, single payer, immigrants, DACA, free community college, and the tooth fairy. Her campaign promises are great, considering the Lieutenant Governor has minimal powers. Indeed, the best negative ad this season has the current Lieutenant Gavin Newsom so bored by the position he only makes it to the Capital about once a week. It also mentions that during an emergency in San Francisco he flew off to Hawaii for 4 days. A race to watch is the 45th Congressional District with four Democrats and an independent running against the incumbent Republican Mimi Walters. Two of the candidates, David Min and Katie Porter, are professors at the University of California Irvine School of Law. Professor Min has been running negative ads against Professor Porter. I wonder what the faculty meetings are like, especially if both lose in June or November. Two recall campaigns to watch are in Orange County and Silicon Valley. Judge Aaron Persky gave Brock Turner, a Stanford swimmer, a 6 month sentence for raping a drunk, unconscious woman next to a dumpster. Josh Newsom narrowly won election in 2016 to the 29th Senate District, and then promptly voted to raise the gas tax and registration fees. The Democrats are pouring millions of dollars into defeating he recall. If he loses, and a republican wins the seat, then the Democrats will lose their legislative super majority.