For the small fraction of citizens who will vote in next week’s election, and the even smaller number who haven’t yet cast ballots by mail, all you need to know about:
The governor’s race is that incumbent Jerry Brown made his first campaign appearance eight days before the November 4 election.
With $23 million on hand, Brown has barely spent a dime on ads for himself; instead, he’s bestowed several million bucks to boost two ballot measures: Prop. 1, the proposed $7.5 billion anti-drought water bond, and Prop. 2, a “rainy day fund” budget restriction put forth by Sacramento politicians, allegedly to keep them from spending more money than the state takes in. Brown says he’s saving the rest of his dough for possible initiative campaigns during his last four years in office.
Although he seems headed for easy reelection, Brown recently trotted out Sutter, his trusty Corgi, to campaign for him, so maybe he’s in more trouble than we think.
Republican candidate Neel Kashkari is that he’s so desperate for attention that he aired a truly creepy ad featuring him supposedly rescuing a supposedly drowning kid.
In the ad, Kashkari says the kid was “betrayed” by Brown, because the governor backed a state appeal of the verdict in the Vergara case, a legal effort by school reformers to end California’s pro-union teacher tenure system. Kashkari is campaigning, at least in part, to help reshape the state’s Republican Party as one concerned about the poor and middle class. His no-class ad, however, hurts his chances of ending his “race” with respectability intact, since it’s probably the only thing people will remember about him.
Other statewide contests is that the marquee race is for, um, California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Putting aside the fact that the state schools chief has little actual power over, you know, schools, the campaign presents an intriguing glimpse at the nation’s meta-debate between public school traditionalists, represented by incumbent super and teacher’s union tool Tom Torlakson, and the education reform movement, represented by L.A. charter school jingoist Marshall Tuck.
Their race is important enough, at least symbolically, that independent expenditure partisans on both sides have spent a combined $10 million running ads to influence the outcome, with the bulk of Torlakson’s share from the California Teacher’s Association, and Tucker’s from such high-profile reformer plutocrats as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Walmart heiress Alice Walton and L.A. philanthropist Eli Broad.
State ballot props is that goo-goo reform groups have assembled a terrific series of videos to help voters sort through the rubbish being peddled about initiatives in TV ads.
The Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College version was produced with help from indefatigable political reformer Bob Stern (for those with short memories, he authored Prop. 9 on the 1974 ballot, which created the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission), and covers all six ballot measures. Another nonpartisan outfit, called SeePolitical, in partnership with the League of Women Voters, covers four of the measures. Worth checking out.
(In the interests of full disclosure here’s how our household is voting on the props and why: Prop. 1– Yes. Won’t end the drought, but it’s better than nothing; Prop. 2 -Yes. Won’t end profligate spending in Sacto, but it’s better than nothing. Prop. 45 – No. A power play by the state Insurance Commissioner and allied groups that will further muddle California’s health insurance market just as the Affordable Care Act is starting to work; Prop. 46 – No. A misleading bid by the state’s trial lawyers to raise the cap on awards in medical malpractice cases, a worthy cause that should be addressed in the Legislature, not with phony 30-second ads; Prop. 47 – No. A very close call, but we trust DA Joyce Dudley more than billionaire lefty George Soros on the very important question of how to reform California’s sentencing laws to decriminalize many low-rent felonies. Prop. 48 – Yes. In a battle between tribes over casino gambling, the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians signed a fair-and-square deal with the governor and Legislature that rival gambling interests are now trying to overturn.)
The Legislature is that Republicans are strongly contesting a number of open and Democrat-held seats around the state, to give themselves bragging rights in denying the Ds a two-thirds majority in the Assembly and State Senate.
As a practical matter, such supermajorities, however, are far less important than they were several years ago, before a) voters approved a measure allowing the budget to be passed with a simple majority, and b) Brown vowed to block any tax increase that wasn’t approved with a vote of the people. The final results in these races won’t change the fact that California is a blue state and will stay that way for a long time.
Don’t forget to vote.