Oct 272016
 

how-to-be-an-informed-voter
Every year, I publish a Progressive Voters’ Guide to elections in Alameda County.  But SLT’s guide is just one of several voters guide and endorsement lists you can use. Here is a little guide to the other voter guides and endorsement lists, with my thoughts about them.  Please let me know of other local guides you know.

Green Voter Guide

This is a publication of the Green Party of Alameda County.  Very few Greens run for office, so most of the candidates the Greens recommend are progressive Democrats.  I like that they do their homework on them, sending comprehensive questionnaires for candidates to complete – which they then make public. And I like that they explain their choices.  What I don’t like about this guide is that it’s mostly concentrated in the northern part of Alameda County, though this time they endorsed one candidate running for Fremont City Council.

East Bay Express Endorsements

The East Bay Express is a progressive publication and they usually endorse progressive candidates.  However, the value of their recommendations is very much based on who is doing the endorsement – which they specify in their guide with the initials of the reporter making them.  Unlike other publications, the Express does not interview all the candidates in the races they endorse.   I put a lot of value on endorsements by Darwin BondGraham, an award-winning investigative reporter who has written profusely about corruption in Oakland.  While I don’t always agree with the Express’ new editor Nick Miller, I’ve been quite impressed by the quality of his writing and I have a lot of respect for his opinions.  On the other hand, I would be inclined to vote against anyone Steven Tavares recommends – as he favors those who talk to him and demonizes those who ignore him – and Azucena Rasilla’s arguments fail to impress.  Like the Green Party, the Express concentrates its endorsements on the northern part of Alameda county (but also includes southern Contra Costa county)

Eat Bay Times Endorsements

The East Bay Times interviews all candidates they endorse, usually candidates for the same race are interviewed together.  They’ve posted videos of a few of their interviews and they are pretty brutal. Candidates are asked intricate questions about the state of their city’s or district’s finances, and grilled on how they will tackle unfunded liabilities.  Generally, the candidate that has the deepest understanding of their agency’s budget and overall financial situation, and who makes the right noises about fiscal responsibility, gets the endorsement.  The EBT thus ends up endorsing ultra-progressive candidates as well as moderates and conservatives.   They provide explanations as for their endorsements as well and they cover the whole county!

Bloggers

In addition to myself, some bloggers have started publishing their own voter guides.  Often they are not for the whole county, but they can be useful if you live in the city or district in question.  Do you know of other bloggers with recommendations? Please let me know about them!

Pamela Drake’s Oakland Voter Guide

Pamela is a strong progressive and a member of the ACDCC.  I have a lot of respect for her and I take her recommendations seriously, even if I don’t always agree.

Less Useful Endorsement Lists

These lists are less useful as they usually don’t contain explanations of what the endorsement is based on.

Democratic Party Endorsements

The Democratic Party produces a list of endorsed candidates and measures with no explanation as to the basis for the endorsement. As an actual member of the central committee that makes these endorsements, I do not have much trust on these endorsements myself.

Democratic Club Endorsements

There are a bunch of regional or identity-based Democratic clubs in Alameda County which also endorse candidates.  The only club whose endorsement I find valuable is Wellstone Democratic Club, which takes a lot of time and care with their endorsements and usually gives them to the most progressive candidate.  Other clubs are often populated by people who work in politics or who are planning to run themselves, and their endorsements seem to be less ideological and more self-serving.   In addition, candidates seeking a club’s endorsement can get their supporters to join the club some time in advance and vote in that endorsement.   Clubs also don’t tend to give much of an explanation for their endorsements.

Labor

Both the Alameda Labor Council – an umbrella organization representing most local unions – and individual unions endorse in political races.  Labor’s endorsement is particularly priced as it comes with money and volunteers.  As you can expect, unions tend to endorse those candidates whom they believe will do them the greatest good – either because they believe they are most likely to get elected and because they want to get in their good side, or because they think they will vote their way if elected.   Sometimes that means people who support project labor agreements and raising the minimum, which are good. But sometimes it means people who are just in favor of unchecked development – as that creates construction jobs.

Police and Fire unions endorsements usually go to candidates who want to expand the budget of these departments, increase salaries and pensions and not hold them accountable. Teachers’ unions endorsements go to candidates who promise to support teachers vs. the administration, including in salary negotiations.

Other Organizations

There are a few other organizations that endorse in Alameda County, but I’ve not been greatly impressed by the quality of their endorsements.

Sierra Club

The endorsement of the Sierra Club sounds good, so smart kingmakers have joined it in order to install the endorsement upon their preferred candidates.  Often times these are candidates that show very little environmental concerns.  I pretty much ignore this endorsement.

Evolve

Evolve is a progressive organization that sends questionnaires to a myriad of candidates statewide and endorse based on them.  The questionnaires are simple ” agree/disagree”  questions.  Their endorsement should tell you that the candidate is not a right-wing nut, but it’s otherwise fairly easy to get.

Politicians

Politicians endorse candidates who

  1. they have a prior personal or political relationship with
  2. have endorsed them when they, themselves, were running
  3. they believe are likely to win their race, and thus provide them with a valuable reciprocal endorsement in the future
  4. have another practical reason for endorsing (e.g. a colleague asked them to, is of the same ethnic group, etc.)

There are some exceptions for politicians who endorse candidates based on their personal qualities or political ideology, but generally giving an endorsement is as strategic as receiving one.

Slate Mailers

These are mailers that bear names such as “The Coalition for Literacy,” “The Cops Guide”, “California Latino Voters’ Guide” and so forth. They are commercial mailers, made up by for-profit corporations, and candidates pay to have their name included. In most of them an asterisk by the name of the candidate indicates they’ve paid to be in it.

Candidates go for these because they are afraid that if they don’t, then their opponents will. The best thing to do with these is send them straight to the trash.  I’ve written a whole blog post about these, if you want to learn more about them.

Share via email Share

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

(required)

(required)