elections

Apr 192016
 

vote-for-me

Plus: Who Else to Vote for in AD 15, AD 18 & 25

Update: I was re-elected to the Committee. Thanks to everyone who voted for me.

Once again, I’m running for re-election to the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee.  I’m running for one of the ten seats in AD 18.

I am an unapologetic bleeding heart liberal, committed to pushing the Democratic party towards adopting an agenda that includes the respect and promotion of all human rights: civil, political, economic, social and cultural.  I am fully committed to cleaning up the Democratic party from the corrupting influences of money and cronyism.

Currently, the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee is suffering from a numbers of ills.  One of the main jobs of the  Committee is to give the Democratic endorsement to candidates for non-partisan local races.  Unfortunately, several Committee members are either paid campaign consultants themselves or have close relationships with such people – and they take advantage of their position in the Committee to lobby to get their clients the Democratic endorsement.  This has resulted in the Democratic endorsement being given to candidates who do not have particularly progressive ideas.  Indeed, the Committee has endorsed candidates that support the militarization of police,  the widening of the school-to-prison pipeline, mass surveillance and impunity for police brutality.   While as one of the few liberals in the Committee, my effect over the last four years has been limited, I have been able to stop the Democratic endorsement from going to at least some of the worst candidate – including one that wanted to raise the Chinese flag over San Leandro City Hall paying homage to a government that has imprisoned and disappeared countless critics, members of religious minorities and human rights defenders, while brutality occupying Tibet and other lands.

My other main reason to run for re-election is that I believe that if Bernie Sanders manages to win the nomination and then the presidency, he will need supporters working at all levels with the Democratic party in order to push his agenda forward.  If he doesn’t win, and instead decides to lead a revolution from the Senate, then the support of Democratic grass root activists is even more important.  But let me be clear: as a liberal Democrat I cannot support Hillary Clinton and her neo-liberal/neo-con agenda which imperils America and the world.

Over the last four years, I’ve written from time to time about my experiences as a Committee members, please read further if you want to know more about me and my candidacy.  Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions or comments.

In addition to me, I encourage you to vote for the following candidates:

Other candidates I support running for ACDCC in AD 18 (Oakland flats, Alameda & San Leandro – 10 seats available):

Pamela Price, a civil rights attorney

Mike Katz-Lacabe, my husband and a privacy rights advocate.

Guillermo Elenes, a housing rights organizer and staunch liberal

Marlon McWilson, an appointed incumbent and County Board of Education trustee

 

In AD 15 (Oakland Hills & North Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley and Albany – 9 seats available) I recommend you vote for the following candidates.

Vincent Casalaina: Vincent is very progressive grassroots activist, he is with PDA and was an early Bernie supporter. Vincent is running in a progressive slate with Brett Badelle, Kate Harrison and Floyd Huen

Andy Kelley: Andy sometimes plays politics to his own detriment, but his heart is in the right place and he is also committed to a progressive agenda.

Len Raphael: Len is intelligent, thoughtful and has an insurgent streak. I think he would bring a much needed non-establishment perspective to the Committee.

Ces Rosales: Ces is a very progressive LGBT and feminist activist in Berkeley.  We don’t always back the same candidates (she’s a Hillary supporter), but I respect Ces’ independent streak.

In AD 25 (Newark & parts of Fremont – 3 seats available), I recommend you vote for

Raj Salwan: He has been an alternate for a number of years and is the most progressive candidate running in that district.

Relevant articles:

(Edited to add list of people I’m supporting and to add my stand on Hillary Clinton).

Jan 242016
 

incumbentThe California Democratic Party has just become a little bit more undemocratic.  New rules quietly enacted by the Party give Democratic incumbents for state and federal office the automatic endorsement of the Party.   While in the past an incumbent would get the Party’s endorsement if he received just 70% of the votes at a pre-convention endorsement caucus or 50%+1 of the votes at the convention, incumbents will now be automatically endorsed unless 20% of all delegates from the district to file an objection.  This is harder than it sounds.  While delegates may punish a bad incumbent by voting for someone else, voting for no endorsement or not voting at all, filing an actual objection to the endorsement of someone who is already sitting in office, and who therefore enjoys a significant amount of political power, is not for the faint of heart.  It also means that in races where the incumbent doesn’t have a challenger to organize an objection signature drive, even unpopular incumbents will receive the party’s endorsement.

This year in Alameda county, all but one of the incumbents will be receiving the party’s automatic endorsement.  The exception is Congressman Mike Honda who is facing a tough re-election fight from former Obama administration official Ro Khanna.  Honda has been hurt by an ethics investigation and has lost the support of several prominent Democratic politicians.  Regardless of who wins the Party endorsement, it seems likely that Khanna will unseat Honda in the fall.

While it’s understandable that the Democratic party would want to solidify its support behind incumbents, a policy that benefits the establishment against what may be more popular challengers runs the risk of further damaging the party’s own standing before voters – and the weight of the party’s endorsement.   Indeed, while just two or three election cycles ago, the vast majority of candidates endorsed by the Alameda County Democratic party were elected, that number fell to about 50% in the 2014 election. Part of the reason, I believe, is that too many of the party’s endorsements are based on personal relations and politicking rather than on the personal qualifications and progressive ideology of the actual candidates.

 

 

Dec 302015
 

hondamailToday Mike Honda’s campaign sent an e-mail to Honda’s supporters (and people like me, who somehow ended up in his mailing list), suggesting that his opponent, Ro Khanna, is supported by Donald Trump.

Ro Khanna

Ro Khanna

Forget the fact that Khanna is a liberal Democrat, who is deeply committed to human rights and social justice. Forget the fact that the differences in political ideology between Khanna and Mike Honda‘s are so minute that Honda has not been able to articulate them. And forget the fact that to Trump’s supporters likely consider Khanna a brown-skinned, non-Christian “anchor baby” worthy of the same type of disdain than other non-white immigrant. The simple facts are that neither the GOP nor Trump have ever, in any way whatsoever, shown any support of Khanna. Indeed, you have to embrace Trump’s method of politicking to even make such allegations.

Mike Honda

Mike Honda

But the truth is, I don’t know that it is Honda who is channeling Trump on this campaign – because I don’t believe Honda has the mental faculties to understand what’s going on around him well enough to take such positions. Every time I have heard Honda address an issue for which he didn’t have ready talking points, ever time my husband or I have tried to engage him in a conversation about a non-trivial matter, he fumbled through it without giving any hint he understood what the issue was about.   I suspect that it is his Congressional staff who decides how he votes, and his campaign staff (which may or may not be the same) who decides how he campaigns while Honda is left to smile, shake hands, make jokes and play everyone’s favorite uncle.

Voters deserve better, but so does Mike Honda. Honda is already the subject of a Congressional ethics investigation on his use of public resources for campaign purposes and for proposing to exchange political favors for campaign contributions; he does not need to finish his political career with the reputation of being a nasty campaigner. I know that like Pete Stark before him, Honda will not give up in his quest for re-election, but his staff should show respect for Honda’s past accomplishments by making sure he runs a dignified campaign.



This is the text of the e-mail I got today

Dear Margarita,

I’ll cut to the chase:

Mike Honda has spent his career fighting for justice and equality in Washington — and the Republicans can’t stand it. That’s why they’re aligning themselves, again, with our opponent, Ro Khanna, in attacking one of the nation’s leading progressive champions.

It’s shameful — and we can’t let Donald Trump’s Republican Party get away with.

Contribute $3 or more to our campaign before tomorrow’s deadline to help us fight back.

At a time when fear is rising again in American politics, we cannot afford to lose Mike Honda’s voice in Congress. Can you speak up today to support our campaign?

Thanks,

Michael Beckendorf
Campaign Manager
Honda 2016

Dec 052014
 

election2014At the annual Alameda County Democratic Central Committee (ACDCC) holiday party this week, a colleague asked me how accurate I was on my election predictions.  This post is meant to answer his question.

Truth is, I didn’t make many predictions.  This year, I endorsed candidates throughout Alameda County.  I thought some of them had a good chance of winning and I was less hopeful about others.  Voters, however, like to go with likely winners so I wasn’t about to suggest that my endorsed candidates were going to lose.

This is not to say that I avoided calling all races.   In San Leandro, there was absolutely no doubt that Pauline Cutter would be elected Mayor and that Lee Thomas would be elected to the City Council.   I said as much on both cases, while urging voters to take advantage of the ranked choice voting system by choosing protest candidates as their first and second choice.

In other races, I was equally certain of the results but I tried to avoid saying so publicly.  While I supported Mia Ousley for San Leandro City Council, it was clear from the start that Corina Lopez would win, and told both candidates as much.  Corina started with a huge advantage by virtue of being a member both of the School Board and the ACDCC and having greater personal financial resources; that advantage only grew during the campaign as she monopolized endorsements and campaign contributions.  Just as voters prefer to vote for likely winners, big time endorsers back those most likely to win in the hope of getting a return for their investment.

It was also equally clear to anyone with eyes that Leo Sheridan would be elected to the San Leandro School Board, as he was the only candidate who mounted a campaign.  There is a general rule in electoral politics: if you campaign and your opponent doesn’t, you win.  Incumbents can sometimes get away with not campaigning, though even then they usually do so covertly through their official functions.

Outside San Leandro, I generally assumed that the incumbents would win – a good rule of thumb when you don’t know much about an election -, so I was pleasantly surprised on several instances.

The main one, was seeing Trish Spencer beat incumbent Mary Gilmore as Mayor of Alameda.  Gilmore not only had the normal advantages of incumbency (rote voting by uninformed voters, greater name recognition), but she had the support of the Democratic party, labor and the powerful firefighters union.  She outspent Spencer almost 5 to 1.  Yet Spencer was able to put together a large grass root campaign, united with the goal of slowing down development, and narrowly defeat Gilmore.

Similarly, I was surprised at how many incumbent school board members throughout Alameda County lost re-election.  Ty Alper in Berkeley, Janet Zamudio in San Lorenzo, Dot Theodore in Castro Valley, Donn Lee Merriam in Emeryville, Gary Lym in Alameda, Tom Huynh in Newark and Mark Miller in Pleasanton all defeated incumbents.  I didn’t support all of these candidates, but I wasn’t expecting any of them to win.   What I have learned from these races is that the general rule that incumbents get re-elected may not really apply to School Board races – and that candidates with children have an advantage over those without.

I was unpleasantly surprised that Raj Salwan did not win re-election to the Fremont City Council.  Again, I’d assumed he’d get elected on the strength of being an incumbent.  I was wrong.

In some cases, while I hadn’t expected a certain candidate to win, I thought they would do much better in the election.  That was the case with Mia Ousley in San Leandro, but also also with Mike Katz-Lacabe, my husband.  Mike didn’t campaign at all – at least beyond going to candidate fora and endorsement interviews -, but I thought that his name recognition and ballot designation would had given him more votes.  I haven’t quite figured out why I was wrong in that case; in particular, I wonder if his reputation as a strong civil libertarian actually hurt him with voters.

Alejandro Soto-Vigil in Berkeley is so energetic, and had such a solid grass root campaign behind him, that I thought he would do much better than he did.  I feel similarly about Dan Siegel‘s race.  Of course, in both of those situations I really wanted them to do well, and that desire might have colored my inner prediction.

Isobel Dvorsky won her race for re-election to the Chabot-Las Positas Community College Board, but I was surprised at how close her opponent got.

 

Nov 132014
 

right_arrowIt’s time to face the facts.  Alameda County has ceased to be a home for liberals.  Perhaps we can trace this development to the replacement of the word “liberal” by the word “progressive,” perhaps to the broken promises of the Obama administration or even to 9/11.  Or perhaps the yuppy generation grew old, more afraid, more conservative.  In any case, policies throughout the county show that, by in large, liberal values have been abandoned.  We now welcome mass surveillance, the loss of fourth amendment rights and the militarization of police, under the fear or excuse of crime, even as crime has plummeted since the 1980’s.  We are willing to accept racial profiling by police almost as a fact of life.  We pass ordinances prohibiting the feeding of the homeless, the eviction of the poor and even attempt to criminalize people from sitting on the sidewalks.  And we elect conservative politicians.

Despite the claims of Democratic operatives and newspapers, this election has been terrible for liberals in Alameda County, at least as far as local governments goes.  In most local races, the more progressive candidates lost.  When they didn’t, it was because they were well-established incumbents, often facing token opposition, or as part of plurality elections, where multiple candidates split the vote.

Here is a brief analysis of how the City Council races turned out countywide.

Berkeley had three City Council seats up for election.  Incumbents Kriss Worthington and Linda Maio won. Worthington faced a more conservative challenger, while Maio was up against a more liberal one.  If anything, this was a wash.  As for District 8, the political distinctions among the candidates were minor.

In Oakland, Dan Siegel, the only actual liberal candidate for Mayor, did not win the election. Libby Schaaf moved to the left in the latest stages of her campaign, at the same time that she basked in the endorsements of  Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer, who have long abandoned the pretense of being progressive.  Early in the year, however, Schaaf was supported the establishment of the Domain Awareness Center, an intelligence fusion center that would allow government officials to better track the movements of regular people.  At the start of the election, Schaaf was actually lumped with Joe Tuman and Brian Parker as the most conservative viable candidates in the race.

All the viable candidates for Oakland City Council District 2 were equally progressive, some stronger in one area while weaker in another.  In District 6, incumbent Desley Brooks barely beat out a staffer for Libby Schaaf, whom would have likely been more conservative than Brooks.  Only in District 4 we see a clear win by a progressive candidate over a conservative one.  If there is one bright light on this election, it’s Annie Campbell Washington’s win.

Unfortunately, I did not follow the Emeryville City Council race, so I can’t judge where the candidates fell in the political spectrum, though I can say the two winners had the Democratic endorsement.

Trish Spencer was elected Mayor of Alameda.  She is significantly more liberal than incumbent Mary Gilmore, who supported the acquisition of license plate scanners and of an armored personnel carrier for the police, but Spencer ran on an anti-development platform which attracted many conservative votes.  Similar issues played out in the City Council race, where just three candidates vied for two seats.  The loser was the incumbent member of the Council who had voted to expand development.

In San Leandro, Pauline Cutter, a moderate Democrat was elected Mayor against a more conservative opponent – but the more liberal candidate was left in the dust.  The three City Council races saw the most conservative candidates win, all endorsed by the police union.

Results were just as bad in Fremont, where even a moderate Democrat who had the endorsement of the Police, was defeated by two of the most conservative candidates.  One is an ex-police officer who openly supports the militarization of the police.

Union City saw its two Democratic incumbent Council members get re-elected, as well as their Republican colleague.  Meanwhile in Newark, the Democratic Mayor won re-election against a Democratic opponent, and the two empty City Council seats were split between a Democrat and a Republican

In Pleasanton, the Republican Mayor won re-election and the two City Council seats were filled by Republicans.  Dublin Mayor and Assembly candidate Tim Sbranti was replaced by a Republican, though the two Democratic incumbent council members won re-election.  Tim Sbranti, by the way, lost the Assembly race to a Republican, the seat had been previously filled by a Democrat.

No Democrats even ran for City Council in Livermore.

The results were much better at the School Board level, but only because the trend was to see parents of students in their respective school districts get elected over non-district parents, regardless of their political views.