Mar 28, 2018
Update From a Political Junkie
Marin's June Ballot and A Look Ahead to November
Mar 28, 2018
By Greg Brockbank
Here is what we have to look forward to as local, state and national elections quickly approach.
MARIN'S LOCAL NONPARTISAN RACES
Marin has five elected supervisors and four elected department heads, all four of whose offices are up this June, with two retiring and one facing a challenger. Marin also has eleven town and city councils, nineteen school boards, and dozens of special districts (mostly water, fire protection, community services, and public utilities) with elected boards. Before last year, most held their elections in November of odd-numbered years, with the rest in June and November of even-numbered years. But a new law forced them all to move their elections to even-numbered years. Most of them are coming up this November in addition to the usual few this June, but two city councils have switched to this June, one of which has a ballot contest.
Filing closed March 9th for incumbents and March 13th for new candidates. In most of Marin’s potential races, there were no challengers so there will be no election on the ballot. All incumbents filed for reelection except in three races. Counting those three and two more races where challengers filed despite no retirements, a total of seven seats are being contested.
County Supervisor: Incumbent JUDY ARNOLD, from the Novato-based district, is being challenged by TONI SHROYER, as she was four years ago, in an extremely close race. As there are only two candidates, the race will be determined in June. (If there were three or more strong candidates, and no one got over fifty percent, there would be a November runoff between the top two.)
County Superintendent of Schools: Incumbent MARY JANE BURKE is being challenged for the first time since being first elected twenty-four years ago. MATT NAGLE, a West Marin principal, is the challenger.
District Attorney: Incumbent ED BERBERIAN is retiring, and there are three candidates running to succeed him, all of whom have been actively campaigning for at least a year: A.J. BRADY, LORI FRUGOLI, and ANNA PLETCHER.
Assessor/Recorder: Incumbent RICH BENSON is also retiring, and the three candidates running to succeed him are SHELLY SCOTT, BRIAN KARR, and JENNY MATTSON.
Corte Madera Town Council: Incumbents CARLA CONDON and DIANE FURST are stepping down. Appointed incumbent BOB RAVASIO (who lost his re-election race four years ago but was subsequently appointed to a seat when someone resigned mid-term) is running, along with new candidates DAVID KUNHARDT, ELI BECKMAN, and VALERIA SASSER, for three at-large seats.
MARIN’S PARTISAN RACES FOR CONGRESS AND LEGISLATURE
In local and statewide partisan races, the new “top two” rules apply for the June primary, even when the top two candidates are from the same party (thanks to Prop. 14 in 2010 changing California’s primaries to the “top two” regardless of party, with all voters now getting the same ballot in June as well as November.)
Congress: JARED HUFFMAN is running for his fourth two-year term and will once again be challenged by Republican DALE MENSING of Garberville and Democrat ANDY CAFFREY of Van Nuys (formerly of Mendocino County, from where he ran this race two years ago, so he’s back; there’s no requirement that a congressional candidate or member live in the district they represent, and there are occasional carpetbaggers). Jared usually gets seventy-plus percent of the vote, and this year is unlikely to be any different.
State Senate: MIKE MCGUIRE, the thirty-eight-year-old “energizer bunny” from Healdsburg who has already served on his local school board, city council, and the Board of Supervisors, will be running for his second four-year term, challenged only by fellow Democrat and perennial candidate RONNIE JACOBY of Santa Rosa, a former city councilwoman.
State Assembly: MARC LEVINE is running for his fourth two-year term, but although he has over one million dollars in campaign funds available, many progressives are not happy with him. He is being challenged by first-time candidate but long-time progressive activist DAN MONTE, who is thus far struggling to raise money.
U.S. Senate: DIANNE FEINSTEIN was first elected in 1992 but is now eighty-four years old. She is being challenged by fellow Democrat KEVIN de LEON, who just stepped down as President Pro Tem of the State Senate; he actually got more votes than Feinstein did from the several thousand delegates at the State Democratic Party’s convention in February. However, in November, where these two top candidates will inevitably be the only ones on the ballot, Feinstein, as the more moderate of the two, will presumably get most of the Republican votes, with her advantages as the incumbent, with name recognition, far more money, and nearly twenty-six years in that office.
Governor: Lt. Governor GAVIN NEWSOM jumped into the race very early, about three years ago, and leads in fundraising and in the polls, but his once-large lead over former Assembly Speaker and former L.A. Mayor ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA shrank to about two points recently, although it has now grown again. A Republican businessman now holds second place in the polls, although given how blue this state is, he’s a sure loser in November. Other major (Democratic) candidates include State Treasurer JOHN CHIANG and former State Superintendent of Public Instruction DELAINE EASTIN, both in single digits in the polls, as is another Republican, and probably nearly all Republicans for all statewide races. Look for most of the races to feature two Democrats in November, as happened in the 2016 U.S. Senate race here.
Lt. Governor: This race is unusual, in that most of the major candidates (all Democrats, as usual) have never run for public office before, including former State Bar Association President and former Ambassador (to Australia) JEFF BLEICH and former Ambassador (to Hungary) ELENI KOUNALAKIS. The only “traditional” candidate, being termed out of the Legislature after 12 years, is State Senator ED HERNANDEZ. The favorites, both at the recent State Democratic Convention and in the polls, seem to be Hernandez and Kounalakis.
Attorney General: State Insurance Commissioner DAVE JONES (a former Sacramento City Councilman and former State Assemblyman) is being termed out of his current office. He began running for A.G. three years ago, locking up the endorsements of the majority of Democratic activists and local officeholders and raising a considerable amount of money. But when KAMALA HARRIS was elected to the U.S. Senate a year and half ago, Governor Jerry Brown appointed L.A. Congressman XAVIER BECERRA to fill out the final two years of her term. A.G. Becerra has raised a very significant amount of money in the past year, putting him about even with Jones despite Jones’ two-year head start. The State Convention delegates favor the more progressive Jones.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction: State Assemblyman TONY THURMOND, from Richmond, seems to be the front-runner, with his major opponent being MARSHALL TUCK, who lost a race for this seat four years ago to then-incumbent Tom Torlakson, now termed out. Tuck is a big supporter of charter schools, which are becoming more controversial in recent years, and in fact many progressive candidates now refuse to take money from charter school sources, as it seems more and more charter schools are owned and operated by private, profit-seeking corporate chains.
State Treasurer: State Board of Equalization Member (and former S.F. Supervisor) FIONA MA seems relatively unopposed for this open seat.
State Insurance Commissioner: State Senator RICARDO LARA seems poised to win this open seat, also relatively unopposed.
Secretary of State: Incumbent ALEX PADILLA should cruise easily to a second term.
State Controller: BETTY YEE also has no serious opposition for a second term.
U.S. Senate: Everyone wants to know if the Democrats can take back the Senate in November in what is expected to be a blue wave (size not yet known), but the road to success is narrow. Of the thirty-three Senatorial seats up nationwide this year, only ten of them are held by Republicans, and except in Nevada (the only state Trump lost among those ten; the others are deep red), most of the incumbent Republicans look pretty secure – although there is a chance for a few upsets. Meanwhile, there are ten incumbent Democrats running for re-election in states won by Donald Trump, and five of them are currently trailing in the polls. But they say a month is an eternity in politics, so seven months (until the November election) is more than enough time for the polls to reflect a reversal of fortune for the currently trailing Democrats if that blue wave indeed materializes and is big enough and holds. So the Democrats do have a chance to take control, but they would have to keep all their seats and take Nevada (likely) and one other state (e.g., Arizona, Kentucky, or Mississippi).
U.S. House of Representatives: The party in the White House nearly always loses seats in the mid-term elections, and the less popular the President is, the more seats are likely to be lost. Donald Trump’s approval ratings have set record lows for a first-year President (starting in the high forties) and dropped throughout last year (to the low thirties), although a recent poll shows he’s bounced back to the low forties in recent weeks, allegedly due to the tax bill which is somehow still viewed positively by surprisingly too many people. The Democrats need to flip twenty-three seats, which is doable with presidential approval ratings around forty, but in a wave year, they could take at least twice that number. Several could come from California, as we have fourteen Republican Congress members (out of fifty-three), seven of whom are in districts won by Hillary Clinton. There are huge mobilizations from Democrats in those counties (with help from neighboring counties) to take those seats.
Greg Brockbank is a thirty-plus-year attorney and civic and political activist, having served for twenty-two years on the College of Marin Board of Trustees and then on the San Rafael City Council. He is the senior member and immediate past chair of the Marin Democratic Party governing board and has attended thirty state Democratic conventions. For over twenty years he has also appeared as a commentator and election-night co-host on public access television.