Today we held a "BYOB party" - Bring your own Ballot! We invited neighbors (around Alameda, but focusing on immediate neighbors) to bring their ballots and talk about the candidates and issues in front of us. I had been to the California Democratic Convention last month as a delegate, so I managed to hear debates and speeches by many of the candidates; I even got to meet a few of them and talk one-on-one. I wrote up this report for those who couldn't make it, so that even if they missed the beer, wine, munchies, and chocolate cake, at least they could benefit from what we learned or at least opined.
Most of the party was just, well, people sitting or standing around and chatting. It was fun to introduce neighbors down the block to neighbors around the block! About halfway through, we had a staffer from Sandré Swanson's run for State Assembly come by and give a (somewhat nervous) spiel on behalf of Swanson, and answer questions. He talked about Swanson's qualifications being his 30 years of public service, working with admired leaders like Barbara Lee and Ron Dellums, with accomplishments like getting the Port of Oakland dredged but environmentally soundly, Alameda naval base transfer, getting the Federal Building brought to Oakland, etc. He has the endorsements of a ton of groups (unions, education, Sierra clubs). He also won the endorsement of the Dem Party as well, chosen overwhelmingly by the grassroots delegates. We had some strong Russo supporters there that didn't necessarily change their mind, but his talk definitely helped sway some undecided voters. Regardless of this election's outcome, I think we'd do just fine to have either Swanson or Russo representing us in Sacto!
I left out a big poster board for people to jot down their opinions and read what others had written. Here's a low-down gleaned from that, plus my recollection of some conversations. Obviously my opinions are front-and-center here but I tried to capture the general consensus.
GOVERNOR: Little positive (if any) was said about Westly. Angelides is overwhelmingly the choice of the grassroots activists and also the party insiders like Boxer and Feinstein. Some good comments about how Angelides was brave in putting the reality that we're going to have to have money come from tax forefront in his campaign, and that the richest need to pay their fair share, rather than hiding the issue about where money comes from.
LT. GOVERNOR: I heard the 3 candidates debate and though I think Speier (who may be the front-runner?) would be great, I was really impressed by Garamendi -- came across as frank, passionate ... also liked that he's one of the few politicians I've heard who addressed global warming and how its impact is going to have to be addressed in California.
SEC. OF STATE -- I have heard Debra Bowen speak, as had one other attendee -- she'd perfect for the job .... she is amazingly knowledgeable and passionate about election protection. Of all the candidates on the ballot, she is the one I feel the strongest about. Bowen All The Way!
CONTROLLER -- The only opinions I heard were my own here, unfortunately -- I think both of them would be great. Chiang is the super-accountant and Dunn ("the guy who brought down enron") is a bulldog. I want BOTH of them to win! :-) I am tempted to go with Chiang because I think his experience more closely matches the job description...
ATTORNEY GENERAL: A lot of negative things said about Rocky Delgadillo. Jerry Brown is a bit of a strange bird, and has a "short attention span" as somebody put it, but he could be really good in this job. To me he seems like an elder statesman now, with a lot of fire in him. I think we need somebody like that.
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER: Cruz Bustamonte is the dominant candidate in this race, and nobody really thought he had much charisma, but he's probably a shoo-in for the Dem party nomination.
US SENATOR: A lot of people don't like how Centrist Feinstein is. I met challenger Colleen Fernald at the convention, she's a progressive activist who decided to put her name on the ballot to try to get some leverage against Feinstein.
Feinstein will obviously win, but I'm thinking of voting for Fernald.
STATE ASSEMBLY: I discussed this above a bit. A couple more comments on the candidates.... Daysog: "seems to abstain from many of the most controversial votes on the City Council". Russo: "His web site talks about building an *automobile* bridge or tunnel between Alameda Point and Oakland" (in other words, nothing about ped/bike/transit)
DEMOCRATIC COUNTY COMMITTEE (registered Democrat only): Just some background first -- this is one of the the bottom-up ways that the Democratic Party is built, but it's almost completely opaque to the average voter! Who the heck are these people anyhow? With no ballot statements, the only way to know who to vote for is word of mouth (like this email)! Anyhow, here' the low-down. Six of the candidates are mainstream active democrats and are running as a slate: Egerman, Androupolous, Neal, Berzins, Sweeny-Griffith, and Williams. One, Judy Belcher, whom I know, is a progressive activist and she's OK. The rest of the ticket consists of known or suspected followers of LYNDON LAROUCHE! Yes, those nuts have been trying to infiltrate the Democratic party for years. (Perhaps you've seen their youth movement proselytizing on Park Street..) Probably thanks to the ignorance of the voters, two of them got elected last term, even beating out councilmember Tony Daysog! Anyhow, I'm asking you to please vote for the slate of the six I listed, or five of them plus Belcher.
VARIOUS NON-PARTISAN COUNTY OFFICES: Alas, no opinions or insight expressed here. We're on our own here...
COUNTY SUPERVISOR: This one was hard -- I was hoping to get some more insight to help me decide, but I'm not impressed by any of the candidates, and nobody else there seemed to be either. Alice Lai-Bikter, the incumbent, doesn't seem to be very strong or forceful, and seems easily swayed when it comes to issues that we talked about, such as Ranked-Choice Voting systems and whether or not to approve the current crop of Diebold voting machines which leave no paper trail. Jim Price seems to have a lot of support in Alameda, but is focusing on one issue, of funding of the County Hospital. I liked his statement to me about voting machines, but many of us were very disturbed that he's supported by Pat Bail. Others I've talked to are VERY negative on Price. We also talked about Sheilia Young of San Leandro, who doesn't seem to have any presence here in Alameda in the lawn sign department ... A friend of mine in San Leandro couldn't come up with anything positive to say about her, some of us wondered if any of here accomplishments weren't just things that happened on her watch that she's taking credit for. Conclusion of all this: ?????
PROPOSITION 81: Quite a bit of discussion about how it's sad that so many things are funded by bonds, and how much bond debt the state has now, though much of it is for prisons. Jokingly we said we should oppose this now that we have our own new library practically finished. Anyhow, I think that most democrats/progressives are in favor of this as investment in the future
PROPOSITION 82: Again, most discussion was about the big picture, how it's a shame when programs are funded by new special taxes, instead of focusing on the big picture when it comes to taxation. I actually read the whole proposed law and it's flawed in some places, but I think it's a good start. I don't want to "let the perfect be the enemy of the good" and prevent this from going ahead, so I'll vote a cautious yes.