Lesser of Two Evils: How Progressives in California Should Vote on Statewide Races

These are our recommendations for statewide offices (including Board of Equalization).  Unfortunately, no true progressive is running for any office. Our choices in most of these races are between a corrupt self-dealing politician and a more corrupt self-dealing politician.  We indicate “lesser evil” choices by the use of italics.   Note that because all of these races had a top-two primary, it’s not possible to do a write-in vote.  So it’s either vote for one of the two candidates in each race or not vote at all.  Please feel free to comment below with your views and choices.

Download PDF

Image result for kevin de leon
Kevin De Leon

US Senator: Kevin De Leon

We consider De Leon to be an establishment pay-to-play politician, with lots of skeletons in his closet, from potential me-too allegations, to involvement in shady and even corrupt political dealings.  As a Senator, he took lots of telecom money which he paid back by killing a bill that would prohibit telecoms from sharing customers’ data.  Moreover, he is completely ignorant of foreign policy.

However, he is running against Dianne Feinstein, one of the most warmongering, self-dealing, anti-human rights Senators.  Feinstein has supported every war we’ve ever been engaged in. She supports droning and opposes single payer healthcare.  Moreover, she has total contempt for voters and has barely held any town halls or agreed to debate her opponent.  She does not deserve to be in the Senate.

Image result for gavin newsom
Gavin Newsom

Governor: Gavin Newsom

There is much to dislike about Gavin Newsom.  He has no moral compass, he is dishonest, he is opportunistic, he makes promises (like supporting single payer) that he has no intentions to fulfill, he is an elitist which little concern for the common man, he is willing to sell out immigrants and children for political points.  The list goes on and on.  Still, he is better than his Trump-endorsed Republican opponent John Cox.  Please hold your nose and vote for Gavin.

Lieutenant Governor: Undecided

In this election we have a choice between a rich white woman with no qualifications and a history of supporting corrupt politicians or a corrupt  politician.   We spoke with Eleni Kounalakis at length and she is a nice woman,  with a measure of noblesse oblige that would have her support social justice issues, but only as long as these don’t interfere with the real financial interests of the oligarchy.  She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, she bought herself an ambassadorship and if she’s elected now, it’ll be on the basis of her wealth and connections (made by her wealth).

Her opponent, Ed Hernandez, is a Latino optometrist-turned-politician who has risen by playing the old pay-to-play game (what you do when you can’t resort to a family fortune to fund your campaigns).  He earned the support of the California Nurses Association by supporting SB 562, the single payer bill, and letting it passed through committee – but it’s not clear he’d have done this if he wasn’t running for Lt Governor and wanted the nurses on his side.

In all, we’re not sure which one is the worse choice.

alex padilla
Alex Padilla

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla

There are no good candidates in this race.  Incumbent Alex Padilla made a mockery of the office, one which requires integrity and a perception of neutrality, by openly campaigning for Hillary Clinton during the primary.  Then, when thousands of voters throughout the state complained about voter irregularities, from having their party registration changed to having their names disappear altogether from the voter rolls, Padilla did nothing to investigate and fix whatever the problem was.  He definitely needs to go.

Unfortunately, his opponent, Republican Mark Meuser, is an alt-right conspiracy theorist who should not be elected to dog catcher.  As unlikely as it may seem that he could win, we can’t risk it and we must vote for Padilla.

 betty yee
Betty Yee

Controller: Betty Yee

While  Betty Yee has been abandoning her progressive roots, she is a far better choice than her Republican opponent, who is running in anti-tax platform.

Fiona Ma
Fiona Ma

Treasurer: Fiona Ma

Ma is far more of a establishment politician than we’d like, but she she is a solid choice against a Republican opponent.  This editorial from the LA Times discusses their relative strengths.


xavier becerra
Xavier Becerra

Attorney General:  Xavier Becerra

Xavier Becerra is not as progressive as we’d like but his opponent, Republican Steven Bailey, is both corrupt and a proud supporter of mass incarceration.


ricardo lara
Ricardo Lara

Insurance Commissioner:  Ricardo Lara

Ricardo Lara is a problematic candidate.  While he was one of the authors of the single payer bill introduced in the State Senate last year, he did little to make sure that the bill was actually passed.  His seemingly corrupt past activities and his reliance on corporate donations also worry us.   Moreover, he does not seem to have any relevant experience that would prepare him for this job.

However, his opponent is Steve Poizner, a former Republican now running as No Party Preference, who was Insurance Commissioner from 2008-2012. Poizner quit the job to run for governor in a far-right platform that denounced immigration (which he now, conveniently, claims he regrets).  He is now running on a platform of opposing single-payer healthcare.

tony thurmond
Tony Thurmond

State Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony Thurmond

Marshal Tuck is a charter school executive, seemingly aiming to privatize our educational system even more.  Tony Thurmond seems more interested in political climbing that he is in on the well being of students.  Alas, we can’t risk having Tuck be elected.

Board of Equalization District 1: Tom Hallinan

Tom Hallinan correctly states that the Board of Equalization is no longer necessary and he’ll work to shut it down.


Board of Equalization District 2: None

San Francisco supervisor Malia Cohen is a moderate Democrat who has taken developer and AirBnb money and voted against measures that would maintain and increase affordable housing in SF.    Her opponent, Mark Burns, is your run-of-the-mill right winger.    Malia is the lesser of two evils, though as she’s a shoe-in to win, this is a race one can just skip voting on.

Tony Vazquez

Board of Equalization District 3: Tony Vasquez

Vazquez is a progressive and supported Bernie Sanders but has been involved in shady self-dealing deals.  His opponent,  G. Rick Marshall, is an anti-tax Republican.  While this is a safe Democratic district, Vazquez neglected to include a ballot statement which will depress the vote for him.  We thus recommend that you vote for him.

Board of Equalization District 2: None

Here we have a situation where it’s not easy to discern who is the better of two evils.  The Democratic candidate, 80-year old Mike Schaefer, is a perennial candidate that was once disbarred for dishonesty, deceit and fraud.

His opponent is another typical no-tax, defend Prop 13 protections of commercial property type.



New California Polls have Good News All Around

Gavin Newsom showing my daughter his selfie with Justin Trudeau, they’re both fans

.A new batch of polls on the California Governor and US Senate races is in and they have good news all around.   Expect e-mails from your favorite candidate touting them.

If you are Kevin De Leon you can rejoice that a Probolsky Research poll has you just 8 points behind  incumbent Dianne Feintein, while a Vox Populi Polling poll has you trailing her by 10 points.

If you are Dianne Feinstein, you can rest easy that both IPSOS has you winning by a comfortable 20 points.

Similarly, if you are Republican candidate for Governor John Cox, you will point to  the Probolsky Research poll that has you just 5 points behind Gavin Newsom or the Thomas Partner Strategies’s  poll that has you just 4 points behind.  If you are Newsom, you’ll rejoice that IPSOS has Cox trailing you by 12 points while Vox Populi polling has him behind you by 20.

If you are a voter, and in particular a Democrat fearing a Cox win as a second coming of Trump, you may be wondering whether to make plans to sell your house and move to the Nevada desert, or carry on as usual.  While I’m not an expert on polls, I’m going for the second approach.

Probolsky Research, the firm that has good news for both Kevin De Leon and John Cox, is a private pollster out of Orange County.  Probolsky was apparently commissioned to do a poll for some unnamed client, and added the questions on governor, US Senate and insurance commissioner on their own.  According to a well known Democratic activist and political blogger from the area, Probolsky is a Republican outfit, probably polling on behalf of the Republican Party and released these numbers because “they need to buck up the spirits of Republican voters, even if it means misleading them.”

While the polling analysis website Five ThirtyEight rates Probolsky’s quality as a pollster with a “B”, its analysts generally caution against putting much weight on internal polls.  Indeed, in poll taken in April 2018, approximately six weeks before the primary, Probolsky had Feinstein gather almost 39% of the vote with 28% going to De Leon.  In the primary, Feinstein got 44% of the vote vs De Leon’s 12%.

None of the other three pollsters seem to have polled California races in the primary, but IPSOS gets an overall grade of B+ from Five Thirtyeight and is the only “public” pollster among the bunch, i.e. the one that does not work regularly for political campaigns.  It’s also very well known, and polls internationally – which suggests they don’t have an interest in releasing polls bent a certain way.  Vox Populi Polling, aka Pop Polling, is a Republican outfit seemingly working for private clients and apparently has not released polls since 2015. Thomas Partners Strategies has partnered with Optimus to do their polls, a firm that gets a C- rating from Five Thirtyeight.

In all, I’m inclined to disregard the Probolsky/Pop Polling/Optimus polls and give more weight to IPSOS.  And it’s results are what I think we can expect in these races.  IPSOS has Feinstein receiving 44% of the vote, which is exactly what she got in the primary.  It has De Leon getting 24%, which is what the primary polls anticipated he would get.  He ended up only winning 12% of the vote, but that’s probably because voters, once faced with the ballots, saw they had many more choices.  What we can discern is that 24% of likely voters are firmly

against Feinstein.    Meanwhile, IPSOS has Newsom get 52% of the vote vs Cox’ 40%.  These numbers look reasonable as well.  Republican Neel Kashkari received 40% of the vote in his race against Governor Brown in 2014 while Republican Meg Whitman got 41% in 2010.

Of course, anything can happen in a campaign – but with the mail-in ballots dropping in a couple of weeks, it will have to happen soon.