CN&R endorses

Our recommendations for the races on Chicoans’ ballots

President of the United States

John Kerry
Whole forests have been chopped down and pulped into paper to print pundits’ attempts to understand George W. Bush and how it is that such a manipulative and misleading president can still retain the support of half of America. We’re not even going to try to make sense of it.

When he was elected, George Bush promised to be “a uniter, not a divider,” and yet four years later the nation is more divided than it’s been in decades. That’s in large part because Bush has implemented the most radically partisan agenda in modern history. Of the more than 200 federal judges he’s appointed, only two are Democrats. The Environmental Protection Agency is staffed with Republican lobbyists. Big-oil lobbyists wrote his energy bill. And he and the Republican Congress passed a huge tax bill favoring the wealthiest Americans, saying that it would produce prosperity and create jobs. It has done neither, and in the meantime the president has turned the largest budget surplus in history into the largest deficit in history.

But if there’s one issue on which history will judge George Bush, it’s his handling of the Iraq war. Today, even many of those who initially thought it was the right thing to do because Saddam Hussein was such a monstrous brute fault the way it was done. Bush sold us the war based on false information about weapons of mass destruction, false connections made between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, false hope about the reception our troops would receive (they’d be “welcomed with flowers,” remember?), false predictions of oil revenues that would pay for the war, false estimates of the number of troops that would be needed and the time that would be required—the list goes on and on.

We were misled about, well, everything, and now we’re up to our eyeballs in a deadly war with no end in sight. More than 1,100 Americans have died, another 8,000 have been seriously injured, and an unknown number of Iraqi citizens, anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000, have died. Dozens of cities are too dangerous even to enter. Iraq has become a breeding ground and magnet for terrorists. And America’s seriously overextended military forces are stuck in a country that never posed a real threat to us, leaving us vulnerable to those that do. How this makes America safer is beyond us.

Before the debates, we didn’t know Senator John Kerry very well. But the man we’ve seen there is clearly superior to George Bush, not only in his intellectual heft, but also in his steadiness of character and his willingness to look at the world the way it is, not the way he wants it to be or wants us to think it is. He’s an honest man, in other words. Any worries we might have had about his commitment to fighting terrorists and protecting America are long gone. Most important, we believe he will return credibility and respect to the Oval Office, qualities that have been painfully absent during Bush’s tenure.

U.S. Senate

Barbara Boxer
Barbara Boxer is the more liberal of the state’s two senators, and that means that together with the moderate Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, she represents California well. She has become, over her two terms, an increasingly effective advocate for the state’s interests.

Her opponent, Bill Jones, was an effective and nonpartisan secretary of state, but he has waged a lackluster campaign, failing even to get the full support of his own Republican Party.

House of Representatives, 2nd District

Mike Johnson
Two years ago at election time we wrote, “Wally Herger has been our representative in Congress since 1986. This is such a safe district that the Republicans could probably run a monkey as a candidate and still soundly defeat the Democrat.” So who are the Demos putting up this year? Mike Johnson, the same guy who ran last time.

Johnson is a Chico man we’ve never talked to, but we have learned that he is pro-choice, pro-gun and pro-labor. We heard him say at a lightly attended League of Women Voters forum that Herger’s been in office too long and is a “do-nothing” legislator. Tell us something we don’t know, Mike. Johnson also said that we needed more reservoirs.

Two years ago we said we couldn’t endorse Johnson based on what little we knew of him, and we chose not to endorse Herger, despite the fact he is a senior member of Congress and sits on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. We couldn’t get past his undying devotion to the Bush administration and its steady push for war, despite opposition from a majority of Americans. The war is now ongoing and continues to drag on with no end in sight. We say vote for Johnson.

Chico City Council

Andy Holcombe, Ann Schwab, John Merz, Sharon Nichols
These candidates have all paid their dues and given considerable time and work to the community. They are decent, hard-working people without ties to any financially driven agendas. They also represent different factions of Chico: Holcombe, an attorney, fights for low-income residents; Schwab works for and understands nonprofit organizations, an important element of our community; Merz is a longtime and active environmentalist, an important role in a city that is growing as fast as Chico. Nichols worked for the city for 15 years, so she knows how city government works from the everyday nuts-and-bolts level.

It’s struck us that we have number of qualified candidates this year. In fact, we’re confident that, with the exception of the two incumbents, any of them would make a good council member. The incumbents, Larry Wahl and Steve Bertagna, revealed their political inflexibility when they failed to appoint Coleen Jarvis’ husband to fill out the remainder of her term in office after she died in May. It was Jarvis’ wish, and to deny it was inexcusable. The incumbents said the council could move along without a seventh member because there were no controversial issues on their plate, knowing full well the Bidwell Ranch matter was yet to be resolved.

Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees

Rick Anderson, Steve O’Bryan
Normally this is a low-key contest overshadowed by the race for City Council. Not this year, and that’s good. The school board trustees play an important role, making decisions that involve million-dollar budgets and affect our children and a significant workforce of teachers, clerical workers and administrators.

This year, of course, the election is shaped by the strange soap opera known as the “Hank Marsh Junior High affair.” Considering everything they’ve been through, we are confident that the incumbents, Steve O’Bryan and Rick Anderson, remain the best people for the job.

We remind voters that the current board enjoyed a number of successes last year, including getting a new teachers’ contract with little fuss (for a change) and finally nailing down a site for a new high school. But dealing with a huge budget shortfall will be tough, and the incumbents’ experience will be invaluable.

District 3 Assembly

Rick Keene
We’ve taken some heat for endorsing incumbent Rick Keene over Democratic challenger Robert Woods. But the fact is that Keene is smart and on the fast track to Congress once Wally Herger retires, which we’re guessing will happen two years from now, just as Keene becomes a lame-duck assemblyman. For now, Keene is the best candidate for the job. He has power within his party and the influence to get things accomplished for his district. Now we just have to hold him to that and hope he doesn’t forget his roots.

District 2 Assembly

Barbara McIver
Democrat McIver was an easy choice here. She is bright and energetic and will work well with a moderate Republican governor. Moderation and willingness to compromise are what’s needed these days in Sacramento. The incumbent is a rigidly conservative anti-tax crusader, exactly what the state does not need to dig out of its financial jam.

Note: For our recommendations on the various ballot measures, please click here.