The CN&R endorses …

Recommendations on the state races and propositions

There are two important things to know about newspaper endorsements. One is that they’re valuable tools. Newspaper editors and reporters spend a great deal of time covering the candidates and issues, and their opinions are worth considering. The other is that endorsements should supplement voters’ own research, not replace it.

With that in mind, here are the CN&R’s recommendations on the significant state and regional races and the propositions.


Governor: Jerry Brown

If Arnold Schwarzenegger has taught us anything, it’s that inexperience is costly. Now, when the state is suffering from a stubborn structural deficit and a fractious Legislature, is no time for another novice governor. Jerry Brown is the most experienced politician in California. Let’s make use of that experience.

Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom

As mayor of San Francisco, Newsom has been an innovative leader, experimenting with new ways to house the homeless and provide health care to all. He also has good ideas when it comes to the budget deficit and higher education. He’s in a stronger position to step in as governor, should the need arise, than his opponent, Abel Maldonado.

Secretary of State: Debra Bowen

Bowen has done a good job in her first term and faces only marginal competition. She deserves re-election.

Controller: John Chiang

Chiang has effectively used his heretofore obscure job in charge of disbursing the state’s money to keep a check on the governor’s and Legislature’s budget shenanigans.

Treasurer: Bill Lockyer

A former state attorney general, Lockyer has been an effective treasurer in difficult times. He worked with Congress to pass reforms that will give the state lower interest payments on bonds, did a good job of marketing those bonds, and has reined in Democrats in the Legislature when they wanted to use dicey schemes to make the budget look balanced.

Attorney General: Kamala D. Harris

Harris’ opponent, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, is a veteran and very capable prosecutor. But Harris, the current San Francisco DA, brings the kind of innovation and forward thinking California needs right now. Aware that the state prisons are revolving doors, she’s as focused on recidivism, and how to prevent it, as on prosecution. She is also committed to taking on corporate fraud, environmental crime and public corruption.

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones

In addition to all his traditional duties, the next insurance commissioner will be responsible for implementing health-care reform. Of the two main candidates, Jones is the only one who’s been behind reform all along. An assemblyman from Sacramento, Jones has authored several significant pieces of legislation. His principal opponent, Assemblyman Mike Villines, is backed by the insurance industry.

Board of Equalization, Dist. 2: Chris Parker

Parker, a tax attorney with the Franchise Tax Board, has made going after tax cheats and reforming the tax code to protect middle-class families the focus of his campaign. We think he’d do a good job.


U.S. Senator: Barbara Boxer

In her three terms, Boxer has represented California well, especially on the environmental front. She’s been a strong advocate for veterans, wilderness and California agriculture. In the process she’s gained a lot of valuable clout at the chairwoman of two important committees. Her opponent, Carly Fiorina, is to the right of most Californians—on climate change, reproductive rights, health-care reform and more—and electing her would be a step backward.

U.S. Representative, 2nd District: Jim Reed

After 24 years in office, Wally Herger is getting tired. His challenger, Fall River Mills attorney Jim Reed, would bring much-needed energy to the job. Unlike Herger, he’s not opposed to seeking federal funding for needed projects, and he’s committed to working to bring more dollars—and jobs—into the district.


State Senator, 4th District: Lathe Gill

Gill, a Crescent City employment lawyer, supports prison reform, majority budget votes in the Legislature, a public option as part of health-care reform, and reforming the initiative process, among other good ideas.

State Assembly, 3rd District: No recommendation

Hiding behind incumbent Dan Logue’s rumpled suit and “Columbo” façade is an ideologue whose Proposition 23 would set back California’s green-tech industries by years. Unfortunately, neither of his opponents is up to the job of replacing him.


Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson

As a legislator, Torlakson has focused on education issues, in part because he was once a science teacher. He’ll do a good job, especially if he stands up to the teachers union in a quest for reform.


19, marijuana legalization: Yes

This is a flawed initiative, but on balance we think it should pass. As more than 40 years of the drug war has shown, prohibition doesn’t work. Millions of Californians use marijuana recreationally. It’s time to end the black market, focus law enforcement on real crime, and let adults decide for themselves what they want to put in their bodies.

20, congressional districts: Yes

This initiative will complete a process begun in 2008, when voters approved Proposition 11 establishing a Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw legislative districts following the U.S. Census. Previously, state legislators drew the districts—in effect choosing their voters. This would add redrawing congressional districts to the commission’s duties.

21, state parks funding: Yes

This would add $18 to each vehicle-registration fee to create a fund to maintain state parks, in return from free day use. This would give the parks, which are falling apart, stable funding and also allow the current funding, $200 million, to be used for other purposes.

22, state raids on local funds: No

This example of “budgeting by initiative” would add yet another constraint to the state budgeting process, making it even more difficult than it already is.

23, suspend global-warming act: No

California has taken the lead, nationally and internationally, in response to global warming, and in the process it’s fostered astonishing growth in clean-tech industries seeking to meet the emissions-reduction challenges it presents. This would undermine that by fostering uncertainty in the industry, as well as put a crimp in efforts to improve air quality.

24, rolling back tax breaks: No

Although we think the tax breaks should be rolled back, an initiative measure is not the proper way to do so.

25, majority vote on state budget: Yes

Forty-seven states require a majority vote to pass the state budget. California is one of three that require a two-thirds vote, which is a lot of why our budgets keep arriving late.

26, fees treated as taxes: No

This initiative, which hasn’t gotten much publicity, is almost as bad as Proposition 23. It would require that all regulatory fees, whether state or local, be treated as taxes and passed by a two-thirds vote. It’s meant to make it almost impossible for agencies to charge fees to cover the adverse impacts businesses have on society or the environment.

27, eliminate redistricting commission: No

This would overturn 2008’s Prop. 11 reform establishing the redistricting commission and return the drawing of political boundaries to the Legislature. (See Proposition 20, above.)