QuizUp or shut up: SN&R’s election guide

There's not an app to make this June's primary sexy. Voter turnout will suck. It shouldn't: A balance of power in Sacramento is at stake.

In less than two weeks, you probably won't be voting.

I write this because it seems nobody gives a lick about this primary election. Those voter-turnout prognosticators, whoever they may be, predict woeful Democracy on June 3. Maybe this is because so many races, from Gov. Jerry Brown on down, are “uncontested.” Just like how the Denver Broncos didn’t show up for this year’s Super Bowl. And if the nose-plug politicians we so loyally check boxes for every couple years don’t even bother, then why should voters show up just for that fuzzy feeling and a damn sticker?

That’s why SN&R made a quiz for this spring’s election issue. You like quizzes. You see your co-workers and Grandma sharing them on Facebook and BuzzFeed all day long. There’s even QuizUp, an app that came strong out the gates last fall. QuizUp offers multiple-choice questions, which you answer in head-to-head format, and you can play strangers online or challenge friends. Basically, it’s what you do with your boyfriend or girlfriend once you’ve deleted your Tinder app. Because if your newly anointed partner catches you still parlaying for a paramour on Tinder … I digress. Fun and games aside, this vote is serious business.

Sacramento electioneering and political shenanigans started early this cycle, last summer, when the now-defunct Kings arena ballot measure was still in the mix. Signature gatherers faithfully pitched a vote on the city’s subsidy. Arena proponents painted them as anti-Christs. A judge ultimately nixed the petitions. But let’s give credit where credit is due: Justice delivered the coup de grâce, but the Mayor Kevin Johnson machine won the war.

I bring this up because June 3 is all about K.J.

First, there’s “strong mayor,” Johnson’s ad nauseam pitch to co-opt more executive power. Strong isn’t on the ballot until November, but the makeup of city leadership is at stake. In two weeks, three seats are up for grabs. They’ll be in office for four years. Will they be five easy votes for K.J.? Or will these new members deep-six his agenda, bringing what I would argue are much-needed checks and balances?

These council races are contentious. Dirty. Big bucks descended on the battle between K.J.’s candidate in south Sacramento’s District 7, former school board member Rick Jennings, and former Fire Chief Julius Cherry. A furtive dark-money mailer, purportedly thumbs-upped by Jennings, trashed Cherry for his pension, which at north of $180,000 a year admittedly is beyond generous. But should this race hinge on whether a public servant with 30 years under his belt takes home too much retirement cheddar?

Yes, the mayor’s power grab is disruptive. But equally disconcerting is another trend: the wealth of uncontested races and joke candidates. Perhaps this is because too few political aspirants have the sea legs to take on Capt. K.J.? Or maybe the region is devoid of next-generation leadership?

This is not to pass judgment on unchallenged incumbents such as Angelique Ashby or Phil Serna. But there should be voices out there challenging the status quo.

And then there’s the race to succeed Supervisor Jimmie Yee. School board member Patrick Kennedy, a passionate Sacramentan, is going to waltz into this open seat. He has an opponent, former reality-TV star and nice guy Jrmar Jefferson. But the young man isn’t qualified—at all—and an open seat shouldn’t go unchallenged in Sacramento.

It’s a familiar story at the top of the food chain, however, where Gov. Brown will sleepwalk into his second term. The Republicans, sans even a crutch let alone a leg to stand on, can’t even muster viable candidates for a race like state superintendent of schools. That one’s an intriguing battle between a quotidian Democrat and a Dem-supported charter-school reformer. The GOP is MIA.

It’s not difficult to argue that this is a good thing. But I miss the steadfast tenets of political bloodsport—liberalism vs. conservatism, with a healthy slathering of nasty sauce. At least they persevere in the district-attorney contest. Frontrunners Maggy Krell (on the left) and Anne Marie Schubert (on the right) are in a war of ideas and invective. They’ve accused each other of being soft on crime and hard on incompetence and corruption. And, in true Ross Perot fashion, there’s a third-wheel wild-card candidate, Todd Leras. The first meaningful DA race in two decades has lived up to the hype.

And, with that, some hyperbole: Take SN&R’s first-ever QuizUp-inspired election primer because it’s better than voting. Answers are at the end, prizes are at stake and—if you believe in these machinations of electoral politics—so much more.

QuizUp or shut up, and see you on June 3.