When state voters approved Proposition 14 in 2010, the Tea Party in California was at its zenith. At the time, a proposal for an open primary in which the top two vote-getters would move on to the general election in November, regardless of their party affiliation, seemed to make sense. The thought was that in GOP-dominated areas of the state, moderate Republicans would be able to defeat right-wing Tea Party members by receiving votes from Democrats in the November election, since no Democrat would likely make it past the primary. Unfortunately, in the years since, that scenario really hasn’t played out in the state. Instead, it’s become more common for centrist Democrats to challenge liberals and progressives in statewide races and Democrat-dominated areas.
The rise of these centrists — who are becoming increasingly known as Corporate Democrats, because they tend side with Big Business and against labor and the environment — is especially striking this year in the East Bay. In three legislative races, Corporate Democrats — Steve Glazer, Eric Swalwell, and Ro Khanna — are squaring off against more traditional liberal Democrats — Tim Sbranti, Ellen Corbett, and Mike Honda. And if the centrists win, they will move political representation in the traditionally progressive East Bay further to the right, and will do it by garnering GOP votes in the November election since no Republican candidates will likely get past the June primary. In fact, that’s precisely how Swalwell unseated longtime liberal Congressman Pete Stark in 2012. Stark won among Democrats, but lost to Swalwell among Republicans and independents, and thus lost the race.
We believe this intraparty attack on traditional Democrats needs to stop, especially as low- and middle-income wages remain stagnant and grave threats to the environment — including climate change, fracking, and the dangerous shipments of highly explosive crude oil — deepen in the state. Now more than ever, we need political leaders who will stand up to Big Business and look out for the rights of workers, low-income residents, and our environment. As such, we strongly endorse Sbranti, the mayor of Dublin, for the 16th Assembly District; Corbett, the state Senate’s Democratic Majority Leader, for the 15th Congressional District; and longtime liberal Democratic Congressman Honda for the 17th Congressional District.
A similar scenario is playing out in a statewide race for superintendent of schools. In that contest, incumbent Tom Torlakson, a liberal Democrat from the East Bay who has successfully advocated for more funding for public schools in low-income areas, is facing off against Corporate Democrat Marshall Tuck, a charter-school advocate who wants to weaken the rights of teachers in California. Tuck will likely lose among Democratic voters in the state, but is pinning his hopes on winning in November by capturing Republican and independent votes. We wholeheartedly endorse Torlakson.
However, in the other hotly contested statewide race, for secretary of state, we are eschewing the liberal-Democrat-versus-Corporate-Democrat paradigm, because we believe this office should be above politics. Its primary mission is to further open government, voting rights, and ethics in politics. As a result, we are endorsing Derek Cressman, vice president of Common Cause California, a good government group. Cressman deserves credit for helping expose the dark-money political campaign tied to the Koch brothers that attempted to corrupt the 2012 California election. He also is leading an effort to overturn Citizens United, a Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates on corporate spending in politics. We believe Cressman will bring honesty and integrity to the office.
In the 15th Assembly District race, we are making a dual endorsement of liberal Democrats Elizabeth Echols, a former Obama administration official, and Tony Thurmond, a former Richmond City Councilmember. We believe both will be strong advocates for restoring the social safety net, protecting the environment, and championing the needs of small businesses and the rights of workers. If Echols and Thurmond are the top two vote-getters in the June primary, we will decide later this year who we will endorse for the November election.
Likewise, we are making a dual endorsement of liberal Democrats John Pérez and Betty Yee for state controller. We think Pérez, the first openly gay speaker of the Assembly, and Yee, our longtime representative to the state Board of Equalization, are both well-qualified candidates. Hopefully, they’ll be the top two vote-getters in the June primary (GOP votes may split over the two Republicans in the race), and will move on to the November election. If so, we will endorse one of them this fall.
In terms of statewide ballot propositions, we strongly endorse Prop 42, a proposed amendment to the state constitution that requires local governments to follow the California Public Records Act and the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state’s opening meeting law.
See the accompanying list for the rest of our endorsements.