Voter Recs for the June Primary in Oakland, CA

Your Ballot Book

Wow, you should have received this tome full of fun facts and a veritable novella of candidates and their stories by now. But please notice that our county is one of the Voter’s Choice Act Counties in which once you receive your mail ballot-every voter now gets a ballot which may be mailed-in these counties you have a few more choices for early voting: you can mail it as soon as you get it or pop it into a drop box within 28 days of the vote.

You can also register on the day you vote, once they have processed your registration, your vote will be counted. And please sign up at wheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov. You will receive notifications that your ballot has been mailed and when it has been received and counted. It’s pretty cool. We understand that former California Secretary of State Alex Padilla had something to do with implementing these useful measures.

US Senate

Alex Padilla

Senator Padilla, you may remember, was appointed by Governor Newsom to fill the seat held by now Vice President Kamala Harris. Now you will see him twice in your booklet. We had to actually read the booklet’s thoroughly to understand this. He must be elected to finish the last six months of his appointed term and then elected to a new six-year term.

Don’t forget that California gets 2 senators, the same as Wyoming. The former has over 39 million people whereas the latter holds just over 581k folks. These few thousand Wyomingians (?) can stop us from having universal healthcare, affordable childcare and force lifelong judges and their decisions on our children but, hey, who needs democracy?

Nevertheless, you should spend a few minutes on the toilet reading some of the candidate statements from the multitude of folks running for state offices. Many of them spent the money just to see their names and faces in this booklet with no chance of registering much less winning enough votes to be noticed by more than a close circle of friends.

Almost all of the Republican candidates mention that they want to return our rights-that is-our rights to force people into crowded schools, offices and busses or planes without sacrificing our arms or faces to vaccines and masks. And, most of them believe G-d has called them to enforce theocracy in the form of a medieval version of Christianity resembling the Inquisition, not the warm and fuzzy “love your neighbors” version. Wow, amusing and scary to imagine or maybe just a vision of our future?

So, back to Senator Padilla. He has done a pretty good job and voted correctly while also attempting to repair California’s electrical grid and make the impact of wildfires less devastating. He has done much less for one group of Californians, the residents who live here and around the country protected by TPS, the temporary protected status, many of whom have built families and businesses after fleeing their home countries.

For instance, Haitians fled, not only political and economic oppression (for which there is little to no protection) but a destructive earthquake, Salvadorans fled earthquakes, flooding and other natural disasters. Under the Trump administration most of the populations under TPS were to have been deported but the courts temporarily stopped that. Some of these folks organized into a coalition and have tried to meet with the Senator, but so far he has only sent a staffer to speak to them. We have to vote for Mr. Padilla twice for him to keep his office, once for the remainder of his appointed term and the other for the upcoming term. He’ll do.

Governor-Luis Javier Rodriguez

Looking at that booklet is like looking at the cast of Survival, Peacock App version. Too many fake candidates-but of course, most will vote for Gavin. And why shouldn’t we, he’s been good on Covid relief, on renters, even spent money to help our still growing homeless population. And he will win. But, and you knew that was coming, he has not been helpful to Oakland schools when we are tearing ourselves apart over closing some low enrolled schools in already underserved, that is to say, Black and Brown neighborhoods.

The money is there to rescue OUSD, and it’s owed to us by the state. When the state forced OUSD into receivership, it borrowed multiples more than we needed then proceeded to administer us by spending everything they could get their hands on. As we understand it, Oakland parents and teachers met with the guv and asked for help. He turned us down as did Superintendent and local hero Tony Thurmond. Both of them have a lot to answer for-a lot of pain, disruption and chaos imposed on the families of Oakland.

Vote Green for Governor this time- Luis Javier Rodriguez-it can’t hurt and Oaklanders should send a message that we don’t like to be used and then disregarded.

Lieutenant Governor-

We just don’t care. We didn’t vote for Eleni Kounalikis the first time because she had never done anything except get appointed to boards because her daddy was a rich developer and now, we haven’t seen anything to change that opinion. But we don’t wanna vote for one of the guys so we’ll skip this line in the ballot. You don’t have to though.

Secretary of State, Shirley Weber

Shirley Weber is an academic, a fighter for reparations and marginalized people all over California and, believe or not, our first Black Secretary of State after being appointed by Governor Newsom when Alex Padilla was moved over to the US Senate. Vote her into this office for a full term.

Controller-Malia Cohen or Laura Wells

Malia Cohen has the Party’s endorsement and talks about using the office to begin to create equity as a watchdog of how California invests its vast funds. I’m not sure how this can be done by that office, but she has the background to find a way and would become the first Black Controller in our “diverse” state. These firsts are still important though they’re awfully late in coming.

We also have a local candidate, a Green named Laura Wells, who knows her stuff and has the qualifications to oversee this office if not the correct party affiliation. Check out Laura’s platform too before you mark that oval.

State Treasurer-Fiona Ma

Ms. Ma is the incumbent and as such has encountered or created controversies that we have no way of proving or disproving although they are disturbing. The other candidates are mostly Republicans and one Peace and Freedom candidate. She will win back her office so your vote is not really necessary and without any proof of wrongdoing, we’re unwilling to recommend against her.

What is clear looking at this office and others, such as the California Insurance Commissioner’s is that watchdogging the financial behavior, that is how the big and little gifts of donors and “friends” of these powerful people, affect their performances, is more important than ever. How can anyone care about engaging in democracy if they perceive their electeds as living the high life while they struggle?

Attorney General-Rob Bonta

Our 18th Assembly District assemblymember was appointed to the position of attorney general after Xavier Becerra was appointed to Biden’s cabinet. Bonta was a responsive representative and got the nod from the governor.

In the words of the San Jose Mercury News, “Voters should not let themselves be manipulated. They should support Bonta in the June 7 primary. He is the only candidate fully committed to balancing public safety and fairness — to carrying out, rather than trying to undermine, the criminal justice reforms voters approved.” This quote is in reference to the Republicans ongoing scare campaign over the nationwide rise in some crimes to try and defeat a relatively moderate AG like Bonta.

Of course, the Mercury News also noted that while Becerra had been lax as to the transparency of reporting police misconduct as dictated by law, so has AG Bonta and this is a worry. There is no way to really reform policing without complete transparency and Californians have always suffered from that lack.

Let’s elect Rob Bonta, our first Filipino American to Attorney General and give him the mandate to continue to push ahead “with litigation to enforce and protect the state’s environmental, housing, gun, antitrust and anti-discrimination laws” while demanding he increase transparency. He’s up to the task.

Insurance Commissioner- Marc Levine

Ricardo Lara is the incumbent and he’s running for re-election but he has had a spotty record from the get-go on accepting donations from insurance industry execs and exempting them from his own department’s rules. Levine has represented Marin and Sonoma Counties and fought for fair insurance coverage after the fire debacles while insurance rules were fluctuating wildly.

Insurance companies have control over aspects of our lives and our communities’ lives-health coverage, homeowner protections, redlining- that requires us to demand real oversight. We cannot accept anyone as commissioner whose record shows even a hint of coziness with these companies. Elect Levine and demand accountability.

12th Congressional District-Barbara Lee still speaks for me!

At this time like no other, Barbara Lee’s values and willingness to fight for them, universal healthcare, abortion rights, a reasonable Pentagon budget, and voting rights gives us hope that we can still achieve for our democratic goals.

Superior Court Judges

There are 3 seats up for a vote. Each has only one candidate. It’s hard enough to find out any information about judicial candidates but in this case, it doesn’t really matter. We will leave those ovals unmarked.

We have gotten word from a respected source that Superior Court Office 12, Pelayo LLamas will make an excellent judge. But we still don’t know the others.

State Superintendent of Schools-Update-Ainye E Long

No endorsement. See above under the Governor’s endorsement for our problems with Tony Thurmond who has let down Oakland School parents despite knowing that the state put OUSD in the tenuous position they continue to be in.

Update-Ms. Long has been recommended to us as a public school teacher who lives in Oakland.

Assemblymember Mia Bonta

She recently won a special election to fulfill the 18th AD seat her husband, Rob, previously held and has hit the ground running. She has run into some road bumps in trying to accomplish her ambitious agenda but is responsive to the community and will keep fighting for us.

County Superintendent of Schools-Alysse Castro

LK Munroe who is the current county supe of schools has been held responsible for the precipitous closing of 11 Oakland schools in Black and Brown districts based on her letter warning the state that without these closures OUSD’s budget would eventually be out of compliance. With that, the state was poised to hold back an additional $10 million of promised funding. Many OUSD watchers believed that Munroe did not need to write that letter and did not consider the time needed for an open process to engage the community in possible closures or other remedies.

Alysse Castro, Executive Director of County Schools in San Francisco promises to work with school boards, parents and teachers to keep schools open and fully funded. She is endorsed by the Democratic Party, the Wellstone Democratic Club and many parent and teacher advocacy organizations. Time for a change.

County Assessor and Auditor-Phong La and Melissa Wilk-both running unopposed

District Attorney-Pamela Price-with reservations

Terry Wiley and Jimmie Wilson are both experienced prosecutors within Nancy O’Malley’s current administration. She is retiring and this will be the first open race for this seat in, well, forever. Mr. Wiley has the edge in terms of endorsements to carry on the traditions of O’Malley’s office. He is an old-fashioned traditional DA and listening to him speak is particularly uninspiring in an office that has begged for real change for decades. Generations of communities have been destroyed by plea bargaining, excessive jail terms, and turning a blind eye to police misconduct. This has got to end.

Pamela Price has been working on reforming this system for a very long time. She has all the right ideas and the moxie to take on the system. Her only drawback may be that she will be faced with a bureaucracy that will resist her at every currently working prosecutor’s desk who will be seeking to maintain the status quo. She will have to transform herself into a mild-mannered bureaucrat who must listen to her underlings if she wants to effectuate change. That’s a steep climb and she’ll need all our support and our tough love to reach those goals.

Sheriff/Coroner-Yesenia Sanchez

Two good candidates are running against avowed Trumper Gergory Ahern who has thumbed his nose at state law’s protecting asylum seekers from deportation and those only suspected of crimes from abuse and even death his his jails. But Ahern has built a formidable bureaucracy in the many years he has been sheriff and a monumental war chest to keep him elected.

While there are some good things and good sheriffs in his agency, he is the most toxic member of the leadership team in any of our county agencies and needs to be retired. Shockingly many Democrats like Eric Swalwell and former guv Jerry Brown have continued to support him. Please let them know how you feel about this racist continuing in office.

Both Joann Walker and Yesenia Sanchez are in law enforcement, Yesenia is the manager of the county jail, Santa Rita and as such, some are supporting Walker who works in law enforcement in San Francisco (law enforcement credentials and experience are required for his office} but Sanchez seems to have the best campaign organization. We have talked to her and were impressed. Vote for either of these women to force Ahern into a November runoff and may the best woman win.

Board of Supervisors, District 3-Rebecca Kaplan

We are no longer in Wilma Chan’s old bailiwick since redistricting. Nevertheless, we remember being her constituent when she was taken from us in a terrible accident. We see that there are four able candidates hoping to take over this new district. It is a smaller Oakland constituency than previously but still enough to recommend that current Oakland Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan should win that job.

Let’s be clear, all of these candidates are good. I can’t say a bad word against any of them but right now, this position calls for a strong leader in Oakland where the vast majority of the county’s homeless struggle to survive and where the mental health needs are overwhelming. Ms. Kaplan has the solutions, the creativity and the know-how to get it done. She’ll see it through.

Treasurer, Tax Collector-Henry Hank Levy

Hank was an active member in our community for years before he ran last time. It was a tough time to take over with the pandemic making it difficult for many to pay their taxes on time. Hank reached out, attended town halls, tried to extend deadlines as much as his authority would allow. He’s one of the good guys.

Measure C

Our Oakland libraries have been receiving funds from a parcel tax that keeps services at the current level. This is just a reauthorization. For some comparisons, Oakland schools have been closing their libraries for years and now many of those neighborhood schools are also closing. Reauthorizing this parcel tax is the least we can do.

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