Sat, Jul

There’s Much More to Next Week’s CA Primary than Bernie and Hillary


GELFAND’S WORLD--We have some crucial decisions to make next Tuesday, June 7, but most Californians seem to have forgotten about everything except Hillary vs. Bernie. The Barbara Boxer senatorial seat is open, along with the congressional seat currently held by Janice Hahn. 

Things are made complicated by the modified blanket primary that California now uses. Some of you may remember it from a previous election -- for any one office such as U.S. Senate, all candidates are listed, no matter what party or absence of party. This election, there are 35 candidates in your Voter Information Guide running for the Senate. The frontrunner is state Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose main opponent on the Democratic side appears to be Loretta Sanchez. There are 11 candidates listing themselves under No Party Preference, which is the term we now use for what used to be called Decline to State. On the Republican side, we find (blast from the past) Ron Unz and others. 

The gimmick is that for each office, the top 2 vote getters will end up on the November ballot, whether they are from different parties or from the same party. It's possible therefore that Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez could face each other in November, even though one would have gotten more votes than the other in Tuesday's primary. 

The June vote is no longer a party primary, at least in districts where one party has a strong majority in voter representation. 

Notice that your own party registration is also now moot (except for the presidential primary) because every voter gets to vote for any candidate of any party (or non-party) for each office except the presidency. Even then, those of us registered as No Party Preference are allowed to vote in the Democratic presidential primary if we choose. 

There is one congressional race that is of particular interest. Congressional District 38 is being vacated by Janice Hahn, resulting in a large number of candidates. Here are a few characteristics of this district: 

It runs from the harbor in the south (Wilmington and San Pedro) up through Compton and South Gate. 

It includes a bloc of African American voters to the north. 

Overall, it is approximately 70 percent Latino. 

The two contenders are Isadore Hall (African American) and Nanette Barragan (Latina). 

You might look at this district as having been crafted to be a Latino seat in the last redistricting. Nevertheless, Hall has accumulated an amazing collection of endorsements. You want mayors, state Senators, congressmen, Assemblymen? He's got them all. You want the Democratic Party of California and its subsidiary branches? He's got them. Hall seems to have been the heir apparent to Janice Hahn, because he got her endorsement for the race early on. 

Barragan seems to have come into the race a bit later, and (it is rumored), is the choice of the Latino caucus, who recognized that a seat that should by rights belong to them was heading elsewhere. 

But there is one thing about the Barragan candidacy that makes it interesting on a regional and even national level. Barragan is endorsed as someone who will fight against global warming. An organization called Climate Hawks Vote has given her a strong endorsement. The term Climate Hawks refers to those who don't and won't pussyfoot around about the reality of global warming. In an era in which conservative interests have been able to get away with either avoiding the issue ("I'm not a scientist") or outright lying ("global warming is a fraud"), it's time to recruit and support candidates who speak for scientific reality and our critical need to take action. 

The Climate Hawks Vote endorsement goes even further, painting Hall as a faux environmentalist, pointing out how he used the state senate's voting rules to make himself look more environmental than he really is: 

"By sharp contrast, her primary opponent fights for Big Oil. Last week during a critical vote on a fracking bill, state legislator Isadore Hall III was sitting on the sidelines with his friends at Western States Petroleum Association as the vote count seemed to stall at 19 (it needed 21 for passage). He told them his voting strategy - he would abstain so as to not cast the deciding vote, but if two others voted for it he’d have to go along so as to not hurt his reputation with the greens. Fortunately for Hall’s entirely undeserved reputation, two others voted yes, so he cast vote no. 22. He’s the number-two recipient of oil money in the state legislature last year.  Now he’s running for Congress in south Los Angeles."  

Hall, by the way, claims to be pro-environment, and refers to cap-and-trade legislation that has his name on it. Major environmental organizations endorsing Barragan don't seem to be buying into Hall's line. Instead, they refer to her leadership in beating back an initiative that would have allowed oil exploration off the coast of Hermosa Beach. 

For what it's worth, the Los Angeles Times has given Barragan its strong endorsement, making Hall out to be a conventional politician who has taken money from the gambling, tobacco, and oil industries, and defended their interests. 

CD 38 is going to be an interesting election. And as noted above, even if one of these two candidates defeats the other next week, it isn't over. Second place is where you need to finish to be in the money. 

One other point that realists will have to confront: Either candidate, in winning the CD38 seat, is heading to a long streak of watching the Republican majority call all the shots. Unless some electoral miracle occurs, this candidacy is at least a 6 year investment in Democratic Party seniority, while waiting for the possibility of redistricting giving the House back to the Democrats after the next census. We can expect either candidate to vote pretty much the Democratic Party ticket in the congress. 

The U.S. Senate race could also lead to an all-Democratic runoff in November. Any reasonably well known Republican candidate would be expected to finish between Harris and Sanchez, thereby making it to the finals, but it's not obvious that there is such a person this year.


(Bob Gelfand writes on politics, culture, and science for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected]


Get The News In Your Email Inbox Mondays & Thursdays