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American Flag Painted by Roller Brush, Wining Concept of FlagFor a journalist, few things in life are more interesting or more frustrating than elections.

Interesting for obvious reasons. People of differing persuasions put themselves in front of the public, seemingly inviting scrutiny of their views as well as their private and professional lives and then crying foul if any scrutiny actually occurs.

Frustrating because the diminished press corps these days does not have nearly enough time or resources to demonstrate all the rotten things they already know about the candidates.

But that shouldn’t stop us from providing some semblance of exploration and analysis, right? Here, just in time for the distribution of the absentee ballots, are glimpses into some key races at the state and local levels. Some of it is based on actual observation, largely during my past life as editor at the Monterey Herald. Some is based on second- and third-hand observation and some is supposition or worse. You should take it all for what it’s worth, which is about equal to the cost of subscribing to the Partisan.

If you fully agree with my analysis, I would seriously question both your powers of observation and your grasp on reality

Political Party Animals

GOVERNOR: Jerry Brown will be governor for as long as he wants. No credible Republicans have the energy to mount a serious campaign against him.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: It doesn’t matter who wins.

SECRETARY OF STATE: Democrat Alex Padilla is a party hack. Not a bad one but a hack nonetheless. Republican Pete Peterson comes out of the world of academia and think tanks. Party hacks don’t make good secretaries of state. Peterson would make for an interesting experiment.

CONTROLLER: Democrat Betty Yee has financial experience on the Board of Equalization. Republican Ashley Swearengin has experience as mayor of Fresno. The actor who played Bubba on “The Heat of the Night” had precisely the same experience. I’m voting for Yee.

TREASURER: It seems like John Chiang has been state controller forever and we never hear anything about him, good or bad. No news is good news. Now he wants to be treasurer. Good idea.

ATTORNEY GENERAL: Kamala Harris is the coolest AG we’ve ever had. I’m going with cool.

EDUCATION: If you think California schools are in good shape and that kids of all types are getting the best possible education, you should vote for Tom Torlakson, the incumbent superintendent of public instruction. If you think it’s time for a change, Marshall Tuck’s your guy. He comes from the world of charter schools but those who have watched him closely say he is looking to improve, not privatize, our schools. It’s time for Tuck.

CONGRESS: If you can’t think of Sam Farr’s opponent off the top of your head, and you very probably cannot, you should not vote for him, whoever hemay be.

STATE SENATE: Republican incumbent Anthony Cannella lives in the San Joaquin Valley. Democratic challenger Shawn Bagley lives in Salinas, is a longtime political activist and knows everything there is to know about agriculture. If you live in Modesto, you might want to vote for Cannella. Otherwise, Bagley’s your guy.

29th ASSEMBLY DISTRICT: Democratic incumbent Mark Stone of Felton is the complete package. His opponent is not.

30th ASSEMBLY DISTRICT: If you’re a Democrat, you probably should vote for the incumbent, Luis Alejo. If you’re a Republican, Alejo provides you little reason not to vote for Mark Starritt.

Political Party Animals


This is one of the biggies locally. Retired judge John Phillips and North County activist Ed Mitchell are competing to see who replaces longtime Supervisor Lou Calcagno of Moss Landing. If you haven’t followed Monterey County politics closely, you may not know that Lou is the prototypical good-old-guy in the backroom, the crafty dealmaker who couldn’t say no to farmers or most developers.

One of the big questions of this campaign season is why Phillips is running. He hasn’t presented any big list of goals and doesn’t seem particularly passionate about any of the issues, such as land use and water supply. My guess is that Calcagno and other movers and shakers in local ag and commerce persuaded Phillips to run in order to block keep Mitchell off the board.

Mitchell is, well, a troublemaker. In a good way. He has fought hard against leapfrog development and, in fact, has challenged the supervisors to base planning decisions on basic planning principles. Unlike some on the board, he thinks projects without a water supply shouldn’t be built and that existing taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay to provide services to new subdivisions. The supervisors sometimes have trouble remembering those things.

As a former government contract compliance officer, Mitchell has caught the supes attempting funny business more than once. He would be an important addition to the board.

Though Phillips has important detractors who complain of seriously sexist tendencies, he is well regarded for his work establishing the Rancho Cielo youth camp. Though he has been retired for years now, he has remained a major political figure behind the scenes, helping anoint candidates for judicial appointments. Would-be judges who didn’t fare well in the process say they might not have kissed his ring with enough enthusiasm.

Phillips would be a conscientious supervisor but, all things considered, I suspect he would form a pro-development voting bloc with supervisors Dave Potter, Fernando Armenta and Simon Salinas. Not that I have anything against development. I just prefer the type that doesn’t involve cutting corners.

Electing Mitchell instead of Phillips would give Supervisor Jane Parker a like-minded colleague with whom to commiserate. She often seems lonely during the Tuesday meetings. And when neighborhood resistance to development is unusually strong, those two might sometimes be joined by Potter to defeat a particularly ill-conceived development project.

If I lived in Prunedale, I’d vote for Mitchell.

TOMORROW: Part two, starting with the sheriff’s race. One candidate’s ads tell us that he is endorsed by four, count ‘em, four former Monterey County sheriffs. As though that’s  a good thing.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Joshua Ezekiel October 4, 2014, 8:22 am

    Thanks for giving some background. As a teacher, I’m very sad you chose Tuck for Education, echoing his absurd argument that Torlakson is somehow responsible for the state of California schools. Business profiteers like Tuck who have kept California schools near last in funding for generations are to blame. I’ll vote for Torlakson.

    • Andrew Allison October 4, 2014, 9:34 am

      Except for the period from 1995 to 1996, the Assembly has been in Democratic hands since the 1970 election. The Senate has been in Democratic hands continuously since 1970. QED

      • Scott McKenzie October 10, 2014, 11:20 am

        Says it all, Andrew.

  • Nancy Peden October 4, 2014, 9:28 am

    Great to have this, Royal. Can’t wait till you tackle the sheriff’s race. While I don’t agree with a few of your choices, like going against Torkalson, I am glad for the quippy background you supply. More, please.

  • Jeanne Turner October 4, 2014, 10:15 am

    Royal, I’m with Joshua. I have deep concerns about Tuck. He’s got lots of money behind him for reasons having nothing to do with improvement of education. The famous (among teachers) Lee Iacocca quote comes to mind. ““In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something else.” As a 39-year veteran in the classroom, I am extremely suspicious of someone who has had no classroom experience, having “settled for something else,” until he saw where there was big money to be made in solving problems in education. You might want to check out the links, below. The first provides links to various articles about Tuck, the second, to an especially noteworthy article.

  • Bill Freeman October 4, 2014, 10:26 am

    Bill Freeman for Mayor of Salinas. Bill Has always been there for working people of Salinas. Freeman has helped Democratic Candidates for the past 30 years. Freeman has been a strong advocate for the last 11 years as a Trustee at Hartnell Community College. Vote For Bill Freeman on November 4th for Mayor of Salinas.

  • Cherie Stock October 4, 2014, 5:26 pm

    Enjoy your thoughts and ideas- and wit. While taking on elections, why not tackle the Board of SVMH? I see the ads for re-election of Norm Nelson. I was informed by staff at SVMH that the CEO travels via private jet to his home in LA. He lives in LA no here. Has this been flying under the radar so to speak or did I miss the public mention of this? Seems the Board hasn’t changed much. I’m also a concerned citizen against the trauma center at NMC. Most of the Trauma centers in LA closed during the 80’s when I lived there because the patients referred to as “Gun and Knife Club” members were uninsured. It will require serious infusion of dollars to make certain all the ancillary services at NMC can support this. And do Carmel, Pebble Beach and Monterey residents who rarely cross that cultural divide to come to Natividad realize that when it becomes a designated trauma center they will have no choice but Natividad? That is of course unless someone can borrow the private jet from the CEO at SVMH.

  • Royal Calkins October 5, 2014, 2:18 am

    To my many friends who are disappointed by the Partisan endorsement of Tuck for public instruction, convince me otherwise. I’m especially interested in your thoughts on what Torlakson can do to persuade the Legislature to put more money into education. My impression is that Torlakson has been a good superintendent but often has been content to be a caretaker of the status quo, appropriately defending teachers but without offering alternative approaches to achieve the results the change agents are promising. Many of us worry that significant changes are necessary to help the lowest performing schools better serve the lower performing students. I hope to hear more from the teachers and others. Thanks

  • Joshua Ezekiel October 5, 2014, 7:29 am

    Torlakson supported proposition 30 which led to much greater funding for California schools after successive years of drastic cuts. He also successfully fought against the counter productive idea that we should teach to one set of standards test by another when year.
    Please read the attached link to see how disastrous Tuck’s Green Dot schools actually are when deprived of the opportunity to cherry pick their students. Also note their reliance on cheap, under qualified teachers.

  • Joshua Ezekiel October 5, 2014, 7:30 am
  • Rob October 5, 2014, 1:45 pm

    Sadly, I’m not convinced by your assessment of Ms. Harris, I think there may be more there, there.