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June elections are around the corner

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California’s primary election will be held on Tuesday, June 3. The last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot from county elections offices is Tuesday, May 27. On election day, polls will be open from 7:00 AM until 8:00 PM. Turnout is expected to be very low, as is often the case in primary elections in non-presidential election years, which means that your vote is even more important than usual.

California currently has more than 6 million residents who are not registered to vote. Registration is simple, and it is not too late, yet. Today, Monday, May 19th is the last day to register to vote or update voter registration for the June 3 primary.

RCR Vote

California is one of just three states that uses a “blanket primary” system which allows many candidates to run, but only the top two candidates in terms of overall votes proceed to the general election. This is the case regardless of party or political affiliation, and results in general elections that often come down to two candidates from the same party.

This year, there are dozens of races underway, varied local measures, two statewide propositions (41 and 42), and State Senate primaries for even-numbered districts. 2014 promises to be an especially interesting year for gauging the status of the Republican Party in California.

Detailed voter guides are available on the Secretary of State website, the Sacramento Bee website, and Ballotpedia.

Gubernatorial primary

Democratic Governor Jerry Brown is up for reelection this year. Republican gubernatorial primary candidates include tea party favorite Tim Donnelly, State Assemblymember from Twin Peaks, and the significantly more moderate Neel Kashkari, former U.S. Treasury official. Donnelly and Kashkari squared off in their first (and likely only) debate last week. Glenn Champ is also a candidate for governor and has received a lot of attention but generally not for his political beliefs; he is a registered sex offender and has branded himself as a “new breed of Christian soldier.” Several other candidates have impacted the political conversation this year, but are unlikely to win the primary. There are 15 registered gubernatorial candidates including incumbent Jerry Brown.

 

Secretary of State

The upcoming election will be the first one since 2002 in which no incumbent is running for California Secretary of State. Debra Brown is stepping down due to term limits, and eight candidates (one of whom is “inactive” but still on the ballot) are vying to replace her. Political ethics and corruption have been central issues in this race, because of the candidacy of Senator Leland Yee and the recent corruption issues involving Senators Yee, Ron Calderon, and Rod Wright. The most active candidates in this race are Pete Peterson (R), Director of the Davenport Institute at Pepperdine University, State Senator Alex Padilla (D) from Los Angeles, and Dan Schnur (I), director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. 

Sacramento District Attorney

The Sacramento D.A. race will be exciting to watch because it is the first time in many years that there has been a fairly even contest for this important office. Incumbent Jan Scully is stepping down, and has endorsed Deputy D.A. Anne Marie Schubert who has more than 20 years’ experience prosecuting homicides, child abuse, and sexual abuse, and is a well-known DNA expert. Other challengers include Deputy Attorney General Maggy Krell, who has focused her campaign on reducing incarceration rates in California; and Todd Leras, who spent much of his career in public service, working as a public defender, federal prosecutor, and in private legal practice.

U.S. House District 7

U.S. Representative Ami Bera has served in the U.S. Congress since 2012, and will almost certainly prevail in the June primary. However, three Republicans are competing for his seat in November. The 7th district was recently redrawn and now includes a nearly even number of registered Democrats and Republicans. Challengers are Igor Birman, Tea Party candidate and a top aide to U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock (R) from California’s 4th district, Elizabeth Emken, veteran autism and families advocate, and Doug Ose, a prominent and outspoken opponent of the Affordable Care Act.

Statewide Propositions 41 and 42

Proposition 41 is focused on housing for veterans, and would allow the state to sell $600 million in bonds to finance housing for low-income and homeless veterans (and their families). This measure has been driven in part by a 2013 finding that more than 20% of the nation’s homeless veterans reside in California.

Proposition 42 would require local governments to hold open meetings and provide public access to documents, at the expense of local governments rather than the state. Proposition 42 is similar to a 2012 ballot measure (which passed) requiring local governments to cover the cost of complying with the Brown Act. This year’s proposition would achieve essentially the same thing for the Public Records Act.

Local Measures in the Eastern Coachella Valley

In the Eastern Coachella Valley (ECV), there are two especially important issues that will be determined on June 3. First, the Riverside County Supervisor race between Assembly Majority Floor Leader V. Manuel Perez (D) and incumbent Supervisor John G. Benoit (R). Demographics have very much been at issue in this contest, as it is one of the first elections since a decade of rapid growth among Latinos in Riverside County (between 2000 and 2010 the population grew by 41%). Unlike Benoit, Assemblymember Perez is Latino and an ECV native. The office of county supervisor is considered a nonpartisan position, so whoever wins on June 3 will not be on the November 2014 ballot unless no candidate gets a majority of the vote.

Additionally, residents living within the boundaries of the Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) in Riverside, Imperial, and San Diego Counties will consider Measure D, which would change the CVWD electoral system from at-large to district-by-district. If approved, this would require that each member of the Board of Directors be elected by voters within his or her district, as opposed to the current system which allows all voters to vote on all candidates. Advocates of the by-district system argue that it makes representatives more accountable to voters and better protects the rights of minority voters. If Measure D passes in June, it will become effective for the November 2014 election. Other water districts around the state are closely watching this measure, as well as parallel legal action.

Bay Delta Plan Public Comment Deadline in Mid-June

Finally, although Governor Brown’s proposed plan for altering and expanding state water infrastructure in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta by adding peripheral tunnels is not on the June 3 ballot, the June 13 deadline for public commentis fast approaching. This deadline has already been extended to allow for continued public review of the proposal, but comments received after the June 13 cutoff will not be considered.

RCR Vote 1

The Bay Delta plan has been highly controversial, as were several similar and related efforts that predated it (including a battle to stop the Peripheral Canal over 25 years ago). A coalition of farmers and others is opposed to constructing new tunnels in this area. The proposal is known both as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (by supporters) and the Twin Tunnels Project (by opponents). It is unclear whether a recent court decision regarding endangered Delta Smelt will impact new construction activities by preventing increases in water diversions from native Delta Smelt habitat in the Delta. 

The Delta provides water to more than 25 million Californians and three million acres of farmland. The area is already highly engineered, with some infrastructure more than a century old. Largely as a result of water diversions and stream flow alterations, Delta ecosystems have nearly collapsed.RCR Vote 2

The new tunnels proposed by the plan would be 40 feet high and 35 miles long, moving more water from the north Delta to the south Delta. This would decrease freshwater flows to the San Francisco Bay particularly during dry years. Reduced flows would very likely impact native wildlife populations and increase salinity in freshwater habitats. Proponents of the plan emphasize the state’s growing need for water for a wide variety of uses. 

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Annie Beaman is an independent consultant working on water issues and sustainable agriculture in California. In addition to researching, writing, strategizing, and campaigning about issues that impact vulnerable ecosystems and communities, she is an avid gardener and baker. Annie is a stewardship-obsessed member of a multi-generational farming family, and a longtime advocate for environmental protection and social justice. Follow her on Twitter @anniebeaman.

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