Political Fix (16 October, 2014)

The Thrill Is Gone

This is the last issue before the November election, but no predictions will be made. Trying to predict who would come in second during the June Primary was fun. Of my 14 predictions, 12 were correct–pretty good for a novice prognosticator. But the fun is gone, and it’s pretty obvious who will win in the general election in November. There are a lot of candidate forums and nitpicking, but it’s all for naught. Incumbents and heirs apparent are going to win.

There are two so called “competitive” races on the Tulare County ballot: Congressional District 21 and State Senate District 14. They cover all of Kings County but only a small part of Tulare County. These races are competitive despite the fact that both districts have a large majority of registered Democrats and are a majority Hispanic. Yet both Caucasian Republican incumbents are going to beat their Democrat Hispanic challengers.

The only other race that might be considered up for grabs is Tulare County Supervisor District 5. Virginia Gurrola, Porterville City Council member and former mayor, is challenging incumbent Supervisor Mike Ennis. Sup. Ennis was elected in November of 2006, so you would think he was a shoe-in. But as far as the election is concerned, he has been MIA. Sup. Ennis gives a lot of input during board meetings when it concerns his district, but he won’t go to candidates’ forums, rarely returns phone calls, and rarely talks to the press–all the while insisting that he does.

Incumbents who feel secure in their races many times opt not to participate in forums because, as one political pundit put it, “Why take the chance to say something stupid and then blow it, a la Todd Akin?” This characterizes Sup. Ennis, but contrasts greatly from the exceedingly gracious and elegant State Senator Jean Fuller. This is a candidate, running for the 16th District State Senate seat, who would win even if she dropped dead tomorrow. Yet she shows up at forums to debate her well-intentioned, but inarticulate and scattered challenger, Ruth Musser-Lopez. During the candidates’ forum at the convention center September 16, Ms. Fuller listened intently as her opponent gave her opening statement; she applauded, and then gave her words of encouragement. She didn’t even return the jabs thrown her way.

I have to give an honorable mention to State Assembly candidate Rudy Mendoza. Though I tend to forget, he is not an incumbent. But he won the primary by a landslide against six other contenders. As he puts it, “I’m out meeting the people and holding events. I take no voter for granted.” Even with his lopsided victory in June and the endorsement of every elected Republican in the Valley, he has attended every forum, giving 100%.

Concerning statewide elections, Democrats will sweep them as they did in 2010. The only interesting tidbit is that Republican State Controller candidate Ashley Swearengin, who came in first in the June primary, is almost certain to lose in the general election. No Republican has won a statewide office since Steve Poizner, for Insurance Commissioner, in 2006.

For the Birds

During the first week of October, President Obama made the statement, “Most of our Democrat voters aren’t aware there’s even an election on November 4.”

Is this true in Tulare and Kings County?

I thought I would check it out for myself, but include all voters, not just Democrats. During my professional life I’ve had several careers, although my favorite was survey research. I researched birth defects, alcohol and drug use among teens and adults, and loved the 2000 census. But political surveys are my favorite.

I started my survey at one of the best meeting and shopping locales around, the Cosmic Corral in Hanford, which is ironic because no one who frequents the store is interested in watching or reading the news. I dutifully bring a small stack of Valley Voices in twice a month, which is greeted by a high-pitched squeal of glee from their 18-year old store clerk. She immediately puts my paper by their bird cage because the Valley Voice happens to have the perfect dimensions to be liners. I even wrote a three-part series on mediums that revolved around the Cosmic Corral. And whereas the owners of the store did manage to read at least one of my stories, I am fairly certain that the birds saw all three.

After breaking every survey research protocol on bias and consistency, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. Not only do the shoppers at the Cosmic Corral know the names of their five chakras but, contrary to what President Obama thinks, they also knew there was an election November 4. What was humorous, though, was that even though you could throw a rock to Rep. David Valadao’s regional office from the store, they did not know who their representative is.

After surveying other locations in Visalia, the final results were: 65% of the respondents knew there was an election, but only 31% knew who their representative was, or for whom they would be voting. I was pretty impressed with our counties because by the time the election rolls around they will have figured out for whom to vote, and those that don’t figure it out, probably won’t vote. That will still put Tulare County’s participation in the election way above average for California.

Don’t Read This Section if You Want to Understand the Propositions

The Visalia Times-Delta has said it is committed to educating its readers about the six propositions on the November ballot, so I recommend that you read that paper for more thorough information. But I can’t vouch for the Visalia Times-Delta’s impartiality after their handling of the Kaelble/Ward contest for Tulare County District Attorney–i.e. 5:1 editorials in favor of Mr. Kaelble, some of them even printed twice.

The propositions bore me, so I tend to just flip through the text and look at who wrote the arguments for and against. Then I fill out my sample ballot, because by the time I get to my polling place I have already forgotten how I wanted to vote.
So for those who want not only an uninformed, but probably biased recommendation on how to vote on the propositions, please keep reading.

Proposition 1 – The Water Bond
Due to the severe drought, Proposition 1 will sail to victory, which is ironic because it doesn’t add a drop of water to California. Yes there is $2.7 billion set aside for storage – but it has to rain first. Let’s say it does start raining again in California and the Temperance Dam is built. When the next severe drought hits California what do you think will happen to those 1,000 residents whose wells went dry in East Porterville? They will go dry again. People whose wells have dried up won’t get a drop from Temperance Dam. That water will have to go to the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors if they don’t get their CVP water.
This bond measure has the support of Democrats, Republicans, Farmers and Environmentalists. It does not, however, have the support of Political Fix’s favorite punching bag, Assembly Member Tim Donnelly. My vote? Yes.

Proposition 2 – Rainy Day Fund
Propositions 1 and 2 are what is referred to as “legislative” propositions because they were put on the ballot by the legislature. Propositions 45, 46 and 47 have been placed on the ballot by people who collected enough signatures. These are called “initiatives.” Proposition 48 is a “referendum” which asks voters to decide on a law that is already in place.
I managed to get through 52 years of my life without this information, but for the next 30 seconds you find it mildly useful.
Because Propositions 1 and 2 were passed by the state assembly and senate, and signed by the Governor, their passage in November will be a huge victory for Gov. Jerry Brown. These are the centerpieces of an otherwise lackluster campaign and will brand him as not just interested in being reelected, but focused on the needs of California.
Proposition 2 would strengthen the current rainy day fund while also requiring the state to pay down more of its debts and unfunded liabilities. That pretty much seals it for me so my recommendation is a Yes.
The only downside of Proposition 2 is that it limits the amount schools can keep in their own rainy day fund. If the state sets aside money for schools, then schools have to spend their reserves on such things as teacher salaries. Schools may only be allowed to keep a few weeks reserve. The legislature is contemplating fixing this flaw if the proposition passes.

Proposition 45 – Health Care Insurance. Rate Changes
According to the League of Women Voters’ Pro and Con sheet, “Prop 45 applies only to individual and employer small-group plans. The Insurance Commissioner would have to approve rate changes for those plans before they could be implemented. Rates in effect as far back as November 2012 would be subject to refund if found to be excessive.”
My “catastrophic” health insurance rates go up annually. Yet even with insurance I haven’t been able to afford to see a personal doctor in 35 years. I’d say, that is paying a lot of money for nothing. Opponents say that the potential conflicts between Proposition 45 and Covered California are too great to ignore, but Covered California doesn’t help the middle class and hasn’t gotten me any closer to seeing a doctor.
Supporters say that, “Prop 45 will control health insurance costs just as Prop 103 controlled auto insurance costs.” Need we say more? My vote is Yes.

Proposition 46 – Drug and Alcohol Testing of Doctors. Medical Negligence Lawsuits
This proposition does three things: 1) mandates drug testing for doctors; 2) requires doctors to check a national data base before prescribing medication, and 3) raises the pain and suffering cap of malpractice suits to $1.1 million.
This is the toughest proposition to nail down, and I may just wimp out and skip it on my ballot. Supporters say that raising the cap will hold doctors more accountable when they make mistakes and will prevent “doctor shopping” by those who abuse prescription medication. OK, that makes sense. But I don’t know how effective it is to drug test doctors. Many people function much better after a good stiff drink or a few Xanax, and doctors are no exception. My recommendation – Flip a coin.

Proposition 47 – Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties.
This proposition reduces the penalty for certain nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors. Any convicted felon whose crime is reclassified as a misdemeanor could get resentenced. State savings from this proposition would go to the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund” that is designed to keep individuals out of prison. Detractors say that the resentencing would jam the courts and that the proposition will release thousands of violent criminals.
Now would be a good time to highlight a few facts. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Yes, we beat Iran, China and North Korea. The U.S. prison population is more than 2.4 million. That means more than one out of every 100 American adults is behind bars.
Maybe this country needs a paradigm change and that change should start in California. Vote Yes.

Proposition 48 – Indian Gaming Agreements
I really hate the idea of my vote being bought. So when I read that the North Fork Rancheria wanted to build a casino off of their reservation, right on Highway 99 just north of Madera, I was expecting them to throw millions of dollars at me to get my vote.
But the opposite is true. The campaign to defeat this referendum is backed by two rival tribes, the Table Mountain Rancheria and the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino. They spent $2.4 million just to get the referendum on the ballot to block construction of the North Fork casino. They say that “we made a promise” to not build off-site when proposition 1A was passed in 2000 legalizing gambling on reservations. But you wouldn’t know it looking at all of the casinos cropping up between Bakersfield and Madera. There are five casinos with three more on the way. That’s one slot machine for every 352 residents, which will double when the new casinos are built. After Nevada, California has the largest share of the gambling market in the country.
My recommendation: If you don’t like being bought, vote Yes, because the opposition has all of the money. If you don’t want another Central Valley casino, vote No.

I plagiarized most of this information from the League of Women Voters’ guide, so if you want to actually hear it in person, you can attend their presentation and discussion on the Ballot Measures. The presentation is Tuesday, October 21 at 11:45am in Sue Sa’s Club House, 699 W. Center, Visalia. It is a fixed price luncheon for $13. No reservations are needed but for information call 734-6501.

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