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On the Off Chance That You're Voting Today, Here's What You Should Know

Scott Lucas | June 3, 2014 | Story Politics

Today is Election Day. We know you're not going to vote. You don't have to lie to us.

But let's just pretend that you are anyway. There are actually some interesting races happening. From politicians running against BART strikers to politicians running against waterfront development, there's plenty riding on what happens today. Remember, this is a primary election, so with the exception of Props. A and B, every election you see is coming around again in November. Here's what you should know now:


Meh. Virtually nothing is happening on the state-wide ballot. Most every Democratic incumbent—from Governor Jerry Brown to Insurance Commissioner What's His Name—is going to move on to the next round of the elections, which they will also win. Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsom will continue their glacially-paced collision course. Jerry Brown will continue to be our Zen Fascist in Chief. We will never learn Insurance Commissioner What's His Name's real identity.

The only two exceptions are:

Secretary of State: What was already a rollicking race was injected with a whole lot of strangeness when state senator Leland Yee was charged with being the Asian Clay Davis. He won't win. But there's still a strong field in the rest of the race, which features a Democratic back bencher from L.A. named Alex Padilla and a gaggle of good government reformers, including Dan Schnur, who teaches at USC and Berkeley and ran the state's Fair Political Practicies Commission; Pete Peterson, who teaches at Pepperdine; and the former director of Common Cause Derek Cressman. Alas, Shrimp Boy will not appear on the ballot.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Incumbent Tom Torlakson, a former state legislator from the East Bay (Full disclosure: In college, I interned in his capitol office) is being challenged by education reformer Marshall Tuck. Torlakson enjoys massive support from the powerful teachers unions, and Tuck from charter school advocates like Eli Broad. This is the rare down ballot race that carries a strong ideological charge.

San Francisco:

12th Congressional District: The last time that SF's very own Lucille Bluth impersonator (non-drag division) Nancy Pelosi, had a close race was 1987. Since then, the former Speaker of the House has pulled in massive wins year after year. We don't suspect this time around will be any different, although it will be interesting to see if either of her two little-known challengers can break peace activist Cindy Sheehan's highwater mark in 2008 of 16 percent. We'll take the under on that bet.

14th Congressional District: Most of the district of San Francisco's other Lucille Bluth impersonator (non-drag division) and Congressmember covers the Peninsula. But Jackie Speier also represents parts of the city in the southeast corner. She's running unopposed, so we'll take this opportunity to tell you that we said hi to her at Stern Grove last summer, and she was awesome.

17th State Assembly District: This race is the biggest fish in the small pond. The two Davids, Campos and Chiu—both Harvard-educated Democrats and both ethnic minority members of the Board of Supervisors—will likely vote on Sacramento issues like the state budget in mostly indistinguishable ways. There are differences that separate the two men, though: Campos is a member of the City's progressive faction and Campos it's moderate one. Campos has run on a "tale of two cities" mantra, embracing the Google bus protestors. Chiu, on the other hand, is a supporter of the Twitter tax-break and is relatively more pro-development. Campos has a more rough-and-tumble activist approach, while Chiu tends to present himself as a consensus-builder. Here's our bold prediction: We'll be seeing both of them on the final ballot come November, so this round is about earning momentum, not a knockout victory.

19th Assembly District: The under-the-radar workhorse Phil Ting is up unopposed for re-election on the city's west side. We have never seen him at Stern Grove.

Judge, Office Number Twenty: Yes, we elect judges and no, we don't know why. Each of the three attorneys seems well-qualified. Daniel Flores has the most endorsements, including members of the Board of Supervisors that range from progressives to moderate, as well from Mark Leno. Seriously, why do we vote for judges?

Prop. A, Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bond: The $400 million bond would be floated to fund parts of the city's public safety infrastructure, including the firefighting water system, police and fire stations, the medical examiner facility, and the police motorcycle unit and crime lab. God bless their Randian hearts, the Libertarian party is opposed. When their houses catch on fire, they'll extinguish it with their invisible hands. The rest of us get to use the fire department.

Prop. B, Voter Approval for Waterfront B Development Height Increases: It's complicated. The city administers a seven-and-a-half mile strip of waterfront that runs along the Bay. The current height limits for buildings along that land ranges from 40 to 84 feet. Sometimes, developers ask for variances that increase that number. If they do, it takes a lengthy process of public meetings and votes and the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. This measure, the offspring of last year's Prop. C, which axed the 8 Washington project, would add another step—direct approval by voters at the ballot box. Early polling—and the lack of much of an anti-B campaign, seems to indicate it's going to pass. But since waterfront developments that would have been effected, especially the Warrior's stadium proposal, have already changed in response to the referendum, it's hard to see what the point is now—except keeping the waterfront the way it is forever and ever. It's likely that a victory would add another feather in the cap of the organizer of both C and B, North Beach's Jon Gollinger, who may be eyeing public office, and the campaign's public face, former mayor Art Agnos.

East Bay:

16th Assembly District: In many ways, this is the marquee race between business and labor Democrats. Orinda mayor Steve Glazer, an advisor to Governor Brown, has drawn both support and heat for his call to ban BART workers from striking. The unions, unsurprisingly, backs his opponent, Dublin mayor Tim Sbranti. This is the kind of race (as well as the Chiu/Campos one) that supporters of the new top-two primary system expected: multiple points of view vying against each other from the same party. Should be an interesting November.

10th Senate District: On the other hand, this one is just plain ugly. In 2011 Assemblymemer Mary Hayashi was convicted of shoplifiting thousands of dollars of clothes from San Francisco's Neiman Marcus. Undeterred, her attorney blamed a benign brain tumor, and Hayashi has stuck around for this race. (She told the Chron's editorial board: "I did not shoplift," claiming that she offered to pay for the goods after she left the store with them.) Her opponent is Bob Wieckowski, a state assemblymember and former Fremont city council member.

South Bay

17th Congressional District: Seven-term Congressman Mike Honda, a Japanese-American who was interred during World War II, faces tech-savvy challenger Ro Khanna. As senior editor Ellen Cushing pointed out in the Nation, Khanna, who teaches at Stanford, benefits from a "culture fit" with the district's technology industry, although his 2004 challenge to incumbent Tom Lantos petered out. If Honda pulls out a massive lead today, that could spell a similar fate for Khanna's latest challenge. Khanna's goal is to finish respectably, and then lean on money from the tech sector to blitz Honda in the fall.

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