This November, Berkeley voters have the opportunity to bring their city new representation at the state level. There are several critical seats up for election, including governor, secretary of state and state Assembly member in the 15th District — and Californians must to do their civic duty by showing up to the polls.
The upcoming midterm election promises tight races and a highly qualified candidate pool. Candidates such as Jovanka Beckles and Buffy Wicks are vying for the same roles on similar platforms — and this has made for tough calls by The Daily Californian’s editorial board during endorsement meetings this year. That being said, our editorial board has done extensive research to understand exactly what sets candidates apart.
In determining endorsements, the editorial board considered candidates’ platforms, previous experience and commitment to the communities they are running to represent. Here’s who you should vote for in the 2018 midterm election.
Governor: Gavin Newsom
The race for California governor is hardly a contest. Californians must vote for Gavin Newsom, current lieutenant governor of the state and former mayor of San Francisco.
As mayor of San Francisco, Newsom captured national attention in 2004 by approving the issuance of marriage licenses to more than 4,000 same-sex couples. Under his leadership, San Francisco started Project Homeless Connect, an organization that provides a range of services to homeless individuals. Newsom has also repeatedly opposed UC tuition increases as an ex officio member of the university’s Board of Regents.
Newsom’s opponent, John Cox, who has been endorsed by President Donald Trump, has misguidedly focused his campaign on government efficiency rather than on crucial social issues. He has made statements against gay marriage and gun control. A vote for him would be a step backward for California.
Vote Gavin Newsom for governor.
Lieutenant Governor: Eleni Kounalakis
If elected lieutenant governor of California, Eleni Kounalakis will bring an honest, down-to-earth voice to the role.
The lieutenant governor does not directly influence California legislation, but because they sit on several state boards and councils, their perspective and ability to convey influential stances is crucial. While both Kounalakis and her opponent Ed Hernandez have voiced support for higher education affordability, Kounalakis has a markedly more nuanced understanding of how homelessness could impact students.
Her nearly 20 years of experience in the housing development industry make her the right choice to combat the state’s housing crisis — especially in regard to its impact on students in the UC system and beyond. Hernandez’s platforms, in comparison, focus more on health care, which, while admirable, is a difficult issue to tackle through this position.
Vote Eleni Kounalakis for lieutenant governor.
Secretary of State: Alex Padilla
The Daily Cal editorial board endorses Alex Padilla, the incumbent since 2015, for California secretary of state.
Padilla has demonstrated sincere commitment to increasing voter registration in California. He was involved in efforts to spur online voter preregistration among 16- and 17-year-olds. His opponent, Mark Meuser, meanwhile, seems focused on increasing investigations and audits of voter rolls to prevent fraud, which could lead to unnecessary discussion around voter ID laws. Voter turnout in California during the 2016 general election was 75 percent, but there were no widespread reports of voter fraud.
Taking concrete actions to increase the number of voters in California is of paramount importance. Padilla does just that — his website states that he is implementing automatic voter registration for people acquiring new driver’s licenses or state IDs. He also sponsored the Voter’s Choice Act, which will give numerous voters information about when, where and how to vote.
Vote Alex Padilla for secretary of state.
Controller: Betty Yee
In her past four years as state controller, Democrat Betty Yee has proven herself to be a competent professional with Californians’ best interest in mind — and Yee is the clear choice for the role in 2018.
To address the economic challenges state residents may face in the next four years, Yee has centered her campaign on developing a fair tax structure, ensuring retirement security, combating climate change and providing affordable housing.
Yee’s opponent, Republican candidate Konstantinos Roditis, comes from a business background with little public service experience. Roditis is proposing a controversial “trickle-up-taxation” plan, in which local governments would collect taxes and send a portion to the state government rather than the other way around — a plan that would be an organizational disaster for all those involved. Roditis also supports Proposition 6, repealing the gas tax, a measure the Daily Cal editorial board opposes.
Vote Betty Yee for controller.
Treasurer: Fiona Ma
The role of treasurer isn’t just managing California’s finances — it’s making sure that the state uses its resources to best support and uplift its communities. Fiona Ma, with years of experience in state finance, not only brings technical expertise to this position but also an empathetic perspective that puts her above her opponent, Greg Conlon.
Ma is one of the few certified public accountants to serve on California’s Board of Equalization. Though the board’s effectiveness has been contested, Ma pioneered passing a proposal that would reorganize the board into two more specialized branches. Positioned at the forefront of this movement, Ma stood on the side of transparency and accountability.
Her platforms — including proposals to relieve student debt and make housing more available to first-time homeowners — are definitely ambitious, but it’s clear she can be trusted to take these initiatives on. While Conlon’s attention to responsible fiscal management is admirable, his desire to eliminate the state business income tax is notably misguided.
Vote Fiona Ma for treasurer.
Attorney General: Xavier Becerra
In the short period he’s served as attorney general, Xavier Becerra has shown unwavering commitment to the fundamental values we hold as a state, including protecting immigrants and fighting for criminal justice reform.
Becerra has filed more than 40 lawsuits against the Trump administration, including one confronting Scott Pruitt’s potential conflict of interest in running the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and one condemning the separation of children at the U.S.-Mexico border. Granted, it’s only been a year, but Becerra has taken large strides in a promising direction.
On the other hand, Becerra’s opponent, Steven Bailey, supports the death penalty and staunchly disagrees with gun control legislation. Bailey’s stance on criminal justice reform is concerning, as he is apparently a supporter of the “three strikes” law. It’s imperative that the attorney general advocates for policies that are fair and ethical.
Vote Xavier Becerra for attorney general.
Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara
While state Sen. Ricardo Lara has much to learn, he reflects the progressive, equitable values Californians should believe in — and this makes Lara the Daily Cal editorial board’s choice for insurance commissioner.
California’s insurance commissioner is tasked with the challenging responsibility of regulating the world’s fourth largest insurance market. This requires a thorough understanding of health insurance and natural disaster claims, among other subjects. Lara has served in California Legislature since 2010 and has a strong understanding of health insurance. Lara’s opponent Steve Poizner was previously elected insurance commissioner in 2007 — but in his 2010 run for California governor, he expressed offensive anti-immigrant views. Despite his understanding of the office, Poizner holds values that are out of touch with the state’s best interest.
Admittedly, Lara has much to learn about the responsibilities of the insurance commissioner position. But while experience can be acquired through time and effort, discriminatory attitudes reflect values undesirable in elected officials.
Vote Ricardo Lara for insurance commissioner.
Assembly District 15: Jovanka Beckles
The race for California’s Assembly District 15 seat is a bitter and divided contest. But when it comes down to which candidate will represent Berkeley’s interests with the most integrity and conviction, Jovanka Beckles stands out.
Beckles is no stranger to District 15. Unlike Buffy Wicks — who had no official ties to the district before this election — Beckles has served two terms on the Richmond City Council, where she helped raise the city’s minimum wage and pass the first new rent control in 30 years. Beckles’ resolute support for state Proposition 10, which would expand rent control in California, is critical to the Daily Cal editorial board’s endorsement of her.
Aspects of Beckles’ platform, such as her hope to provide East Bay residents with health care, housing and fully funded public education, are idealistic. Wicks, one of the key staffers who helped pass former president Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, is clearly an expert in enacting concrete change at higher levels of government. Ultimately, however, Beckles’ strong principles — rooted in her proven loyalty to the East Bay and its people — make her the better candidate for the role.
Vote Jovanka Beckles for Assembly District 15.
State Superintendent Of Public Instruction: Tony Thurmond
The California superintendent race comes down to the nitty-gritty details. And it’s in those details that Tony Thurmond emerges as the stronger candidate.
Thurmond — a former social worker and a state assembly member in the 15th District, which represents Berkeley — is more than qualified to navigate the challenge of advocating for the state’s public education system. His opponent Marshall Tuck has worked in public education and as the CEO of a charter school chain but simply does not bring the same scope of expertise.
Tuck’s and Thurmond’s platforms share priorities, such as increasing funding for schools and providing teachers with better resources. Thurmond, however, has a clear record of supporting progressive education reform and has explicitly expressed opposition to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ education agenda.
It’s also worth noting that the majority of Tuck’s campaign has been backed by wealthy donors pushing to expand charter schools — and while both candidates have said charter schools should not be a focus, this monetary monopoly is concerning.
Vote Tony Thurmond for superintendent of public instruction.
Member, State Board Of Equalization, 2nd District: Malia Cohen
Malia Cohen’s in-depth platforms, experience in financial management and generally holistic values make her the standout candidate in the race for the District 2 Board of Equalization seat.
In her time on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Cohen has demonstrated her knowledge of the city’s taxation system — she was instrumental in implementing San Francisco’s soda tax in 2016. Cohen also sits on the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee, which has shaped her expertise on the levying of various taxes and fees at the local level.
While Cohen’s opponent Mark Burns has a real estate background and knowledge of property taxes, this is only one of the taxes levied by the Board of Equalization. Burns lacks political experience and tangible platforms beyond rolling back taxes. This is far from the comprehensive solution that California’s tax system needs — a solution that Cohen offers.
Vote Malia Cohen for the Board of Equalization.
County Assessor: Phong La
In the upcoming midterm election, Phong La deserves your vote for Alameda County assessor.
The county assessor office is responsible for calculating the value of Alameda County properties in order to determine property tax rates. While La’s opponent Jim Johnson has experience in the assessor’s office — 26 years in the office and 10 as chief of the Assessment Services Division — he has no experience in critical appraisal. La may be an outsider to the office, but his strong background as a real estate and tax attorney will bring this position the brand new outlook it urgently needs.
Additionally, La possesses a strong community-oriented background, having founded a free legal clinic in Oakland during the 2008 financial crisis. He aims to make the assessor’s office more proactive and and accessible by providing adequate resources to property owners. La also aims to create workshops to explain citizen rights regarding the assessment appeals process.
Vote Phong La for assessor.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.