Hi! This is the complete, probably unnecessarily thorough voter guide put together by the hosts of LA Podcast, a weekly podcast about what’s going on in LA.
Every measure and candidate at the state, LA county, and LA city level are described and endorsed with our opinions below. We didn’t cover any local elections for cities other than Los Angeles, though.
“Wait. I do not want to read this entire thing. I just want a cheat sheet I can save to my phone and use in the voting booth, then go back to living my life.” Okay, here you go:
If you finish this guide and are still thirsty for more hot ballot action, we recommend checking out Voter’s Edge California and the DSA-LA voter guide, which has a ton of campaign finance information that we didn’t cover.
Here’s a table of contents:
1. State Props
2. LA City and County Props
3. Statewide Elections
4. Congressional Elections
5. State Senate
6. State Assembly
7. Sheriff and Assessor
8. The Judges
THE STATE PROPS
Housing Programs and Veterans’ Loans Bond
WHAT DOES IT DO?
It’s a $4 billion bond for housing projects for low-income people and veterans.
This is the first of four bonds we’ll be voting on. Basically, the state has to ask voters for permission to borrow lots of money from financial institutions to spend on different things it wants to do. But the interest rates aren’t that high, and bond financing allows for big projects that would otherwise never happen.
This bond in particular is great. The housing it funds goes to pretty much all the right places, and it’s a pro-density prop: lots of the money goes toward infill and transit-oriented apartment housing. The market won’t provide homes for low-income people, so the government has to step in to fill the gap, and this is one way to do it. You already know that housing affordability is the most pressing concern the state is dealing with right now, so hopefully you’ve already made up your mind to vote yes on this prop.
LA Podcast says: YES
Use Millionaire’s Tax Revenue for Homelessness Prevention Housing Bonds Measure
WHAT DOES IT DO?
It’s a $2 billion bond for housing for people who are homeless and suffer from mental illness, and shouldn’t really be on the ballot.
This money was already allocated in 2016 by the state legislature: lawmakers voted to use revenue from an already-passed mental health services tax for this kind of housing. And then ONE LAWYER sued the state, and she’s managed to tie up billions of dollars in potential homeless housing for the last two years.
Justifiably tired of waiting, the state is asking you to vote to let them spend this money so they can stop dealing with this one lawyer. After we pass this one, maybe we can work on fixing a system that allows one person to keep thousands of people from getting housed.
LA Podcast says: YES
Water Infrastructure and Watershed Conservation Bond Initiative
WHAT DOES IT DO?
It’s a $9 billion water bond, much like one we voted on and passed earlier this year in the primaries.
Most of the money from this bond goes toward necessary water storage projects, wetlands restoration, and public infrastructure improvements for safe drinking water. But a lot of it also goes to Big Agriculture, and that’s what makes it divisive. Hundreds of millions of dollars would be spent on repairing aqueducts that help farmers bring in water from other sources, so those farmers stop pulling groundwater from our depleted natural wells in the Central Valley.
This part of the bond is a straight-up handout to private interests, and while pretty much every bond contains stuff like this, this handout is more brazen than usual. LA Podcast was a Yes on this one a few weeks ago, but lots of smart people are voting No, and they definitely made us question our take.
But despite the corporate giveaways, we’re still voting yes. If you’d like some detail on how we came to a conclusion on this one, we talked it out in our voter guide episode.
LA Podcast says: YES
Children’s Hospital Bonds Initiative
WHAT DOES IT DO?
This is a $1.5 billion bond for renovation and expansion of children’s hospitals around California, mostly nonprofit hospitals.
You get it: another inoffensive bond that goes mostly to a good cause. Some people think that money like this should be allocated by the state legislature so voters like us aren’t exhausted from spending money with the ballot, and those people aren’t wrong. But this one IS on the ballot, and we’re voting yes. We promise no more bonds from here on out.
LA Podcast says: YES
Property Tax Transfer Initiative
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Lets homeowners over age 55 carry over their property tax rate when they move.
Prop 5 absolutely sucks. It’s an expansion of Prop 13, the biggest gift to homeowners in California history, and one that came at a major cost to the state’s public services. Prop 13, passed in 1979, says that a home or business owner’s property taxes can only be 1% of the appraised value, and can only go up by a maximum of 2% a year, no matter how much the house appreciates.
If you’ve ever even brushed against the LA housing market, you know that homes tend to go up in value by a lot more than two percent a year, meaning that most California homeowners are paying really deflated property taxes, especially in expensive cities like Malibu and Beverly Hills. That dip in property tax revenue has come out of the state’s infrastructure, education system, and pretty much every other public service.
Under the current system, the property tax refreshes every time a home changes hands (unless the home is given to a family member). But Prop 5 would let homeowners over 55 years old CARRY OVER their low-ass property tax ratio to their NEW HOME if they move. Realtors put this on the ballot in hopes that more old people would relocate and free up inventory for them to sell. It’s another totally undeserved gift to California homeowners who, somehow, aren’t satisfied with all the free money they get already.
If you’d like WAY more detail on Prop 5, we talked about it and Prop 13 in our episode “PROP 13 REASONS WHY.”
LA Podcast says: HARD NO
Voter Approval for Future Gas and Vehicle Taxes and 2017 Tax Repeal Initiative
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Repeals the 2017 gas tax.
Last November, California Democrats passed a 12-cent tax on every gallon of gas sold in the state, with the proceeds going to fund road improvements and mass transit projects. Republicans want to repeal the tax. What they REALLY want is to give Republican voters a reason to go the polls in an election with a charmless no-name candidate for Governor at the top of the GOP ticket, so they can maybe salvage some of their House seats in places that hate taxes like Orange County.
Some critics have called the gas tax “regressive” because rich people can afford to pay more for gas. But it’s also true that the less money you have, the less likely you are to own a car at all, and the more likely you are to use the transit networks that the tax will pay for. Poor people are also way more likely to suffer the impacts of catastrophic climate change — and passenger vehicles are currently the number-one contributor to carbon emissions in California, more than the entire industrial sector.
Getting people out of their cars is an emergency. Even if the money from the gas tax were shot into the sun, there’s an argument that it would still be worthwhile because higher gas prices make people drive less. Right now, government policy encourages people to drive in a million different ways — in fact, driving is one of the most government-subsidized things you can do. The costs of roads, bridges, pollution, bodily injury, and even gas are all spread across society — people who don’t drive are forced to pay for all of this shit. It’s fair for a tiny percentage of that cost to be shifted back to drivers. Keep the tax.
LA Podcast says: HARD NO
Permanent Daylight Saving Time Measure
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Makes Daylight Saving Time permanent.
You can just DO that?! Apparently yes. If Prop 7 passes, California would have the ability to repeal the Daylight Saving Act of 1949, which requires you to set your car clock forward an hour every spring or really just leave it and wait for November.
This wouldn’t happen automatically — the proposition just gives state legislators the option to make the move. But there’s a lot of evidence that it would be a good idea. Car crashes go way up on the day when the clocks go forward, for one thing.
There’s really no reason not to do this. Arizona and Hawaii have already axed the Daylight Saving Act. Lots of people have this vague idea that it’s “good for farmers” somehow, but farmers actually hated Daylight Saving and fought harder than anyone against it back in 1949. Enough trying to control the time. We’re not gods!
LA Podcast says: YES
Limits on Dialysis Clinics’ Revenue and Required Refunds Initiative
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Limits the profits of dialysis centers.
Prop 8 would force kidney dialysis centers to charge patients no more than 115% of the cost of the procedure, meaning that the centers couldn’t make more than 15% profit on patient care. The SEIU’s healthcare workers union is funding it, partly because it offers them leverage in their negotiations with the two biggest dialysis centers in the state. (Pro tip: with these hyper-specific industry propositions, there’s always a lawsuit or a contract negotiation in the backstory).
Proponents say that dialysis patients are being charged too much for their care, and people are dying because they can’t afford treatment. Opponents say that reducing profits could cause some of the largest clinics to close, leaving patients to die without any care at all. And the voters of California watch them fight it out while we wonder what we’re even doing in this conversation. We don’t know anything about kidneys. We vaguely think the pee goes through them or something. And now we’re supposed to answer this very complicated medical financing question with a “yes” or “no”?
Some issues, probably most issues, are too complicated to be decided by non-experts after reading a few lines of text. This is one of them. A lot of people’s lives are at stake here, and it definitely shouldn’t be up to us.
LA Podcast says: DON’T VOTE
Local Rent Control Initiative
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Costa-Hawkins is a law passed through the California legislature in 1995 that forbids cities from expanding rent control beyond whatever their standards were in 1995. Back then LA’s rule was that only housing built before October 1979 could be rent controlled, so that’s still the case today.
Sound arbitrary and stupid? It is. And it means LA has been losing rent-controlled housing stock ever since, as old buildings get demolished and replaced with new ones.
State legislators say Costa-Hawkins should be reformed, not repealed, but they’ve had 23 years to do anything about it and actually tried to repeal it last year and failed. Good effort, gang! But we’re gonna maybe try something else?
Some housing-supply advocates worry that expanding rent control too much will mean more landlords converting their buildings to condos and overall reducing the number of apartments available for rent. That’s something to think about, but it doesn’t change the fact that Costa-Hawkins is terrible policy, or that tenants desperately need protections to stay in their homes as rents have exploded out of control over the last decade. Cities and towns can deal with the specifics of rent control once they’ve been given the keys to expanding it.
(LA Podcast disclaimer: This proposition was put on the ballot by Michael Weinstein, CEO of the Aids Healthcare Foundation, the nonprofit that puts up the billboards that say stuff like “Chlamydia Supervolcano” all over the city. He’s an extreme anti-housing activist and his motives for putting up this measure are suspect, but it’s still a good idea. For more on the history, listen to the hour-long episode we recorded just on this proposition.)
LA PODCAST SAYS: HARD YES
Ambulance Employees Paid On-Call Breaks, Training, and Mental Health Services Initiative
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Allows ambulance companies to keep EMTs on-call during breaks.
For years, employers were allowed to keep emergency workers on call throughout their shift, even on breaks. Then a security guard sued her employer for the right to turn her radio off when she got lunch or whatever. It went to the Supreme Court and she won. Now EMTs are suing ambulance companies for the right to NOT be on call during breaks. Naturally, one of the big ambulance companies, American Medical Response, has responded by funding a ballot measure and making you vote on it.
Sure, it makes sense for EMTs to be available in emergencies no matter what. It makes more sense for ambulance companies to hire more EMTs, so when some workers are on breaks, others are available to take calls. What doesn’t make sense is ASKING US WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT. We said two props ago that we don’t want to get involved in your specific medical industry disputes!
Still, we recommend a “No” vote on this one. A “Yes” would bail out a private ambulance company from resolving an issue that, if it indeed hurts their bottom line to the point where they can’t afford as many EMTs, should be settled in the state legislature or the court rather than by pouring buckets of money into political ad campaigns. You have to wonder how many new EMTs could have been hired with the $22 million that American Medical Response has spent so far.
LA PODCAST SAYS: NO
Farm Animal Confinement Initiative
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Sets a rule that hens, baby calves, and pregnant pigs can’t be placed in any cage smaller than a specified number of square feet that allows them to stand up and turn around.
California passed a very similar initiative in 2008, the same day Obama was elected and Prop 8 passed. But that proposition didn’t specify exactly how big the cages had to be: they just said the animals had to be allowed to stand and stretch their limbs and stuff. Farmers and ranchers said this was too vague, so now millions more dollars have to be spent to put it on the ballot again and you have to read this.
Prop 12 is sponsored and mostly funded by the Humane Society. It’s opposed by egg farmers for being too strict and PETA for not being strict enough. It is a miracle that anything has ever been accomplished in modern civilization.
LA PODCAST SAYS: SURE, FINE (probably just quit beef while you’re at it to save water and carbon emissions).
LA COUNTY AND CITY PROPS
COUNTY MEASURE W
Los Angeles Region’s Public Health and Safe, Clean Water Program
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Puts a 25-cent parcel tax on every square foot of property that isn’t permeable, meaning that water can’t pass through it.
You see it whenever it rains in LA: the water runs down the streets, gathers a push of trash and chemicals, then runs into the sewer and out to the ocean. Fish get poisoned to death, and none of the water ends up in our natural wells, which are running pretty low after that five-year drought we had recently.
A lot of this problem would be solved by just ripping up some concrete. If water can pass through the surface into the ground, it doesn’t run into the ocean and our wells fill up. This parcel tax is a smart way to encourage home and business owners to rip up their excess pavement, and the $300 million it’ll raise goes toward more water storage and treatment projects.
LA Podcast says: YES
CITY CHARTER AMENDMENT B
Municipal Financial Institution
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Allows the city to establish a public bank.
The City of LA manages a lot of money. Last year it was about $9.5 billion. All that money is held in giant Wall Street banks — it used to all be at Wells Fargo, but the city closed its account last year after Wells Fargo’s Year of Scandals, so now all the money’s in other big banks. That money gets invested in whatever the bank feels like investing in, which tends to be stuff like weapons manufacturers and Big Oil.
Some activists think LA would be better off putting its money in a city-run public bank, with a charter to invest its assets in projects for the public good — projects like green energy infrastructure and public housing. The problem with that plan is that public banks aren’t allowed to exist in California. Both the state and city charters explicitly outlaw them, meaning that LA is currently only allowed to put its money in big Wall Street financial institutions.
Charter Amendment B doesn’t start a public bank. It gives the city permission to start one if it wants to. That’s one hurdle of many — if we wanted to continue this process, the city council would almost certainly have to go back to the ballot to allocate money to start the bank, and a lot more work would have to be done at the state level. We talked about all this in more detail on a recent episode of our show.
LA Podcast says: YES
CITY MEASURES E AND EE
Realign City and State Election Dates
WHAT DO THEY DO?
Line up city and school primary elections so they happen at the same time as state primary elections. E is for city, EE is for LAUSD.
Historically, elections in Los Angeles for federal, state, city, and school offices all took place on different dates, presumably to give Angelenos the special thrill of filling out a ballot every three days. But in recent years, gradual changes have been made to line all these elections up with each other. We could go through the whole timeline of those changes, but nobody wants that.
Suffice it to say that these measures finish the job — all your elections will be on the same day if they pass (except for the many special elections to replace disgraced sex criminals). The measures also, blessedly, make it so the city and school board won’t have to bother voters again if they want to make these changes in the future.
LA Podcast says: YES and YES
Gavin Newsom (D) vs. John Cox (R)
Gavin Newsom is the current Lieutenant Governor of California. Before that he was Mayor of San Francisco, and before that he owned a wine store. He used to be married to Donald Trump Jr.’s current girlfriend. You may have seen a picture of them spooning on a rug.
Newsom is something of a weathervane — he tends to go with whatever political ideology is in fashion at the time. He jumped hard on the Medicare for All bandwagon last year, he’s campaigned on a (totally unrealistic) increase in housing production to address the state’s affordability crisis, and he supports universal pre-K and free college. This is Good Newsom — the Newsom who, as Mayor of San Francisco, oversaw the first legalization of same-sex marriage in the country. In the most optimistic vision of Good Newsom as Governor, he follows up on all of his high-flown promises, and stays on Jerry Brown’s pace to go 100% clean energy by 2045.
There’s also a Bad Newsom. That Newsom, as Governor, would defer to the billionaires and corporations that funded his campaign (and all of his previous campaigns) and revert to the “fiscal conservative” he described himself as when he first got elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Earlier this month, Bad Newsom opposed San Francisco’s Prop C, a tax on major corporations to fund housing and services for people who are homeless, earlier this month. If that recent move is an indicator of his work as Governor, we could see more Bad Newsom than Good Newsom.
Ultimately, for the purposes of your vote, it doesn’t matter which Newsom we get. Either is better than John Cox, who is terrible.
John Cox’s campaign for Governor is a doomed vanity project that respectable state media for some reason feels compelled to treat seriously. He’s a Chicago tax-prep baron who, not content with just having hundreds of millions of dollars, has indulged his need for attention over the years by running for and losing political campaigns. He only moved to California seven years ago! Imagine someone you know who moved to California in 2011 suddenly announcing they were running for any office, let alone GOVERNOR.
In the early 2000s Cox paid a radio station to let him host a conservative talk show, a move that would anticipate his current campaign, which the RNC has only allowed him to run because he’s flushed $4.4 million into it. Did you know he was the first Republican to announce a 2008 presidential run? Of course you didn’t! Pretty soon you’ll forget who ran against Gavin Newsom in 2018, too.
LA Podcast says: GAVIN NEWSOM
Ed Hernandez (D) vs. Eleni Koulanakis (D)
Lieutenant Governor is a glamour position with not much actual power, but it can definitely get you closer to power. Look at Gavin Newsom!
Ed Hernandez is a San Gabriel Valley Democrat who’s been a State Senator since 2010. He hasn’t been that flashy of a changemaker — is major political initiative was an attempt to repeal Proposition 209, a 1996 law that prevents the state from considering race, sex, or ethnicity in hiring public employees (ostensibly an anti-racist measure, but really just outlaws affirmative action). He bailed on it after some opposition, though. Other than that he’s pretty much stuck to the state Democrat party line.
His competition is Eleni Koulanakis, a Sacramento businesswoman. The topline of Koulanakis’s resume is Ambassador to Hungary, a position probably bought with political donations. Her money comes from her father, a major Sacramento developer who sued the EPA to fight a violation of the Clean Water Act and got his case in front of the Supreme Court (he lost). Koulanakis has a lot of good planks in her platform, like free college and Medicare for all, but lots of people with decent politics have never been forced to back them up, and therefore don’t have the credentials to hold statewide office. Koulanakis is one of those people.
LA Podcast says: ED HERNANDEZ
SECRETARY OF STATE
Alex Padilla (D) vs. Mark Meuser (R)
Incumbent Alex Padilla is one of the few statewide electeds to come out of Los Angeles. In the late 90’s he was a wunderkind Democrat from the eastern Valley who got elected to the LA City Council at 26, then named President of the council at 28. He worked his way up to the State Senate in the 2000s, then ran for Secretary of State and won in 2014.
Padilla is only 45 and has his eye on higher office: he’s probably hoping Kamala Harris wins the presidency, because he’ll definitely take a shot at her Senate seat. In his time as SoS, he’s made it a actual priority to expand voter registrations — Californians got the ability to register to vote when they got their drivers’ licenses under his watch. Because he has higher political ambitions, he’s pretty nakedly partisan for a position that’s supposed to be unbiased — but who cares, everyone is.
Mark Meuser, a person you are lucky never to have heard of, is a Republican lawyer and pizza restaurant owner with a disturbing hair part who’s campaigning by fear-mongering about imaginary voter fraud committed by undocumented people. His website bio has a story about Mark quitting an Ironman triathlon because of an allergic reaction to his latex wetsuit.
LA Podcast says: ALEX PADILLA
Betty Yee (D) vs. Konstantinos Roditis (R)
The state controller, a position sometimes weirdly known as “comptroller,” is in charge of supervising the state’s spending. Kind of like the treasurer but with more regulatory authority.
Our incumbent is Betty Yee, a San Francisco Democrat who served on the Board of Equalization in the 2000s. While there, she led the charge in California to force Amazon to collect state sales tax on all its transactions — a move that has since made the state billions of dollars. As controller, she’s opposed fracking and supports extending the sales tax to services while reducing the state’s colossal dependence on income tax. In her current campaign, she’s emphasized the need to spread California’s wealth across classes, correctly pointing out that while the state is the fifth-largest economy in the world, it has the highest poverty rate in the US.
Konstantinos Roditis is an Anaheim businessman (we understand if you want to stop there) who according to his bio has run “Numerous Corporations.” He’s the co-chair of the suicidal Yes on 6 campaign to repeal the gas tax, and has made the noble pledge to not take corporate or PAC campaign donations that we’re sure has nothing to do with the fact that nobody wants to give him any. Roditis‘s big idea is to literally flip California’s taxation system upside down: instead of having the state collect taxes and distribute it to cities, the cities would collect their own taxes and give the state only what it needs to function. The amount of local corruption that would be generated by this policy is, like… so crazy.
LA Podcast says: BETTY YEE
Fiona Ma (D) vs. Greg Conlon (R)
Fiona Ma is a Modesto Democrat and former Assemblywoman who serves on the state Board of Equalization — the tax-collecting state agency that used to be incompetent and corrupt, but is now totally powerless thanks to Jerry Brown taking all of its responsibilities away last year. Ma wasn’t responsible for the recent chaos on the BoE: she actually called for the board to be dismantled and taken over by a public trustee while she was on it. That alone seems worthy of an endorsement.
Greg Conlon, meanwhile, is a Republican CPA who has run failed campaigns for a whole bunch of state and federal offices in California. He served on the state Public Utilities Commission in the nineties and now wants to turn all state pensions into 401ks so every public employee can lose all their retirement savings in the next recession.
LA Podcast says: FIONA MA
Xavier Becerra (D) vs. Steven Bailey (R)
Xavier Becerra, the incumbent, is another LA political product — he represented an Eastside district in the State Assembly for one term, then served in Congress from 1993 to 2017, when he was picked by Jerry Brown to replace Kamala Harris as Attorney General. If we can editorialize for a second, Becerra is 60 but looks incredible for his age.
Becerra, like a lot of California politicians, has built his identity as Attorney General around his opposition to Trump. He proudly campaigns on having sued the federal government 38 times, for many noble causes like immigration protections, fighting a citizenship question on the census, and maintaining California’s clean air standards. But with all his time spent on defense, he hasn’t shown much interest in changing the justice system in California — he’s backed the death penalty and hasn’t held Exxon (a Becerra campaign donor) accountable for willfully misleading the public on climate change for decades.
Steven Bailey is a former Superior Court judge from El Dorado County. Bailey is most useful as an object lesson for the judicial elections later in this voter guide, and how judges are political positions, just like any other elected office. Bailey currently supports the “Three Strikes” policy that has put nonviolent offenders in jail for life. He wants to increase drug criminalization and reduce early release. He’s against sanctuary state laws and supports the death penalty. As a judge, this guy decided sentencing for thousands of people. Think his politics were a factor in how he did his job?
LA PODCAST SAYS: XAVIER BECERRA
SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION
Tony Thurmond (D) vs. Marshall Tuck (D)
This clumsily-named position is really the CEO of the State Department of Education. The school boss. There’s also a Secretary of Education appointed by the Governor, but the State Superintendent is still an influential job.
Like every other school-related decision in California, this election comes down to charters vs. teachers unions. (And like every other school-related decision in California, it’s not really that cut-and-dry, but it’s the easiest way to distinguish the candidates, and it definitely describes where they get their campaign money).
Marshall Tuck is the charter guy — he used to be president of a network of charters called Green Dot, and was appointed by Mayor Villaraigosa to reform a group of struggling LAUSD schools. Tony Thurmond is an Assemblyman from the East Bay and former Richmond City Councilmember, but he’s focused on education issues and serving at-risk students throughout his career. He’s also got the support of all the teachers unions in the state.
Both candidates are qualified, so this vote is a philosophical one: should we try to salvage the traditional public school system, or let charters have a chance at reform and cut into the power wielded by teachers unions? The charter advocates are right that LAUSD is failing: it’s in staggering debt and the students are not being served adequately. But LAUSD is also drastically underfunded, along with most of the other public school districts in California: a state that ranks near the bottom in per-child education spending. While some charters may provide better education opportunities for students, they’d also pull money from districts, and leave the kids left behind in LAUSD with even fewer resources than they get now. Now isn’t the time to turn away from LAUSD, or make life harder for the already-embattled United Teachers of Los Angeles, who just saw a big hit to their finances thanks to the Supreme Court’s Janus decision.
Before we let charters take over, we need to increase the money California puts into its schools. One way to do that is reforming Prop 13, which is going to be on the ballot for 2020. Once California is in the top ten in per-student spending instead of the bottom ten, we can evaluate whether LAUSD is spending its money effectively. Until then, it’s not fair to punish traditional public schools for failing when we haven’t given them the bare minimum to succeed.
LA Podcast says: TONY THURMOND
Ricardo Lara (D) vs. Steve Poizner (I)
Ricardo Lara is a Commerce-born Democrat who’s represented his home district in both the state Assembly and Senate. He’s put forward some great bills punishing superpolluters and giving healthcare to 200,000 undocumented children. Last month, he got bills through the state legislature that would allow undocumented people to run for state board and stop ICE from arresting immigrants at courthouses — but Jerry Brown vetoed both of them. If elected, he’d be the first openly gay statewide official in California history.
Steve Poizner is a Silicon Valley hundred-millionaire who’s running as an independent, but he was a Republican when he held this very position from 2007 to 2011, and his values haven’t really changed. While Lara is running on protecting consumers, Poizner boasts that when he was Comissioner he cut the budget of the office and arrested thousands of individual perpetrators of insurance fraud. Craziest of all — so crazy that we’re not sure if this is a typo on his website — Poizner wants to reduce rates to encourage MORE BUILDING IN FIRE-PRONE AREAS. Maybe this is a radical position, but we think we should be building more housing in areas that are less likely to burn to the ground.
LA Podcast says: RICARDO LARA
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
The five-member Board of Equalization used to be in charge of administering taxes and collecting fees, and oversaw a huge amount of money — until in 2017 Jerry Brown neutered it for being wildly dysfunctional and corrupt and gave all its powers to other departments. Our hope is that if enough of us don’t vote on this pointless body, it will magically disappear from the ballot in future elections.
Dianne Feinstein (D) vs. Kevin de Leon (D)
Kevin De Léon was first elected to the legislature in 2006, and rose to become the first Latinx President Pro Tem in the state senate since the 1800s. De Léon’s term at the helm coincided with California legislators’ move to more progressive policies on a variety of issues, including the minimum wage, healthcare, climate policy and protection for immigrants.
Dianne Feinstein has served California in the Senate for nearly three decades. During her time there, she has risen to the top of prominent committees and championed rights for lesbian and gay Americans. She also voted in favor of the Patriot Act, creation of the Department of Homeland Security, George W. Bush’s border wall, and stronger enforcement of immigration laws. She probably didn’t expect any of these votes would one day be used against her in her own state as part of an attack from the left, but that really just goes to show that the California that Senator Feinstein purports to represent is not the California we’re currently living in.
LA Podcast says: KEVIN DE LÉON
Kevin McCarthy (R) vs. Tatiana Matta (D)
Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House Majority Leader, represents a slice of LA County up in Lancaster. He sucks in ways too expansive to be contained in this voter guide. His Dem opponent, Tatiana Matta, is a former Martin O’Malley staffer and by all appearances a very nice person who has about as much of a chance in this race as Martin O’Malley did.
LA Podcast says: TATIANA MATTA
Steve Knight (R) vs. Katie Hill (D)
Steve Knight is a former LAPD officer, the son of a state senator, the last GOP incumbent based in LA County, and a legendary coward. After the SoCalGas’s Aliso Canyon storage facility in his district sprung the most environmentally devastating natural gas leak in American history, Knight hesitated to get the EPA involved or even reprimand SoCalGas. When the Access Hollywood tape came out, Knight said he wouldn’t endorse Trump, but then revealed he voted for him anyway. His dad also wrote the California law that banned same-sex marriage in 2000.
Democrat Katie Hill is most famous in the media for being a **millennial.** More impressive even than that is the fact that she ran the huge LA homelessness nonprofit PATH as CEO at age 27. She’s an impressive candidate who’s taken a few squishy positions on gun control and the gas tax, hopefully the result of campaigning in a purple district. This is the only really close race that covers a lot of LA County — Hillary Clinton carried the district in 2016, and Knight only won reelection by six points.
LA Podcast says: KATIE HILL
Julia Brownley (D) vs. Antonio Sabato Jr. (R)
This is a Ventura district that has a tiny little scoop of LA County in Westlake Village. The incumbent is Democrat Julia Brownley, a former Assemblymember. She won her last couple elections by very small margins, but now she’s running against Antonio Sabato Jr., an actor most famous for playing somebody named Jagger on General Hospital. Congrats on the break from campaigning, Julia!
LA Podcast says: JULIA BROWNLEY
Judy Chu (D) vs. Bryan Witt (D)
Dr. Judy Chu got elected to Congress in a 2009 special and joined the House Progressive Caucus. Before that she taught psychology at LA City College and East Los Angeles College for 20 years. She’s the first Chinese-American woman in Congress. Bryan Witt is a Pasadena Democrat ostensibly running to Judy Chu’s left. He touts his support of Medicare for All and free college on his website. Good stuff! But as of this writing his last few tweets were about the gold standard and how “the Deep State hates Trump.” Uh oh!
LA Podcast says: JUDY CHU
Adam Schiff (D) vs. Johnny Nalbandian (R)
Incumbent Adam Schiff has been in Congress for 20 years but raised his profile a lot in the last couple by tweeting at Trump a lot and solemnly shaking his head as Devin Nunes openly commits treason on the House Intelligence Committee.
There’s room to run against him on his left, but instead his opponent is Trump-loving shrimp distributor Johnny “Mr. Seafood” Nalbandian. Nalbandian’s campaign website may be the only one with a “Recipes” tab.
LA Podcast says: ADAM SCHIFF
Tony Cardenas (D) vs. Benito Bernal (R)
The Republican running in this district is campaigning on calling in the CDC to “remove” homeless people who carry “vector-borne diseases.” Tony Cardenas is the Dem incumbent: he’s Pacoima-born and was an LA City Councilmember from the Sixth District covering the Northeast Valley before he got elected to Congress in 2013. He’s introduced a few good bills, mostly dealing with youth justice reform, but is currently being accused of sexual assault by a former high school golfer. We’re gonna sit this one out until that case is resolved.
LA Podcast says: NO ENDORSEMENT
Brad Sherman (D) vs. Mark Reed (R)
Brad Sherman is a former CPA who parlayed a seat on the state Board of Equalization into a run for Congress in 1997. Like Adam Schiff and Ted Lieu, he’s gotten a little taste of fame recently by yelling at Trump on TV. Animal rights are his “pet issue” (lol!). A few weeks ago he tried to push for a cryptocurrency mining ban, which is not specifically related to Los Angeles but this voter guide endorses it anyway.
His GOP opponent, Mark Reed, is an “actor and rancher” who straddles a Harley in his campaign video and looks like cowboy Leland Palmer. According to one of his bios on the Internet, his favorite movie is “Spaghetti Park.”
LA Podcast says: BRAD SHERMAN
Grace Napolitano (D) vs. Joshua Scott (R)
Our incumbent here is Grace Napolitano, who has followed the standard path to Congress: Norwalk City Council, a few years in the Assembly, elected in 1998. She’s on the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Her opponent is Trump Republican Joshua Scott, the self-proclaimed youngest Congressional candidate in the country at 25. Since he’s a millennial, he sometimes posts campaign memes on his Twitter, but his heart is clearly not in it and the memes are bad.
LA Podcast says: GRACE NAPOLITANO
Ted Lieu (D) vs. Kenneth Wright (R)
Ted Lieu is a two-term Torrance Democrat and #resist Twitter celebrity who also served in the Assembly. He’s a foreign policy specialist who’s on TV all the time talking about Russia, and is a legit hawk on Iran — he voted against the nuclear deal. His GOP opponent is the same one he had in 2016: pediatric eye surgeon Dr. Kenneth Wright. Dr. Ken also uses Twitter, mostly to beg Sebastian Gorka for an endorsement and badger Ted Lieu to debate him.
LA Podcast says: TED LIEU
Jimmy Gomez (D) vs. Kenneth Mejia (Green)
Incumbent Jimmy Gomez is one of America’s newest congressmembers: he won the seat after Xavier Becerra was picked by Jerry Brown to replace Kamala Harris as state Attorney General. Gomez is another former assemblymember who cut his teeth as a political director for various labor unions.
Running against him is the rare Green Party candidate to make it to the general election: Kenneth Mejia, a young CPA and organizer with the LA Tenants Union. Mejia is a heartfelt progressive, and calls out Gomez for his centrist voting record. But Mejia has also campaigned against the gas tax — decisions like that and his steadfast Jill Stein support throw his judgement into question.
LA Podcast says: JIMMY GOMEZ
Norma Torres (D) vs. Christian Valiente (R)
This is an Inland Empire district with a chunk of Pomona on its west side. It’s repped by Democrat Norma Torres, a naturalized citizen born in Guatemala and elected to Congress in 2014. She used to be a 911 dispatcher! Fascinating stuff.
Her opponent, Christian Valiente, is yet another Turning Point USA millennial, except this one founded a janitorial services company and a shaving cream brand AND a creatine supplement called “Sergeant Muscle.”
LA Podcast says: NORMA TORRES
Karen Bass (D) vs. Ron Bassilian (R)
This district is repped by Karen Bass, an influential LA activist who later became Speaker of the California Assembly. She’s a prominent Congressmember and is considered a progressive, though her record has been muddied a little in recent years by her co-sponsorship of SOPA, the draconian Internet censorship bill from 2011 (Schiff, Sherman, and Chu sponsored it too). Running against her: Ron Bassilian, a Culver City IT guy in his mid-forties who describes himself as “redpilled,” retweets alt-right guys constantly, and has a death metal goatee.
LA Podcast says: KAREN BASS
Linda Sanchez (D) vs. Ryan Downing (R)
Linda Sanchez is another Democrat who got to Congress via the LA labor machine: she was a lawyer for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers before she got elected in 2003. Her sister Loretta was in Congress, too: until she ran for Senate last year and lost to Kamala Harris in 2016. She’s running against Ryan Downing, a Republican from Whittier who’s running for this seat for the third time. His website and Twitter are pretty much indecipherable. He recently asked Elon Musk how he would “legally harness the sun’s energy without blowing up the Earth.”
LA Podcast says: LINDA SANCHEZ
Gil Cisneros (D) vs. Young Kim (R)
GOP incumbent Ed Royce represents this district that went for Hillary Clinton for eight points — he’s decided to quit Congress rather than run again and lose. The two runoff candidates are neck and neck. The Democrat is Gil Cisneros, a former Republican shipping manager for Frito-Lay who won the Mega Millions and spent a bunch of it on his campaign. He is now running on the most generic Democrat platform imaginable. His opponent is Young Kim, a Republican former Assemblymember who opposes same-sex marriage and sanctuary policies, but passes for moderate in the LA GOP field because she doesn’t engage with anime racists online. She’s also running a bland campaign and working very hard to talk about Donald Trump as little as possible.
LA Podcast says: GIL CISNEROS
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D) vs. Rodolfo Cortes Barragan (Green)
Our district here is represented by Lucille Roybal-Allard, the first Mexican-American woman in Congress and the daughter of beloved LA politician Ed Roybal. Roybal-Allard co-authored the Dream Act and is on a ton of House Subcommittees. Her opponent, Dr. Rodolfo Cortes Barragan, is another Green Party candidate who’s worked closely with Kenneth Mejia in CA-34. He was inspired to enter politics by Bernie Sanders’s campaign, but became disillusioned with Sanders after he endorsed Hillary Clinton. Cortes Barragan is a smart, sincere candidate, but Roybal-Allard has earned the right to go back to Washington.
LA Podcast says: LUCILLE ROYBAL-ALLARD
Maxine Waters vs. Omar Navarro (R)
You know who Maxine Waters is. Jesse Jackson’s campaign manager, legendary South LA Assemblymember, has been in Congress forever, rode out a handful of minor corruption scandals, the President name-checks her in every speech and complains that she threatened to beat him up. But you may not know her opponent, Omar Navarro: one of the most vile secretions to issue from the GOP anywhere in the country.
Navarro may not be an actual Nazi, but he’s definitely surrounded by a huge number of them very much of the time. He’s friendly with Baked Alaska, the Internet racist who used to be kind of famous before he was banned from all social media platforms. Navarro’s bodyguard was also Baked Alaska’s bodyguard, and marched with the white supremacists at Charlottesville. And two of Navarro’s closest aides, seen driving him away from protesters in this video, are also banned from social media for overt racism, after tweeting the 14 words and using parentheses to indicate Jewish people many times. Unrelated to Nazis, Navarro was convicted and placed on probation for putting a tracking device on his wife’s car.
The LA County Republican Party has declined to endorse Navarro, and they’ll endorse basically anyone. Look at the other Republicans in this section! The LA GOP endorsed all of them except Navarro. He’d be more widely known as a dangerous extremist if he were halfway decent at campaigning, but he isn’t, so instead he’s just an anonymous crank who’s going to get crushed in this race.
LA Podcast says: MAXINE WATERS
Nanette Barragan (D) vs. Nobody
Nanette Barragan is a freshman congresswoman who took this seat after Janice Hahn ran for County Supervisor. Before that she was an attorney at the giant law firm Latham & Watkins and a member of the Hermosa Beach City Council. Stacey Dash announced she was running in this district as a publicity stunt and bailed after like two days. Barragan‘s opponent in the general is Democrat and mayor of Compton Aja Brown, who also dropped her bid in early April. Sorry this is a boring one!
LA Podcast says: NANETTE BARRAGAN
Alan Lowenthal (D) vs. John Briscoe (R)
Incumbent Alan Lowenthal has represented this Long Beach-Catalina district for two terms. Before that hit the California Officeholder Trifecta: He was a member of the Long Beach City Council, the State Assembly, and the State Senate, where he served alongside his ex-wife. Awkward! His competition in this race is landlord and Huntington Beach school board member John Briscoe, an actual boring Republican who just wants to do the old-school barbaric stuff like raise the retirement age and expand deportations.
LA Podcast says: ALAN LOWENTHAL
SENATE DISTRICT 18
Bob Hertzberg vs. Rudy Melendez (R)
Bob Hertzberg is running for a second term from this east San Fernando Valley district. Most recently, he sponsored California’s landmark SB-10 law, which made the state the first in the country to eliminate cash bail. Hertzberg stood by his bill even as it was abandoned by civil rights and criminal justice reform groups like the ACLU for introducing a potentially more onerous pretrial detention system.
His competition is Rudy Melendez, a Republican artist who has become a minor rallying cry for some bail bonds operators following the SB10 vote. Melendez himself doesn’t appear to have any policy positions aside from supporting the gas tax repeal, and won’t seriously threaten Hertzberg in a district where more than 3 in 4 voters went for Clinton in 2016.
LA Podcast says: BOB HERTZBERG
SENATE DISTRICT 20
Connie Leyva (D) vs. Matthew Munson (R)
Connie Leyva, former president of the Labor Fed, is running for reelection in this district that cuts into the deep San Gabriel Valley including parts of Pomona. Leyva has been active in strengthening women’s workplace protections, including the passage of SB1015 to secure overtime pay for domestic workers and SB820 to ban the use of secret settlements and non-disclosure agreements in cases of workplace sexual harassment, discrimination and assault.
Her opponent is Republican Matthew Munson, who is really mad about transit-oriented development in eastern Los Angeles County, and lists Carl DeMaio (of Prop 6 fame) and Rand Paul as his heroes.
LA Podcast says: CONNIE LEYVA
SENATE DISTRICT 22
Mike Eng (D) vs. Susan Rubio (D)
An open seat election in the San Gabriel Valley pits two Democrats — former Assemblymember Mike Eng and former Baldwin Park councilmember Susan Rubio. Eng is running with the support of the seat’s former occupant on a platform highlighted by support for single payer healthcare. Rubio is running on a platform of support for equal pay and women’s rights in the workplace. She made statewide news last year when she sought a restraining order against her husband, then-assemblymember Roger Hernández, citing physical abuse.
Eng is a journeyman politician, looking for the next logical landing place. But Rubio could make a more meaningful addition to the legislature as a member of the Democratic women’s caucus, at a crucial juncture in California’s fight to rid the capital of sexual misconduct.
LA Podcast says: SUSAN RUBIO
SENATE DISTRICT 24
Maria Elena Durazo (D) vs. Peter Choi (D)
Maria Elena Durazo is going head-to-head with Peter Choi in the central Los Angeles district being vacated by Kevin De Leon. Choi is a former Garcetti staffer who also ran for this seat in 2014. Durazo is a longtime union big shot who is predictably vacuuming up funding for this campaign.
The candidates are similar in many respects. Both support single payer healthcare, and oppose Trump’s immigration and labor policies. But locally, Choi was forceful in his opposition to the placement of a homeless shelter near Wilshire and Vermont in Koreatown, going so far as to call council president Herb Wesson “corrupt” and suggesting that he didn’t believe the city’s data regarding the number of homeless individuals living in the neighborhood.
LA Podcast says: MARIA ELENA DURAZO
SENATE DISTRICT 26
Ben Allen (D) vs. Baron Bruno (I)
Democrat Ben Allen is attempting to hold off challenger Baron Bruno in this westside district. Bruno is a Libertarian real estate agent who has run for office locally before. His current campaign seems to be somewhat more serious than his assembly run in 2016, when he mostly just posted Clint Eastwood memes about why government regulation was bad.
LA Podcast says: Ben Allen.
SENATE DISTRICT 30
Holly Mitchell is running unopposed.
SENATE DISTRICT 32
Rita Topalian (R) vs. Bob Archuleta (D)
This district was vacated by Tony Mendoza, who was under threat of expulsion from the Senate for sexual misconduct. The resulting special election took place in June, simultaneously with the primary for November’s general election, and Mendoza himself ran in both.
Republican Rita Topalian took one runoff spot in both contests — but somewhat inexplicably, voters selected two different Democrats in the primary and the general: Montebello councilmember Vanessa Delgado and Pico Rivera councilmember Bob Archuleta, respectively. Credit voters for roundly rejecting Mendoza, at least, and pour one out for Delgado, whose month-long stint in Sacramento is already over.
LA Podcast says: BOB ARCHULETA
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 36
Tom Lackey (R) vs. Steve Fox (D)
AD36, covering large portions of the Antelope Valley, including Lancaster, pits two familiar opponents against each other one more time. Steve Fox, Democrat, and Tom Lackey, Republican, have been on the ballot for this seat in every cycle since 2012, with Fox winning one term that year and being unseated by Lackey in 2014.
Lackey is a boilerplate California Republican – opposes some of the more overtly racist positions taken by the national party, while still being opposed to bills that would fight climate change or further trans or women’s rights. For his part, Fox, during his single term in the Assembly was accused of misconduct by his employees, including exposing himself to an aide and then firing her.
LA Podcast says: NO ENDORSEMENT
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 38
Dante Acosta (R) vs. Christy Smith (D)
Democrat Christy Smith takes on incumbent Dante Acosta in AD38, which covers parts of the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys. Acosta is a pro-Prop 13 Republican whose main priorities are stymying the state’s nascent criminal justice reform movement and cutting the gas tax. Smith is a moderate who thinks Prop 13 reform could help California improve its public education.
LA Podcast says: CHRISTY SMITH
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 39
Luz Rivas (D) vs. Ricardo Benitez (R)
Luz Maria Rivas won this seat earlier this year in a special election to replace Raul Bocanegra, who resigned after allegations of sexual assault surfaced. Her opponent in the special election, Ricardo Benitez, meets her again in the general. Benitez is a staunch opponent of sanctuary city policies as well as California’s sanctuary state law. He’s also running in an overwhelmingly Democratic district and is clinging to every passing news item that could bolster Republican turnout like a life raft, which leads to fantastic visuals like Benitez wearing a paper In-N-Out hat decrying “the left’s” efforts to destroy businesses.
LA Podcast says: LUZ MARIA RIVAS
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 41
Chris Holden (D) vs. Alan Reynolds (I)
Incumbent Chris Holden is running against Alan Reynolds, who is running as an Independent. Reynolds is a former engineer who has little substantive to say, and whose main reason for running appears to be that he believes its his civic duty to ensure that no one ever runs unopposed. Fair!
LA Podcast says: CHRIS HOLDEN
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 43
Laura Friedman (D) vs. Ardy Kassakhian (D)
AD43, covering parts of central Los Angeles and Glendale, is represented by Laura Friedman, who is defending her seat against fellow Democrat Ardy Kassakhian, also her opponent in 2016. Friedman has been a solid representative for the district, supporting measures to protect Los Angeles against the effects of global warming and becoming a leader in the #MeToo movement within the legislature.
LA Podcast says: LAURA FRIEDMAN
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 45
Jesse Gabriel (D) vs. Justin Clark (R)
Jesse Gabriel, yet another recipient of a seat ceded by a representative accused of sexual wrongdoing in a special election, is once again facing off against Republican wunderkind Justin Clark. At only 19, Clark, a CSUN student, has already internalized some important lessons. The homeless act like they’re above the law, the poor get too many handouts, immigration officials shouldn’t be questioned. Hopefully, he grows up and out of it.
LA Podcast says: JESSE GABRIEL
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 46
Adrin Nazarian (D) vs. Roxane Beckford Hoge (R)
Roxane Beckford Hoge is running against incumbent Democrat Adrin Nazarian in this district that covers the eastern San Fernando Valley from North Hills down to Studio City. Hoge is a mother and a businessowner — the type of person, she says, who doesn’t run for office. In a campaign video, she holds a grip of plastic straws and bags, frowning at the excesses of Democratic rule. In a less charming moment, she walks by homeless tents while chastising political leaders for releasing “criminals” from prison.
LA Podcast says: ADRIN NAZARIAN
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 48
Blanca Rubio is running unopposed.
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 49
Ed Chau (D) vs. Burton Brink
Assemblymember Ed Chau, representing AD49, which covers much of the San Gabriel Valley, was responsible during this legislative session for the California Consumer Privacy Act, a landmark law that gives Californians positive rights over the handling of their data by private companies. His opponent, Burton Brink, is a retired veteran of the Sheriff’s Department whose priorities are strengthening local law enforcement and, you guessed it: repealing the gas tax.
LA Podcast says: ED CHAU
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 50
Richard Bloom is running unopposed.
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 51
Wendy Carrillo (D) vs. Christopher Stare (Libertarian)
Democrat Wendy Carrillo holds this seat in Northeast Los Angeles and is running for reelection against Christopher Stare, who ran as a write-in candidate. No one else wanted to take Carrillo on, so Stare gets through to the general despite earning so few votes you could count them on one hand. Stare says he was inspired by Gary Johnson to run as a Libertarian, and he holds a doctorate in psychology, which he seems eager to use to explain why government programs can’t work.
LA Podcast says: WENDY CARRILLO
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 52
Freddie Rodriguez (D) vs. Toni Holle (R)
AD52 skirts the border between Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, passing through Pomona on the LA side. This race pits Democrat Freddie Rodriguez against Republican Toni Holle, a longtime Chino resident. Holle is a tough on crime, gun-toting, transphobic candidate, which is to say she has very little chance of winning this district.
LA Podcast says: FREDDIE RODRIGUEZ
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 53
Miguel Santiago (D) vs. Kevin Hee Young Jang (D)
It’s another two-Democrat race in this central Los Angeles district. Assemblymember Miguel Santiago takes on Kevin Hee Young Jang, who is seeking to create some daylight between himself and Santiago on net neutrality, an issue on which Santiago earned some ire during the past session, and public safety, an area where Jang says greater law enforcement attention is needed.
LA Podcast says: MIGUEL SANTIAGO
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 54
Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D) vs. Tepring Piquado (D)
Sydney Kamlager-Dove won this seat following the resignation of Sebastian Ridley Thomas. With a few months under her belt, we now have a bit more of a detailed view of what Assemblymember Kamlager-Dove looks like. She introduced a successful bill to reduce CEQA requirements for a prospective Clippers arena to be built in Inglewood and joined with a large bloc of Democrats that turned against a just-cause eviction bill in the Assembly. Given the wave of displacement and gentrification in her district, it’s a concerning set of signals.
Her opponent is Democrat Tepring Piquado, a professor whose work has been funded by the Department of Defense, and who, despite her relatively progressive politics, is also endorsed by multiple Police Officer’s Associations.
LA Podcast says: NO ENDORSEMENT
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 55
Philip Chen (R) vs. Gregg Fritchle (D)
In this district on the San Bernardino County border, Republican Phillip Chen, who squares off against Democrat Gregg Fritchle, won by a huge margin in 2016. Republican numbers in the capital being what they are, he was immediately appointed to a leadership position in the GOP caucus. Most recently, he has been using what power he has to marshal state voters against that evergreen source of conservative ire: the DMV.
LA Podcast says: GREGG FRITCHLE
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 57
Ian Calderon (D) vs. Jessica Martinez (R)
What’s tearing families apart during the Trump era? If you listen to Republican challenger Jessica Martinez, it’s California’s high-tax regulatory environment. On the flip side of the ballot is Majority Leader Ian Calderon, who helped pass California’s minimum wage increase and terminal illness right to die legislation.
LA Podcast says: IAN CALDERON
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 58
Cristina Garcia (D) vs. Michael Simpfenderfer (R)
Incumbent Cristina Garcia faces off against Republican Michael Simpfenderfer in this Southeast LA district. Garcia was one of the leaders of the #MeToo movement in the state’s capital during the past session, before it came to light that she herself had engaged in bullying workplace behaviors and allegedly retaliated against employees who accused her of sexual harassment. This led to her being stripped of her committee assignments by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, but wasn’t enough to shake voters’ faith in her during the primary.
LA Podcast says: NO ENDORSEMENT
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 59
Reginald Sawyer-Jones (D) vs. Leslie Hagan-Morgan (D)
Incumbent Reginald Sawyer-Jones is an old political hand in Democratic party circles in Los Angeles. He’s running for re-election in this South Los Angeles district against progressive Leslie Hagan-Morgan, executive director of a non-profit that helps at-risk students graduate. Hagan-Morgan is an impressive candidate whose priorities (student loan forgiveness, affordable housing, police violence) seem well-aligned with the district he seeks to serve.
LA Podcast says: LESLIE HAGAN-MORGAN
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 62
Autumn Burke (D) vs. Al Hernandez (R)
This district, which covers Venice and LAX-adjacent communities, sees Democrat Autumn Burke facing off against Republican Al Hernandez. Hernandez seeks to distance himself from the Republican Party of Trump, which he says has not put the American community first, but he also seems to think that high taxes are a more pressing concern than anything happening nationally.
LA Podcast says: AUTUMN BURKE
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 63
Anthony Rendon (D) v. Maria Estrada (D)
This race pits Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon against fellow Democrat Maria Estrada, who is running on the strength of progressive anger at Rendon for killing SB562, the single-payer bill. Unfortunately, Estrada has an unhappy habit of making anti-semitic remarks. Hopefully the rising tide of single-payer support will be enough to convince Rendon to change course on his own.
LA Podcast says: ANTHONY RENDON
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 64
Mike Gipson (D) vs. Theresa Sanford (R)
In the primary, Democrat Mike Gipson shellacked opponent Theresa Sanford, who was running as a Republican write-in, 29,422 votes to 9. Yes, 9. Apparently Sanford’s message isn’t resonating in this district, home to Compton, Willowbrook and Wilmington. That’s not too surprising, considering she would oppose healthcare reform and gun control, and hints at a broader desire to reduce the social safety net for low-income Californians.
LA Podcast says: MIKE GIPSON
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 66
Al Muratsuchi (D) vs. Frank Scotto (R)
In AD66, which spans the South Bay from Manhattan Beach and Gardena down to the Palos Verdes peninsula, Democrat Al Muratsuchi is trying to fend off a challenge from Republican Frank Scotto. Scotto is a Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association-endorsed candidate who, like so many other Republicans, is pinning his hopes on the Prop 6 gas tax repeal to turn out conservative voters.
LA Podcast says: AL MURATSUCHI
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 70
Patrick O’Donnell (D) vs. Honor Robson (Libertarian)
Libertarian Honor “Mimi” Robson is challenging for the seat currently held by Patrick O’Donnell in this deep blue district, which includes Long Beach and Catalina Island. What does a Libertarian do in Southern California? Apparently, support school choice vouchers and the replacement of the Affordable Care Act with a distributed network of Walmart clinics.
LA Podcast says: PATRICK O’DONNELL
COUNTY SHERIFF AND ASSESSOR
LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF
Jim McDonnell vs. Alex Villanueva
Everyone agrees that the Sheriff’s Department has to change — even the current sheriff, Jim McDonnell. After another year of staggering misconduct at all levels of the department — listen to virtually any episode of our podcast for examples, but especially “BADGE TO THE BONE” — the entire institution is obviously in desperate need of reform. What McDonnell and his opponent, former deputy Alex Villanueva, disagree on is what KIND of reform is needed.
McDonnell, a former Long Beach police chief elected in 2014 after the previous sheriff Lee Baca was indicted for many crimes, has fought to fix the department by sharing the names of deputies who commit misconduct — the so-called “Brady List” — with prosecutors, so the deputies’ pasts don’t taint cases. Deputies on the Brady List have been accused of serious crimes like falsifying evidence and rape. Villanueva, meanwhile, has called the Brady List a “fake list,” a distraction from reforms needed at the top. These reforms, Villanueva has said, have stalled as McDonnell has rewarded members of the department closely associated with disgraced former undersheriff Paul Tanaka. Obviously, we’re uneasy about any candidate who refers to crimes by deputy like rape and evidence fraud as “fake.”
Villanueva, on the other hand, strongly advocates for one morally urgent reform: kicking ICE out of the county jails. Earlier this year, reports emerged that ICE was receiving lists of inmates scheduled for release, so they could find undocumented people, pick them up at the jails, and deport them. McDonnell said this wasn’t true — then it came out that he was either wrong or lying. In reality, ICE had been given ersatz offices INSIDE the jails to run their operations. Even in the aftermath of this controversy, McDonnell has been fuzzy about his willingness to cooperate with federal immigration authorities — the whole thing reflects very poorly on both his competence and his soul.
So this election has been about who deserves the mantle of Reformer, with each candidate accusing this other of not having what it takes to turn this mess around. Unfortunately — and with heartfelt condolences to the millions of Angelenos who deserve better choices — we think they both might be onto something.
We struggled hard with whether to make an endorsement at all in this race. Ultimately, after hashing it out on our voter guide episode, and voted to endorse Alex Villanueva.
LA Podcast says: ALEX VILLANUEVA
Jeffrey Prang vs. John “Lower Taxes” Loew
The best thing you can say about Jeffrey Prang’s tenure as assessor is that the Office of the Assessor isn’t in the news much anymore. After his predecessor, John Noguez, was convicted in a major corruption scandal, it was Prang who restored stability to the department.
Challenger John Loew believes so firmly that property taxes are too high that he legally changed his middle name to “Lower Taxes.” Of course, if you’ve been following the decline of California’s public schools and infrastructure, you probably already know that property taxes are actually TOO low as is.
LA Podcast says: JEFFREY PRANG
SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE, OFFICE 4
Alfred Coletta vs. A. Veronica Sauceda
The winner of the primary in this race was Alfred Coletta, a Deputy District Attorney in LA County for 30 years. Historically, getting elected judge is a layup for experienced prosecutors like him. But this election takes place as voters are becoming more aware of the extreme power wielded by prosecutors in the justice system, and how it’s often not used for the public good. It’s common practice for DAs to abuse their position, suppressing evidence and threatening draconian sentences in order to get innocent people to agree to plea bargains. Many such stories have come out of LA County in recent years.
We’re not aware of any such accusations against Coletta. But in a system heavily weighted against defendants, would we really benefit from more prosecutors as judges? Do we want to vote for a candidate who campaigns, like Coletta, on how many convictions he’s achieved? Or a candidate who’s endorsed by every police union in Southern California?
A. Veronica Sauceda, Coletta’s opponent, is a Superior Court Commissioner, meaning she’s actually presided over cases. Before that she was a nonprofit attorney representing low-income clients. She’s endorsed by LA County Dems and a ton of labor unions. To us, she’s the judge we’d expect to give us fair treatment if we ever found ourselves in a courtroom.
LA Podcast says: A. VERONICA SAUCEDA
SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE, OFFICE 16
Sydne Michel vs. Patti Hunter
This one’s a two-prosecutor race. Sydne Michel is a Redondo Beach city attorney who’s earned her share of endorsements from moderate institutions: the LA Times, the LA County Federation of Labor, and the Mexican American Bar Association. Her son plays lacrosse and she was an extra in “Carrie.” Fun facts! But questions have been raised about her political leanings, specifically related to gun rights: her husband is a major lawyer for the NRA. That fact adds kind of a sinister layer to the fact that her son’s is named Colt and their dog’s name is Heston. Here’s a picture of Michel and her husband from her Twitter account.
The Times editorial page, which endorsed Michel, got huffy when one of its own columnists pointed out her husband’s NRA connections. “Michel is the candidate, not her husband,” they wrote. As for the affirmative case for Michel, the Times went with “she is the better candidate and would make a better judge.” Very persuasive stuff, guys! Thanks for talking us through it!
It’s true that Michel shouldn’t just be evaluated by her husband’s work, but voters in any judicial race have limited information to go on. And Chuck Michel isn’t just a gun lawyer. He was on the Central Committee of the LA Republican Party from 2008 to 2010, and he’s a member of the Federalist Society — the shadow legal organization that hand-picked all the conservative Supreme Court judges of the last decade and gave us Citizens United. Are we allowed to evaluate Sydne Michel as a judge of character?
Even beyond her husband, we’re somewhat taken aback by the fact that pretty much every police union in Southern California has endorsed Michel, as has the association of deputy prosecutors and every Republican club we can find that does judge endorsements (though Michel doesn’t list those on her website).
Patti Hunter has been an LA City Attorney for 24 years, meaning that she almost certainly has a tainted record when it comes to the rights of the accused. But since the police and prosecutors have taken one side in this race, we feel good about taking the other.
LA Podcast says: PATTI HUNTER
SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE, OFFICE 60
Tony Cho vs. Holly Hancock
Tony Cho has been an LA Deputy District Attorney since 2005. He’s stacked up a ton of endorsements: the LA County Dems, the police union, two city councilmembers (Koretz and Ryu), and many others.
Holly Hancock, however, is a much rarer commodity: a public defender running for judge. In the past, that job has been seen as such a detriment to a judicial campaign that defenders usually just list themselves as “Attorney At Law” on the ballot, as Hancock is doing. But why isn’t a public defender just as qualified to be a judge as a prosecutor? Refreshingly, Hancock hasn’t been shy about her politics in her campaign — she’s explicitly advocated for reforming cash bail, which she argues has historically been unaffordable even for middle-class Angelenos.
LA Podcast says: HOLLY HANCOCK
SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE, OFFICE 113
Javier Perez vs. Michael Ribons
This one’s not easy. The probably front-runner here is Javier Perez, a longtime West Covina prosecutor who’s got the endorsement of both the Sheriff’s union and LA County Democrats. He ran for judge two years ago and got waxed hard.
Ribons is a civil litigator who also ran a failed campaign two years ago. He’s now running as an anti-prosecutor who will look out for the little guy, emphasizing that as a civil litigator he’s served clients “from all socio-economic backgrounds.” Ribons served as a judge pro tem for the County, which is basically a temp judge to hear small claims cases the larger courts can’t handle, but it still means he’s spent time in court. Some outlets have accused him of deceptively inflating his experience level, however.
The stories of Ribons’s resume inflation are definitely red flags. But once again, given the choice between one candidate for judge who’s worked to put people in jail and one who hasn’t, we’re going with the one who hasn’t.
LA Podcast says: MICHAEL RIBONS
APPEALS COURT JUDGES
These votes are the public’s opportunity to weigh in on previously-confirmed judges in a thumbs-up, thumbs-down vote. It’s like an automatic recall process, which seems like a pretty batshit idea, but then again, as the Los Angeles Times points out, also probably seems more favorable after watching Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court.
But where the Times says to just vote “Yes,” we think there is one candidate in particular who has earned your vote of no confidence.
Carol Corrigan is a Schwarzenegger appointee who has served as an Associate Justice on the state Supreme Court for 12 years. In 2008, Corrigan dissented on the short-lived ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in California and subsequently voted with the majority that upheld Proposition 8, the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. This saga lives as one of the most egregious and shameful chapters in recent state history, and even though it was directed by popular prejudice, Corrigan has shown that she cannot be trusted to safeguard the protections of millions of Californians who belong to political minorities at a time when those protections are sorely needed.
LA Podcast says: NO ON CORRIGAN, YES ON THE REST