My California Ballot 2022
General Philosophy Of Voting
This is California, so the Democrats always win. When I vote, I mean to send a signal somewhere in between “you are the candidate I really prefer for this office” and “I will vote for the Democrat if I approve of her and want her to have a mandate; otherwise I will vote for the Republican as a protest”.
I try to have a weak bias towards voting “NO” on state constitutional amendments, because unless there’s a compelling reason otherwise I would rather legislators be able to react to events than have things hard-coded for all time.
I lean liberal-to-libertarian; the further you are from that, the less useful you’ll find my opinions.
Proposition 1: Constitutional Amendment Enshrining Right To Abortion
California will never decide to ban abortion. If the federal government decides to ban abortion, California’s state constitution won’t matter. So you would think that having a right to abortion in the Constitution is a purely symbolic matter.
The people arguing for the proposition don’t address this concern.
The people arguing against the proposition claim that this is a Trojan Horse intended to sneak in support for using taxpayer funding for late-term and partial-birth abortions, which California doesn’t currently do. Is this true?
It’s true that California currently doesn’t allow abortions past 24 weeks. It’s true that the exact text of the proposed amendment is:
The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives. This section is intended to further the constitutional right to privacy guaranteed by Section 1, and the constitutional right to not be denied equal protection guaranteed by Section 7. Nothing herein narrows or limits the right to privacy or equal protection
…which sure doesn’t sound like it’s saying the state can continue to ban abortion after 24 weeks. But this article quotes law professors who reassure us that courts would totally understand that this amendment has to be interpreted in the context in which it was written - ie a state which supports a 24-week abortion ban - so no court would ever interpret it as making 24-week abortion bans unconstitutional. So apparently our defense against this is . . . that all California judges will be die-hard originalists completely immune to the temptation of judicial activism even when the text is begging them to do it.
A friend brings up that late-term partial-birth abortions happen more often in Republicans’ imaginations than in real life. When they do happen in real life, it’s usually for sympathetic medical reasons.
I interpret this as a purely symbolic measure that has no real benefits, probably also has no real risks, but writes a poorly-worded thing whose explicit text nobody wants into the state constitution. I vote NO.
Proposition 26: Legalize In Person Sports Gambling At Racetracks And Indian Casinos
Allows four racetracks in the state to offer in person sports betting, and tribal casinos to allow “sports betting, roulette, and games played with dice”.
California is truly the dumbest state. I believe this for many reasons, but my reason for believing it today is that apparently the law allows tribal casinos to offer slot machines, but not roulette or dice games. Nobody comes out and says exactly why, but I think it’s because of this paragraph in the California constitution, from 1872
Every person who deals, plays, or carries on, opens, or causes to be opened, or who conducts, either as owner or employee, whether for hire or not, any game of faro, monte, roulette, lansquenet, rouge et noire, rondo, tan, fan-tan, seven-and-a-half, twenty-one, hokey-pokey, or any banking or percentage game played with cards, dice, or any device, for money, checks, credit, or other representative of value, and every person who plays or bets at or against any of those prohibited games, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be punishable by a fine not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by both the fine and imprisonment.
Since roulette existed in 1872 but slot machines didn’t, the Constitution banned roulette but not slot machines, and that rule has continued to the present day. Now if slot-machine-filled casinos want to also have roulette, they need a Constitutional amendment. DID I MENTION THAT I WISH PEOPLE WOULD STOP ADDING EVERY LAW THAT THEY LIKE TO THE CONSTITUTION?
But this law also allows random people to sue “card clubs”, ie small-scale private gambling establishments. We originally thought this was a Texas-style “bounty” law that gave the random people part of the winnings, but it seems this isn’t true. I’m not sure if the idea is that legal gambling establishments would fund these lawsuits, or if they just expect private citizens to do this out of the love of suing people.
Although I think the first prong of the law - allowing roulette and sports betting at casinos - makes sense, the second prong seems to be casinos making it easier to shut down their competitors. These competitors are probably ordinary people who want to gamble in a backroom somewhere without hurting anyone else. And the argument against on the ballot is by the Black Chamber of Commerce, saying that these card clubs are a useful source of revenue for poor minority communities. I don’t want to help giant casinos put a bounty on their heads. I vote NO.
Proposition 27: Legalize Online Sports Betting, Tax It, And Give A Tiny Fraction Of The Money To Various Sympathetic Causes
That’s not the official name. The official name is California Solutions To Homelessness And Mental Health Support Act. I think mine is more honest.
Until now, Proposition 22 (make it hard for Uber and Lyft to do gig employment) was the most expensive proposition in California history. But it looks like Proposition 27 is going to beat 22 for this heavily-contested title. It lets out-of-state companies provide online sports betting in California if they bribe some Indian tribe that has gambling rights to say the Indian tribe supports them.
It’s sponsored by the out-of-state gambling companies, and it’s opposed by whichever Indian tribes are getting the short end of this deal, plus anti-gambling forces. The proposition says that the gambling will be taxed and the money will go to homelessness and mental health programs. Surely with this amount of extra money, they’ll be able to get the homelessness problem under control at last! :) :) :)
The argument against is that this is probably a power grab on the part of some tribes and companies to go over the heads of the Legislature to enrich themselves at the expense of other tribes and companies, plus all the usual disadvantages of gambling.
The argument in favor is that in a world where you can already buy stocks and crypto, I’m not sure sports gambling makes things any worse. And I’m hopeful that this would set a precedent that could one day lead to legalization of prediction markets.
In fact, that day will be tomorrow, when I announce my new sport, Predictelectionresultsball. The rules are: there are two teams, one predicts the Republicans will win, the other predicts that the Democrats will win, and whoever is right gets one point and wins the game. Bets on the outcome can be placed at my new sports betting site, Shmanifold, any resemblance to any other site is entirely coincidental.
I vote YES.
Proposition 28: Provide Additional Funding For Arts And Music In Public Schools Without Raising Taxes Somehow
This proposition would mandate the California legislature to devote $1 billion more to public schools, earmarked for arts and music, than it is doing already.
Its supporters say again and again that it will definitely not increase taxes, but provide no explanation for how this could be. I guess maybe the legislature will cut other programs? But if the legislature decided those other programs were more important, why are we the voters so sure that actually we should prefer arts and music education?
Supposing we have an extra billion dollars, is arts and music education really the most important use for it? Doesn’t California have the lowest literacy rate in the nation, and constantly have to rewrite the math tests to fudge the fact that students never pass the real ones? Do the voters really have to rise up and circumvent the usual budgeting process to demand a billion dollars extra for arts and music in particular? Was I forced to take violin lessons in fourth grade, something that I am still bitter about?
I vote NO.
Proposition 29: It’s The Kidney One Again
Some special interest group - I have never been able to figure out which one - would apparently profit from over-regulating kidney dialysis clinics. It’s not the doctors! Last time I accused the medical guild, and a doctor politely corrected me and said the medical guild opposes this. It’s not nurses or patients either, their advocacy groups oppose this too. Everyone hates this proposition! And yet every election year, like a monster shambling from the grave once more in Monster Movie X: The Re-Monstering, this proposition appears on the California ballot. Every election year, like a plucky team of heroes armed with an ancient sword, the voters defeat it. Every election year, it returns to wreak revenge by annoying the living.
The argument in favor is that this will never stop until we pass it. If we vote no again, our children’s children will still be dealing with The Kidney One as they rocket off to the Moon or Mars or the metaverse. The sponsors of this proposition have vowed that Californians will never know peace until it passes: our choice is surrender, or binding our descendants to a war that will last through generations.
And yet the argument against is that we must never surrender to The Kidney One. As many times as it rises up to menace the Californian people, so many times shall we rally the defenders. This time the alliance of free races is called No On 29: Stop Yet Another Dangerous Dialysis Proposition, and includes the California Medical Association, Renal Physicians Association, American Nurses Association, California Chamber of Commerce, California Taxpayer Protection Committee, the NAACP, and every other group in California, even (really!) the Scottish-American Military Society.
I stand with these brave defenders of liberty, and will cast the same vote as my father, and his father before him, and his father before him, and so on to the creation of the world: NO on The Kidney One.
Proposition 30: Tax The Rich To Fund Electric Cars And Wildfire Prevention
This one is simple. Taxpayers will pay an extra 1.75% on income above $2 million, and the money will go to electric car stuff and wildfire prevention.
Normally I would lean against this because I hate when already-rich-states with already-high-taxes use rich people as their personal piggy banks. But Governor Gavin Newsom . . . opposes this? What? Governor Newsom isn’t usually the sort to spare a tear for overtaxed citizens when cool-sounding programs are on the line. What’s up?
According to this website, which I trust because it’s too hilarious not to be true, this proposition is funded entirely by Lyft. The wildfire prevention is a diversion, and most of the money goes to tax breaks for electric cars. Lyft needs lots of electric cars to meet some new regulation, and would save a lot of money if California subsidized electric car purchases. Actual environmentalists prefer things other than pure electric car subsidies, and this proposition deliberately locks them out of the decision-making process. Newsom and his allies in the teachers’ unions are against because you can only use the rich as a piggy bank some limited number of times before they move out, and this funges against the stuff they want to tax them for.
Probably this will pass, because Californians respond to “tax the rich to fund environmentalist-sounding-thingies” like sharks respond to chum. Probably the California government deserves it, because they keep coming up with dumb laws to hurt Lyft, and turnabout is fair play. Still, corporations using the rich as their personal piggy bank is a worrying development even by California standards. Also, I hate Lyft because their app keeps pretending it’s right on the verge of finding me a driver, then stringing me along for ten minutes before admitting there are no drivers within miles of me. I vote NO.
Proposition 31: Ban Flavored Tobacco Products
In 2020, the legislature voted in favor of banning flavored tobacco products from retail stores. Tobacco companies didn’t like this and figured out some way to shift the decision onto voters, so now voters have to ratify or contradict the legislature.
The argument in favor is made by people trying to make us panicked that flavored cigarettes will get children addicted RIGHT NOW, YOUR CHILDREN ARE DYING EVEN AS WE SPEAK, even though children are already banned from buying tobacco. They talk a lot about “candy flavored cigarettes”, even though I bet 99% of products affected by this law are like menthol-flavored or something.
I can’t understand the argument against because it’s written entirely in the Black Speech of Barad-Dur. Visions of horror and torment fill my mind, and of a sun like sackcloth rising over bloody seas, but the exact intricacies escape me. For some reason this always happens when I read stuff written by tobacco companies.
I’m usually pretty libertarian, but the tobacco companies trying to weasel out of a legislative decision like this annoys me. Plus if I have to make an exception for anything it will be for cigarettes. Plus you can always buy your flavored cigarettes online if you want. I vote YES.
Apparently more complicated, see comment thread here.
Governor: Newsom (D) vs. Dahle (R)
Gavin Newsom is so certain of himself that he didn’t even submit a photo or candidate statement:
Probably he is too busy writing his candidate statement for President in 2024. [EDIT: See here, commenter claims you’re not allowed to have a candidate statement if you go above spending limits]
This got me thinking: I make fun of Gavin Newsom a lot. I say he has no characteristics except good hair and the ability to pander to every interest group the exact right amount. But Newsom is favored as the Democratic nominee in 2024 if Biden chooses not to run again. Why? Usually people who become a major party candidate for President have some positive quality that has helped them get that far. Donald Trump is a master showman and figured out how to tap a vein of populist anger no one else could. Joe Biden has folksy charm and 75,000 years of experience in the Senate. Hillary Clinton had stratospheric name recognition and the support of the Democrats’ best political machine. If Gavin Newsom becomes President, or even a nominee, to what will we attribute this? I have lived in his state for four years now and I am baffled. He is a mystery, a gaping void where a candidate statement and photo should be, certain of victory with no explanation.
Meanwhile, Brian Dahle is a farmer and California state senator. He seems nice, he is moderate by Republican standards, and I enjoy the way he generates artwork from prompts. Otherwise I have no opinion about him.
I originally planned to vote Dahle because I hate everything about California’s political system and that seems like the sort of thing it’s fair to blame a governor for. But a friend convinced me that most of California’s problems are downstream of high land prices, and one of the few clear positions Newsom has taken is being very pro-YIMBY. This was a surprising choice, it’s one I agree with, and it’s enough to make him better than the median Democratic candidate and so deserving of a positive signal / mandate.
I vote NEWSOM.
Lieutenant Governor: Kounalakis (D) vs. Jacobs (R)
In the extremely narrow band within which Californian Democrats vary, Elena Kounalakis seems better than most. Her quirky personal detail is that she and her equally-rich husband fund a bunch of research into Hellenistic Greece, which I support. I voted for her last time and would be happy to do so again.
This time it’s the Republican, Angela Jacobs, who refuses to send a photo or candidate statement. Looking at her website, she has no legible positions besides “solve all crises”.
I vote KOUNALAKIS.
US Senator: Meuser (R) vs. Padilla (D)
Alex Padilla is the incumbent, appointed to fill Kamala Harris’ seat after she became VP. He seems kind of like Generic Democrat #9381. Wikipedia says Wall Street Journal calls him a “business friendly moderate”, but also that Padilla “supported the Green New Deal” - which I guess is what being a business-friendly moderate Democrat gets you in 2022.
Mark Meuser says that running for Senate as a Republican in California is like “going as a missionary to the dark continent of Africa”, which at least proves he has a sense of humor. He wants to “investigate” Fauci and the CDC, and says he is not sure who really won the 2020 presidential election. Since this is for a federal office, I’m more willing to let that be disqualifying and vote as a partisan here.
I vote PADILLA.
Secretary Of State: Bernosky (R) vs. Weber (D)
The Secretary of State mostly oversees elections.
Rob Bernowsky says that he will “[make] it easier to elect leaders to fight high gas and food prices, have high-quality and safe schools, [etc]”. I am not sure I like his assumption that he gets to decide which kind of leaders to make it easiest to elect, and all the concern about potential Republican vote-rigging has me kind of on edge this year.
Shirley Weber just says that in her last term she oversaw a “safe, secure, and seamless” election, and talks about election security stuff. She does bring up the usual social justice stuff, but only in service of making sure everyone gets to vote, not in terms of how the vote turns out. This rings many fewer alarm bells, and I want a safe and boring choice here.
I vote WEBER.
Controller: Cohen (D) vs. Chen (R)
Malia Cohen is a black person with the last name Cohen. How did this happen? Apparently not by marriage - her husband has a different name. I eventually found this article on black Cohens, which says that about 4,000 of the 87,000 Cohens in America are black. Some of them are descended from a Cohen in South Carolina who married a black woman in the 1800s, and others are descended from a Cohen who was a pirate in the Caribbean (really!) Most are not Jewish. I can’t tell if Malia is Jewish - I listened to the first few minutes of this talk she gave at a synagogue, and although she sounds extremely at home there and pronounces her Hebrew surprisingly well, she also mentions she’s the daughter of a pastor, so I’m guessing no. She was formerly a San Francisco Supervisor, but I will try not to hold that against her. Her opponent accuses her of literally going to Venezuela to study socialism, but I already assume every San Francisco Supervisor did that.
Lanhee Chen has a PhD and JD from Harvard and does public policy at the Hoover Foundation at Stanford. He was apparently Mitt Romney’s economic policy advisor and served on some board of important experts that decided things about Social Security. He is against Trump and apparently wrote in Mitt Romney’s name on his 2016 ballot, which, mood.
Somehow Chen has endorsements from the LA Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Jose Mercury. I don’t know if this many California papers have ever endorsed a Republican before. They all just say it would be nice to have some fresh faces in government who aren’t associated with the established power structure, which is true but would be equally true for a thousand other positions. I wonder if Cohen did something to piss off the Democratic establishment or something. In any case, if I’m going to try to vote for Republicans occasionally, now is the time.
I vote CHEN.
Treasurer: Ma (D) vs. Guerrero (R)
Fiona Ma is embroiled in various scandals, including sexual harassment and mismanagement of funds. But people seem to like her treasuring, especially her work simplifying rules around affordable housing.
Jack Guerrero is an accountant and former mayor who supposedly did a good job fixing the budget in his small town. But he is also a Trump supporter who challenged the 2020 election. He has alienated people by criticizing the current system in terms that some people find overly strong, with the San Diego Tribune criticizing him for saying that "poor spending decisions in Sacramento are akin to 'corruption' and 'subversion'". Apparently saying that some California state officials might be corrupt - while running against a corrupt California state official - is a step too far.
I'm going to sit this one out. ABSTAIN.
Attorney General: Hochman (R) vs. Bonta (D)
Rob Bonta is a partisan Democrat who seems to really like publicity stunts for Democratic causes. When Texas set a bounty for reporting illegal abortions, Bonta had California set a bounty for reporting illegal guns to troll Texas (he seems to think it is immoral and unconstitutional, but wants the Supreme Court to “call his bluff”). He has gone to all 58 counties of California telling them to fight hate crimes more, and constantly comes up with newer and showier ways of demonstrating how much he hates guns. More substantially, he has been a powerful advocate for increased housing and has successfully sued cities that oppose denser zoning.
Nathan Hochman is a prosecutor whose message is to cut the politics and get tough on crime. He is a moderate Republican and says he opposes Donald Trump. His plans tend to sound like “you know, be tough on crime, do tough-on-crime kind of stuff”, and his most specific proposal is a massive campaign against human trafficking. I don’t want to call human trafficking “fake” in general, which would be false and offensive, but I think it is correct to round it off to fake for the specific purpose of a Californian Attorney General election, and I feel like he is insulting my intelligence by making it a central plank of his campaign.
I dislike both of these people, ABSTAIN.
Insurance Commissioner: Howell (R) vs. Lara (D)
Robert Howell is an Independent Businessperson and Family Man who supports Random Capital Letters In Candidate Statements. His website has apostrophe’s in unusual place’s. Otherwise he mostly does the usual Republican thing of mentioning that everything about California is terrible, and maybe we should try electing politicians slightly different than the ones who keep getting us ever deeper into this mess
Ricardo Lara says that he got the insurance companies to stop charging as much for car insurance during the lockdown when nobody was driving, and you’re welcome. He is in favor of health care innovation like letting employees include elderly parents on their health care policies.
The newspapers note that Lara is plagued by scandals. After promising not to take money from insurance companies, he took $270,000 from fifty-six insurance-related people, then abused his office to benefit them.
Howell does not display any particular passion or interest in insurance issues. He told The Times he decided to run for insurance commissioner because it’s an office he believes he could win after losing a few local races in the San Jose area.
The San Francisco Chronicle says voters should have primaried Lara, but since they didn’t we are left with two losers and they refuse to endorse either. Time for me to actually stand by my claim that I’m voting purely on how much of a mandate I want to give these Democrats when they inevitably win.
I vote HOWELL.
Superintendent Of Schools: Thurmond Vs. Christensen
Superintendent is supposedly a nonpartisan office, but one of the candidates is called “Lance Ray Christensen”, which is the most Republican name ever - two weapons plus a religion - and that means his opponent Tony Thurmond must secretly be the Democrat.
Thurmond is the incumbent and touts his record of getting money to put lots of computers in California schools, despite research showing this is useless. For his next term, he plans to hire lots of mental health workers, and be ready to stand up for LGBTQ students if anyone ever attacks them.
Christensen notes that California schools are worst in the nation at literacy, students are fleeing the public schools in droves, and perhaps we ought to do something to correct this.
LA Times endorses Thurmond, on the grounds that, although he has been bad at his job and plagued by scandals, Christensen supports school vouchers and is pro-life. But I like school vouchers and don’t want to use abortion as a litmus test for totally unrelated positions.
I vote CHRISTENSEN.
Thanks to the Valinor group house and to Clara Collier in particular for helping research some of these votes; all bad decisions are ultimately my own.