This month, San Francisco voters will begin voting early for the June 7 primary election. On the ballot will be candidates for state and local posts, as well as the surprisingly lively presidential race. As usual, there will also be referenda that voters will be asked to decide.
We went to the panelists of The Commonwealth Club’s Week to Week political roundtable in April to get insight into some of the biggest races and topics.
John Zipperer: One [ballot measure] is called Measure AA, a Clean and Healthy Bay ballot measure.Carson Bruno, Hoover Institution Research Fellow: In June, in the nine Bay Area Counties — so San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, Sonoma, Napa, and Marin — we will have a proposition on the ballot in each of those counties that will increase taxes to pay for the San Francisco Bay restoration and flood protection and some other issues related to the bay.
It is interesting, because it is one of those rare ballot measures that, while it’s on the ballot in each county independently, it’s actually a multicounty coalition effort to make it pass. What I mean by that is if San Francisco votes for it but everyone else votes against it, there’s a very big chance that it won’t happen at all, not even in San Francisco. For all nine counties, of the total votes, two-thirds need to vote in favor of it. That throws another wrinkle into it. So say, you have Napa and Sonoma, which are only kind of tangentially attached to the actual bay itself, if they say ‘No, this is terrible, we don’t want this tax increase on us that really only San Francisco and a few other places are going to benefit from,’ if the margins are large enough in San Francisco and San Mateo and Santa Clara and Alameda and Contra Costa, then you have a chance where it could actually pass.
Again, it’s the aggregate of all of the total votes; two-thirds of that is needed to move forward, not two-thirds of each county itself.
Zipperer: So by new taxes, we’re talking $12 annually per parcel.
Zipperer: Commercial and residential?
Bruno: Yes. It’s a property tax measure. They’re estimating it will raise about $500 million over 20 years, so a substantial amount, that both business interests and environmental groups have lined up behind this bill. You have major players [supporting it], like the Sierra Club as well as the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a Chamber-of-Commerce-type organization in the South Bay.
So it’ll be interesting. It’s one of the first times recently that this kind of multi-county effort has moved forward. If it’s successful, it could be a blueprint to tackle some of these other regional issues — housing being one, transportation being one, especially in this area. And it’s something that other regional counties could experiment with in Southern California and the Central Valley.
Zipperer: There are some other things on the ballot. Locally, Measure C in San Francisco on affordable housing. San Jose also has a Measure C, but it’s on medical marijuana, so you don’t want to get those two mixed up. But AA is probably the big one.
Bruno: Yes. I think so.Melissa Caen, CBS S.F. Political Analyst: The other thing is there’s a statewide ballot measure, Prop. 50, which is going to pass with flying colors, that allows members of the legislature to be suspended without pay. This goes back of course to the Leland Yee issue, where they found there was no legal mechanism — you could either remove someone from office after they were convicted, or they got to sit there and keep collecting their paycheck. Leland Yee, one of many legislators who was able to continue receiving his pay while he was on trial and before he was adjudicated. So this measure — again, super-popular — would create this suspended-without-pay designation, so the legislature could do that to the crooks — I mean, whoever — in Sacramento.Carla
Marinucci, Politico California Playbook: Proposition 50. Thank you, Leland Yee. You had three — all Democrats — senators — James Taylor, Political Scientist, USF: Shrimp Boy.
Marinucci: That’s right. Leland Yee being the marquee name. But even after they had been indicted, they’re still collecting salaries, still collecting benefits, and the political establishment up in Sacramento is [saying] “We can’t do anything, that’s just the law.”
This is an important one. Having seen the three senators come up and continue, for months, to get their salary and benefits — this is sort of a no-brainer, I think.
U.S. SENATE RACE
Zipperer: Let’s talk about the U.S. Senate primary race. There are 31 candidates —
Caen: See how easy it is to get on the ballot?
Zipperer: Kamala Harris has raised $9 million as of January, Loretta Sanchez $2.7 million. On the GOP side, Duf Sundheim has raised $300,000, Tom del Beccaro $188,000. Are those the four candidates we’re likely to be talking about as having any chance?
Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle Senior Political Writer: Well, Ron Unz is also on the ballot, but I think he’s doing it mainly to raise awareness about another issue on the fall ballot, and he’s said that.
That’s a major reason — the fundraising. I talked to Duf a couple weeks ago, and he goes, “Well, now that California’s going to matter, we’ll have all of this attention here, because of the sort-of Trump bump, so I’m able to hire a fundraiser now.” Dude, it’s March.
Duf’s a very earnest guy, but those guys are driving themselves around, it’s not a very major operation. That’s hard. And they’re Republicans in California; the unusual thing that may happen is that there could be — because of the top-two finishers — the people with the most votes who move on to the general election could be two Democrats.
Bruno: Republicans have a math problem in June. When you’re talking about 33 candidates, there are 11 Republicans, 7 Democrats, 2 Libertarians, 1 Green, 1 Peace and Freedom, and 11 nonpartisan. Even at a very favorable 40-percent Republican turnout, the kind of nonmajor Republicans still win votes, they still win percentages. Ron Unz is going to get a good number of votes. Greg Conlon is going to get a good number of votes. You’re starting to look at Duf and Tom del Beccaro are going to be splitting roughly 20-25 percent of the votes. Even if Sanchez only gets one-third of Democrats, she’s at 16 percent right there. So Republicans are in a math problem. One of them has to figure out a way to consolidate, in order to figure out a way to get most of that 20-22 percent in order for them to get into November. It becomes hard and harder when you have semiserious, kind of nonmajor candidates also on the ballot.
Zipperer: We’re probably going to have pretty strong Republican turnout this time, right?
Bruno: Fifteen to thirty percent bump because of the excitement [of the GOP primary race].
Zipperer: Does that potentially make it more likely that one of those Republicans can get into the final two [for the general election], where they might not in another year?
Garofoli: Del Beccaro told me, and this is really telling, that, “I don’t know if there’s a direct line from the Trump voter to our campaign.” So they’re excited about more Republicans voting, but are those guys going to come in and vote just for the presidential race, and then “I’m going to go to lunch,” or do they stick around and vote for everything on the ballot? They don’t know.
Bruno: And are they actually Republicans?
Garofoli: Are they Republicans?
Bruno: You have to be Republican to vote in the presidential primary, but are they —
Garofoli: Recent Republicans.
Bruno: Exactly. Because if you switched your party to vote against Trump, or if you are newly involved, again, are you actually going to vote for everything below that ballot line?
Caen: As long as they’re spread out among so many of them, even an increased turnout is not going to result [in a general election placement]. To your point, you’ve got to consolidate, or they’re not going to be able to compete, even with Loretta Sanchez.