Well that was fun, wasn’t it? Now that the primary election is over, we can look back with fondness at the commotion, the excitement and the determination to exercise a fundamental freedom by voting for candidates of our choice. You did vote, didn’t you?
Unfortunately, more than 80 percent of our county residents didn’t vote. As readers of this column, you probably voted but your friends and neighbors certainly didn’t. That apathy was evident on election night when I stopped in at the Lariat Sports Bar to have a Coke and monitor returns, and one patron said in surprise, “There was an election?” Why yes, there was.
Did he miss anything? After all, it was a first round election and, with most ballot initiatives now appearing in November, there wasn’t much of a reason to vote, right? Wrong.
If he lived in supervisorial districts two or three, he missed the chance to vote for county supervisor. Neighbors who voted chose the supervisor for him. All of 9,893 of them put Carole Groom back in office in District Two, while 14,805 voted to re-elect Don Horsely in District Three. He and the others who didn’t vote won’t have another chance in November, this was it.
Since the Board of Supervisors controls zoning decisions in large parts of the county, spends almost $2 billion (with a “b”!) annually, and is responsible in part for a 9 percent sales tax rate, you bet those races were important.
Other local decisions that non-voters missed included a massive $300 million increase in long-term property owner debt to support the Midpeninsula Open Space District (as of this writing just barely passing), and more property owner debt in support of the Cabrillo Unified School District, the Sequoia Union High School District and several elementary school districts.
As somnolent as this election became, it still featured last minute dirty tricks by the county Democrat machine, and in a judicial race no less. As reported in a local newspaper, the machine’s preferred candidate Ray Buenaventura was in danger of losing (he finally did) so it lumbered into late action.
U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, both highly placed members of the machine, sent out late misleading (well, false) email blasts in support of Buenaventura. Hill claimed that the San Mateo County Bar Association had endorsed the machine candidate. Just one slight problem with that claim, the Bar Association doesn’t endorse candidates. Oops!
Speier lent her name to the claim that the machine candidate had the support of many in law enforcement. If by many she meant none of the county’s police officer associations, then hey, it wasn’t completely untrue. Alternatively, maybe she meant no actual working law enforcement officers but those long retired. If so, since a retired Fresno County deputy sheriff supported the machine-backed candidate, she’s in the clear.
In other dirty politics news, several hard fought contests came to interesting ends. Over in the Tri-Valley area in Assembly District 16, Republican Catherine Baker bested two Democrats whose fight featured government unions versus “business Democrats.” Maybe you heard the dueling ads over the BART strike (how could you miss them?) and wondered what candidates they were talking about. It was this district, and the union-backed Democrat took the second-place slot. If the business Democrats turn to Baker or sit out the race, given the district’s strong Republican registration numbers, she could become the next assemblymember from the area.
In Fremont’s Senate District 10, the well-funded convicted criminal and former assemblywoman Mary Hayashi was defeated by “rapist protector” (her words) Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, who received major funding from the unions. Their brawl, and the presence of a third Democrat, allowed Republican Peter Kuo to take second place. Although a much longer shot than Baker, the bad feelings from the primary coupled with a large Asian voting bloc could propel Kuo into the state Senate.
Finally, the Congressional District 17 dogfight with unions and enviros squaring off against 1 percent techie Democrats, resulted in U.S. Rep. Mike Honda winning 48 percent while techie Democrat challenger Ro Khanna garnered 27 percent. Round two comes in November. Interestingly, more money was raised in this district than spent by all the candidates in the statewide Republican race for governor.
Yes, there was an election, and it counted. If you voted, congratulations. If not, someone else decided your future for you.
John McDowell is a longtime county resident having first moved to San Carlos in 1963. In the intervening years, he has worked as a political volunteer and staff member in local, state and federal government, including time spent as a press secretary on Capitol Hill and in the George W. Bush administration.