‘Top-two’ primary elections spell end for many minor parties

Updated 11:08 am, Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Doomsday could be fast approaching for California’s smallest political parties.With the coming of “top-two” primary elections in California, thanks to passage of Proposition 14 in 2010, the Green, Peace and Freedom, Libertarian, American Independent, and Americans Elect parties find themselves in danger of disappearing from the state ballot, joining the Prohibition, Socialist and Progressive parties in the mists of California’s history.

“We’re getting wiped out by top two,” said Michael Feinstein, spokesman for the Green Party. “It’s wiping out political diversity and choice that voters now are not going to get.”

Once a political party qualifies to appear on the state primary ballot, California law sets out a couple of ways it can stay there.

First, the party can have official registration equal to 1 percent of the votes cast in the most recent governor’s election, which works out to 103,004 registered voters, based on the 2010 race.

The second way allows them to have a much lower number of registered voters, currently 11,832, but only if one or more of the party’s candidates can collect at least 2 percent of the vote in one statewide general election.

But under the new election rules, which will be used for the first time in a governor’s race this year, only the two candidates with the most votes advance to the Nov. 4 general election. With the Democrats and Republicans having a stranglehold on those top spots, there won’t be any minor party candidates on the November ballot.

That means it’s registration numbers or nothing for the minor parties.

It’s doable

That’s not necessarily a problem. The conservative American Independent Party, which has been qualified for the California ballot since 1968, had 472,536 registered voters as of April – well above the needed total.

The other minor parties, however, are rooting for a low-turnout election in November.

In 2010, about 10.3 million Californians voted in the November election for governor, a nearly 60 percent turnout. Using that year’s qualifying number of 103,004 registered voters, the Green Party, with a registration of 109,157, and the Libertarian Party (114,656), are just squeaking by, while the Peace and Freedom Party (77,594) and the Americans Elect Party (3,604) face ballot extinction.

“The top-two (primary) is making it difficult, but we’re willing to rise up to the challenge,” said Gale Morgan, Northern California vice chairman of the Libertarian Party.

In the 2010 election, every minor party had at least one candidate who broke the 2 percent threshold in one or more statewide contest, keeping them alive through this year.

While some of those minor party votes may have been protests against the Republicans and Democrats on the ballot, the candidates also received support from people who liked their stance on the issues, said Feinstein, a Green who is the former mayor of Santa Monica.

“This disenfranchises everyone,” he said of the top-two system.

Falling off

There’s nothing unusual about parties falling off the California ballot. Since 1910, when the statewide party nomination process began, 12 parties have disappeared, most after only a few years on the ballot.

The Communist Party, for example, was a recognized political party in the state from 1934 to 1944, while the Townsend Party was on the ballot from 1938 to 1942 and the Independent Progressive Party from 1948 to 1954.

More recently, the Natural Law Party lost its right to appear on California primary ballots in 2006, while the Reform Party disappeared in 2002.

But the complaints from the state’s smaller parties have had an effect. A bill making its way through the Legislature, AB2351 by Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, would ease the pressure on minor parties.

Changes afoot

The bill, which has the support of Secretary of State Debra Bowen, would move the 2 percent test for minor party candidates from the top-two general election to the wide-open primary contest. It would also allow parties to stay qualified for primary elections if their registration is more than one-third of 1 percent of the state’s total registration. That would lower the threshold to about 59,000 registered voters.

Gordon’s bill is a start, said Feinstein. But it doesn’t address other concerns of the smaller parties, he said, including higher filing fees, increased costs for printing ballot statements and a huge jump, from 150 to 10,000, in the number of signatures needed to get on the ballot without paying filing fees.

“If you have voices on the ballot, issues get play,” Feinstein said. Even if minor party candidates don’t win, “I don’t doubt they create debates we need to have.”

John Wildermuth is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @jfwildermuth

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(Green) Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin on city’s bold plan to stem foreclosures

A foreclosed home in Richmond, California

The City of Richmond was hit hard when the housing bubble burst – about 12,000 homeowners there are underwater. That’s roughly half of all mortgage holders in the city.  Richmond’s City Council recently approved a radical new plan to use eminent domain to buy underwater mortgages and resell them to beleaguered homeowners at lower prices. Richmond mayor Gayle McLaughlin spoke with KALW’s Holly Kernan about her city’s radical plan to help homeowners drowning in debt.

GAYLE MCLAUGHLIN: Simply put, this is the city buying mortgages that are likely to end up in foreclosure and negotiating new mortgages so that homeowners can afford them and stay in their homes.

HOLLY KERNAN: And you’re hoping that Richmond may start a movement.

MCLAUGHLIN: Absolutely, a national movement is what is needed. The lenders, the banks, the greed that started this problem, cannot fix this problem. They do not have a solution. I’ve met with some of these servicers who are representing the banks and they have clearly not been able to even articulate a solution, much less implement one. So we in Richmond are showing that we are willing to provide a solution and we think it is taking off nationally and needs to continue to do so.

Click the audio player above to hear the complete interview.

Do you have an underwater mortgage? How did you handle it? What do you think about Richmond’s plan? Let us know at 415.264.7106. Or join the discussion on facebook.

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Green Party supports Props 30 and 39, opposes 31 and 38

(SACRAMENTO – October 2, 2012) The Green Party of California announced today that it will support Proposition 30 and oppose Proposition 38,  two competing budget initiatives on the November ballot targeted toward funding California schools and closing the budget gap.

 “The Green Party endorsed Prop 30, because the party favors progressive taxation and Prop 30 would provide modest increases in the tax rates of the state’s highest income earners,” said party co-spokesperson Michael Feinstein.  “The Green Party would’ve preferred to respond to the budget crisis with comprehensive tax reform to put our state on a more sustainable path. That would include a substantially more progressive income tax at the top, along with addressing Prop 13 reform, eliminating corporate welfare, and establishing a severance tax on oil and a carbon tax on all fossil fuels. But unfortunately, the political process failed to give the public a sufficient range of choices. Given the status quo, the Green Party endorses Prop 30 as the best short-term option to a long-term crisis.”
By contrast, the Green Party opposes Prop 38, according to party co-spokesperson Laura Wells. “Prop 38 perpetuates the idea that ‘shared sacrifice’ is needed to resolve our schools’ budget problems, by taxing the middle class instead of enacting more progressive taxation on the highest income levels.”
“Californians are ready for more progressive taxes,” added Wells, who was the Green Party’s 2010 gubernatorial candidate, “as evidenced by the fact that the original Millionaires Tax was polling higher than either Prop 38 or Governor Brown’s original version of Prop 30. This show of support by and for the ‘tax-the-rich’, student and Occupy movements ultimately forced Governor Jerry Brown to make his original tax proposal more progressive, which resulted in a more progressive Prop 30.”
The Green Party also announced positions on the other budgetary measures; Proposition 31 and 39; opposing Prop 31 for “unconditionally accepting of an austerity approach to governing, rather than suggesting alternatives to it” and supporting Prop 39 for closing loopholes in the tax code for out-of-state corporations and allocating part of the raised revenue toward green energy and energy efficiency.
“Prop 39 does several related things at once the Green Party favors – it closes a corporate welfare tax loophole and addresses the state’s budget structural deficit, while creating new green jobs and addressing climate change,” added Feinstein, who worked on sustainability issues as a former Mayor and City Councilmember in Santa Monica. “That’s why we enthusiastically support it.”
“By contrast, the Green Party sees Prop 31 as the wrong answer to the right question,”  added Wells, who was arrested trying to attend a 2010 gubernatorial debate. “If we are debating what tools do we need to address fiscal emergencies, why not eliminate the 2/3 requirement to raise taxes by the legislature instead?  Or if that is too ambitious for the two Titanic Parties, why not give the Governor the power to unilaterally raise taxes on taxpayers whose income and wealth is in the top 1% in California, rather than cut programs that benefit millions of Californians?”

The full text of the party’s statements on these propositions are here:

Prop 30:

Prop 31:

Prop 38:

Prop 39:

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Published in the Oakland Tribune and other “local” papers in the East Bay (Hayward/San Leandro/Fremont/Tri-Valley), the Saturday before the 2012 election:

Alternative choice is the way to go

From president to propositions, choice in this election is in danger of being determined by corporate money. In the editorial “Obama best choice for difficult job,” the staff chose from among only two “viable” candidates, and that means corporate-funded.

Some say President Obama’s trouble was that he was thwarted by the Republicans. In fact, he was supported by the same donors as the Republicans.

Laws about campaign finance are only getting worse since the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, but no one can stop us from voting for no-corporate-money candidates.

Look at Richmond where Greens, Democrats and others run together, take no corporate money, and win against the biggest corporation in the state, Chevron. Others are following suit.

Please look into Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. Green candidates never accept corporate money. She would follow through on her statements and correct the problems listed with Obama’s tenure.

For implementing the American values of peace, environment, social justice and real democracy, Jill Stein is the best choice.

Laura Wells


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Charles Munger, the billionaire vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway

Monday, August 06, 2012, source

Monstrous Ruling in CA Case Challenging Top Two

SLAPP activities are alive and well.

In 2010, California voters approved Proposition 14, an initiative to put in place California’s new top-two primary system. The measure was backed by business interests and rich benefactors, such as Charles T. Munger Jr.

In July 2010, six plaintiffsMona Field, Richard Winger, Stephen A. Chessin, Jennifer Wozniak, Jeff Mackler, and Rodney Martin — challenged two particular aspects of top-two in court, seeking to overturn the law.  To see a complete listing of motions in the case, check out the public access page here (Superior Court of California, San Francisco County).

The lawsuit had a great deal of merit.   Two specific areas were challenged:  (1) independent candidates couldn’t have “independent” on the ballot for Congress and state office, and registered members of unqualified parties couldn’t have their party label on the ballot; (2) at the time, write-in space remained on the ballot but no write-ins could ever be counted, even though the ballot did not warn voters that any write-ins would not be counted.

On the ballot label issue, 45 states permit “independent” on the ballot for independent candidates, and even California continues to permit “independent” on the ballot for presidential independents.  California allowed the use of that label ever since government-printed ballots started (in 1891) through 2010.  Three independent candidates for US House were on the November ballot in 2010 with “independent” next to their names.

Two state supreme courts, Massachusetts and Minnesota, had previously ruled the word “independent” for independent candidates cannot be banned.

Winger interviewed most of the independent California candidates for Congress and state legislature just before the June 2012 primary.  Almost all of them said they wish they could have “independent” on the ballot, since they were campaigning as independents.  Winger’s interviews included Linda Parks in Ventura County and Chad Condit in the San Joaquin Valley, the two independent candidates who got the most publicity.

On the write-in half of the case, Plaintiffs’ position was vindicated this year when AB 1413 passed, removing write-in space from November ballots for Congress and state legislature.  Winger wrote in opposition to that idea.  Winger called for leaving write-in space on the ballot and for requiring that write-ins for declared write-in candidates should be counted.  With AB 1413, at least the legislature acknowledged it agreement with the Plaintiffs that it was wrong to tempt voters to cast a write-in vote and then not count it.

No court precedent, until Field v Bowen, had ever upheld a state’s refusing to print “independent” on the ballot.

In this author’s view, it seems absurd to say the lawsuit was frivolous or against the public interest.  Yet the case law for civil rights plaintiffs protects civil rights plaintiffs unless the lawsuit has no merit whatsoever.

Wealthy supporters of the law (Munger, Abel Maldonado, David Takashima, the California Independent Voter Project, and Californians to Defend the Open Primary, etc) were worried the Secretary of State would not defend top-two vigorously enough, and were permitted to intervene in the case.

On September 24, 2010, Superior Court Judge Charlotte Woolard – in Field v. Bowen – upheld Proposition 14, a decision sustained by the State Court of Appeals almost a year later, on September 19, 2011.

Gautam Dutta, attorney for the plaintiffs,  decided not to appeal the case to the California Supreme Court.

On March 27, 2012, the intervenors, represented by the Nielsen Merksamer firm of San Rafael, California, moved for attorneys fees. In an astonishing, and monstrous, decision on August 1, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow, a Schwarzenegger appointee, ruled in favor of the intervenors and ordered the plaintiffs to pay $243,279.50 in attorneys fees to the attorneys for Abel Maldonado and the group supporting top-two in the 2010 campaign.

Under California law, this is not supposed to happen.  Courts aren’t supposed to award attorneys’ fees against plaintiffs unless the lawsuit is utterly without merit.

The attorney for the plaintiffs, Gautam Dutta, is young and he and his wife just had their first baby.  He is a sole practitioner and lives in Fremont and works at home.  He will ask for rehearing; but if that fails, an appeal is likely.  However, Dutta can’t appeal without putting up a 10% bond.

One of the Plaintiffs, Richard Winger, had income last year of $6,000.   He has no pension, and his social security, after the medicare SMIB is deducted, is only $180 per month.  He is currently living on his savings, which are gradually being eaten up.

This judgment will cause him great harm.  What little money Winger has will go into the pockets of Charlie Munger, one of the richest men in California.  What sense does this make?

Charlie Munger is a multi-millionaire who is the chairman of the Santa Clara County Republican Central Committee.  He is a prominent activist in California ballot proposition politics, including in 2010, when he successfully sponsored Proposition 20, after having supported Proposition 11 in 2008.

Munger is one of eight children of Charles Munger, the billionaire vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.  He has a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University and is an experimental physicist at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). The Center is operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Dept. of Energy Office of Science.  In other words, as a government-crony physicist, his earnings from government have helped him fund initiatives for fatter government (perhaps he could be described as a Taxpayer-Funded Lobbyist?).  Ironically, “Die Luft der Freiheit weht” is Stanford’s unofficial motto and translates as “the wind of freedom blows.” Apparently it doesn’t blow in the direction of third parties, independent candidates, or the 43% of Califonia voters in the June election who voted against Top Two.

In 2006, Munger was a member of California’s Curriculum Commission, an advisory commission of the California State Board of Education; and was married to Charlotte Lowell in 1989.  Lowell, a graduate of Harvard Law School, is an attorney with the law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom.

Munger’s sister is Molly Munger, an attorney in Pasadena, who is leading the charge on a possible 2012 ballot initiative, the “Our Schools, Our Future” initiative, which would raise taxes to provide additional money to the state’s public school districts. Ms. Munger has indicated that she is willing to fund the approximately $2 million cost of gathering the signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.

Further Reading:

I’m left wondering.  The judge ordered attorney’s fees due to his obvious belief that the case was frivolous.  So that calls into question why the intervenors even needed to intervene.  If the lawsuit was so weak that the Plaintiffs case was frivolous and they must be sanctioned, obviously California’s very capable Assistant Attorneys General would have defended it without the need for intervention.

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Viewpoints: Top-two primary hurt competition in the Golden State


By Steven Hill
Special to The Bee
Published: Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 9A

In early June, California held an election featuring the first-time use of the top-two primary and legislative districts redrawn by an independent commission. Both of these reforms have been touted nationwide as ones that could help elect more moderates, decrease legislative polarization and increase competition and voter choice.

Yet a recent analysis by Fairvote of election results from the June 5 primary shows these reforms failed to live up to the hype. Even worse, the top-two primary turned many legislative races into a crapshoot that has led to undemocratic results.

Consider Congressional District 31. This district is a liberal-leaning district where Democrats have a voter registration edge over Republicans, 41 percent to 36 percent. It is highly diverse, with Latinos a near-majority – 49 percent – and whites less than 30 percent of the district.

Yet the “crapshoot primary” resulted in two white Republican candidates finishing in the top two with low vote percentages, and thereby making the November runoff. Fatally, the Democrats ran too many candidates – four Democrats split the liberal vote against two GOP candidates, and the lead Democrat missed the runoff by fewer than 1,500 votes. Forget Ralph Nader – the Democratic candidates all spoiled each other.

In Congressional District 8, a solid conservative district around Bakersfield, six Republican candidates badly split the conservative vote, resulting in the top two candidates each having 15 percent of the vote, only a couple of hundred votes ahead of the third-place finisher.

Or how about California’s 51st U.S. House District in San Diego? A strongly Democrat district, the lead candidate, a Democratic state senator, spent nearly $50,000 in support of a penniless Republican opponent to prevent his strongest rival, a fellow Democrat, from making the November election. The ruse worked, and now the Democrat will soundly trounce his Republican opponent in the runoff.

This is just a sample of the manipulations and strategies that are being deployed to game the crapshoot primary. In a number of these races, if fewer candidates had run, the results would have been different. It’s a roll of the dice to see who survives. Political party leaders will quickly figure this out and begin discouraging candidates from running to avoid splitting their parties’ vote. Political machines will gain even more influence. Such arbitrariness and perverse incentives undermine the legitimacy of the system.

But while the crapshoot primary turned some races into dice rolls, the vast majority of races looked the same as under the old system: no competition at all. Democratic incumbents like Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Lee and GOP incumbents like Darrell Issa and Dana Rohrabacher all finished so far ahead that there’s no doubt who will win in November. Most California races at federal and state levels still had no meaningful choices and no competition.

In some of these races, the primary resulted in two candidates from the same party finishing one-two and facing each other in a November runoff. In those races – 28 of the 153 seats at federal and state levels – the narrow choice for voters will be to pick which flavor of Democrat or Republican to elect. Minor parties, long an integral part of California’s political tradition, have been wiped off the November ballot. So the primary actually has reduced voter choice, not expanded it as proponents had promised.

In the face of these peculiar results, top-two advocates have mounted a media campaign to defend it. Dan Schnur of USC’s Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics claims that two candidates from the same party running against each other in the November runoff will “push candidates to the middle” in an effort to attract voters “from the other party as well as their own.”

Besides sounding like a formula for political mush, the top-two is highly unlikely to change how a legislator acts once elected. That’s because most of these same-party runoffs fall in districts that are safe, one-party fiefdoms. Sure, Democratic Congressman Howard Berman is angling for the GOP vote in his district to beat his November opponent, Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman. But is the liberal Berman going to change his spots once in office? Hardly, since he wants to be re-elected in a district where Democrats have a 22 percentage point voter registration edge over Republicans.

As a Californian, I supported a redistricting commission because it is common sense to take the line-drawing out of the hands of the incumbents. But these two reforms were oversold by well-meaning advocates, and the inherent defects of the reforms were ignored.

The June primary, which had historically low voter turnout – less than 30 percent, the lowest in California’s history for a presidential primary year – should be a wake-up call. California badly needs political reform, but the Golden State has been ignoring more promising possibilities.

Proportional representation would result in true multiparty democracy and representation across the spectrum, including moderates. Ranked choice voting, which gives voters a first, second and third ranking, would prevent the weird vote-splits created by the crapshoot primary and create incentives for broad coalitions. Public financing and free media time for campaigns would help counteract the boost that big donors received after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

It’s time for Californians to get serious about enacting the types of political reforms that will reduce polarization, give voters more choice and elect candidates across the political spectrum.

Steven Hill is the former director of the Political Reform Program of the New America Foundation.

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Top-two fallout: Is this goodbye to the little guy?

By Amy Wong | Capitol Weekly, source

Key selling points for California’s new top-two primary were that it would get centrists and moderates into the state Legislature, bridge the gap between polarized Democrats and Republicans and even heal a fractured electorate.

While the newly implemented system ultimately may do just that, one aspect of top-two is clear:  In the November general election, which will be a runoff between the top two vote-getters from the June primaries, California’s minor and independent political parties will be shut out of state races. That’s because no minor-party candidate was among the top voter getters in any of the Assembly, state Senate or congressional races across California. In addition, the law that created the top-two primary eliminated write-in candidates.

Is this goodbye to the little guy?

“This (top two) is made to give the impression that people are happy to have two choices in November but it’s really not,” said Michael Feinstein, spokesperson for the Green Party and former Mayor of Santa Monica. “By taking away write-in [candidates], we can’t even express that we don’t like these choices other than stay home.” Feinstein’s party has about 100,000 registered members in California, which has 17.1 million registered voters.

Approved in 2010, the top-two primary was created by Proposition 14, which requires that candidates run in a single primary open to all registered voters, but only the top two vote-getters will meet in a runoff in November’s general election.

Voters now get the chance to choose any candidate regardless of listed party preference. Before, each California political party had its own designated primary and the winners of those primaries were put on the general election ballot. There will no longer be a write-in candidate option on the ballot.

On June 5, seven parties qualified for the primary election  ballot: Democrat, Republican, Peace and Freedom, Americans Elect, Green, Libertarian and American Independent.

Laura Wells, the 2010 Green Party candidate for Governor, said it is more expensive to run in primaries because of Proposition 14. The filing fees to run for California offices at the Congressional or state level is between 1 and 2 percent of the office’s annual salary. State senators and representatives make upwards of $100,000.

Parties can qualify for the ballot by providing registrations of voters equal to 1 percent of the total ballots cast in the previous gubernatorial election, or about 103,004 signatures, according to the secretary of state. That’s no easy feat for a small party.

“Top-two primaries favors incumbents and highly funded candidates,” Wells said. “It had a chilling effect on people’s ability to even run…people get disheartened.”

Critics of the new primary system also contend that because candidates now have the option of not listing their political party, this opens the window for rogue candidates to run for a party. Members of political parties can no longer vote on who will represent their party in the general election with only one official nominee from each party. Feinstein noted that this actually isn’t the case any longer, because AB1413 — which was approved in February — changed the process and now candidates must list their party preference if they have one.

C.T. Weber, the state chairperson for the Peace and Freedom Party, is a critic of the top-two primary and has said that the number of candidates his party was able to run was greatly reduced because of the new system.

“I think people were duped. It’s a very undemocratic system,” Weber said. People were promised that they would get more choices and so while they may have gotten more choices in the much smaller, much more insignificant primary elections, the number of choices that they have are greatly reduced for the general election, he said.

“It’s also disingenuous to decide how you want to have the results of an election and then try to build an election system that will give you the results that you want,” Weber said.
The Peace and Freedom Party, its roots deep into the anti-Vietnam War protests during the 1960s, has approximately 60,000 members across the state.

Not all independent parties in California are bashing the top-two primary system.

Markham Robinson, executive committee chairperson of the conservative American Independent Party has come out in favor of the primary system. There are 430,000 registered American Independents in the state.

He said that even though it narrows the field for the general election, the primary round casts a wider net for candidates to make it to the general election. He also said he sees it as an opportunity to make inroads with more mainstream, conservative-minded politicians.

“We [were] able to convey our endorsements where our voters can see it,” Robinson said. “We took advantage of that and endorsed 78 candidates [in the June primary] – Republicans who were constitutionalists and conservative enough for us, followed by independents, libertarians – all the parties that are not left.”

Wells also said she saw opportunities for alternative parties to overtake the general election. The young people at a grassroots level need to mobilize.

“There is an opening and let’s go for it. Because anybody can vote for anybody in the June primary, then let’s run an independent in 2014 here in California and get in the top two. Sooner or later, this two-party system that we have here in this state and this country has got to crack,” Wells said.

The nonpartisan Field Poll, which has been surveying the California electorate since 1948, projected the June 5 primary with the lowest turnout in presidential primary history in California. No more than 6 million voters turned out for the primary. Primaries typically see low voter turnout compared to the general election in November.

“The current system overstates support for the large parties and understates people who favor the smaller parties, said Feinstein. “If you’re a democrat in Orange County or a Republican in San Francisco, you get no representation, so that’s not a smart system and that’s one of the faults of a winner-take-all system. What the top two primary jungle is, is a band-aid on a broken system.”

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Why is the Alameda County Green Party Voting NO on Prop 29 (cigarette tax)?

Sunday May 20th, 2012 11:36 AM, source

“Voters should be aware that the notorious Don Perata (formerly leader of the State Senate) used this ballot measure as one of the main vehicles to raise money to help him (indirectly) with his 2010 campaign for Oakland Mayor. For example, in early 2010, Perata’s state initiative campaign fund already had $700,000 in its accounts and it was sharing an office with his Mayor’s campaign — and “the Don” was using some of that initiative money on consultants who were also working on his Mayoral campaign, and on mailers which publicized himself to Oakland voters, as well as on fancy hotels and meals, etc. And after Perata lost the Mayor’s race to Jean Quan, he then paid his friend, city council member Ignacio DeLaFuente, $12,000 to be a “consultant” on the initiative campaign.”

Proposition 29 – NO
Tobacco TaxIf voters can get beyond the hype of “opposition to
Proposition 29 is entirely funded by the tobacco companies”,
we hope they will then recognize that this ballot initiative is
in reality largely another example of blaming and punishing
the victim. Nicotine is a drug that is addicting. Those who
are unfortunate enough to smoke are currently paying 87
cents in excise tax to the state for every pack of cigarettes,
accounting for 905 million dollars annually, and by add-
ing one dollar per pack, Prop. 29 would more than double
that. The same people who would pay this tax are generally
people who are already suffering from the effects of tobacco.
It’s doubtful we can ever succeed in getting everyone to
quit smoking and another tax on cigarettes and all tobacco
products will only serve to put more stress and burden on
those who smoke — almost all of whom are part of the 99
percent.Proposition 29 would create another politically-
appointed bureaucratic entity to administer these funds
without any real accountability. One of the most chilling
things about Proposition 29 is the fact that if this tax goes
into effect it has built in immunity to any changes for the
next 15 years.While it’s probably true (as the proponents argue), that
increasing the cost of cigarettes by about 25 percent would
somewhat discourage teenagers from starting to smoke, it
should be noted that only a small portion of the funds that
are raised would actually go to prevent people from (or help
them to stop) smoking. Instead, the bulk of the money will
mostly subsidize highly paid researchers. If Prop. 29 were
truly serious about helping to prevent smoking, then the bulk
of the money would instead have been used for prevention
programs.Finally, voters should be aware that the notorious Don
Perata (formerly leader of the State Senate) used this bal-
lot measure as one of the main vehicles to raise money to
help him (indirectly) with his 2010 campaign for Oakland
Mayor. For example, in early 2010, Perata’s state initiative
campaign fund already had $700,000 in its accounts and
it was sharing an office with his Mayor’s campaign — and
“the Don” was using some of that initiative money on con-
sultants who were also working on his Mayoral campaign,
and on mailers which publicized himself to Oakland vot-
ers, as well as on fancy hotels and meals, etc. (See: http://
mayors-race/Content?oid=1600133. And after Perata lost
the Mayor’s race to Jean Quan, he then paid his friend,
city council member Ignacio DeLaFuente, $12,000 to be a
“consultant” on the initiative campaign, etc.).Of course, Perata calculated that it would be very un-
likely that any major group would (sympathetically) defend
addicted smokers from a tax increase on tobacco, and that
(probably) only tobacco companies would contribute much
money to defeat it (which so far is the case), so for the solid
majority of voters, the “politically correct” position is likely
going to be to approve this proposition. Nevertheless, as
we explain above, there simply are too many problems
with this proposition to support it — from its gross lack
of consideration for the plight of existing smokers, to the
corrupt use of the money raised to qualify the initiative, to
its failure to use the bulk of the money raised for smoking
prevention and cessation programs. California’s existing
addicted smokers should be viewed as a “disadvantaged
minority”, yet proposition 29 shows no compassion at all
for their situation and is instead essentially 100 percent
punishment.Vote “No” on Proposition 29.See also:Don Perata in the news (Anybody But Perata for Mayor of Oakland) Cancer in the Oakland Mayor’s Race
There’s evidence that Don Perata is attempting to circumvent Oakland’s campaign contribution limits by using a statewide fund to fight cancer.
By Robert Gammon, February 10, 2010 News

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Roseanne Barr seeks Green Party presidential spot

Joe Garofoli Tuesday, May 15, 2012, source

Roseanne Barr (left) and Jill Stein took the stage during the Green Party debate Saturday.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The surreal moment at the Green Party’s recent presidential debate in San Francisco came just after it ended, when candidate Roseanne Barr – yes, that Roseanne Barr – got campaign advice from punk pioneer and previous Green Oval Office candidate Jello Biafra.

He urged Barr to “use your humor.”

Barr, as famous for her groundbreaking 1980s sitcom “Roseanne” as for the tabloids’ documentation of her plastic surgery history, has been playing it straight – at least lately. But she is carrying a serious message for the party faithful searching for a way to grow.

So in deference to the Greens’ anti-death-penalty stance, the wealthy TV comedian said she would stop joking about sending billionaires “to the guillotine.” And she’s played down an earlier shtick where she said she was simultaneously running to be prime minister of Israel. Or how Willie Nelson turned down her invitation to be her vice president because “he’s starting his own party.”

Perhaps more shocking is that in her blunt manner, Barr is addressing the Nader in the room for liberals who may agree with the Greens’ liberal platform but fear that voting for the party’s candidates could elect Republican Mitt Romney. It’s the lingering residue of the 2000 presidential race, in which many Democrats believe that Green Party-nominee Ralph Nader’s 2.7 percent of the vote delivered the presidency to Republican George W. Bush.

Registration proposal

Barr is telling conflicted liberals that if they’re going to vote for President Obama, at least register as a Green Party member because the exodus will shock the Democrats.

“For those people,” Barr told an audience Saturday night that didn’t quite fill the 480-seat Victoria Theatre in the Mission District, “if they could just leave the Democratic Party and register as Greens, they could still vote for Obama but it would be sending the Democratic Party itself a message it needs to hear.”

The audience cheered.

While that’s not the official stance of the Green Party, among those agreeing was Barr’s opponent, Jill Stein, a Harvard-trained physician and environmental health expert who has won the vast majority of Green delegates committed thus far and all of the primaries.

“A lot of people have been afraid to stand up as Greens” because of “a fear campaign that has been drummed into the American people” since 2000, Stein said. “What has come of this politics of fear? The politics of fear has brought us everything we were afraid of. Silence is not an effective political strategy.”

A dozen years after Nader put Greens on the national map, the party is struggling with how to grow. There is a lower percentage of Green Party members in California than in 2000 – still less than 1 percent of the state’s registered voters. It’s barely above that in uber-liberal San Francisco, Alameda and Marin counties.

While 133 Greens hold elective office nationwide, the highest-ranking party member in the United States is Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

As Biafra, a Green activist who now is more of a spoken-word artist, asked Saturday, “Should there be a Green Party candidate for president at all, when the only momentum this party has is for local offices, where we win from time to time?”

3 candidates on ballot

There will be three Green presidential candidates on California’s June 5 primary ballot (San Diego County air quality inspector Kent Mesplay did not attend Saturday’s event), and Stein and Barr acknowledge that they have virtually no differences over policy. Barr spent most of the debate nodding and applauding as Stein enunciated in Clintonian detail a platform that could appeal to the most liberal Democrats.

They want single-payer health care; an end to involvement in foreign wars; a forgiving of all student loan debt; an end to the Keystone pipeline plan and a ban on hydraulic fracturing for oil, or fracking; heavy federal investment in a program to create 25 million green jobs; and the legalization and taxing of marijuana.

Barr, who told party leaders she would “barnstorm American living rooms” in her Green Party questionnaire, is seen as a way for the party to appeal to working-class voters.

“Greens have been known to be a little bit wonky,” said national party spokesman Scott McLarty. “Candidates will hand a voter a sheet with their entire policy positions on it.”

Barr moved several people in Saturday’s audience when she teared up talking about her modest roots.

There is little mention that Barr, who spends most of her time on a $1.7 million, 46-acre macadamia nut farm in Hawaii, is among the wealthiest of Americans. She’s done little in-person “barnstorming” outside of a near-constant stream of Twitter postings. She told The Chronicle that airplane travel makes her sick.

One-woman show

Despite her Twitter zeal, the policy positions on her website are skeletal.

“I’m doing this all myself, dude,” Barr told The Chronicle. “I need some help.”

Yet she seemed unwilling to spend more to get more help. She bristled when asked why she has only raised $31,500 for her campaign – $25,000 of which was a loan out of her own pocket, according to federal campaign finance reports. She prefers social media for spreading her message as opposed to giving more money to TV execs through campaign advertising.

“It takes $1 billion to lose an election,” Barr said. “And I can prove you can do that for far cheaper.”

Green platform

Where the Green Party stands on issues:

— Supports single-payer health care.

— Backs forgiveness of all student loan debt.

— Opposes Keystone XL pipeline plan; supports ban on hydraulic fracturing for oil, or fracking.

— Backs federal investment in programs to create 25 million green jobs.

— Supports legalization and taxation of marijuana.

Source: Green Party

Joe Garofoli is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Twitter: @joegarofoli.

This article appeared on page A – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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April 16, 2012

Alameda County Greens neutral on Peralta parcel tax

Alameda County Political Buzz Examiner (source)

The Alameda County Green Party has analyzed Measure B, a $48 parcel tax put on the June ballot by the Peralta Community College District, and decided to neither endorse it nor oppose it.

However, a voting guide produced by the party, of which there will be 15,000 copies printed, will contain an analysis of Measure B and other measures and races on the ballot.

According to Victoria Ashley, speaking for Alameda County greens, an eight member County Council formulated a final “no position” position on the tax measure, which the District says will be used to support core programs.

In an e-mail, she wrote, “We recognize that the Peralta Community College District does need more revenue, but as we explain below in our analysis of the measure, we have identified numerous problems with Measure B, such that we must stand aside from endorsing it. ”

She also included a copy of the analysis, which reads, in part, “The Trustees of the Peralta Community College District have once again submitted a ballot measure lacking in specifics.  Peralta is also notorious for spending money on consultants instead of employees, for incurring cost overruns, and for lack of fiscal transparency.  Peralta needs an oversight committee that represents all elements of the general and the college community to plan and monitor programs and expenditures.”

The analysis also expressed concern about the regressive nature of the tax, and how all parcels of any size – commercial, industrial, residential – would be taxed by the same amount.

Measure B is on the ballot June 5th and, if passed by voters, would last eight years, beginning July 1, 2012, generating roughly $8 million per year for the district.

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Rubin v. Bowen: Third-Party Challenge to Unconstitutional Prop 14

by Felipe Messina, Tuesday Apr 10th, 2012, source

Yesterday, KPFA Radio’s The Morning Mix spoke with representatives from California’s third-parties about their legal challenge to Proposition 14, Rubin v. Bowen, which created the new statewide ‘Top Two’ electoral system. Under this system, the rigged de facto two-party system has now been virtually codified in California. Given the obscene amounts of corporate funding expended by the pro-1% Democrat and Republican parties, third-party voters are, essentially, disenfranchised under this clearly unconstitutional legislation.

THE MORNING MIX — “Today, we are talking to California’s third-parties about their challenge to Proposition 14.  This is the proposition that created the new statewide ‘Top Two’ electoral system.  People as different on the political spectrum as Ralph Nader and Meg Whitman oppose this system.  And we’ll be telling you why.

“We’re also going to tackle something most of us don’t think about until we, literally, have no choice—end of life issues.  Long-time hospice nurse Elaine McGee will be in and taking your calls.

“And, last week, the Center for Biological Diversity challenged the Obama Administration to save the oceans before it’s too late.  We’ll talk to wildlife biologist and attorney Emily Jeffers about why the Center believes this crisis demands immediate attention and the international strategy that could lead us back from the brink.

“But we begin with the third-party challenge to California’s ‘Top Two’ law.

Adrienne Lauby (c. 9:07):  “Now, our [2012 California] Primary Election will be held on June 5th, less than two months from now.  And this year’s election will be very different than in the previous years.  Owing to Proposition 14, a ballot measure that was passed two years ago, California is scheduled to deploy a new system where all candidates for a given office will appear on one ballot.  However, representatives from several third-parties are going to court to challenge the law.”

Anthony Fest“Under the new system, instead of a separate primary ballot for each party, all candidates for state and congressional office will be listed on the same ballot and every voter can choose from among all those candidates.  The top two finishers in the June election, regardless of their party affiliation will then appear on the November General Election ballot, essentially, making November a run-off election.  This is due to Prop 14, the measure that passed in June of 2010.  It’s informally called the ‘Top Two’ law.

“The Green, Peace and Freedom, and Libertarian parties say the measure is unconstitutional.  Last November, they filed a suit to block it and there will be a hearing on the case tomorrow morning in Alameda County Superior Court, 1221 Oak Street in Oakland.  Joining us this morning to discuss the ‘Top Two’ law and the challenges to it are representatives of the three parties that filed suit.

Marsha Feinland is with the Peace and Freedom Party.  She’s run for the U.S. Senate, representing Peace and Freedom and plans to do so again.  Welcome, Marsha.”

Marsha Feinland (c. 10:32):  “Good morning.”

Anthony Fest“Mike Rubin is with the Green Party.  And, along with Marsha, he’s also an individual plaintiff in the lawsuit.  Thanks for joining us, Mike.”

Michael Rubin:  “Thank you for having me.”

Anthony Fest“And with us on the phone is Richard Winger.  Richard is with the Libertarian Party.  He’s also the editor of the website Ballot Access News.  Good to have you with us, Richard.”

Richard Winger:  “Thank you very much.”

Anthony Fest“Now, let’s begin with Marsha.  Tell us, in nutshell, why you’re challenging this measure and what legal grounds.”

Marsha Feinland (c. 10:56):  “Well, this measure is very anti-democratic.  And we feel it doesn’t give voters a real choice.  Now, the open primary ‘Top Two’ initiative was put forward as being something that gives voters more choices.  But, actually, in November when most people vote, they’ll have very little choice because only the top-two vote getters in the primary will be able to make the ballot.  And those top two vote-getters might not be even from two different parties; they might be very, very similar.

“It’s also possible that neither of the top two vote-getters get anywhere close to a majority.  So, it’s not even both of them put together.  For instance, in the coming [California] Senate race there are 24 candidates.  So, it’s very possible for each of the top two to get a very low percentage, although that’s very doubtful, since Dianne Feinstein is one of them.  But if we’re going to have a challenge to the powers that be, we’ve got to be able to make real choices.  And we can’t do that with this election.”

Anthony Fest (c. 12:08)“So, whether or not it’s good policy, on what grounds do you say it’s unconstitutional?”

Marsha Feinland:  “It’s unconstitutional because the parties do not get to pick their candidates.  And it’s not just the parties; it’s the voters in the parties that don’t get to pick their candidates.  In fact, we’re forced into a position in which the parties pick their candidates.  The parties are able to make endorsements in the primary instead of leaving it up to the voters.  There are supposed to be primaries in which the voters in the parties pick their candidates; those candidates go to the election.  That’s not what’s happening.

Anthony Fest“Okay, let’s turn now to Mike Rubin with the Green Party.  Now, Prop 14 passed two years ago with just under 54% statewide, not an overwhelming mandate, but a majority.  And it also won a majority in all but three of the state’s 58 counties.  So, why contest the decision of the voters?  And do you think the court might be reluctant to set aside something, which the voters passed?”

Michael Rubin (c. 13:07):  “Well, it’s possible that the courts might be reluctant.  But I will tell you that the people, Proposition 14 passed because people are disgusted with the legislature, particularly the [California] State legislature.  And, unfortunately, the remedy that was proposed by Proposition 14 for the problems of the state legislature are not responsive to the actual problems in the [two-party monopolised] state legislature, which is that the state legislature is responsive to the 1% and not the 99%.

“So, Proposition 14 was presented as a false solution to the two-partisan gridlock and all that kind of stuff.  But the reality is that it’s going to do nothing about the problems in the legislature.”

Anthony Fest“Let’s turn now to Richard Winger.  As a Libertarian, Richard, do you concur with Marsha’s and Mike’s points or is your reasoning somewhat different?”

Richard Winger (c. 14:00):  “It’s the same.  And you asked about constitutionality.  The U.S. Supreme Court said in 1986 in a case called Munro vs. Socialist Workers Party, that was from Washington State, that there is no Constitutional distinction between a petition method to show a modicum of support worthy of getting a candidate on the November ballot versus a prior vote test.  Now, the U.S. Supreme Court had already said that petition requirements for a candidate to get on the General Election ballot cannot exceed 5%.  Applying the logic of that decision, this system is unconstitutional because it requires a candidate who wants to get on the [California] Election Ballot itself, which is November, a showing of approximately 30%.  Typically, if you look back at primaries in California and many states where all the voters could choose from all the candidates, the second-place person typically gets 30%.  That’s what you need to be in the top two, on the average.  So, that’s the basis for the claim.

“It’s about voting rights.  The Supreme Court has said every voter has a right to vote for the candidate he or she desires.”

Anthony Fest (c. 15:32)“So, you’ll be citing that case when you make your arguments before the Superior Court down the road.”

Richard Winger:  “Yes.  And I gotta say when this topic was introduced just now the introducer mentioned the [California] November Election as a run-off.  That is not accurate.  It sounds pedantic, but it’s important.  Since the 19th century, Congress has told the states to have their Congressional and Presidential elections in November.  And, if they want to insure that the winner got 50%, they have to hold a run-off after that.  There’s two states that do that:  Georgia and Louisiana, they have it in December.

“So, by federal law, whatever California does in June is not the election because that would be illegal.”

Anthony Fest (c. 16:22)“Now, as well as being active in the Libertarian Party you’re also Editor of Ballot Access News.  So, tell us, as someone who follows voting laws around the U.S., are their counterparts to Prop 14 in effect elsewhere in the U.S.?  And what’s the outcome then from those?”

Richard Winger:  “That’s a very good question.  Louisiana has used the system for 35 years.  And Washington State has used it for four years.

“There was just a study that came out in the California Journal of Politics and Policy called ‘The Top Two Primary: What Can California Learn From Washington?’  And the author was the witness for the State of Washington, in fact, in court in a Washington state case.  He was on the state side.  But he was a political scientist.  He wrote a fair report.  The abstract says:  ‘The partisan structure of Washington’s legislature appears unaltered by the new primary system.’

“In other words, the whole reason this thing was sold to us is that, supposedly, it would make the [California] legislature behave better.  And this study says after four years it hasn’t worked.  It says:  ‘The aggregate of all this did not add up to a legislature that looked different or functioned differently from the legislature elected under a partisan primary.’  He’s not the only political scientist that said that.  Boris Shor and Seth Masket looked at partisanship and polarisation in state legislatures and they agreed California had the most polarised legislature, but—and the study goes back 15 years—they said Washington State had the second-most polarised legislature.  And, during most of those 15 years, Washington had, either, a ‘Top Two’ primary, or a blanket primary.”

Adrienne Lauby (c. 18:22):  “So, Marsha—this is Adrienne Lauby—when I’m up in the North Bay, which is pretty Democrat[-dominated], what I’ve seen over and over again is in the general election we’ve got a Democrat who’s gonna win and a Republican who doesn’t have a chance.  So, to me, this sounded pretty good.  You’re gonna have two Democrats who have different points of view; one may be more to the Left than the other.  And I’ll get a chance to maybe put my guy or my gal in.  What’s wrong with this thinking?”

Marsha Feinland:  “Well, you’re making the assumption that the two Democrats might have two different points of view.  In fact, if you’d looked at the primary results in the last Presidential Election, if we had had the ‘Top Two’ primary, we would’ve had Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  And we are now finding out that they don’t have two different points of view.  So, therefore, the voters have no choice at all.  I think it’s really important to open the debate and open the process to people who can really pose an alternative.

“And when Richard said that this Proposition was sold to us I wanna emphasise sold.  The elections are pretty much sold.  They’re not really chosen.  There’s so much advertising; and there’s so much money in the elections.  And what happens with Proposition 14 and this type of primary is that there is even more money required because people need to raise the money, both, for the primary and for the general election.

“So, the appearance might be sold to you that you have two different candidates.  But, actually, you may end up with two very-the-same candidates.”

Anthony Fest (c. 19:54)“It’s 8:20am on The KPFA Morning Mix.  We’re talking about Proposition 14, the ‘Top Two’ primary law and the upcoming court challenge to it.  I’m Anthony Fest with Adrienne Lauby.

“Let’s turn to Mike Rubin now, as we begin to wrap up this segment.  By the way, Prop 14 applies to [California] statewide office and the U.S. House and Senate seats.  It does not apply to the presidential race.  But, Mike Rubin from the Green Party, let’s go back and take a look at the history of Prop 14.  It was placed on the ballot, not by the voter petition process, but by a vote of the legislature.  The bill that placed it on the ballot was written by Republican [State] Senator Abel Maldonado.  It passed both houses by a better than two-to-one margin and also had the support of [then-]Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“For a measure that was promoted as taking power away from the party apparatus, it had wide support from Democrat and Republican politicians.  But what’s the motivation, do you think?  If it was all about excluding third-parties, third-parties haven’t really made much of a dent in state politics anyway, as far as winning office.  So, what’s going on behind this?”

Michael Rubin (c. 21:01):  “Well, I think there’s a couple of things to say.  One is that the fact that the [California] Legislature passed this was a pay-off to Abel Maldonado for his vote on the budget.  It was his price to pass the budget.  They needed a few Republican votes for the budget and his price was Proposition 14.  That’s the first thing to say.

“The second thing is that the purpose of Proposition 14 was not really to harm third-parties.  I don’t know that.  That’s not the primary thing.  The primary thing was, it was sold as a way of getting more quote ‘more moderate’ candidates.  That was the so-called selling point.  And it goes back to this thing about partisanship and gridlock and all that stuff.  And I think that the problem that we have in California is that we have too many moderate’ candidates, not enough ‘moderate’ candidates.”

Anthony Fest (c. 22:01)“And that should be the decision of the voters not the politicians already in office.”

Michael Rubin:  “Absolutely.”

Anthony Fest“Okay,  Marsha Feinland, with the Peace and Freedom Party;  Mike Rubin, with the Green Party; Richard Winger, with the Libertarian Party, thanks for joining us.

“And, Marsha, you have an announcement?”

Marsha Feinland:  “Yeah.  I think it’s really important for people to go to the court tomorrow morning at 9am at 1221 Oak Street.  But, also, the case has been continued twice.  So, it’s very important to go to the website to make sure that it’s still on schedule.  The website is”

Anthony Fest“Thanks for joining us this morning.”

Michael Rubin:  “Thank you for having us.”

Richard Winger:  “Thank you.”

Marsha Feinland:  “Okay.”


Homer Simpson:  “America, take a good look at your beloved candidates.  They are nothing but hideous space reptiles!”

Crowd:  “[Gasps] Ahh!!  [Shrieks]”

Two-Party Candidate A:  “It’s true.  We are aliens!  But what are you going to do about it?  It’s a two-party system.  You have to vote for one of us!”

Passive Voters:  “He’s right.  It’s a two-party system.”

Assertive Voter:  “Well, I believe I’ll vote for a third-party candidate.”

Two-Party Candidate B:  “Go ahead.  Throw your vote away!”

Two-Party Candidates A and B:  “Ha-ha-ha, ha-ha!!”

Transcript by Felipe Messina for Media Roots

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