Every ballot item in every election is important to somebody. But, in truth, some items are more symbolic than others, change that reflects something happening in society.
Here’s a look at some of those interesting ballot questions – about people, ideas, money – in front of voters in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Los Angeles County
District Attorney: The fact that there’s any race at all for District Attorney in Los Angeles shows just how radically the political environment has shifted in recent months.
In March, incumbent Jackie Lacey almost won the primary without a runoff. Today, weeks before the general election, her endorsements are disappearing and polls show a tight battle with challenger George Gascon, a former San Francisco District Attorney who left his old job specifically to take on Lacey. He’s a former Los Angeles police officer who describes himself as a progressive prosecutor. A choice of Lacey or Gascon figures to be seen as a statement about social justice in Los Angeles.
Second District Supervisor: A pair of veteran Los Angeles-area politicians, City Council member Herb Wesson and state Sen. Holly Mitchell, are fighting it out for the open second-district seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
The two Democrats agree on many issues, but differ in style. Whoever wins will make key decisions for a district that runs from the South Bay and into downtown Los Angeles, including Carson, Inglewood, Koreatown and part of East Hollywood.
Measure J: In recent years, politicians and activists on both sides of the political aisle have pushed to reduce the number of people in jails and prisons. Measure J could push the concept forward, setting aside 10% of locally generated unrestricted money in L.A. County’s budget – possibly up to $500 million a year – for programs that would serve as alternatives to incarceration. It could mean more money for job training, rent assistance, mental health services and substance abuse treatment.
25th Congressional District: A Trump supporter vs. a liberal Democrat. A district that embodies what “purple” looks like in this election season. Elisabeth Moss is set to star in a movie about Katie Hill, the high-profile freshman Democrat who stepped down last year in the wake of a double-reverse, #MeToo sex scandal that included a strong whiff of media misogyny.
For a single ballot question – who should represent CA-25 in the House? – that’s a lot of baggage.
Bottom line: It’ll be Republican Rep. Mike Garcia vs. Democrat Christy Smith, assemblywoman for the 38th District, in a rematch of their May special election to serve the rest of Hill’s term. Cook Political Report rates it “Republican toss-up.”
Santa Ana Mayor: Miguel Pulido was elected mayor of Santa Ana in 1994, the middle of Bill Clinton’s first term. He was still mayor in 2012, when Santa Ana voters passed a law to limit the number of times any mayor could be reelected. Eight years after that, Pulido termed out.
Six candidates are running to replace him, and everything from the clout of the city’s police department to the budget to immigration remain key issues. But whoever replaces Pulido will be ending an era in the nation’s 57th biggest city.
Irvine City Council: The council race in Irvine would be interesting regardless of the players, as a city where Democrats hold a strong advantage in voter registration but the council has been Republican majority. But it got a little more interesting in July, when Democrat Larry Agran filed to run for council.
Agran is a brand name in Irvine politics, holding a council seat or the mayor’s desk for 20 years, on and off, from 1978 to 2014. He pushed for the Great Park, but was pushed out because of Great Park controversies. He pushed a city-wide ban on chemicals deemed harmful to the environment, long before small-ish cities did such things. He once ran for president.
If Agran makes a comeback this year, it won’t be his first.
Huntington Beach City Council: Tito Ortiz, the mixed-martial-arts star, is jumping into politics with a bid for Huntington Beach City Council.
Ortiz, 45, a Republican and unabashed fan of Donald Trump, grew up in Huntington Beach. He’s participated in city parades and, this year, showed up on city streets during recent protests, saying he would prevent anybody from from damaging property.
Name recognition could help Ortiz on Nov. 3, much as it helped Trump in the ’16 election. But recognition also is part of why Ortiz made news in 2010, when he was arrested for felony domestic violence and, again, in 2014, when he was arrested for a DUI.
Recognition cuts all kinds of ways.
Riverside Mayor: Rusty Bailey is stepping down after eight years as mayor of Riverside.
In the March primary, the list of his potential replacements included a sitting school board member (Patricia Lock Dawson), a retired union steward (Rich Gardner), a personal assistant (Acea Stapler), a retired taxi driver (Phi Long Tran “JD” Denilofs) and a city councilman (Andy Melendrez).
On Nov. 3, it’ll be Dawson vs. Melendrez. The term is four years.
Temecula City Council: In June, as Americans protested the treatment of Black people by police, Temecula Mayor James Stewart included the following sentence in an email: “I don’t believe there’s ever been a good person of color killed by a police officer.”
Stewart resigned quickly, as the email circulated and backlash grew. But he offered an unexpected excuse, saying he’d dictated the email and that the word “good” was in that email by mistake.
Flash forward to July, when Stewart filed to run again for city council. His candidate statement is simple and direct, saying that as owner of Stew’s Barbershop and a long-time Temecula resident he’d be a good fit on the council. There were no typos.
Many measures: In Corona, the third biggest city in Riverside County, Measure Y would set a lifetime limit of three four-year terms for members of the city council. In Menifee, Measure M would repeal the 1% sales tax increase that voters approved four years ago. And the towns of Banning and Jurupa Valley are both considering measures that would impose new taxes on the sale of cannabis.
San Bernardino County
Board of Supervisors: How long should one person be allowed to serve on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors? The question apparently is complicated enough that the ballot will include two different measures, J and K, offering starkly competing ideas on term limits.
Measure K would limit supervisors to a single four-year term. It also would cap their pay at $5,000 a month, or $60,000 a year. Measure J would let a supervisor serve up to three four-year terms, and cap their pay at 80% of what a Superior Court Judge makes, roughly $160,000 plus benefits.
If both pass, the measure with the most votes becomes law.
Hospital vs. park: In Upland, Measure Q lets voters make a simple choice: Do they want their hospital to get bigger, or do they want their park to stay as is?
If approved, Q would let San Antonio Regional Hospital buy 4.6 acres of Upland Memorial Park. If it fails, the deal is off. The city council thought it had a deal to sell the land to the hospital a couple years ago, but the issue proved controversial enough that it was decided to put a measure on the ballot.
Some residents say the park is some of the only green space in town. The hospital wants to turn a portion of the nearly 40-acre park into an office building that would include a cardiovascular unit and a center for aging.
Yucaipa City Council: Bobby Duncan, Yucaipa council candidate, is no stranger to controversy or political success.
Last year, he faced backlash after posting messages denouncing Muslims and Mexican immigrants on his Facebook feed. This year, he faced backlash again after carrying a loaded shotgun to confront police brutality protesters in downtown Yucaipa.
Following both incidents Duncan issued public statements, once promising to be more cautious on social media and once to clarify his misrepresentation of advice he’d received from the city attorney.
His spot on the Nov. 3 ballot is to win reelection to represent the city’s third district. He’s been on the council since 2012.
Source: Orange County Register