By Roz Rogoff
Man in the middleUploaded: Apr 30, 2012
I attended two Supervisor Candidates' debates at the San Ramon Community Center over the last three weeks. The first one on April 12th was sponsored by the Greenbelt Alliance, Save Mt. Diablo, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, and the Native Plant Society. As you might guess the focus was on environmental issues.
I took notes for the Express and expected to see a story about it here, but the notes will be incorporated into a story on the second debate held on April 26th and sponsored by the Danville and San Ramon Expresses. The two debates were very different in subject, mood, and attendance; so I shall present my own impressions of them here in my blog.
The April 12th "debate" was more of a question and answer session, where each candidate was asked the same question and gave his or her answer. Everyone was cordial and there were no apparent political jabs among the candidates.
The second debate was more of a debate, where each candidate was asked a question and gave an answer, but was then able to give a rebuttal to the other candidate's answer. This format, and the absence of Sean White as a buffer between the two ladies, made this April 26th debate more testy and testing than the one two weeks earlier.
White is running to "take money out of politics," so he is spending almost nothing on his campaign. True to this policy White is the only candidate for District 2 Supervisor with a free, Smart Voter webpage instead of the professionally designed political websites of his opponents, Candace Andersen and Tomi Van de Brooke.
There's only one problem for Sean Smart Voter still points voters in San Ramon and Danville to Contra Costa County District 3, Mary Piepho's, and not our new District 2 for which these candidates are running. I emailed Smart Voter about this mistake and hope it will be corrected soon.
White appealed to the environmentalists at the first debate. His quirky sense of humor kept the discussion from getting too serious. He acted as a buffer between Van de Brooke and Andersen. When Van de Brooke announced she was the "only woman in the race who is socially progressive," Sean White added "and I am the only man in the race who is socially progressive."
I missed him at the second debate. The differences in style and substance between Van de Brooke and Andersen were heightened without White separating the two of them.
Van de Brooke describes herself as a "financial conservative and social progressive." She attacked Andersen as a social conservative who is against a woman's right to choose and gays to marry.
Andersen countered, to applause from the audience, that County Supervisors are not involved with those issues, but this exchange pulled Andersen off her message of "experience matters" and put her into a defensive mode.
If White wants to take money out of politics, he's going about it the wrong way. He is clearly the spoiler in this race and doesn't have any chance of winning, but he could take enough votes away from one or both of the candidates to require a runoff.
The Primary election is approaching in early June and if one of the three candidates does not get 50+% of the vote, the two top vote getters will have a runoff in November. If White's presence in the race results in a runoff in November, the other candidates would need to raise more money from deep pocket donors to finance what could turn into a lot of irrelevant but effective mudslinging.
Unfortunately those are exactly the kind of campaigns that work. So that's why they are so popular from both the left and the right. Voters from the two sides buy into this crap with the Us vs Them attitude I wrote about last week. I hope the decision will be made in June, so we won't have to face an expensive and potentially nasty election in November.
County Supervisor is supposed to be a non-partisan position, but clearly we have a Democrat (Van de Brooke), a Republican (Andersen), and a free spirit (Sean White, or is he Green?) running. I'm not endorsing anyone here, not that my endorsement would have much clout, but you can see who is on which candidate's list of supporters from the links provided above.