The 2020 primary election is upon us, with Contra Costa County election officials sending out vote-by-mail ballots starting last week to mark the start of early voting ahead of Election Day on March 3.
While the presidential primaries will dominate headlines statewide in the weeks ahead, there are plenty of local representative seats and ballot measures for San Ramon Valley voters to decide in next month's election.
In addition to the town of Danville’s Magee Preserve project appearing as Measure Y (previewed by DanvilleSanRamon.com on Jan. 29), local residents will help determine races for U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate, State Assembly, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors and superior court judge.
There's also a proposed half-cent sales tax for transportation infrastructure upgrades across the entire county and a $15 billion public education facilities bond measure statewide.
Oh yeah, and those presidential candidates too.
For those still needing to sign up, there is time to register to vote in the March 3 primary election as well as to request a vote-by-mail ballot. To learn more, visit www.cocovote.us.
Here's a look at those other elected officials and ballot issues on tap for San Ramon Valley voters:
Contra Costa County Supervisor Diane Burgis is seeking a second straight term representing Blackhawk, Diablo, Tassajara Valley and the rest of District 3 -- which also includes East County communities such as Brentwood, Oakley and parts of Antioch -- but will have to overcome challenger Paul Seger, an Oakley resident who serves on the Diablo Water District Board of Directors.
Burgis highlighted her experience as a public servant and proven accomplishments in her pitch for re-election, further pointing out her efforts to open a Family Justice Center in Antioch, promoting the economic sustainability of small farm operations, connecting trails to attract agritourism and helping the county maintain a reserve and a AAA bond rating, to name a few.
“It’s an honor representing District 3 here in Contra Costa County, I’ve prioritized fiscal responsibility, public safety, economic development, and preserving our precious Delta,” she said in her ballot statement.
In his ballot argument, Seger prioritized the promotion of eco-friendly policies such as the Green New Deal, and even said he would promote transforming Contra Costa County’s energy system to 100% renewable energy by the year 2030.
“Paul will fight to end Sprawl development in East County. Traffic is insufferable. Building more roads to accommodate irresponsible housing placement is NOT the answer,” Seger’s candidate statement said. “Climate crisis is not only the greatest challenge facing our country; it’s also our single greatest opportunity to build a more just and equitable future.”
Seger further added that he will priorities protecting and improve agricultural assets, reclaiming BART funds and expanding the system, ending the school to prison pipeline, defunding contracts with ICE and for-profit prisons and ending sprawl development in East County.
District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen, whose district includes the rest of the San Ramon Valley and Lamorinda, is also running for re-election, however she is unopposed.
Contra Costa County Superior Court
For Contra Costa County Superior Court Department 15, incumbent Judge Susanne M. Fenstermacher is being challenged by civil rights attorney Pezhman Pakneshan.
Appointed by the then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, Fenstermacher is seeking a third consecutive term after running unopposed in their previous two elections.
“I have a wide range of experience as a Judge, having presided over felony and misdemeanor jury trials, as well as family law, probate, civil and juvenile delinquency cases,” Fenstermacher said in her candidate statement. “It would be my great honor to continue to serve my community as Judge of our Superior Court.”
Fenstermacher added that she has been endorsed by all 35 Contra Costa County Superior Court Judges and was selected as the 2019 Contra Costa Trial Judge of the Year by the Alameda-Contra Costa Trial Lawyers’ Association.
Pakneshan, who did not file a candidate statement, is the founder of the Pakneshan Firm, a Bay Area criminal and DUI law firm according to the group’s website, and a former deputy district attorney in Sonoma County.
The other 13 Contra Costa County Superior Court judgeships due for re-election saw only the incumbents file. Those positions will not appear on the ballot.
State Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) faces two candidates in his bid for re-election to a second full four-year term representing District 7 -- and his fiercest competition may well be from within his own party.
While Glazer boasts strong support from local elected officials throughout his district (endorsed by nearly every single council member), Democrat Marisol Rubio, a scientific research and health care provider from San Ramon, has been backed by many local and regional labor unions and progressive Democratic Party groups.
The other challenger, Republican Julie Mobley, is listed on the ballot as a community volunteer, but she did not submit a candidate statement and has no apparent campaign website.
In his ballot statement, Glazer points to his record on air quality, climate change, gun violence prevention, bank regulation, anti-vaping, education, PG&E accountability, minimum wage, equality and standing up to pressure from special interest groups.
Rubio, in her ballot statement, said she would focus on access to health care, public education, local and regional transportation, BART improvements, climate change and gun violence prevention if elected.
The top two finishers in the primary, regardless of party, will advance to a runoff in November.
State Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) is opposed by Republican, Alamo resident Joseph Rubay, in her bid for a second consecutive two-year term for District 16.
Neither candidate submitted ballot statements for the county's voter information guide.
On her campaign site, Bauer-Kahan calls attention to legislative accomplishments and priorities from her first term, including women's reproductive rights, securing state funding for local projects, public education, human trafficking prevention, a new law on food allergens, climate change and gun violence prevention.
Rubay, who lost a bid to unseat Glazer in the State Senate in 2016, is now running as the lone challenger against Bauer-Kahan.
His campaign Facebook page includes this statement, "Working everyday for our community, our children, our future. An established business owner and leader in the community with a diverse range of experience on issues that greatly impact our district. Proven success in unifying and problem solving."
Because Bauer-Kahan and Rubay are the only two candidates in the race, they will see each other again on the November ballot regardless of how many votes each receives in March.
U.S. Housing of Representatives
In California’s 11th Congressional District -- which encompasses Alamo and Danville -- incumbent Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) is seeking a fourth consecutive term, but is facing resistance from two local candidates, Nisha Sharma, a Republican real estate professional from Danville, and Michael Kerr, a social justice advocate running for the Green Party.
In his candidate statement, DeSaulnier pointed to his effective record in governance, stating that he has successfully passed 22 initiatives into law and 10 measure into the U.S. House, Accomplishing this while engaging with his constituents at 100 town halls, responding to 505,000 residents and helping 4,500 people navigating government issues.
“Whether it was balancing California’s budget, establishing the fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel, securing funding for projects like eBART and traffic relief projects like the Highway 4 expansion, or holding government accountable when millions were wasted on the Bay Bridge, I’ve fought for our families and communities,” he said.
A small business owner in Danville, Sharma says she has a lifetime worth of experience helping others and is committed to serving her local community on the national stage.
Sharma has centered her campaign around tackling some of the most prevalent issues facing California today and that she will priorities fixing the state’s crumbling infrastructure, helping provide services to homeless residents, working with state and local governments to alleviate congestion and striving to reduce the skyrocketing cost of living.
“The Bay Area’s cost of living has skyrocketed to become the most expensive in the United States. This is causing people to live farther away from their jobs and schools, which means less time with their families and friends, and more time in traffic,” Sharma said. “I will be a champion for our district in Congress by working with the California legislature and local governments to improve the quality of life of everyone in our community.”
Kerr did not submit a candidate statement but on his campaign website said his priorities revolve around avoiding a climate catastrophe, supporting social justice and equal opportunity and promoting grassroots democracy.
He also acknowledged that while he may be a longshot candidate, he will be using this election to “to speak out on the many progressive issues ignored by the corporate media and both the corporate controlled Republican and Democratic Parties.”
Over in District 15, which includes San Ramon, U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Livermore) is on the ballot with six challengers in his bid for a fifth straight term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The list of other candidates include Democrats Samantha Campbell, a Union City native who works for New Haven Unified School District; Austin E. Intal, a sales and real estate professional from Hayward; and Tuan Phan, a biochemist from Castro Valley; Republicans Peter Yuan Liu, an Oakland resident who works in San Lorenzo; and Alison Hayden, a special education teacher whose city of residence is not listed; and challenger Don J. Grundmann, a chiropractor from San Jose running without a party preference.
None of Swalwell's challengers appear to have previous elected experience.
Swalwell is coming off a whirlwind 2019 that saw him cast into the national spotlight with a four-month-long presidential campaign and a prominent role in impeachment inquiry hearings.
In addition to national priorities, Swalwell said his goals for the next term include "to keep doing all I can to improve CA15 residents' quality of life -- that means helping them spend less time stuck in traffic, helping them earn and save more, and helping ensure they have the health care, education, and federal services they deserve," he told the Pleasanton Weekly -- Danvillesanramon.com’s sister publication. "You all inspire me, and it's an honor to represent you."
Phan told the Weekly he is running for Congress with four top goals: "Making unionizing easier, breaking up monopolies, Medicare for All and the Green New Deal."
Liu, who previously campaigned as a long-shot candidate for governor and Oakland mayor, described priorities of his "Liu's community empowered safety plan," legislation to allow women to auction off newborns to avoid abortions and revamping dwelling building codes nationwide, among others.
Grundmann talked about three top priorities to "nationalize the private banking cartel known as the Federal Reserve System and issue debt free currency," "save the children of the nation ... from the social engineering attack of 'transgenderism'" and "stop the race science/eugenics attack of Planned Parenthood upon the black community."
Campbell, Hayden and Intal did not respond with statements.
The top two finishers in both the District 11 and 15 contests will face each other in a runoff election in November.
In an effort to raise funds for certain transportation improvements in Contra Costa County, the governing body of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority is asking for voters to approve a one-half cent sales tax through Measure J.
Collected for a period lasting from July 1, 2020, until June 30, 2055, county officials say if approved Measure J would raise an estimated $103 million that would be used on a variety of projects such as reducing congestion, fixing bottlenecks, repaving roads, making commutes quicker and more predictable, and improving the overall quality, safety and reliability of buses, ferries and BART.
Proponents say that Measure J is a well thought out plan that is supported by every town and city council in the county as well as the Contra Costa County Board of supervisors, and is important to improving the region’s infrastructure issues.
“Measure J is the right solution, right now, to Contra Costa County’s transportation problems. If it passes, it will reduce congestion on our highways, make local BART stations cleaner and safer, improve the frequency, reliability, accessibility and cleanliness of public transit, speed commutes and synchronize lights to smooth traffic flow on major roads.” Measure J proponents said. “It requires that all funding be spent only on things that make travel faster and more predictable in Contra Costa County, it prevents any of the funding from being taken by the State or Federal government and it brings in millions more in state and federal matching funds.”
Opponents argue that Measure J is costly and ineffective, claiming that yet another tax increase is not worth the minuscule benefits from the plan.
“The Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s (CCTA’s) own reports disprove the sponsors’ bold claims about congestion and air quality. Highways and local roads will be slower by 2040, CCTA’s Countywide Plan admits,” opponents responded. “That’s because the number of cars on the roads will grow much faster than the roads themselves. Measure J’s “Growth Management Program” supports a development pattern that makes practically every new resident commute by car. That’s not a plan to relieve congestion.”
Measure J needs a two-thirds voter approval in order to pass.
One statewide measure appears on the March ballot, Proposition 13, a proposal from the State Legislature seeking voter authorization to issue $15 billion in state general obligation bonds to fund construction and modernization projects at public education facilities across California.
The proposal calls for $9 billion dedicated to support projects at local preschools and K-12 campuses and $6 billion for public universities and community colleges. State officials estimate the costs to repay the bonds (principal and interest) at $740 million per year for 35 years.
The "quick reference" argument in favor of Prop 13 in the state voter information guide contends, "Yes on Prop 13 funds essential repairs to make California public schools safer and healthier. Removal of toxic mold and asbestos from aging classrooms. More school nurse facilities. Cleaner drinking water. Fire and earthquake safety upgrades. Strong taxpayer controls. Endorsed by firefighters, doctors, nurses and teachers. For California's children. YesonProp13.com."
The "quick reference" argument against Prop 13 states, "This measure authorizes $15 billion in borrowing, costing taxpayers $27 billion including interest, to build and repair schools. Borrowing is nearly twice as expensive as paying for school construction from the regular budget, which has a huge $21 billion surplus. This is just more government waste. Vote no."
Prop 13 needs a simple majority statewide to pass this March. The full arguments for and against Prop 13, as well as the entire text of the measure and other relevant details, can be found in the printed voter information guide or online at voterguide.sos.ca.gov.
Note: This Proposition 13 has nothing to do with the well-known 1978 California initiative measure by the same ballot designation number on property tax rate limitations.
With the state's primary election moved to earlier in the year, California voters are expected to have more of a say in who their party's presidential nominee will be -- compared to when the primary was in June and many other states had already voted.
Registered members of six political parties can vote on which candidate from their party should advance to the general election: Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Peace and Freedom, Green and American Independent.
California voters registered under "no party preference" can cast a ballot in the presidential primary for either the Democratic, American Independent or Libertarian parties, which are allowing non-party voters to participate in their primary. To vote for the Green, Peace and Freedom, or Republican parties' presidential candidate in the primary, voters must be registered to that specific party.
President Donald Trump will appear on the Republican primary ballot with six challengers from within his party, including former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld and former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh.
The Democratic Party primary ballot is a crowded list that includes marquee candidates such as former vice president Joe Biden, sitting U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), former South Bend (Indiana) mayor Pete Buttigieg, New York City entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and billionaire political figures Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer.
The list of 20 candidates also features less-heralded candidates like U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (Colorado) and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) as well as some candidates who have already suspended their campaigns but remain on the ballot, such as U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (New Jersey).
To learn more about presidential candidates across all six parties, as well as other details about the presidential primary, visit HowToVoteForPresident.sos.ca.gov. For more information about all issues on the ballot, contact the Contra Costa County Election Division at 335-7800 or visit www.cocovote.us.