Primary Election 2020 Guide to Voter Guides and Endorsements

by on February 13, 2020 · 0 comments

in Election, San Diego

By Doug Porter / Words&Deeds/ February 10, 2020

Who should I vote for? That’s a question I hear all the time. My mail-in ballot lists no less than 85 candidates, running for 13 seats, plus four ballot measures.

I’ve spent a lot of time studying the candidates and issues and written about it extensively. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

There are a handful of websites that go through the process of listing all or most of the candidates, and I’ll review them in this column.

There are dozens of organizations eager to share their knowledge and viewpoints with voters. They endorse candidates whose outlook and record indicate a higher level of support for their organizational objectives.

With the goal of keeping my explorations short enough to possibly get read, I’m not going into individual’s endorsements. You should visit a candidate’s website to learn these if it is important to you.

I’ve opted for a broad range of political viewpoints in listing endorsers, figuring readers might want to know who to NOT vote for. And there are contests where it’s difficult to parse the difference between candidates, and endorsements are one factor to be weighed.

This week I’ll be discussing ballot decisions, and ways we can reform the local election system to make it easier to understand and more inclusive. Rather than endorse in any contests, I’ve decided to show you what my ballot would look like if we had ranked choice voting later in the week.

Comprehensive Voter Guides (No endorsements)

Just because a guide excludes endorsements doesn’t mean they don’t have a point of view. It’s really okay, but knowing something about where they’re coming from is helpful.

San Diego Union-Tribune

Once upon a time the editorial policies of our daily local were dictated (sometimes literally) by the individuals who owned them (or their designated minions). For decades the Copley family supervised the endorsement process, making sure editorials matched up with their very conservative worldview.

And who could forget “Papa” Doug Manchester’s front-page editorials and wraparound sections promoting political allies, or those who shared his agenda.

This snip from Media Matters back in the day sums it up nicely:

  • For example, a September 8, 2012 U-T editorial that criticized Obama cited the controversial film Obama 2016 by discredited conservative Dinesh D’Souza, as it made outlandish predictions about where the country would be in four years if the president was reelected.
  • Among the editorial‘s claims: the U.S. would have abandoned Israel; Obama would continue to wage a “war on God and life” ; “if you are over 65 a ride to Mexico will become commonplace, as there will be rationed care in the U.S.” ; and “Death panels and other rationing plans will limit care.”

Well, folks, this ain’t your grandpappy’s Union-Tribune anymore.

For this year’s primary elections, the UT editorial board interviewed 90+ candidates, publishing them verbatim, along with video. It was an impressive and time-consuming effort.

Separate from those interviews, the paper made 18 endorsements, taking into account that the top two candidates would be moving on to the general election ballot and using what they’d heard in the interviews.

These interviews were only as good as those participating in the questioning. Here’s the makeup of the panel:

Having read all of those interviews, the personalities of Chris Reed and Matt Hall seemed to be at the forefront. Reed is a libertarian/conservative. Hall is a civic technocrat, mostly in the good sense of that word. Keep that in mind should you read those interviews.

KPBS Voter Guide

Our local public radio station serves you up a voter guide based on your address and your political party.

Once you’ve entered that information, you’re presented with a menu of contests to choose from. Click on a contest and a page with tiles for each candidate appears.

Choose a candidate and get some basic information, including links to social media, biographical information, along with more tiles exploring the positions and policies of the person in question. Links to KPBS coverage in print and video are also provided.

Once you’ve decided to vote for a candidate, the opportunity to add that person to a virtual ballot which can be printed or emailed is offered. The downside of this style of presentation is that it makes it harder to browse contests with larger fields of candidates.

The site says the information presented is aggregated from candidate websites, social media, endorsers, and boards of election to help you cast an informed vote. If no information is displayed for a candidate, the information online did not meet their research criteria.

Despite their best efforts, I wouldn’t say the information presented is always neutral. KPBS has an internal culture informing it’s coverage, and while this is mostly a good thing, when the past gets close to home, take it with a grain of salt. I’m sure City Attorney candidate Cory Briggs would argue that he wasn’t treated fairly. (Briggs and the station have a long-standing feud over past coverage of his legal practices.)

Voters Edge – League of Women Voters

The League’s guide also serves up a ballot based on your address. It’s a non-partisan ballot, so all the candidates in the presidential primary are listed.

(Who knew the Peace and Freedom Party had two candidates running?)

Scroll down to the contests that interest you and there are tiles for each candidate. The profiles can be quite detailed, including a biography, endorsements, priorities, answers to questions posed by the League, political philosophy, and contact information.

The really unique feature of this guide is its data on financial support for candidates, which includes top contributors, state of origin of donations, size and type.

The site also allows users to compile a list of candidates that can be useful when it comes time to fill out the ballot.

The biggest limitation of the LWV guide is its reliance on questionnaires. Too many candidates couldn’t be bothered to respond to the group’s attempts at contact.

Indivisible San Diego Persist

Disclosure: I was the volunteer coordinator for this project.

This voter guide can be viewed two ways: as a PDF file (best for larger devices), a mobile phone version. It also features a printable cheat sheet listing 32 check off boxes for most of what voters (regardless of district) could see on their ballot.

Listings include basic biographical and political information, organizational endorsements, a short analysis, and total funds raised as of January. There are links to candidates websites and social media.

A committee of volunteers compiled information from public documents and media accounts. Opinions expressed in the analyses are “just there to give readers a better idea of what candidates stand for.”

Indivisible San Diego Persist is a local affiliate of a national group seeking to “achieve legislative and electoral victories through legislative advocacy and political campaign expertise, strategic and coordinated calls to action, and a targeted electoral program.” Persist came about as a merger between the Downtown and Central San Diego chapters; there are numerous other chapters throughout the region and nation.

The group opted for no endorsements in the primary election. However, the organization’s central premise is opposition to the Trump agenda, and this lens should be considered when studying this guide.

Organizational Endorsements

WARNING: There are lots of “mailer” guides purporting to include endorsements from groups that superficially seem civic minded. This is a multi-million dollar industry fueled by campaigns buying endorsements.

So if you get a mailer from the Finnish-American League of Los Angeles Firefighters, check to see if there are ideologically incoherent endorsements listed, for instance, both Carl DeMaio and Todd Gloria candidacies.

A variety of points of view are included for your researching pleasure.

San Diego County Democratic Party
All the Democrats running are listed, with bold check marks indicating “endorsed,” and non-bold check marks indicating “acceptable” candidates. This listing includes offices you probably didn’t even know held elections.

Republican Party of San Diego
Only endorsed Republicans are listed. There are eight or so contests with “No endorsement,” probably because the party could not find somebody willing to run for that office.

San Diego County Taxpayers Guide
The SDCTAguide focuses on ballot measures. Historically this group’s analysis of issues is driven by a belief that the “free market” is the ultimate agency for solving societal problems.  Their definition of free market has been mostly parallel to what business sees as necessary. In recent years the group has moderated it’s reflexive “no” to some bond measures.

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber calls itself the leading voice for business, and I’m guessing their membership has gotten more inclusive over the years. Democrats now outnumber Republicans among their selections. There are even candidates I’d consider voting for.
Just remember, when it counts, the Chamber will be on the wrong side of issues favoring workers. And they’re hoping an endorsement is something they can cash in when the going gets tough for (mostly big) business interests.

Democratic Socialists of America – San Diego
The listings are described as “pragmatic;” the two contests with candidates listed in Red are those endorsed by the chapter.

San Diego Democrats for Equality
The Equality Dems are one of the most influential clubs in the region, based on their long history of activism and the ability to field actual canvassers for their endorsed candidates. Their candidate list mostly matches up with the county party favorites.

San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action
This list of candidates and measures is inclusive of what they believe are those with a point of view similar to the club’s. The Enviro Dems are influential because their support equals door-to-door canvassing for endorsed candidates.
What’s most interesting about their selections is the use of a “ranked choice” method of voting. I’ll have more to say about this very good idea later in the week.

YIMBY Democrats of San Diego County
The dozen candidates supported by the Yes In My Back Yard crowd all understand the need to build something more than luxury housing, make the city denser, and the implications development has with regard to global warming.
Contrary to what the NIMBY’s say, they’re not a creation of, nor are they funded by developers. (When you have no ideas, ad hominem attacks are the easiest course of action.)

Democratic Woman’s Club
Using ranked choice voting (yay!) they broke candidates out into four categories: Endorsed, Acceptable, Not Recommended (SD Council D9 candidate Kelvin Barrios), and No Position (City Attorney’s contest).
The Woman’s club has a long history of putting boots on the streets for candidates they endorse.

Planned Parenthood
Their listing includes candidates that have promised they’ll fight for access to health care, comprehensive sex ed, and reproductive rights.

Run Women Run
Their endorsement process is based on a questionnaire and support of legal, confidential, comprehensive reproductive healthcare and family-planning services. Candidates are scored on their pro-choice positions and viability; qualified candidates are invited to participate in an endorsement meeting.

San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council 
These are the union folks who build stuff and care about the environmental impact of what they do. The local council is considered to be on the forefront of progressive activism in San Diego.

San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council
This is the McDaddy of local union power, united once again after a family feud, which had groups spending money against each other “because.” They have money to donate, workers to canvass, and reputation for not backing down. And, most importantly, in 2018, more than 67% of labor council endorsed candidates and initiatives passed or won their elections.
Candidate’s records on affordable housing, livable wages, education, healthcare, transportation and retirement security – as well as their willingness to stand up to special interests to help the middle class were scrutinized by committee. Qualified candidates were invited for interviews.

San Diego County Gun Owners
If you’re looking for a candidate who’ll offer up “hopes and prayers” after the next mass shooting, this is the place to find them.

Sierra Club Endorsements
Their political committee endorsed based on past environmental records of candidates, completed questionnaires and in-person interviews.

Deputy Sheriffs Association of San Diego
When you see “Law Enforcement’s Choice” on campaign propaganda, it means these folks have given the candidate a thumbs up. It also means they may have had a hand in those placards plastered on street sides throughout the city.

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