With at least one veteran legislator running for seats in the state Senate, state Assembly and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, voters will have an easy task when they go to the polls June 5. Four legislators stand out in a field that includes many first-time office-seekers in the debut of the "open primary" under rules approved last year.
The new system allows all voters to select any candidate, regardless of party, for state and congressional offices. The top two vote-getters advance to the general election in November.
The new system does not apply to presidential or county central committee elections, or to nonpartisan local elections, such as for the Board of Supervisors. However, in the supervisors' race, if no candidate receives more than half the votes, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off in November.
In this primary, we have decided to endorse one candidate in the state Senate and state Assembly races, although the top two vote-getters will face a run-off in November. We and the voters will have a fresh chance to evaluate the two finalists in the fall.
The most hotly contested race is between Assemblyman Jerry Hill and former Assembly member Sally Lieber to replace Palo Alto resident and state Sen. Joe Simitian, who is termed out. Also on the ballot are Chris Chiang, who is using the race to tout his education reform ideas, and Libertarian John Webster, who says he is fighting the "darker side of democracy." Chiang and Webster are each spending about $1,000 on the race, so are not running serious campaigns.
Hill and Lieber are Democrats with similar positions on many issues, but our choice here is for Hill, who is committed to state pension reform and holding back on approving high-speed rail unless certain stipulations are met, including a guarantee of a two-track system on the Peninsula. He also says if individual rail segments are built he wants to make sure each would remain viable if financing for the entire project falls through. He says his first bill as a state Senator would be to provide sustainable funding for Caltrain that would enable San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to put a tax measure on the ballot to support the railroad.
As the Assemblyman representing San Bruno, Hill has made a major effort to make sure that PG&E pipelines are safe and that the utility does not escape stiffer regulations and fines for its part in the horrific pipeline explosion that killed eight San Bruno residents two years ago.
After serving six years in the Assembly, Sally Lieber, who describes herself as a maverick, would bring significant experience to the District 13 seat, but we believe Hill is a more focused candidate who can speak with experience about environmental issues and big projects like high-speed rail. We recommend Jerry Hill for the District 13 state Senate seat.
Rich Gordon is our choice for second term on Assembly
Facing three first-time candidates, Rich Gordon is far and away the most qualified candidate in the race for state Assembly in the 24th District. After serving 13 years as a San Mateo County Supervisor, he was elected to the Assembly in 2010. In his first term, Gordon has seen 15 of the 19 bills he sponsored signed into law, an enviable record for any legislator, regardless of experience.
Among his top priorities this session are ending partisan gridlock, investing more in education and solving the perennial state budget crisis. He said he supports the Governor's pension reform bill that should come before the Legislature in August.
Gordon's opponents are three first-time candidates, Republican Chengzhi "George" Yang, Joseph Antonelli Rosas Jr., who has no party affiliation and Democrat Geby E. Espinosa. Each challenger is focused on just a few issues. Yang is worried about how the shortfall in state revenue will impact the university system and he sees a lot of potential in bringing Chinese tourists to California.
Rosas said he is a victim of foreclosure and that if elected, will work on a homeowners' bill of rights.
Espinosa said she believes the state can create jobs by legalizing hemp to manufacture textiles. She also favors closing the borders to keep out illegal immigrants.
We applaud the three challengers for getting involved in this race, but Rich Gordon is our choice and we expect him to continue the good work he has started in the state Assembly.
Return Joe Simitian to the Board of Supervisors
Longtime Palo Alto resident Joe Simitian is termed out of the state Senate and has set his sights on returning to his old seat on the Board of Supervisors. Simitian is a household word in Palo Alto, which he has represented on the school board, city council, county supervisor, state Assembly and state Senate. His logical next step to the District 18 House seat is blocked by longtime Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, who is actively campaigning for another term.
In the meantime, Simitian has laid out a course of work he will undertake if he wins the fifth-district seat currently held by Liz Kniss. High on Simitian's list is helping to guide the county through whatever version of President Obama's health care reform legislation ultimately is approved by the Supreme Court. He also sees work ahead as the county takes on more responsibility for housing adult and juvenile offenders.
Simitian faces a challenge from Barry Chang, a Cupertino City Council member, and two-time Cupertino Mayor Kris Huyilan Wang, who did not respond to our request for an interview.
During his council term, Chang has focused on forcing the Lehigh Permanente quarry and cement plant just outside the city's borders to reduce its emission of mercury, and he has chastised the county for not doing enough to reduce the emissions. Last July, the state Office of Mine Reclamation ordered Lehigh to comply with pollution and mining laws, provoking the company to file a lawsuit against the state.
Wang was elected to the Cupertino City Council in 2003 and reelected in 2007. She has served on several county commissions, including Parks and Recreation, Recycling and Waste & Reduction and Environmental Quality and Policy, and represented the city in the League of California Cities.
In this race, Joe Simitian is clearly the best and most experienced candidate and we endorse him for the District 5 seat on the Board of Supervisors.