Wed, Apr

A No-Surprise Endorsement for Schiff


GELFAND’S WORLD - When I saw the first Adam Schiff television ad, I was disappointed. This is a guy who has been a hero in fighting Trump's anti-Americanism. He has been the go-to guy for explaining the Capitol attack, someone who has avoided grandstanding. But the next round of ads was brilliant. Schiff's campaign has defined the primary election as a race between him and Steve Garvey, a guy who is being accurately portrayed as a conservative Republican and Trump voter. Schiff's main opponent, Democrat Katie Porter, is being ignored. 

So far, it has been working. Polls suggest that the Republican voters are coalescing around Garvey, and at least a moderate plurality of Democrats are currently planning to vote for Schiff. This is exactly the way Schiff's campaign would like to have it, since the majority of voters will support a Democrat in the general election. 

A runoff between two Democrats would not be so clear. And it could get dirty if it were to get close. 

Whether the Schiff ads are fair is another question since their effect (if successful) is to force Porter out of the race in the primary. So far, nobody is calling Schiff on going low, because his ads are superficially targeted at Garvey. 

Porter and Schiff have been relatively peaceful towards each other so far. 

I have been openly rooting -- for several years -- for Schiff to be the next U.S. Senator from California. I strongly endorse him but would certainly vote for Porter over Garvey if those two were to make the runoff. 

The Slick and Shiny Mailers and the Slate Mailers 

Let's start with the slate mailers. These are the smaller mailers, generally printed on newsprint, that come with lots of recommendations. Don't take anything they say seriously. 

Here's a hint: Each candidate endorsement that comes with an asterisk (*) is a paid ad. That's right, the endorsements in slate mailers are generally from candidates who have paid the publisher to include them. I'm looking at a mailer titled Election Digest that has 14 endorsements, including 13 candidates and one ballot Proposition. All 14 include that asterisk. 

It's not that you should automatically vote against the endorsed candidates. Some of them are good people, ones I will vote for. Just don't base your vote on what you read in a slate mailer. 

Here's another example: I'm looking at a slate mailer calling itself Cops Voter Guide. It includes 7 paid candidate endorsements, one unpaid endorsement for a District Attorney candidate, and a couple of paid ballot measure endorsements.  There is no information I can find about whether there are any law enforcement officers involved in publishing the COPS Voter Guide. 

Like I said, ignore the slate mailers. 

Now for the slick mailers. These are generally aimed at getting you to vote for one candidate or getting you to vote against some candidate. These slicks are where the dirt flies. 

Here's one which asks, "Hey, who's hiding under the MAGA hat?" Apparently, the target of this ad is supposed to be a closet Trump supporter. The mailer comes right out and says that the target "is a right-wing Republican extremist who supports the divisive Trump agenda." 

Down in my neck of the woods, this accusation is enough to kill a candidacy. Maybe so. Remember when candidates were accused of being "pink?" 

The Graffiti Towers: Who is to blame? 

A close colleague asks me, "So who is to blame for the graffiti towers getting built? 

By "graffiti towers," we mean the unfinished buildings that were abandoned by their owners a few years ago. They became an easy target for graffiti painters and parachute jumpers. 

Was there anything improper about the way that the buildings were zoned and permitted? Was there hankey pankey at the City Council's PLUM Committee? We might look to the Council presidency of Eric Garcetti or to Herb Wesson's influence in later years. Still, the project proposals don't seem out of the ordinary for a high-priced downtown development of the time. Maybe the only defect in the original plan was the failure to guarantee the funding that would have completed it. 

But there was one other problem, and it led to the current situation. As journalists have pointed out, the trade war between the United States and China that took place between 2017 and 2020 caused Chinese funding of American projects to dry up. That is why the owners of the Ocean Plaza development couldn't borrow the money to finish. That's why we have the Graffiti Towers. The guy who is ultimately responsible is Donald Trump, because it was his trade war. 

(The next section deals with my state senatorial district, so if you are not interested in the 35th, you can skip it. I think that it says something about how candidates arise in the modern political system.) 

Bare Knuckles in the 35th State Senatorial Race 

There are 8 candidates running in the 35th Senatorial district, but based on the mailers, you would think that only Laura Richardson and Michelle Chambers were running. These two apparent frontrunners come with baggage. Chambers was elected to the Compton City Council in 2019 but quit before her first term was up. She said she was leaving to take another job. If nothing else, this signals some lack of seriousness of purpose. A former city employee has come out strongly against her, ostensibly because of how she acted while in office. 

Then there is Laura Richardson, who was once a member of the House of Representatives. She was reprimanded by the House after a bipartisan ethics panel found that she had done unethical things, including having her staff work on her reelection campaign. It is of note that one local Democrat and fellow House member spoke on the record in support of the action. You can read about it here

Richardson seems to be making a comeback, if we are to believe the volume of mailers she is sending out. This signifies, if nothing else, that she has the money to spend on her campaign. 

(Aside: In general, the candidates who send out a large number of mailers do a lot better in the primary. But government reformers always ask, "Where did the money come from?" And of course the answer is that the money comes from all over, from good sources and bad. The good sources are the people who send a modest check. The bad sources are the corporations and special interests who want something. The overall effect is that most elected officials try hard not to offend their corporate donors when they vote on legislation. That's why we pay so much for prescription drugs.) 

To continue: The 35th Senatorial has other candidates, including Albert Robles, the former mayor of Carson. Robles may be remembered as the person who was sued by the District Attorney's office because he also served on the board of the water district. The D.A. won, and Robles was removed from the water district board. The joint service may have been a conflict of interest under state law, but doesn't say much about Robles' ethics to me, other than the desire to take down two pay checks. 

We might take note that the 35th Senate District has a bare majority Hispanic population, which might provide some small edge to Robles. 

There are two other candidates who are of interest to me. One is a local neighborhood council board member. LaMar Lyons is a member of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council, has a history of service in government, and is a partner in a venture capital firm. 

Nilo Vega Michelin is a member of the El Camino Community College board and has served in city government in Hawthorne. He might be a good choice if he can pull off a miracle and make it into the runoff. 

I plan to vote for LaMar Lyons in the primary as a statement of solidarity for my neighborhood council colleagues, and because he comes across as a real person to me. 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected])