Endorsements 2008: National and state races

Pub date October 7, 2008




This is the most important presidential election of our lives.

The nation is in a state of political and financial meltdown. The war in Iraq drags on, sucking money out of the US Treasury and costing more and more lives. The gap between the rich and the poor has risen to unsustainable levels, global warming threatens to permanently alter the ecology of the globe … and all the Republican candidate offers is more of the same. It’s scary.

The Democrat we proudly endorsed in the California primary isn’t the exact same candidate who’s trying to get elected president today. Barack Obama, like just about all Democrats at this stage of a campaign, has moved a bit to the right. He supported the $700 million Wall Street bailout that’s essentially a huge giveaway to the same people who caused the problem. He talks about promoting "safe nuclear energy" and "clean coal" — oxymora if there ever were any.

Back in February, we noted that "our biggest problem with Obama is that he talks as if all the nation needs to do is come together in some sort of grand coalition of Democrats and Republicans, of ‘blue states and red states.’ But some of us have no interest in making common cause with the religious right or Dick Cheney or Halliburton or Don Fisher. There are forces and interests in the United States that need to be opposed, defeated, consigned to the dustbin of history, and for all of Obama’s talk of unity, we worry that he lacks the interest in or ability to take on a tough, bloody fight against an entrenched political foe."

But Obama remains one of the most inspirational candidates for high office we’ve ever seen. He’s energized a generation of young voters, he’s electrified communities of color, and he’s given millions of Americans a chance to hope that Washington can once again be a friend, not an enemy, to progressive values at home and abroad.

His tax proposals are pretty good. He’s always been against the war. His health care plan isn’t perfect, but it’s at least a step toward universal coverage.

And frankly, the nation can’t afford another four years of Bush-style policies.

The election is a turning point for the United States. It’s about a movement that can change the direction of the country; it’s about mobilizing people in large numbers to reject the failed right-wing policies of Bush and the Republican Party. We’re pleased to endorse Barack Obama as the standard-bearer of that movement.

Congress, District 6


Lynn Woolsey comes from the more moderate suburbs, and she’s far better than Nancy Pelosi, who represents liberal San Francisco. Just look at the bailout: Pelosi wants to prop up the Wall Street banks, and Woolsey wanted to fund any bailout with a modest tax on risky financial instruments. Woolsey richly deserves reelection.

Congress, District 7


George Miller, who has represented this East Bay district since 1974, is an effective legislator and strong environmentalist. Sometimes he’s too willing to compromise — he worked with the George W. Bush administration on No Child Left Behind, a disaster of an education bill — but he’s a solid opponent of the war, and we’ll endorse him for another term.

Congress District 8


The antiwar leader and Gold Star mom who put George Bush on the defensive is at best a long shot to unseat the Speaker of the House. Cindy Sheehan has only recently moved to the district, has no local political experience, and is taking on one of the most powerful politicians in the United States.

But we can’t endorse Nancy Pelosi, who has consistently supported funding the war (and has refused to meet with antiwar protesters camped out in front of her house). Pelosi pushed the Wall Street bailout and privatized the Presidio.

Sheehan wants a fast withdrawal from Iraq, opposes any bailout for the big financial institutions, and is a voice against business as usual in Congress. This is a protest vote, but a valid one.

Congress, District 13


After 32 years, Pete Stark has become in some ways the most radical member of the Bay Area congressional delegation. He’s furious with the war and shows no patience for the Bush administration’s nonsense. He is the only member of Congress who admits he’s an atheist. We just hope he doesn’t decide to retire any time soon.


Superior Court, Seat 12


It’s unusual to see contested races for judge in San Francisco. Most of the time, incumbents retire midterm to allow the governor to appoint a replacement, and almost nobody ever challenges a sitting judge. So the San Francisco bench has been shaped more by Republican governors than by the overwhelmingly Democratic electorate.

So we were pleased to see Gerardo Sandoval, a termed-out supervisor and former public defender, file to run against Judge Thomas Mellon. A conservative Republican appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1994, Mellon has a lackluster record, at best. California Courts and Judges, a legal journal, calls him unreasonable and cantankerous. In 2000, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office sought to have him removed from all criminal cases because of his anti-defendant bias. He needed a challenge, and he’s got one: in the June primary, Sandoval came in well ahead, but because there were three candidates, this contest has gone to a November runoff.

Sandoval has been a generally progressive member of the Board of Supervisors, although we were critical of some of his votes. But he would bring the perspective of a public defender to a bench dominated by former prosecutors and big-firm civil lawyers. Vote for Sandoval.


State Senate, District 3


The drama in this race took place back in June, when Leno beat incumbent Carole Migden and former Marin Assemblymember Joe Nation in the Democratic primary. Like most Bay Area Democrats, he’s a shoo-in for the general election. But it’s worth noting that Leno has an extensive record in the Assembly and has demonstrated an ability to get things done. Long before the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law of the state, Leno got both houses of the Legislature to approve marriage equality bills (which the governor then vetoed). He got the Ellis Act, that terrible law that allows landlords to evict all their tenants and sell their buildings as condos, amended to protect seniors and disabled people. And while we were worried in the spring that Leno might be too close to Mayor Newsom when it came to local endorsements, he’s shown both independence and progressive leanings. He has been a strong, visible and effective backer of Prop. H, the Clean Energy Act and has endorsed Mark Sanchez for supervisor in District 9, breaking with Newsom (and the moderates) who backed Eva Royale. We expect Leno will go on to a stellar record in the state Senate and we’re happy to endorse him.

State Senate, District 9


A part of Berkeley politics since she first ran successfully for city council in 1971, Lori Hancock has spent the past six years in the State Assembly. She defeated Wilma Chan in a heated primary for this State Senate seat and faces little opposition in November. She’s one of the most experienced progressives in California and has a solid grip on the state’s budget issues. We wish she wasn’t so willing to back more moderate candidates for local office, but we’re happy to see her move up to the senate.

State Assembly, District 12


Fiona Ma has been a pleasant surprise. We didn’t support her for this post two years ago, but she’s become a leading advocate of high-speed rail, a foe of plans to privatize the Cow Palace, and a visible, out-front backer of the Clean Energy Act. We hope she continues to evolve into a progressive leader in Sacramento.

State Assembly, District 13


The only problem with Tom Ammiano moving up to Sacramento is that we’ll miss his presence at City Hall. Ammiano’s record is stellar — although he was once nearly a lone voice for progressives on the Board of Supervisors, he’s become one of its most effective members, with a long list of groundbreaking legislation. Ammiano authored the city’s domestic partners law. He created Healthy San Francisco, the universal health care program. He sponsored the 2001 and 2002 public power measures. He created the Children’s Fund and the Rainy Day Fund, which is now saving programs in the public schools.

He’s also responsible — as much as any one person ever can be — for dramatically changing the climate of San Francisco politics. Ammiano’s 1999 mayoral challenge to incumbent Willie Brown brought the progressives together in ways we hadn’t seen in years, and the district-elections measure Ammiano authored brought a completely new Board of Supervisors into office a year later.

We’re happy to see Ammiano move on to Sacramento.

State Assembly, District 14


Nancy Skinner won the June primary for this seat, and while we supported her opponent, Kriss Worthington, we acknowledged that she would make an excellent assembly member. Skinner has plenty of experience: she was on the Berkeley City Council from 1984 to 1992 and has founded and run a nonprofit that helps cities establish sustainable environmental policies. She understands state budget issues, is a strong advocate for education, and will hit the ground running.

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