2022 DSA San Diego General Election Voter Guide

Introduction

During this year’s primary, DSA San Diego received numerous requests for a voter guide. As a result, the recently rechartered Electoral Working Group has come together to offer our impressions of these midterm elections. The recommendations listed below are the result of weeks of research and discussion, and we hope that in total they can serve as a guide to the ongoing political dynamics of California and the San Diego region. 

Given the ongoing disappointments in electoral options for leftists here in San Diego (no matter what part of the county you’re in), we’ve decided to dedicate the most reasoning to our thoughts on the ballot measures, and have foregrounded them as a result. That being said, for high-profile statewide and countywide races with some stakes, we’ve elaborated on the choices available to voters, even if we did not make a recommendation as a chapter for the race. Further down the list, in municipal level races, our thoughts are focused on the races where we did decide to make a recommendation.

What we’re offering with this guide is a political snapshot: of the San Diego County area and its sobering political reality, of the inclinations of peer organizations and political opponents, and, perhaps most importantly, of our own ways of thinking through state and local-level electoral politics at this moment to figure out where we fit within this landscape. It should by no means be considered comprehensive, and we encourage voters to conduct their own research on races close to home which we failed to get to. If you have any questions, or a race in particular that we did not cover that you’re trying to figure out, please feel free to either send us an email at sandiegodsa@gmail.com or post in our “wg-electoral” Slack channel, and we can work through the political leanings of the candidates and the issues at stake in the race with you. You can also reach out if you have questions about the election in general—we’d be happy to share what information we have and point you to available resources. 

Ballot Measures

Statewide Ballot Measures

Prop 1 – Yes 

Proposition 1 enshrines the right to an abortion in California’s state constitution, as well as protecting access to contraceptives. DSA-SD is committed to gender egalitarianism, and this proposition is aligned with our mission of promoting women’s full participation in civic, political, and economic life. Proposition 1 is a necessary rejoinder to the wave of abortion bans across red-state America. Unfortunately, these bans may prove to be merely the opening salvo in a coming barrage of legislative attacks on women’s fundamental freedoms. Clarence Thomas and other champions of reaction have openly questioned the right to contraception as well. These lurid developments highlight the need to codify our rights instead of depending on the caprices of the courts. We urge our comrades to resist these assaults on our bodily autonomy and self-determination, while continuing to agitate for a single-payer system to ensure that healthcare is treated as a right, not a commodity. Vote yes on Prop 1! 

Prop 26 & Prop 27 – No and no, respectively

Propositions 26 and 27 both would expand the scope of legal gambling activities that take place on California’s tribal lands. California has over 100 recognized indigenous tribes, and those tribes operate roughly 75 casinos around the state. Today, tribal casinos are restricted to slot machines and card games like poker. Prop 26 would add sports betting and dice games like roulette to the list of permissible games on the casinos’ premises, while Prop 27 would permit online sports betting via the tribes. 

DSA-SD opposes both propositions, despite the fact that they purport to bring increased tax revenues to support social spending by both tribes and the state government. A robust, comprehensive system of progressive taxation is the only equitable and reliable means of financing the social state. Further, neither proposition has explicit provisions to increase wages or improve conditions for the workers who staff the casinos in question. Using gambling as a means of augmenting state revenues is a dicey proposition under the best of circumstances, but as socialists we should at least hold out for legislation that better addresses labor concerns. Vote no on Prop 26/27!

Prop 28 – Yes

DSA-SD is pleased to join the likes of Weird Al Yankovic in endorsing Proposition 28, which will provide new funding for arts and music programs to California’s public schools, to the tune of around $800 million. The prop includes provisions to ensure that schools in low-income areas receive their fair share of the funding. 

It’s a straightforwardly beneficial and non-controversial piece of legislation. What’s not to love? 

Admittedly, DSA-SD is not thrilled to find ourselves on the same side as Austin Beutner, the privatizing, union-busting former LAUSD superintendent. However, our reservations about this strangest and most unwelcome of bedfellows do not prevent us from giving this prop our support. Vote yes on prop 28! 

Prop 29 – No Recommendation

Prop 30 – Yes

Proposition 30 uses progressive taxation to help finance the green transition and mitigate the harms associated with climate change. Specifically, this prop would impose a new marginal tax of 1.75% on Californians with income in excess of $2 million. The funds from the new tax, estimated at $3 – $4.5 billion annually, would go to EV subsidies and increased resources for firefighters.

Both aspects of this bill are critical for supporting climate justice and resiliency. Overdependence on fossil fuels –  in transportation and other sectors – has brought California unprecedented heat waves and wildfires. Rapid EV adoption is necessary to decarbonize our economy and clean up the harmful pollutants from tailpipe emissions, which disproportionately impact black and brown communities. 

DSA-SD supports Prop 30 because it rests on a sound analysis of the underlying issue. The wealthy consume more than the rest of us – more homes, cars, and airfare – meaning that income inequality tracks with inequality of greenhouse gas emissions. It’s common sense to make millionaires help pay for a problem that they disproportionately caused. Prop 30 is a triple threat: soak the rich; curb conspicuous consumption; and inject some much-needed funding into the green transition. Vote yes on Prop 30!

Prop 31 – No Recommendation

San Diego County Ballot Measures

Measure A

This measure proposes a new tax on Marijuana business in unincorporated areas that already exists on businesses in every other municipality in the county. If passed, it would repeal an unearned special status for these businesses and lift an unfair burden on businesses in every other municipality in the county that pays their fair share. Vote YES on Measure A. 

City of San Diego Ballot Measures

Measure B – YES

The current so-called “People’s Ordinance” that Measure B seeks to amend essentially functions as welfare for those wealthy enough to be homeowners. The measure would lift the restriction on the City’s ability to impose a fee for solid waste management services, as well as a restriction on the amount of trash the City is required to pick up. As it stands, properties that are “not eligible for City-provided solid waste management services arrange and pay for” their own services. For those who rent, this means that rates can vary wildly depending on the whims of your landlord and how much they decide to spend on trash services. These restrictions have been in place since the ‘80s, and they only make city services more exclusive and inaccessible to those who need them the most. Vote YES on Measure B.

Measure C – No recommendation

Measure D – YES

A YES vote on this measure restores the City of San Diego’s ability to use project labor agreements(PLA) on construction projects, overturning a ban that was enacted in 2012. A PLA is a contract that sets the terms between a project’s owner and the set of labor unions involved in the project’s construction. As socialists we believe workers need to be protected from exploitation and deserve more control over wage levels, hiring practices and the other sort of working conditions that are negotiated in a PLA.  Measure D also demands public disclosure of City contracts, cracks down on employment discrimination and aligns city contracting rules with state law so our city’s eligibility for vital state funds is never in doubt. Vote YES on Measure D.

Measure H – YES

This measure will permit the City Council to authorize childcare facilities to operate on dedicated park property which is currently not allowed under the city’s charter. A comprehensive survey of City facilities found that 42 facilities within City parks are viable options to place childcare centers. If Measure H is passed, then the city’s vast assortment of parks and park facilities could be finally used for child care. For the working class, Measure H is a win on multiple fronts: public space will be used to provide public goods and working families in the City will have quality accessible childcare in their area. We see no reason to object to this measure. Vote YES on Measure H.

National City Ballot Measures

Measure M & Measure N – No and No

We oppose both Measures on the ballot—Measure M and Measure N—which are trying to make the City Clerk and City Treasurer positions into appointed positions rather than elected ones. The reasoning for both is some type of cost-saving argument, but we feel that in both cases the anti-democratic downsides of insulating these roles from the voters—especially the Treasurer—far outweigh any potential budgetary upside. Vote no on Measures M & N.

Chula Vista Ballot Measures

Measure K

A YES vote for Measure K approves changes to the Chula Vista City Charter in a variety of areas. The last comprehensive Charter revision was 44 years ago and the proposed update seeks to align the Charter with current state laws and best practices as recommended by the Charter Review Commission. One of the proposed changes removes the requirement that City residents be US Citizens to serve on most boards and commissions, opening the City Council to draw on a wider pool of involved and interested residents to be involved in Civic participation. Other proposed changes would be a cost saving option for an all-mail ballot for special elections and updates to language to eliminate outdated language and ambiguous language. We support Prop K for increased Civic participation for non-citizens.

Candidate Races

Statewide Races

California Governor: Gavin Newsom (D) vs Brian Dahle (R)

It’s almost guaranteed that the 62% of Californians who voted no on Gavin’s recall and voted for him over his last Republican challenger will turn out to vote for him again this November. From his ex-wife who is currently engaged to Don Jr. to the French Laundry Incident to the disappointing way he never brought the mask mandate back after the republicans attempted to recall him in an effort to curry favor with the business interests in the state, he is your standard scumbag politician. He’s such a scumbag, he’s about to run for president. So it’s kind of ironic that Biden had to bully him into signing the bill to make unionizing easier for farm workers.

US Senate: Alex Padilla (D) vs Mark Meuser (R)

Alex Padilla is unlikely to lose. He lands squarely in the center of the democratic party. However, like most Republicans, Mark Meuser would be a disaster for the state and stands in opposition to everything that makes California a nice place to be.

Lieutenant Governor: Eleni Kounalakis (D) vs Angela Underwood Jacobs (R)

Mostly a symbolic position, it looks like it will be secured by incumbent Kounalakis. She got 53% of the vote in the primary while Jacobs got 17%. The Eleni Kounalakis story, short version: rich girl leverages her father’s money and connections to get into politics. More standard Democrat stuff. 

Secretary of State: Shirley N. Weber (D) vs Rob Bernosky (R)

Dr. Weber had the same 60% of the vote that Gavin grabbed, which makes sense since she’s his appointee. Bernosky did originally support Trump’s first run, but does pay lip service to the idea that the 2020 election was not stolen.

Controller: Malia M. Cohen (D) vs Lanhee J. Chen (R)

So here we have Republican incumbent Chen vs San Francisco Police Commissioner Cohen. She led the successful effort to make SF’s city college free. He might win. He has managed to raise twice the money she has raised.

Attorney General: Rob Bonita (D) vs Nathan Hochman (R)

Bonita won the primary with 54% of the vote and is likely to win the general election, which is the best possible outcome for this race. He authored the new state law that requires the AG investigate when a police officer kills an unarmed citizen. While this seems like a fairly base level requirement, especially given cop’s propensity to think everything is a weapon (including candy bars and cigarettes) Hochman disagrees. Hochman says that he would prefer that the state collaborate with local law enforcement, “To the extent that the AG’s office works with the locals, I think that is your most effective way to get out the correct answer.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Lance Ray Christensen vs Tony K. Thurmond

While Thurmond is likely to win re-election after taking 46% in the primary, his opposition Christensen is the VP of Education Policy at the right-wing anti-union think tank California Policy Center. Need I say more?

State Board of Equalization District 4: David Dodson (D) vs Mike Schaefer (D)

Some Dem on Dem action!! We’re rooting for David Dodson in this fight. Schaefer has double the campaign contributions. Schaefer has given some of those contributions to San Diego conservative group. Schaefer was ordered to pay $1.83 million in 1986 to former addtenants in LA and called “one of California’s most notorious slumlords” by the Los Angeles Times that same year. He was arrested for violating the terms of his probation after a conviction for spousal abuse. He is disbarred in California and Nevada. This former San Diego City council member has still some how received many endorsements from the Democratic party. Dodson’s 30 years of service with the board of Equalization and nothing nearly so awful swam to the surface.

U.S. Congress

If you’re coming at this election primarily with an intent to reduce harm, when it comes to the Congressional races partisanship is your best bet. That’s mostly because the Republicans running are so egregious. District 50 incumbent Darrell Issa is particularly hypocritical, from his consistent piggybacking off of redistricting to find whichever district is majority-Republican to his repeated flouting of the law, which he doesn’t seem to think applies to him. He has so far managed to escape substantial consequences, legal or political. Don’t make it easy on him to continue that trend.

State Senate

As usual, none of the Dems running for State Senate races are ideal DSA candidates, but we’d like to draw attention to two of the races in particular, given the recent redistricting and the closeness of the races. Both Catherine Blakespear and Joseph Rocha are trailing their Republican opponents as of the primary election, and by under-10-percent margins—just under 20,000 votes (~9%) for Rocha, and less than 3,000 (~1.8%) for Blakespear. Rocha’s race is an uphill battle against Republican incumbent Brian Jones, and he seems intent on tacking right to appeal to the large veteran constituency in the area, so your mileage may vary in supporting him. On the other hand, Blakespear’s race is a dead heat, and against loathable political newcomer Matt Gunderson, a local auto dealership oligarch who recently sold his businesses to run for office. Gunderson’s endorsement list is chock-full of real estate, law enforcement, and state Republican names and organizations. Get this guy outta here. 

State Assembly

Overall the Democrats running for State Assembly Districts aren’t particularly inspiring, but they are (surprise surprise) generally better than the Republicans. Notable guy to avoid: over in the 79th district, Republican Corbin Sabol’s main strategy seems to be “strengthening the family,” has no real policy to help people in need, and he doesn’t think that responding to a question about suicide in black youth with “bring fathers back to the home” is problematic.

San Diego County Races

Board of Supervisors –  District 5

District 5 is currently represented by incumbent Jim Desmond, a strong right wing Trump supporter who openly denied COVID, criticized local unions, supports climate denial policies, and anti immigrant legislation. Although not a socialist, due to the critical nature of this race and the close margins needed for a progressive to win this race, we recommend union endorsed candidate, Tiffany Boyd-Hodgson.

Superior Court of San Diego (Judges)

Many of us do not vote for judges on the ballot because we have no meaningful way to evaluate which candidates have progressive values, and candidates run even more than usual on a supposedly apolitical basis. Frequently these seats go uncontested, and the people who get elected are typically well-off prosecutors who’ve spent their careers putting poorer working-class plaintiffs in jail for minor offenses. In order to evaluate our choices, we need to identify and vote for those who protect and advance our democratic socialist values, such as fair treatment of minority defendants and if possible have served as defense attorneys.  

That said, if you’re going to parse the different judicial candidates without getting too into the weeds on jurisprudence, study their career histories and endorsements. Below are the two seats that we recommend close scrutiny because of their political implications. They can also serve as a model for evaluating the other judges on your ballot, should you decide to give them each a fair shake.

Superior Court of San Diego County Dist 35 – Rebecca Kanter vs Mike Murphy

As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Rebecca Kanter was a supervisor in the Major Crimes Section. She also worked as a “civil rights coordinator” and participated in coalitions against hate crimes and internet crimes against children. Her endorsements include a handful of local attorney associations, the local AFL-CIO labor council, and some prominent Democrats like Sara Jacobs and Mike Levin. 

On the other hand, Mike Murphy is a Deputy Attorney General, serving as a prosecutor for over 25 years. His endorsements include several local law enforcement associations, Republican think-tank New Majority, and a bunch of San Diego executives.

Superior Court of San Diego County Dist 36 – Pete Murray vs Peter Singer

Peter Singer (not the famously problematic ethical philosopher) has been a San Diego County Superior Court Commissioner for eight years. Before that, he was in private practice for 22 years and handled a diverse case pool. His endorsements include local unions and Democratic clubs. 

The other Peter, Pete Murray, has spent his career as a criminal prosecutor and a private practice defense attorney. His website showcases endorsements from the current San Diego District Attorney, and the San Diego Police Association, and “Military Leaders.”

City of San Diego

Council District 2 – No recommendation

Council District 4 – Monica Montgomery Steppe vs Gloria Evangalista

Although not a socialist, Monica Montgomery Steppe received DSA San Diego’s endorsement in 2018 because of her strong support of DSA’s working class values. She is the incumbent and will most likely win. 

Council District 6 – No recommendation

Council District 8 – No recommendation

San Diego Unified School District

District B

Shana Haza has the union support, but Godwin Higa’s the real leftist here. His commitment to restorative justice in place of school discipline, as well as his claim to fame of running Cherokee Point Elementary in City Heights as a “trauma-informed school,” have shown him to be highly effective at expanding support services for students and developing community schooling practices, such as a free breakfast program and a partnership with the San Diego Food Bank. He hopes to implement these ideas in the district more broadly. Vote Godwin Higa.

District C

If you go to Ballotpedia, Becca Williams has marked “school choice,” “vouchers,” and “charters” as three of her five “areas of public policy [she’s] personally passionate about.” Considering she is running for a public school board position, that’s a red flag. By contrast, Cody Petterson explicitly calls out the “anti-CRT, anti-mask, anti-vaxx, and anti-mandate” discourse while indicating his passion for environmental policy. He’s a wonk to the max, but he’s also got stated commitments to improving teacher salaries and working conditions. Vote Cody Petterson

Mayor – Jose Rodriguez vs Ron Morrison

We support Jose Rodriguez for the National City mayor’s race. A sometime organizer for Fight For 15 and former staff at the Labor Council and AFT Local 1931 doesn’t necessarily mean that Rodriguez is going to vote like your ideal DSAer would. But having Ron Morrison, who is most notable for being officially censured in 2020 over a mocking post about Black Lives Matter protests, on the ballot makes this a politically valuable (and easy) choice. Vote Jose Rodriguez for National City Mayor.

National Elementary School District

District Governing Board (3 seats available)

Unfortunately, there’s not actually that much easily accessible information on these candidates. Amy Spackman is a beer entrepreneur with little education experience, so one of your two unchecked boxes should probably be there. Of the four remaining candidates, though, all boast committed histories of work with the district. We genuinely have trouble discerning which is the weakest link here, so we recommend giving the voter information guide provided by the county a look for the statements provided by each candidate, which have some more detail. 

Chula Vista

City Council

No Recommendations are being made for City Council candidates in Chula Vista. However, as the race is non-partisan, we feel it is informative to list the candidates’ party affiliations:

District 1: Carolina Chavez (D) vs Marco Contreras (R)

District 2: Jose Preciado (D) vs Steve Stenburg (R)  

City Attorney: Simon Silva (D) vs Dan Smith (R) 

Chula Vista Elementary School District

Area 1 – Francisco Tamayo vs Jesse Vigil

Francisco Tamayo, the incumbent candidate, is the Director of Infrastructure and Cloud Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. Like us, he supports Measure D. He was first elected in 2014 with less than 40% of the vote and ran unopposed in 2018. Now, in 2022, he’s being challenged by Jesse Vigil, who attended a “candidate training” session offered by right-wing organization RMNNT. Vote Francisco Tamayo to fight insurgent nationalism.

Area 3 – No recommendation

Area 5 – Cesar Fernandez vs Keren Dominguez vs John H. Borja vs Armando Farias

Once again, RMNNT is represented in this race by a candidate they trained – Keren Dominguez. Cesar Fernandez is the incumbent candidate, but the field is wide. We don’t have a preferred candidate, except we’re anti-Dominguez. 

Sweetwater Union High School District

Area 3 – Elva Lopez-Zepeda vs the field

Elva Lopez-Zepeda is a teacher in the district and is running as a progressive. She’s on board with replacing school cops with support staff, and her endorsements include the San Diego Labor Democratic Club and the local chapters for the AFL-CIO and the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, two notable labor unions. There is no incumbent in this race, and there’s a wide cast of candidates, but none of her opponents match up.

Area 5 – No recommendation

Poway

Mayor – No recommendation

City Council

District 1 – Hiram Soto vs Brian Pepin

Poway isn’t exactly a haven for leftists, but there are some races worth pointing out here regardless. We can’t exactly recommend Hiram Soto, whose principled opposition to development scans as a little more NIMBY than anti-capitalist when you have the context of Poway’s status as suburban bourgeois utopia (founded 1980!). Brian Pepin, on the other hand, makes no bones about coming from a “law enforcement family”, his endorsements from the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association and the San Diego Police Officers’ Association, and his general opposition to tax increases. Do not vote for Pepin.

District 3: Jose Preciado (D) vs Steve Stenburg (R)  

Once again, the decision here isn’t great. Peter De Hoff and Tony Russo both lean hard into the aw-shucks anti-density position that appeals to Poway’s slogan “the City in the Country,” which again mostly means maintaining the city’s status as suburban enclave, untouched by the supposed evils of city life. Our recommendation then goes to Kevin Juza, but with a LOT of reservations—his love of “well-planned growth and smart development” leaves a lot to be desired as far as a politics beyond being “smart,” and his interest in prioritizing working with law enforcement should ring alarm bells for anyone on the left. Vote Juza if you gotta, but only if you have the stomach for it.

Poway Unified School District

Area B

This is one of those “just please don’t go for that guy” races. Dave Nelson’s website veers repeatedly into Fox-flavored screeds about critical race theory, cancel culture, and big bold red letters about “Gender Identification teaching.” Ginger Couvrette, the incumbent, is a
“Poway centrist”, which is to say, a real estate broker, and her feelings about the school seem primarily related to how it has helped her establish a professional network to better connect parents to potential real estate deals. Back on planet Earth, we see this as a pretty glaring conflict of interest, but at least she’s not calling the school district a police state. We ourselves would probably recommend Frida Brunzell, whose experience with a child with dyslexia lends credibility to her stated interest in improving mental health services and accommodations for learning differences for children in the district. 

Area C

Jason Bennett is the crank in this one, as the owner of a pizza shop that gave free slices to kids who got kicked out of school for violating mask mandates. The other two are unexceptional, but inoffensive: Patrick Batten is an ex-Marine who makes a big deal of supporting vocational training (as do we!) to “prepare them to compete in the global economy”, while Heather Plotzke returns to the well of mental health services and supporting teachers’ autonomy while preventing outsourcing of the personnel. At a glance, Heather Plotzke probably has the edge here, if only because she expands beyond the work training perspective to address the disability services of the district.

Area D

Janet Bremseth goes full “critical race theory” less than two paragraphs into her website bio. She wants to be “a voice for parents,” which in this unfortunate media environment translates as the subjection of district curriculum and policies to the whims of whichever Tucker Carlson viewers live in the area. Vote Michelle O’Connor-Ratcliff. 

Vista

Mayor – Cipriano Vargas vs John Franklin

This is a very tight race between 2 diametrically opposed candidates: John Franklin represents the conservative usual suspects who have continuously controlled local politics in Vista for decades. We recommend Cipriano Vargas, who is challenging the status quo with a strong record as an outspoken school board member in support of progressive working class values. 

Oceanside

City Council

District 1 – Eric Joyce vs the field

We’re rooting for Eric Joyce, a member of the North San Diego County NAACP and chairs the Committee to End the School to Prison Pipeline. Joyce is a teacher and current Oceanside school board member, and during his tenure he promoted a policy that added ethnic studies to the graduation requirements. He explicitly supports the values of the working class and marginalized communities, and he does not accept money from developers or police unions. He faces a wide field, but none of them square up. Two are Trumper Republicans, and two are Democrats who barely have a presence. Vote Eric Joyce!

District 2 – Daniel Dominguez vs Rick Robinson 

We support Daniel Dominguez, the former head of the local union representing Southern California Edison employees. He is endorsed by the progressive Alliance of CA for Community Empowerment (ACCE). His opponent, Rick Robinson, is endorsed by the Oceanside Police Officers Association and the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce.