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Tuesday, February 26, 2002

The California primary is supposed to be in June. It always was, until the legislators and party leaders got together and moved it up to March in 2000. I guess they were tired of having the presidential nominees already decided before the state even had a chance to vote. So now we hold all our primary elections in March, which is way too early.

It's too early for me, because I've been too busy to study the issues as carefully as I'd like to. It's too early in general because it doesn't give newer candidates a chance to become as well-known as incumbents and old party hacks. And the real reason it shouldn't be in March is that it's such a long time until the general election in November. We're in for eight months of partisan backbiting and other electoral atrocities. By that time we'll hate all the candidates so much that most of us will stay home.

I think I have to mail my absentee ballot no later than tomorrow to be absolutely certain it gets there on time. So let's see if I can wade through the rest of the ballot as efficiently as I did the first half yesterday. Then we can put all this behind us and try to ignore it for awhile. We can get back to the rest of the news, which is even more horrible than state politics.

The truth is I'm having trouble with the other state offices, the ones that aren't governor. Insurance commissioner, controller, attorney general — I see a lot of good candidates and can't really choose.

There are at least four candidates for secretary of state that I like, and I can't find a way to slip a piece of paper between them on the basis of qualifications or positions. I could vote for Michela Alioto, because she has the most musical name, or for March Fong Eu because she's the grande dame of California politics (if she'll excuse the term, which has a slight aroma of sexism but doesn't quite reek of it). I just don't know, and that's the truth. Kevin Shelley is the candidate of the Democratic machine (such as it is), but other than that he seems okay. Carl Henley seems to be mostly a political outsider, so maybe that's the way to go. I just don't know.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction is a nonpartisan office in California, which makes the ballot statements very interesting. One candidate is a leader in the Anaheim Union High School District, which doesn't automatically disqualify her until you read her statement, which harps on teaching "basics," "patriotism," "respect," "safety" and "clean restrooms." Well, that last one is okay, but the rest are code words, and I think we know who it is she's trying to reach with them. She also wants students to wear "academic attire," and she thinks they should have a "Moment of Silence." Scary.

The other choices are two state legislators and a political consultant. One of them has no ballot statement, and another hammers us with "funding" and "fiscal management." The only one who mentions reducing class size, purchasing new textbooks and hiring qualified teachers is Jack O'Connell, so I think he gets my vote.

Whew! It's a whole lot easier to pick among the rest of the candidates, because most of them are running unopposed.

One race I don't have to give much thought to is my Representative in Congress, because I admire and respect Lynn Woolsey and have found her responsive whenever I've written to her. I know why Republicans wouldn't want her to be reelected, because she's an outspoken liberal (yes, there still is such a person), but I can't think why any Democrat would vote against her.

That leaves our local district attorney's race, which I've written about before. Twice. It's the old dilemma of experience vs. change. The local paper today finally made an endorsement. They came out for the incumbent, but they also made it clear they didn't much like either of the candidates. The basis for the paper's recommendation was that if we can't get someone good in that office, we might as well stick with the devil we know. Or something like that. I sort of skimmed the editorial.

Anyway, on the basis of the paper's opinion, I've decided to go the other way and vote for the challenger. At least we know he hasn't dropped the ball in high profile domestic violence cases. At least we don't already know that most of the other prosecutors don't get along with him. That's what we're hearing about the current DA, and maybe that's not the worst thing in the world, to create a hostile work environment. But I've worked in one of those, and I know things don't get done as smoothly if there's tension in the air all the time. So let's try something else for awhile.

That's just about it. I might have missed something, but I'm too tired of all this to dwell on it any longer. I know there's a county school superintendent race, but I like both of the men running for the office. There's a bond measure for facility improvements at Santa Rosa Junior College, and I'll definitely vote for that. We have a showcase community college here with an outstanding reputation, and we can't afford to let it deteriorate.

Okay, that's definitely it. Let me get this in the envelope, seal it up, and get it out of my sight. I won't have to listen to any political advertisements during this last week, but I'll be glued to the radio and TV next Tuesday night for the results.


I almost waited too late to capture this sunset.

Oh, one more thing. They used to send out little red pencils with your absentee ballots. I've been searching and searching, and I don't have a number two pencil in the house. All I have are mechanical pencils, the kind the Boss likes with much harder lead. The instructions are quite clear: nothing but a number two will do. If you accidentally use ink, they tell you, write over it with a number two pencil or your vote might not be counted. So I guess I'll have to stop at the store in the morning before I can finish voting. It's always something.

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