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National Offices


Picture this with your eyes wide open: A Republican in the White House. A Republican-controlled House and Senate rubber-stamping the GOP president's anti-abortion Supreme Court nominees. This is no campy Halloween horror flick--it's closer to reality than many voters think. If nationwide polls are to be believed, George W. Bush will soon be the nation's Fratboy-in-chief.

Meanwhile, the GOP will, according to most predictions, easily retain its majority in the U.S. Senate. The House of Representatives is potentially up for grabs, but only if Democrats can win six seats nationally. Unlike recent elections in California, there are no blockbuster propositions mobilizing the Democratic base. In California, where Gore once held a double-digit lead, the latest polls show Green Party nominee Ralph Nader siphoning support from Gore. To those contemplating voting for Nader, we think this is too close an election to throw away a vote on a symbolic candidate.

We can already hear Naderites preaching the lefty line: It doesn't matter if you vote for Gore or Bush because they are both from the same party: the Party of Big Business. While there's plenty of truth to that, Bush and Gore hold very different positions on a woman's right to choose, school vouchers, health care, tax policy and social security. Eight years--and more, counting lifetime Supreme Court appointments--is a long time to endure the fallout of a "protest" vote.
Recommendation: Al Gore

U.S. Senate

Voters already know that Tom Campbell is an enigma. In 1997, he defied his party's leaders by voting to oust then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The following year, he toed the party line by voting to impeach President Clinton. The question then is, Which Campbell would show up at the senate confirmation hearings for a new Supreme Court justice. It's an intriguing gamble, but one we're not willing to make given the very real prospect of a Republican president presiding over a Republican Senate and, possibly, a Republican House of Representatives.
Recommendation: Dianne Feinstein

15th Congressional District

The coveted seat for the 15th Congressional District, which runs from southwest San Jose to Scotts Valley, is viewed by many political observers as a solid chance for Democrats to regain control of the House. Democratic Assemblyman Mike Honda can be counted on to watch out for little guys and big guys alike. A longtime Demo, Honda speaks Spanish, cares about the environment and understands the diverse needs of this wildly configured district.
Recommendation: Mike Honda

17th Congressional District

Incumbent Sam Farr has proven himself to be a stalwart defender of environmental issues during his eight years in the House of Representatives. His labor record is also solid. His opponent, Republican Clint Engler, relies on the familiar anti-government rhetoric of his party.
Recommendation: Sam Farr

State Offices

15th State Senate District

If he's not careful, State Senator Bruce McPherson, who is pro-choice and strong on educational issues, is going to do the nearly impossible: Give moderate Republicans a good name. Someday, a serious Democratic challenger will emerge--but not this year.
Recommendation: Bruce McPherson

27th Assembly District

If prizes were awarded for best campaign slogan, Republican Charles "Chuck" Carter would win in a walk for his bold declaration, "More 'Chuck,' Less Pork." Unfortunately, that's all Carter's got going for him. His opponent, Boulder Creek Democratic incumbent Fred Keeley, has risen on merit to be the Speaker pro tem of the Assembly and been a strong advocate for environmental issues.
Recommendation: Fred Keeley

28th Assembly District

Now that Peter Frusetta's tired act has been retired, the Democrats have a solid chance to enhance their majority in the assembly in a district that includes Watsonville and Freedom. Monterey County Supervisor Simon Salinas is supported by state Senator John Vasconcellos and has equally strong support in the southern part of the district. Republican Jeff Denham is an ag businessman with nowhere near Salinas' experience.
Recommendation: Simon Salinas

County Races

Santa Cruz County District Attorney

Thanks to the Kate Canlis campaign of cooked statistics and exploited crime victims, much of what voters have heard about Ron Ruiz will not give them confidence. Ruiz is hardly without faults: he is a lousy politician, first of all, and lately he has shown a disturbing propensity to shoot himself in the foot in the press. But he is an ethical prosecutor who has fought hard to bolster public safety.
Recommendation: Ron Ruiz

Santa Cruz County Supervisor, District 2

Ellen Pirie strikes us as a candidate unmotivated by ambition. As the directing attorney for Senior Legal Services, her career has been devoted to an unselfish desire for public service.
Recommendation: Ellen Pirie

Local Races

Santa Cruz City Council

When even the progressive Santa Cruz Action Network can't agree on four candidates for four open seats on the City Council (picking only three: Scott Bugental, Ed Porter and Emily Reilly), it's a sure sign that city politics are mutating faster than genetically altered corn chips.

The Democratic Women's Club found itself in the same quandary and opted for Reilly, Porter and SCAN bête noire Scott Kennedy. The People's Democratic Club could only agree on Porter and Reilly. The Beach Flats Neighborhood Association settled on Bugental, Porter and Dick Doubrava.

We suspect that the reason local progressive, labor and environmental groups can't come to a consensus is that this year's field of council hopefuls is surprisingly strong. For the most part, the candidates have applied themselves to the big issues that bedevil the city now and will for a long time: housing, growth, traffic and water.

We're not alone in finding a lot to like about local businesswoman Reilly (who owns Emily's Bakery on Mission Street). She is a committed, concerned citizen who cares about the quality of life in Santa Cruz and has the ability to bridge a lot of divides. Her coalition-building skills are just what the council needs.

Kennedy doesn't lack for experience, having served before on the council. But his tenure was a contentious one, and we think the council needs to move forward rather than revisiting the controversies of the past. The only incumbent running, Michael Hernandez, simply hasn't demonstrated that he deserves another term.

Scott Bugental is involved, knowledgeable, experienced and smart. He has a strong background on transportation and water issues, understands the need for diversified solutions to the housing crisis and has the backing of the Sierra Club.

After Reilly and Bugental, the field starts to narrow a bit. Santa Cruz High School teacher Ed Porter has an impressive résumé (Zoning Board, Planning Commission, Public Works Commission and Transportation Commission), advocates increasing housing (in mutli-use, multistory downtown projects) and speaks passionately about the needs of young people. Dick Doubrava also comes with a long list of local involvement (Planning Commission, Santa Cruz Master Transportation Study, De Anza Homeowners Association) and brings a special attention to seniors' issues. Dr. Arnie Leff is highly respected and has been a proponent of finding new approaches to our attitudes toward drugs and addiction and has taken a firm stand on the expansionist urges of UCSC. Both, however, fall a little short of specifics by comparison with Porter's more detailed approach.

The real wild card this year is architect and ex-Zoning Board member Mark Primack. A self-styled contrarian, Primack has strongly criticized the current council for its unwillingness to tackle thorny issues and for micromanaging its own advisory bodies. Primack made himself famous--or infamous, depending--by supporting the Borders move to downtown Santa Cruz. There is no doubt that he is one of the smartest and most articulate candidates, and he understands that Santa Cruz can't survive without figuring out a growth policy that allows people of all incomes an affordable place to live. The rap on Primack is that he can be hard to work with and has no patience for those who disagree with him. This is a close call, but we believe that the council needs Primack's kind of bracing intelligence, even if it proves to be sometimes astringent.
Recommendations: Emily Reilly, Ed Porter, Scott Bugental, Mark Primack

Soquel Water District (Two Seats)

It's been a long time since the very cozy, appointment-heavy Soquel Water District saw a wide-open race. Four candidates have stepped up to tackle two incumbents of the old guard. Katherine Sweet has been a member of the Friends of Soquel Creek and Save Soquel, and earned a endorsement from the Sierra Club. Bruce Daniels has chaired the Santa Cruz Sierra Club Water Resources Committee . Both are strong environmentalists who understand the needs of the district.
Recommendations: Bruce Daniels and Katherine Sweet.

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From the November 1-8, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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