Election Road Trip: Maldonado Trying to Get Latinos to Go Republican

Democrat Lois Capps and Republican Abel Maldonado at a September debate sponsored by san luis Obispo times

In the Central Coast’s 24th Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Lois Capps is challenged by Republican Abel Maldonado. Here, both candidates are at a September debate sponsored by the San Luis Obispo Times. (Photo: Scott Shafer)

For the past two decades California has been tough political terrain for Republicans, in part because the state’s growing Latino population overwhelmingly supports Democrats.

On the Central Coast, Republican Congressional candidate Abel Maldonado is hoping his Mexican heritage will help bridge that divide by appealing to Latinos and independent voters. Maldonado, a former lieutenant governor, is the kind of candidate the Republican Party covets these days.

“My father and mother came to this country with nothing,” Maldonado says.

He’s the oldest son of migrant workers — Maldonado’s father came from Mexico in 1965 as a guest worker, eventually starting his own farm and growing it into a family business.

“The Republican Party has not done a good job of communicating with the fastest growing population in America, which happens to be Hispanics.”
At the age of 26, after a long battle with local bureaucrats over a permit for a refrigerated warehouse on the farm, Maldonado was elected to the Santa Maria City Council. He rose to higher office, in the Assembly and Senate, and was eventually appointed lieutenant governor by Arnold Schwarzenegger when the office became vacant.

“So just imagine me sitting next to my mother picking strawberries in the fields and becoming California’s 47th lieutentant governor,” the boyish 45-year-old says.

Maldonado lost his bid to remain Lieutenant Governor in an election against Gavin Newsom. But now he’s running in the 24th Congressional District against incumbent Democrat Lois Capps. The newly drawn seat is much more competitive than it was before redistricting. It would seem tailor-made for a moderate Republican businessman like Maldonado. Continue reading

It’s Dem. vs. Dem. in South Bay State Senate Race

By: Charla Bear

The boundaries of Senate District 15. ( and googlemaps)

The boundaries of Senate District 15. ( and googlemaps)

With November 6th fast approaching, campaigns are ratcheting up across the Bay Area, and candidates are doing everything they can to sway voters. That’s a big challenge for two state Senate hopefuls in the South Bay’s 15th Senate District. The district stretches from Cupertino through Saratoga and across most of San Jose.

In the past, this largely Democratic area wouldn’t have been much of a contest this late in the game. The Democrat who won the primary would usually have been a shoo-in in November. But not this year. The new Top Two Primary system pitted two Democrats against each other — Joe Coto and Jim Beall.

“Races like this get pretty cutthroat, especially when you have two people who are pretty close in terms of policy positions.”
Even though Beall won the primary by 11 percentage points, neither candidate can take anything for granted. The general election is expected to bring out twice as many voters — some of whom have yet to decide between the candidates’ platforms.

Coto is more about education … followed by jobs: “I want to focus a great deal of attention on school reform and on this new world of globalization and information technology,” he says. “Education and its relationship to work, to jobs.” Continue reading

Rallying the Afghan Vote in Fremont

By Francesca Segre

Most Afghan-Americans came here as refugees — fleeing war, invasions and political repression. Yet many don’t exercise their right to vote in U.S. elections. The nonprofit group The Afghan Coalition is trying to change that dynamic, and they’re rallying voters in the heart of California’s Afghan population — Fremont.

Francesca Segre/KQED

The group organized a forum recently for Afghan-American voters to meet the four candidates running for mayor of the city. At the event, candidates fielded questions about immigration and how to combat Islamophobia. Aziz Akbari, an 18-year-old Muslim and one of the mayoral candidates, tried to warm up the crowd by introducing himself in Farsi. But the candidates know it’s complicated to encourage Afghan voter turnout.

Many Afghans are reluctant to vote because they were never given a chance to in their homeland. Continue reading

Election Road Trip: Central Coasters Hungry For Substance, Sick of Campaign Negativity

The election is just over a month away now, and unlike in the past, California has multiple Congressional seats — nearly a dozen, in fact — where the outcome is truly up in the air. As part of our election series “What’s Government For?” we’re out to hear what voters say they want from their elected officials.

Lois Capps and Abel Maldonado at a debate (Scott Shafer/KQED)

We’re hitting the road, or should I say the beach, on the Central Coast, where a hotly contested congressional race is under way. The new 24th Congressional District includes all of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, plus a small part of northern Ventura County. One person told me that living here is like being in a National Geographic Magazine — it’s that beautiful.

As I walk along the beach near Morro Bay, I come across two people, Gary Ubaldi and his wife Gail. They both say they’re registered Democrats, but he says they’re open-minded.

“I believe I’m very open-minded,” Ubaldi says. “I know my wife is. I mean she listens to both sides of every argument and would vote for who she felt was the best candidate, period. Regardless of party.” Continue reading

Fact-Checking the Arguments on Prop 37, GMO Food Labeling Initiative

by Amy Standen, Jon Brooks, Lisa Aliferis

KQED Public Radio’s Forum program ran a debate last week on Proposition 37, which requires the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients. It was a spirited discussion, and we thought one exchange, in particular, deserved a bit more digging.

GMO soybeans. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

It began with Bob Goldberg, UCLA professor and author of one of the ballot arguments opposed to Prop. 37, calling it a “Trojan horse.”

“Prop. 37 is not a simple labeling proposition. It’s a Trojan Horse, and the reason it’s a Trojan Horse is it has a threshold requirement that the grocery stores are not going to be able to have anything that has more than .5 percent genetically engineered ingredients or derivatives from genetically engineered crops. That threshold goes to zero percent in a few years.”

After looking over Prop 37 in the KQED Proposition Guide, we weren’t so sure that was accurate and decided to investigate.

Let’s break the issue down into two parts.

1) Would Prop. 37 keep foods with GM ingredients out of stores?

Over the weekend, the Sacramento Bee’s “Ad Watch” dinged the No-on-37 camp for saying that Prop 37 “would ban thousands of common food products in California unless they are specially relabeled to meet complex new requirements and restrictions that would only exist in our state.”

The Bee says, “but those foods could still be sold – without the labels – if the manufacturers go organic or use ingredients that are not genetically engineered.”

Yes on 37, naturally, agrees. “Prop 37 is a label, not a ban,” says Stacy Malkan. Grocery stores can sell anything they want with genetically engineered ingredients, it would just have to be labeled.”

So, in short: Prop 37 doesn’t ban products with GE ingredients; it requires labels on them.

2) What about this “.5 % threshold?”  How would it affect processed food makers like General Mills, who buy raw ingredients from farmers across the country?

The section of the proposition relating to the threshold is actually a temporary exemption to the labeling requirement. It reads:

The requirements of Section 110809 [the labeling requirement] shall not apply to any of the following…

Until July 1, 2019, any processed food that would be subject to Section 110809 solely because it includes one or more genetically engineered ingredients, provided that: (1) no single such ingredient accounts for more than one-half of one percent of the total weight of such processed food…

So the claim that  “grocery stores are not going to be able to have anything that has more than .5 percent genetically engineered ingredients or derivatives from genetically engineered crops” is not something that is stipulated in the text of the initiative.

“The Prop includes a percentage (.5%) until 2019 to give companies time to find alternatives (if they so choose) for GE micro-ingredients that don’t have easy substitutes. But after 2019, they have to label if they are intentionally using GE ingredients,” says Malkan.

We’ve left Bob Goldberg, the Prop 37 opponent, phone and email messages inviting him to respond, and we’ll update this post if and when we hear back from him.

(Update 2:35 p.m.) Kathy Fairbanks, spokesperson for No on Prop 37, says that Bob Goldberg “misspoke” in saying that under the initiative “grocery stores are not going to be able to have anything that has more than .5 percent genetically engineered ingredients or derivatives from genetically engineered crops.”

She amended the statement by saying, “It’s a ban unless the products are repackaged, relabeled, or remade with non-GE ingredients.” (Emphasis ours).

(Update Oct 8) Bob Goldberg has gotten back to us and replies with the following:

You are correct, Prop 37 requires a label. It’s not a ban. However, it’s “guilt by association.” The label implies that foods containing an ingredient derived from a genetically engineered crop MIGHT be a cause for concern. In fact, foods derived from genetically engineered crops are the most thoroughly tested in the 10,000 years of agriculture, and have been been shown to be completely safe for human and animal consumption.

Continue reading

Gov’s Prop. 30 Tax Hike: More For Schools, Criminal Justice…or More Money Misspent?

By Erika Kelly

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at L.A. City Hall on the state budget earlier this year.  (Kevork Djansezian: Getty Images)

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at L.A. City Hall on the state budget earlier this year. (Kevork Djansezian: Getty Images)

Gov. Jerry Brown has been blazing the campaign trail for Proposition 30 for several weeks now. It’s his big play to bring in new revenue, and he’s lined up a lot of support to pay for campaign ads that begin Wednesday. People and organizations have ponied up more than $41 million to back Prop. 30. Brown warns that without the added revenue, California schools would face something like financial Armageddon. That’s a message he served up at an August visit to San Francisco’s James Lick Middle School.

“If people say ‘no, we don’t want to tax the most rewarded and blessed among us, we want to close schools,'” he told the crowd, “okay, I’ll manage as best as we can. But I will tell you, and I’m telling you the truth, everything I’ve seen in my lifetime tells me that schools need more money.”

The “blessed people” Brown refers to are California’s highest earners. Under Prop. 30, they would see their income taxes go up for seven years. But it’s not just the wealthy who would be asked to chip in. Everyone who makes a purchase in California would have to pay an additional quarter-cent sales tax for four years. This year’s state’s budget assumes Prop. 30 will pass and billions of dollars of new revenue will flow into state coffers. But H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the State Department of Finance, says if voters reject the measure, significant cuts are coming — and fast. Continue reading

Prop. 33 Asks Voters to Reconsider How Auto Insurance Discounts Work

By Erik Anderson, KPBS

Prop. 33 backers say many drivers would be eligible for discounts; opponents are skeptical. (Photo: Magie Mbroh)

Prop. 33 backers say many drivers would be eligible for discounts; opponents are skeptical. (Photo: Magie Mbroh)

California voters are getting a chance to tweak the state’s car insurance rules when they consider the fate of Proposition 33. The November ballot item asks voters to change the way car insurance rates are calculated in California. The measure proposes tweaking current rules to allow companies to consider a driver’s insurance history when setting how much they will pay.

It is not a new idea. In fact, Proposition 33 is similar to Proposition 17, a measure voters rejected just two years ago. Under Prop. 33 people who have had car insurance continuously for five years can get a discount. People who have an interruption in coverage would face much higher car insurance fees. In an effort to separate itself from the failed Proposition 17, Prop. 33 adds some exceptions that include the military, workers who have lost their jobs and children living with their parents.

It is a message the “Yes on 33” camp is putting on television spots hitting the airwaves on stations around California, according to Rachel Hooper, a consultant for the campaign. One ad features several drivers including a young woman who calls it a great idea for all drivers. Another person in the ad says Prop. 33 rewards drivers for maintaining car insurance. Continue reading

Fighting Human Trafficking at Heart of Prop. 35, But Opponents Point to Flaws

By Amy Isackson

Daphne Phung addresses Prop. 35 supporters at a fundraising walk in San Diego. (Photo: Amy Isackson)

Daphne Phung addresses Prop. 35 supporters at a fundraising walk in San Diego. (Photo: Amy Isackson)

As Carissa Phelps got ready for a five kilometer walk to support Proposition 35 one recent Saturday afternoon, she looked out at the San Diego Bay and remembered what led her to walk the streets as a 12-year-old prostitute. “When my step-dad propositioned my sister who was turning 18 to … sell her virginity for her to someone,” she said.

After that she says she dropped out of seventh grade in Coalinga, near Fresno, and ran away. She soon met a pimp named Icey.

Phelps says he seemed nice and offered her a place when she had nowhere else to stay. “All of your friends at school are gone. All of your siblings are gone. Your bike is gone,” she described. “Your clothes are gone and so, you just feel like you’re trash. You eat out of the trash. You beg for a box of macaroni and cheese.”

One night with Icey turned into 10. And so began a criminal life that would take Phelps three years to escape.

It’s stories like Phelps’ that inspired Daphne Phung to quit her job as a corporate accountant and sink her life savings into crafting and supporting Prop. 35. Continue reading

Poll: Overwhelming Opposition From GOP Voters Puts Death Penalty Repeal in Doubt

San Quentin's death penalty chamber. (Photo: Scott Shafer, KQED)

San Quentin's death penalty chamber. (Photo: Scott Shafer, KQED)

by Scott Shafer, Lisa Aliferis, Jon Brooks

A new Field Poll finds voters closely divided on Proposition 34, the measure that would end the death penalty and replace it with life in prison.

Supporters of Prop. 34 say California’s death penalty is broken and can’t be fixed. Besides, they add, all those legal appeals are wasting taxpayer dollars.

In the latest Field Poll [PDF] released Tuesday, 42 percent of likely voters agree with ending executions. But slightly more — 45 percent — say “no” — keep things just the way they are. Thirteen percent are undecided. The margin of error is 4.3 percent.

The poll showed a sharp divide among registered Democrats and Independents versus Republicans on the issue. Democrats support the measure 50-37 percent, and no-party-preference or other voters favor it 54-33. But opposition by Republicans is at a whopping 65-23 percent.

Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said that support for replacing the death penalty with life in prison has been gaining ground in recent years.

“I think that gives the “Yes on 34″ side a chance,” he said. “But it’s starting off below 50 percent, and the history of our poll suggests that is an ominous place to start.” Continue reading

Proposition 32: ‘Paycheck Protection’ or Unfair Limitation on Union Influence?

It’s been on the ballot twice before in the last 14 years — and rejected by voters — but the issue is back again. Proposition 32 would stop unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. The “pro” camp calls this “paycheck protection,” while those opposed say the measure limits union’s ability to fund political campaigns while leaving corporate influence largely unchecked.

This past Friday, KQED’s This Week in Northern California examined the measure. Watch the clip: