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Rick -> Rick's Election Analyses -> Mar. 3, 2020

Tuesday, 2020-03-03 presidential primary election

Notes by Rick Moen

Last updated 2020-05-01

This election rundown will cover offices and issues votable at our precinct 3402 in West Menlo Park, California. Unless you live close by, your ballot will differ to some degree.

As always, definitive outcomes are not possible for several weeks, partly because some categories of ballots aren't counted until after Election Day (vote-by-mail received as late as three days after Election Day, provisional, and damaged). County results are due at the Secretary of State on April 3rd.

Also as always, this page includes separate "RM partisan analysis" sections for each issue/candidate, just in case you're curious what I personally think. No, I'm not lobbying to persuade, in part because that doesn't work.

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Three Semi-Closed Primaries & Three Closed Primaries

What you will be permitted to vote for (for a couple of this ballot's electoral issues) differs based on whether by Monday, Feb. 17, 2020 you are registered with membership in one of the six qualified political parties — or in none of them: Voters can register without party affiliation (popularly called "voting independent", but officially "no party preference").

Two items on this ballot are political-party functions, what the State of California calls "party-nominated offices": the presidential primary (for which each of the six parties has a ballot) and selection of a party's county central committee officials (for which one of the six parties has ballots). Each party sets its own rules for party-nominated offices, and can notify the state before each primary election if it will permit no-party-preference voters to participate in its presidential candidate selection. By contrast, party central committee members may be voted only by that party's registered voters. (All the other votable issues in the March 2020 election are "voter-nominated offices" run by the state of California under its "top-two primary" scheme, plus one ballot proposition.)

For the March 2020 primary, three of the six qualified parties will permit no-party-preference voters (and voters registered with a non-qualified party, which amounts to the same thing) to vote in their primary elections for President:

So, for example, Democratic Party-registered voters and no-party-preference voters may participate in the Democratic Party primary races for President. No other voters may participate.

Important: If you're a no-party-preference (NPP) voter wishing to vote for candidates in one of the above party primaries, you can bring your NPP ballot to a voting center or your county election office on Election Day and ask for a party ballot, but must specifically ask, by name, for a "crossover [party name] ballot."

For the March 2020 primary, three of the six qualified parties forbid participation by no-party-preference voters. Only voters registered with them may participate in their primary elections for President:

So, for example, Republican Party-registered voters may participate in Republican Party primary races for President. No other voters (including no-party-preference voters) may participate.

How to Check Your Voter Registration

Registration deadline is 15 calendar days before each election; in this case, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. Some counties permit checking and correcting registration online, and California also has a statewide voter registration Web site. I would recommend checking your county information first. If you see signs of trouble or have doubts or find no information, contact your county registrar of voters immediately. Or, just visit that office in person, bringing state photo ID or passport.

If you miss the registration deadline, fortunately, there's a fallback option: You can "conditionally" register as late as Election Day at your county election office or vote center. (This late option helps unregistered voters do last-minute registration, but isn't usable for changing one's voter registration.)

Candidate Information

I've had a small epiphany: It's 2020, and our Official Voter Information Pamphlets suck.

As Senatorial candidate Jason Hanania pointed out, the state charges candidates $25 per word to include a Candidate Statement — thus over $6,000 for a full-paragraph statement, plus a $3,480 Filing Fee, thus difficulty staying under the Federal Elections Commission cap of $5,000 in campaign expenditures, exceeding which brings many expensive other requirements and a host of other ills.

All of that is unnecessary: It's 2020, we have the Web, and nobody need pay by the word. Therefore, for each candidate, I have hyperlinked the candidate Web site or best other Web resource. The Web can give you much deeper and better information than the Official Voter Information Pamphlet. Use it.

Crossover Ballots: Warning

If obliged to request & use a crossover ballot, be extremely careful how you do so, or part or all of your vote may be discarded: NPP (No Party Preference) voters are required to request by name and use such a special "crossover" ballot in order to have any say in primary presidential candidate selection, and doing so is tricky. Here are horror stories about that: [CityWatchLA] [L.A. Times]

President of the USA

(party-nominated office)

As a reminder, each state's primary election is how each party in the state selects delegates to attend the party national convention, each pledged to vote on the first ballot for one specific named candidate. Some parties, notably the Democratic Party, also send unpledged delegates ("superdelegates"). The various delegates then select that party's presidential candidate (and running mate) during its national convention, who then, in the fall, run against other parties' presidential slates in the general election.

Democratic Party ballot (open to Democratic and no-party-preference voters):

(vote for one)

On Feb. 21, Secretary of State Padilla also certified these Democratic Party write-in candidates as qualified:

California's Democratic Party awards 415 pledged delegates, 10.4% of the total pledged delegates available nationwide. 271 are awarded based on voting in the 53 Congressional districts, to candidates who satisfy a 15% vote threshold in the relevant district. 144 are awarded based on statewide vote tallies (for candidates who satisfy the same 15% vote threshold statewide). Of those, 90 will be pledged at-large delegates, and 54 will be pledged PLEO meaning party leader or elected official delegates. In addition, 79 unpledged PLEO "superdelegates" will be elected by district-level delegates at the May 17, 2020 state party convention, comprising 29 DNC members, 47 members of the US House of Representatives, 2 US Senators, and 1 state governor. The total number of California delegates to the 2020 Democratic Party nominating convention (originally July 13-16 in Milwaukee, but postponed to Aug. 17-20 because of the pandemic) will thus be 415 + 79 = 494.

My household's Congressional district, District 18, is allocated 6 "district-level" pledged delegates plus 1 PLEO pledged delegate.

Pledged delegates get allocated (statewide and per-district), after full state totals are available, among candidates clearing the 15% vote threshold according to a very specific method specified by the party.

Political scientist Josh Putnam has clarified (after careful reading of the Democratic Party rules) what happens to delegates pledged to candidates who drop out before the convention: District delegates of such candidates will become free agents, while the delegate slots of statewide delegate awards to candidates who've dropped out will be reallocated to remaining qualified candidates (those who cleared the 15% vote threshold).

As a Democratic-registered voter (or no-party-preference voter voting a Democratic ballot), your vote will help determine allocation of pledged delegates in your Congressional district, and allocation of pledged statewide delegates, among the qualified candidates. At the convention, the mix of pledged delegates will make some candidates' factions stronger than others, and influence the party platform, even if your preferred candidate doesn't win outright. The strength of delegate balances would also matter in the event of a brokered convention.


RM partisan analysis: In order to end the four-year term of lawlessness and corruption by the Toddler-in-Chief, in my opinion it's vital to support for November a strong candidate, any strong candidate, who is able to inspire very strong November turnout, who isn't hated by any significant (sane) voter subgroup (not counting partisans of the Toddler, who must simply be outvoted), and who is tough enough to counter a felonious general-election opponent who relies on cheating, lying, payoffs, and treason.

The debacle of November 2016 was a complex one critically involving chicanery in battleground Electoral College states, but, in broad strokes, on a nationwide basis, the crucial voter cadre were the 41.0% of registered voters who didn't bother to vote at all. Throwing the Toddler out most logically will entail shrinking that 41.0%, reminding voters they have a stake in every election, and giving them the fewest possible reasons to succumb to voter-dissuading propaganda. In my opinion, as of this writing in February 2020, the candidates best qualified according to those criteria (among those still in the race) are Warren and Biden. I'm voting for Warren.

Consider your March 3rd, 2020 choices carefully, because after our Super Tuesday primary, Caliifornia will no longer be a factor in the Presidential / VP contest, for reasons Eric Flint, among others, has ably explained.

Outcome (Apr. 23 final results): The state's 415 pledged delegates to be awarded will divide as follows:

Republican Party ballot (open to Republican voters only):

(vote for one)

On Feb. 21, Secretary of State Padilla also certified these Republican Party write-in candidates as qualified:

California's Republican Party awards all the state's 172 delegates (6.7% of those available nationwide) as pledged delegates bound to vote (on the first ballot at the Republican convention. 10 delegates are awarded based on the plurality of the statewide vote, and three delegates are awarded for each of the 53 Congressional districts based on the plurality vote in that district. Breakdown: 53 * 3 = 159 district level delegates. 159 district-level delegates + 10 at-large delegates + 3 party officials = 172 total.

As a Republican-registered voter, your vote isn't likely to tip the plurality vote balance either statewide or in your Congressional district (most Congressional districts), but who knows? Odd things happen. At the convention (August 24-27 in Charlotte & Jacksonville), the mix of pledged delegates will make some candidates' factions stronger than others, and influence the party platform, even if your preferred candidate doesn't win outright. The strength of delegate balances would also matter in the event of a brokered convention.

Outcome (Apr. 23 final results): California's GOP will award all 172 pledged delegates to Трамп Trump.

American Independent Party ballot (open to American Independent and no-party-preference voters):

(vote for one)

There were no certified write-in candidates for this party.

There's vanishingly little published online about the 2020 doings of this alleged political party, not even at its Web site in Vacaville, except a repeat of the Vacaville people's 2016 homily about how great the Трамп/Пенс Trump/Pence ticket is. (For more about this crackpot not-really-a-political-party, please see my 2018 explanation.)

Outcome (May 1, 2020 final data):

It's unclear what the long-term consequence of those rankings will be, whether the alleged party will hold a nominating convention, and how any such nominating convention would pick a nominee. (Recent years' history suggests no convention, and nomination ex-cathedra by the tiny group that controls the "brand".)

Green Party ballot (open to Green voters only):

(vote for one)

On Feb. 21, Secretary of State Padilla also certified this Green Party write-in candidate as qualified:

Outcome (Apr. 23 preliminary data): Delegate awards are estimated as follows:

402 total delegates (including 43 for California) will be elected for and vote at the Green National Convention, July 9–12, 2020, at Wayne State University in Detroit. A simple majority of 202 wins.

Libertarian Party ballot (open to Libertarian and no-party-preference voters):

(vote for one)

On Feb. 21, Secretary of State Padilla also certified these Libertarian Party write-in candidates as qualified:

The Libertarian primaries and caucuses don't appoint delegates directly, but rather indicates states' non-binding preferences for the nominee to be selected at the Libertarian National Convention, May 21-25, 2020 in Austin. Delegates to the convention will be allocated based on the number of sustaining members of the national Libertarian Party per state, as well as the percentage of the vote cast by state in the 2016 presidential election for Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson.

Outcome (May 1, 2020 final data):

Peace & Freedom Party ballot (open to Peace & Freedom voters only):

(vote for one)

There were no certified write-in candidates for this party.

Outcome (May 1, 2020 final data):

My understanding of the party by-laws is that the above result means Gloria La Riva will be the nominee at the Convention meeting of the Peace and Freedom Party State Central Committee in July. (Note that this party has had no ballot presence outside California for many years.)

Vice-President of the USA

(party-nominated office)

In case you're wondering how you vote in the primary election for Vice-President: You don't.

Underlining the basic fact that primary elections are functions of the self-governing private political associations called "political parties", you as voter have not even an indirect say in "your" party's VP pick, even less than you have for its Presidential candidate. The VP candidate gets selected at the party's nominating convention by the selected Presidential nominee and (in theory) the attending delegates.

Members of the Parties' County Central Committees, San Mateo County's 3rd District - coastside, Redwood Shores, San Carlos, West Menlo)

(party-nominated office)

Democratic Party ballot (open to Democratic voters only):

(vote for no more than six)


RM partisan analysis: On the basis of their profiles and endorsements, I'm voting for Wolter, Brennan, De Alba, Vargas, Levinson, and Booker.

Outcome (Apr. 1, 2020 official results):

Republican Party ballot (open to Republican voters only):

(vote for no more than six)

(For 2020, this will not be a votable choice because there were fewer qualified candidates than seats. I've nonetheless listed the names above so GOP 3rd District voters will know who their incoming committee members will be.)

Green Party ballot (open to Green Party voters only):

(vote for no more than seven)

(For 2020, this will not be a votable choice because there were fewer qualified candidates than seats. I've nonetheless listed the names above so Green Party 3rd District voters will know who their incoming committee members will be.)

The other qualified parties (AIP, Libertarian, Peace & Freedom) appear to not have County Central Committees in California, or at least not with contested elections.

18th Congressional District - southwest San Mateo County

(voter-nominated office - top two vote-winners will advance to 2020-11-03 general election)

(vote for one)

There were no certified write-in candidates for this seat.


RM partisan analysis: I've been entirely happy with Anna Eshoo's service as my US Representative, and will enthusiastically vote for her again. I cannot help noticing that perennial Republican opponent Dr. Richard B. Fox is now claiming on his Web site that he's a "pro-choice candidate". Well, I won't say he doesn't think so, but his consistent support for yet more restrictions on women's reproductive rights has been the decisive factor in my voting very much against him each and every time — but you be the judge. I'm voting for Eshoo.

Outcome (May 1, 2020 final data):

State Senator, 13th District - San Mateo County south of San Bruno Mountain

(voter-nominated office - top two vote-winners will advance to 2020-11-03 general election)

(vote for one)

Existing officeholder Jerry Hill is termed out, having won this office in 2012 and 2016.

There were no certified write-in candidates for this seat.


RM partisan analysis: Although there are several good candidates here, I'm going to follow Nancy Reyering's advice: I'm voting for Sally Lieber.

I'm also going to repeat my assessment of Republican Alex Glew from the November 2018 election: "When you look at Glew's positions, at first he seems pretty sane, but then you start to see the paranoid self-assigned victimhood (Twitter is shadow-banning Republicans, Facebook is biased against me) and crackpottery about supposed election fraud."

Outcome (May 1, 2020 final data):

State Assembly Member, 24th District - Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, Portola Valley, Woodside, and most of coastside San Mateo County

(voter-nominated office - top two vote-winners will advance to 2020-11-03 general election)

(vote for one)

There were no certified write-in candidates for this seat.


RM partisan analysis: I continue to be happy with Berman. (Longtime Menlo Park city council member Peter Ohtaki is also a sympathetic and diligent public servant, whom I likewise respect.) I'm voting for Berman, again.

Outcome (May 1, 2020 final data):

San Mateo County Board of Supervisors

(voter-nominated offices - top two vote-winners will advance to 2020-11-03 general election)

(vote for one)

1st District (west SM, Hillsborough, Burlingame to east SSF)

4th District (RC, Menlo Park, EPA)

5th District (DC, Brisbane, west SSF, Colma)

Because these candidates are unopposed for re-election to their seats, the seats are not listed on ballots, but I've documented their candidacies here so voters will know who'll be their county supervisors starting January 2021.

Statewide Measures

Proposition 13: Authorizes Bonds for Facility Repair, Construction, and Modernization at Public Preschools, K-12 Schools, Community Colleges, and Universities. Legislative statute.

(requires majority voter approval statewide)

Authorizes $15 billion in state general obligation bonds for public education facilities: $9 billing for preschools and K-12 (includes $5.2 billion for modernization, $2.8 billing for new construction, $500 million for charter schools, and $500 million for career technical education); $6 billion for public universities and community colleges.

Bill text.
Legislative Analyst's summary.


RM partisan analysis: There are two separate, strongly compelling reasons to vote against this measure.

Two sneaky inclusions:

Bond measures ought not to have unrelated legal changes hidden in them, right? Well, this one has two. One is a passage that eliminates funding to schools from developer fees payable when apartment and condominium projects are built within 1/2 mile of a major transit stop. Developers would no longer need to pay those fees, a windfall for them, and school budgets get shorted. The other passage raises by 60% the limit on debt school districts are allowed to assume by law. It's possible that there's a compelling case that can be made for permitting higher school district indebtedness. If so, the voters should hear that case, which would be done by putting the debt question on ballots as its own proposition, not hiding it in a bond measure where few will expect it.

Debt-service ratio is still too high:

General-obligation bond debt is tricky for states: In good economic times, it is a practical way of funding state and local longer-term projects, the cost in interest being relatively low because of a good state debt rating and ease of selling the bonds over time. The problem happens during economic downturns, when state tax revenue falls off steeply (because of a contracting economy) at the same time that interest rates that must be paid out to place bonds skyrocket because of a tight money market and downrating of the state's creditworthiness on account of excess leveraging relative to shrinking tax revenue (which in turn raises the bond interest rates even further). So, too much bond debt steals interest payouts from state finances at exactly the time (recessions) when it can least afford this.

California walked straight into that trap during the 2000s because of far too much carefree voter reliance on bond issues, causing an explosion of interest debt at the same time the economy repeatedly tanked, reducing state General Fund balances that must be tapped to pay bond interest. This was a very destructive cycle, damaged the state's credit rating, and even now, still will take long years to work out of.

I urge great care to never repeat this hapless Schwarzenegger-era financing blunder. For example, the March 2004 election included a spectacularly ill-advised initiative (Prop. 57) to close that year's General Fund budget gap through issuing $15 billion in general obligation bonds — basically, balancing the state checkbook by taking out a payday loan. I voted against, and would have voted "Oh, hell no", if that had been possible. To my horror, Schwarzenegger's bond measure won. Those were mostly sold to the public only, finally, in Feb. 2008 (just before the late-2008 financial crisis would have made the disaster even worse), and the last of those bonds was retired in August 2015.

The key metric to watch is debt-service ratio (DSR), the percent of state General Fund revenues spent on debt service (paying off bond interest and principal). Historically, California had a 1-2% debt-service ratio, which is generally considered reasonable and safe. During the 2000s, it shot up to 6% and higher, and for a while was the third-worst of any state (Illinois and New Jersey then being even worse). During 2019, owing to the strong economy and excellent management by State Treasurer Fiona Ma, California's debt rating was finally upgraded out of the "AA- (minus)" doghouse to a respectable AA. See the State Treasurer's 2019 Debt Affordability Report for the full picture.

Every election where there's a bond proposal, the Legislative Analyst include an Overview of State Bond Debt in the Official Voter Guide. Look at the current one: DSR remains riskily high at 4%. Prop. 13 would perpetuate that bad situation through 2025-6, assuming there continues to be a strong economy. Much worse things would happen in a recession, whose miseries would be then amplified by the recession-shrunken state budget going mostly to service interest on bond debt, with little left over for essential services. This has already happened in the Dot-Bomb recession and 2008 financial crisis, with great damage to counties and cities left short of funds. Next time it could be even worse.

It's past time to end the madness.

I'm voting "no" (still, again), and regard that as the only responsible course of action until DSR hits 1-2%, again.

Outcome (May 1, 2020 final data):

Additional Resources

Lifehacker article: "How to Quickly Research All Your Local Elections"