Where’s My Candidate for Governor?

Jan 30, 2011 No Comments

Progressives Call for More Diverse Options

By Gabriel Patterson-King

The 2010 California governor’s election should be an exciting race, with the potential to dramatically shift political power in the state to the left. Despite all the attention lavished on the race due to big name candidates like Jerry Brown, and formerly Gavin Newsom, many important issues have not been addressed. Although the political dynamics of the race changed substantially when Newsom dropped out, the top issues remain the same. Democrats face the additional problem of only having one choice in the up coming primary. Even with Newsom in the race, the only options on the Democratic side were two white men from privileged backgrounds. This lack of experiences hampers the party’s ability to come up with new ideas that effectively resonate with and respond to the needs of the people of California.

While Newsom was in the race, Jerry Brown received a lot of criticism from younger voters; some of it justified, some less so. A prominent criticism has been that he is out of touch, because of his unfamiliarity with Facebook, for example. If he is out of touch, it is not because of the technology he uses to approach the issues, but his actual policies on the issues. Some of his stronger points, in fact, have been ignored. Most notable is his strong support from unions when he was first governor. In fact, one of his top priorities in his current campaign is protecting the rights of workers. That said, there are many reasonable critiques of Brown on fiscal issues, including his recent pronouncement that we don’t need to raise taxes, and his focus on high end housing as mayor of Oakland, at the expense of affordable housing.

As Democratic voters, we should hope for a candidate who is able to empathize with people on issues such as rising housing costs or transportation costs, as Newsom and Brown failed to do. Due to their common shortcomings on such topics, neither candidate brought up these important issues. Minimally, a discussion needs to occur about these issues, which won’t happen unless a candidate with a very different background enters the race. We need a candidate who can recognize and understand what people care about, and focus on making them feel as if they matter as much as wealthy special interests. Democrats should demand candidates who understand the severity if the fiscal crisis facing California and are willing to raise the revenue necessary to fix it.

Democrats aren’t the only ones who have been limited to a homogenous set of candidates; Republicans also face many of the same issues. Of the five candidates for governor from both Republicans and Democrats, all are white and from the Bay Area, and only one is a woman. Democrats need a candidate who has a strong connection with the working class, and whose background ensures that everyone in the state has a voice and is represented in the election. We need someone with the background similar to that of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis or Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, both of whom have strong labor backgrounds and are Latina.  Solis is unlikely to leave her cabinet post, but Sanchez would add a new dynamic and perspective to the race, as a former member of the Orange County Labor Council and co-founded the Congressional Labor and Working Families Caucus. Democrats need a candidate with these values, who understands the issues that matter for working families, and will work on their behalf.

Although Jerry Brown would greatly improve on the current situation in the governor’s mansion, as one the most diverse states in the union, we should strive to make use of this diversity. Having the issues of the race defined by a homogenous set of candidates, inhibits the potential for new and different ideas. Even if a challenger fails to garner the nomination, hopefully he or she can inject new ideas and values into the debate that have so far been missing in the campaign for Governor.

Fall 2009

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