Giants, the Series & Duh, the Election

by Mike Geniella, October 25, 2010

Count me among the folks who are seriously unmoved by next week’s looming election.

Not even the marijuana legalization measure or the possible return to Sacramento of a former governor who advocates a “less is more” attitude grabs me. In truth the saga of the SF Giants is personally more relevant, which from a guy who is decidedly not a jock is quite an admission. Even Judi Bari used to tease me that in her younger days at least she was a “jock sniffer.”

I wouldn’t even be writing this blog if I didn’t fear my editor Tim Stelloh might fire me. I think he expected me to weigh in over the past several weeks on at least some of the more divisive local issues.

Alas I’ve been studiously avoiding following any of the campaigns, locally, at the state level or gawd forbid, the national antics of the Tea Party and others. It’s a sad state of affairs because until recently I had a lifelong passion for politics, and the art of governing. As a journalist I worked adrenaline –filled election nights for decades. The nuances of campaigns and the backroom deals that can make or break them were of immense appeal to me.

So what’s happened?

I’m not certain I have the answers, but I fear I’m now among the voters who are simply burned out. I’m damn tired of promises giving way to inaction because of “political expediency.” Big money campaigns that swamp the larger good sicken me. And, Lord, look at the cast of characters dominating the field of candidates. How in the world did we get here?

So that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

In hopes of keeping my job I will make a few pre-election observations from the gut, with the caveat that I've paid scant attention to the campaigns.

Let’s start locally.

Former Rep. Dan Hamburg, a vagabond from the Democratic Party, seems a shoo-in for 5th District Supervisor in Mendocino County. Hamburg has come off his Green Party mountain, and worked a natural constituency in the southern Mendocino County district. Challenger Wendy Roberts is likely to face the same fate that even more qualified candidates have in the past because of the district’s long-standing liberal politics. The one ace up the sleeve that Roberts might have is the endorsement of Sheriff Tom Allman. We might learn how much influence Allman has with voters, as well as how willing they are to forgive Hamburg of past political transgressions.

In the 3rd District, populist incumbent Supervisor John Pinches is facing Willits challenger Holly Madrigal. The folksy cowboy wisdom of Pinches is a favorite of outsiders, including myself. But how district voters perceive his performance is unclear.

The election of David Eyster as the county’s new District Attorney seems likely given his broad base of support. He’s nailed down local law enforcement leaders, influential medical marijuana advocates and frustrated county residents who want a skilled prosecutor as DA. However, and that’s a big however, incumbent Meredith Lintott is still very much in the running. Lintott is if nothing else tenacious, having proven that in her long and costly quest to succeed the late Norm Vroman as DA. Don’t count Lintott out yet.

The county-wide Measure C sales tax measure is doomed to defeat. I could list a host of reasons why, including fears about the county’s huge pension liability, and the current Board of Supervisors’ inability to ease voters’ mounting concerns. Throw in organic grape guru Paul Dolan as a leading Measure C opponent, and defeat seems inevitable.

The statewide vote to legalize marijuana is probably too close to call. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Prop. 19 pass despite valid criticisms. I think there’s wide public sentiment to end a costly decades-old effort to stamp out illicit pot growing, and instead try to capture some tax revenue from the billions of dollars being made from the sale of weed globally. Maybe I think that just because I live in a county where the underground marijuana industry has propped up the local economy big time in recent years. We’ll see.

I don’t eagerly embrace the return of Gov. Moonbeam, although I was a huge fan of Jerry Brown and his cadre of forward thinking advisers 30 years ago. Yet Ms. Whitman’s brazen attempt to buy the governor’s seat galls me. She reminds me of Texas financier Charles Hurwitz, and the first time he ever addressed hundreds of Humboldt County workers after his stealth takeover of venerable Pacific Lumber Co. in 1986.

“He who has the gold rules,” Hurwitz declared then.

Well, Ms. Whitman, I suspect your gazillion-dollar campaign might be greeted with the same disbelief.

As for Sen. Barbara Boxer’s chances, I think they’re good. She’s been roughed up before, and has survived. The good senator from Marin is tenacious too, and that’s not a bad trait at all.

Go Giants!

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