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**  A second window aside called by the Studies page, entitled
“California’s Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013  **

First Published:  28 February 2020
Revised (substantive):  19 June 2021


To view the results (finalized 4/2/2020) of the Presidential Primary Election (3 March 2020) for California State Senator, 39th District and State Assemblymember, 77th District, click/tap here (A Voter’s Manifesto, part 2 of 2).

How I Voted in the Presidential Primary Election (3 March 2020)

For all those who wish to know how I am addressing my own personal crisis of representational integrity this year — given that both of my fake representatives in the California state legislature are up for re-election in 2020 — I offer the following account.

Ballot particulars

I am a registered independent (or “NP”/“Nonpartisan”/“No Party Preference”) voter in the state of California.

This means that I can vote for candidates running for voter-nominated (“top two”) and non-partisan offices and measures, but I can not vote for candidates in party primaries — those running for “Party-Nominated Offices” (such as President of the United States) — unless the political parties “open” their ballot to non-partisan voters.

This year, three political parties — the Democratic Party, American Independent Party, and Libertarian Party — have all allowed NP voters in California to select one of their party ballots for the March 2020 primary election, thus enabling us to vote for that party’s presidential candidates, in addition to candidates for voter-nominated (“top two”) and non-partisan offices and measures.

Conversely, three political parties — the Republican Party, Green Party, and Peace & Freedom Party — have all chosen to “close” their ballots. This means that only those who are registered with each of these three parties can vote for presidential candidates in that party’s presidential primary (in other words, you have to be a registered Republican to vote for a Republican challenger to Donald Trump at this stage in the process).

In 2016, I requested a “Democratic (NP)” ballot, instead of the standard NP ballot, so that I could vote for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Presidential Primary Election. This year (2020), I have again opted for a “Democratic (NP)” ballot, so that I can vote for one of the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates, while still retaining my “No Party Preference” voter registration.

Of note, my NP status does not affect my ability to vote for two elected representatives in the California State Legislature, since these are not designated “Party-Nominated Offices” (the only such office on the March 2020 ballot is that of POTUS), but fall instead under the general category of “Voter-Nominated and Nonpartisan Offices.” This means that the candidates for these offices appear the same on everyone’s ballot in their respective districts, no matter what your party registration.

In addition to being a registered “No Party Preference” voter, I am also registered as a “Permanent Mail Voter,” which gives me the option to vote by mail prior to Election Day (as I always do).

My vote for California State Senator, 39th District

The incumbent, Toni Atkins (currently California Senate President pro tempore), is running for this office unopposed. Presumably, no one in San Diego wants to risk losing our hold on such power in Sacramento as Senator Atkins has amassed, so she has no challengers.

But unlike others who benefit from her tenure in Sacramento, I have no reason to support a status quo which obstructs my own pursuit of happiness. As far as I’m concerned, the Senator’s accumulated power means nothing if she won’t also wield it on behalf of her constituents.

Because her office continues to ignore my grievances, refusing to answer even simple questions:

  will you commit to fixing California’s flawed Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013 — yes? or no?

  what are your legislative priorities for 2020? and do these priorities include fixing the legislature’s botched repeal-and-replace of Section 841 of the Civil Code (enacted via AB 1404, the Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013)?

I have decided that Senator Atkins is, indeed, yet another “fake representative”, and I refuse to vote for anyone who will not be more transparent and accountable to her constituents than this.

As I have said many times: my elected representatives do not have to share my values or agree with me on the issues; but they must be able to explain their policies & positions & votes, defend their ongoing support for demonstrably bad laws, and persuade me that new legislation is first & foremost in the public interest, not just in service to some unidentified private interest (especially when that private interest conflicts with my own private interest, as does just about every bill with which Toni Atkins has been associated since joining the senate).

Thus far, Senator Atkins has met none of my (admittedly oddball ;-) criteria for elected office. And because of this, I am not persuaded by the appeals for partisan unity flooding my mailbox. See, for example, the glossy mailer (“San Diego Progressive Democrats are united!”) which my household received on 22 February 2020.

facsimile of mailer front

^  Front side of glossy mailer “Paid for by Re-Elect Senator Atkins 2020 ... and by Terra Lawson-Remer for SD Board of Supervisors 2020” and received 2/22/2020 (ahead of California’s Presidential Primary Election held on 3 March 2020). I have placed a purple sticker over the mailing label (top right) to obscure personal data.
     The first thing to catch my eye on this side of the mailer is the “union bug” positioned directly under the return address at top right, indicating that this Democratic Party mailer was produced by a union print shop. So far, so good.
     However, this is the only piece of real information — other than the candidates’ photos (on the flip side) — that I can glean from this advertising leaflet which, per usual, is full of ideological appeals designed to resonate with and manipulate those of us who signed up to receive Democratic Party ballots.
     First, the close-up of a bloviating Donald Trump immediately triggers the PTSD inflicted on so many of us by Trump’s cartoon presidency.
     Then an unattributed quote, colored a patriotic red-white-and-blue — “When you vote for a new President on March 3rd, don’t forget to vote for these two local champions for progressive values.” — gently admonishes those of us who might be so focused on our vote for the Democratic presidential contender that we forget about two other candidates for state and local office, who are also part of the Trump Resistance in California. This is especially true for Toni Atkins, whose position on a cluttered ballot is easily overlooked because there is nobody else running for her office: with only one name in this category, it’s easy to miss the significance of casting an affirmative vote for Atkins, even when there is no other choice on offer.
     Click/tap here to view a larger digital facsimile (366KB) of the FRONT of this February 2020 Democratic Party mailer extolling the virtues of Senator Atkins.

facsimile of mailer back

^  Back side of glossy mailer “Paid for by Re-Elect Senator Atkins 2020 ... and by Terra Lawson-Remer for SD Board of Supervisors 2020” and received 2/22/2020 (ahead of California’s Presidential Primary Election held on 3 March 2020).
     The back of this political advertisement is entitled “San Diego Progressive Democrats are united!” — which I interpret as more wishful thinking masquerading as fact. After all, I self-identify as a “San Diego Progressive,” and I do not endorse Toni Atkins for re-election.
     The mailer frames her record as follows: “Toni Atkins is a fearless leader for our communities. As President of the State Senate she has led the fight to stop Trump’s destructive policies, protect our environment and combat climate change, expand access to healthcare, defend a woman’s reproductive rights, build affordable housing, protect immigrants and promote full equality for the LGBTQ community. Toni Atkins has earned the support of all Progressive Democrats.”
     I voted for Toni Atkins in 2016, full of hope that she would fight for me and others like me, who regularly confront government bureaucracy, with far fewer tools and resources at our disposal than she has. Senator Atkins chose instead to lead the fight against a distant Donald Trump and to double-down (just as he does) on failed policies “Responding to the Climate Crisis” + “Building Affordable Housing” + “Protecting Beaches and Coastlines” + “Affordable Healthcare for All” + “Reducing Homelessness” + “Protect Open Space — Stop Sprawl.”
     Who needs another “fearless leader” to lead us over a cliff?
     (And yes, I just posed a manipulative rhetorical question. ;-)
     Click/tap here to view a larger digital facsimile (493KB) of the BACK of this February 2020 Democratic Party mailer extolling the virtues of Senator Atkins.

So I did not “forget to vote for these two local champions for progressive values” (front of 2/22/2020 mailer).

I deliberately chose not to vote for Senator Atkins, even though I believe that she does share my values on most matters.

For me, simply feeling simpático with a politician is not enough. Indeed, I have never understood why people vote for a president based on likability (“someone I’d like to have a beer with,” etc.). IMHO, likability is seldom a prerequisite for a good leader who, more often than not, will need a special kind of courage to do the right, but unpopular, thing.

Polling shows that, for a majority of Democrats in 2020, the No. 1 priority is to “get rid of Trump.” I hope for this outcome also, but it is not my electoral priority.

For starters, California voters are not going to be the ones who “Dump Trump” in November 2020, and to imply otherwise — “When you vote for a new President on March 3rd ...” (front of 2/22/2020 Democratic Party mailer) — not only raises false expectations, but risks feeding the very fatalism that keeps so many of us quiescent.

Wikipedia reports that “In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton won 2,868,691 more votes nationally than Donald Trump, but Trump secured 77 more electors than Clinton, in part due to narrow Trump victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (a cumulative 77,744 votes).” Moreover,

State winner-take-all laws encourage candidates to focus disproportionately on a limited set of swing states (and in the case of Maine and Nebraska, swing districts), as small changes in the popular vote in those areas produce large changes in the electoral college vote. For example, in the 2016 election, a shift of 2,736 votes (or less than 0.4% of all votes cast) toward Donald Trump in New Hampshire would have produced a 4 electoral vote gain for his campaign. A similar shift in any other state would have produced no change in the electoral vote, thus encouraging the campaign to focus on New Hampshire above other states. A study by FairVote reported that the 2004 candidates devoted three quarters of their peak season campaign resources to just five states, while the other 45 states received very little attention. The report also stated that 18 states received no candidate visits and no TV advertising. This means that swing state issues receive more attention, while issues important to other states are largely ignored.

(Wikipedia article on the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, accessed 2/27/2020, n. pag.; and there is more here about the racial history of the Electoral College, and why efforts to change it have stalled)

Under winner-take-all, California is a reliably “blue state,” not a key “swing state” (as is Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin). While I can contribute to the national popular vote (which I am certain Trump will lose in 2020, as he did in 2016), I have little to no control over whether or not he wins a democratic majority of states, and with this, the Electoral College (and presumably, the Senate, too).

Ergo, partisan calls to “FLIP San Diego County BLUE” (the theme of several mailers for Terra Lawson-Remer, who “organized ‘Flip the 49th! Neighbors in Action’ — mobilizing a thousand volunteers to knock on doors, talk to voters, and replace Republican Darrell Issa in Congress” in 2018) beg the question.

Her campaign literature tells us Lawson-Remer is

Running for Supervisor to protect San Diego County from Trump.
     [...] Our community is threatened by Trump’s policies on the environment, health care, immigration, and gun violence. The incumbent Supervisor, Kristin Gaspar, supports Trump and his policies 100%. We need a fighter for us.
     We need Terra Lawson-Remer.

(p. 7 of 8-page campaign brochure, “Meet Terra Lawson-Remer. Democrat for San Diego County Supervisor”)

And again:

“We’re united for Terra!”
     Democratic leaders are uniting for Terra Lawson-Remer. They know she has the experience and dedication to be an outstanding voice for our communities on the Board of Supervisors. She will lead the fight to safeguard our air and water from pollution, end sprawl development, tackle our affordable housing crisis, and protect our most vulnerable from the Trump Administration. And they also know she has the proven organizing skills to win this seat and Flip the Board in November 2020.

(p. 8 of 8-page campaign brochure, “Meet Terra Lawson-Remer. Democrat for San Diego County Supervisor”)

But is flipping the county blue truly the best way “to protect San Diego County from Trump”?

After all, “Trump’s policies on the environment, health care, immigration, and gun violence” are not being imposed on San Diego by the feckless Trump Administration; they are coming from within, and have a lot more supporters locally than just Kristin Gaspar.

It is my belief that such calls for fake unity from the Democratic Party establishment will lead to more backlash (which is how we ended up with Trump in the first place).

It is not Donald Trump who destroyed my middling quality of life. And it is not Donald Trump who blithely ignores my First Amendment right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Rather, California’s Democratically-controlled state government did this when legislators gutted Cal. Civ. Code § 841 for no good reason, then steadfastly refused to engage with an aggrieved constituent afterwards. As long as my representatives in Sacramento believe that they know better than I do what I need from my state government, politicians like Donald Trump will continue to attract more & more supporters.

My preference is to elect office-holders who will “always put her community first” (the theme of campaign mailers for Olga Diaz), which is definitely not what drives the current member of the Board of Supervisors for San Diego County District No. 3, “Trump-Republican Kristin Gaspar.”

In the end, I did cast my vote for Terra Lawson-Remer in this important race, but not because she threatens to flip the Board of Supervisors and “[bring] Washington GRIDLOCK to San Diego,” as one of the fliers for Olga Diaz paints it. I voted for Terra Lawson-Remer because I actually support her “extreme agenda” (more Diaz campaign literature phrasing); because I admire her history of principled political activism; and because I believe that her particular experience, passion & vision will be good for San Diego. That said, this was an especially difficult choice for me. Olga Diaz’s campaign statement:

I have a natural instinct to advocate for people who are overwhelmed by bureaucracy and inefficient government. I have a reputation for being direct, bold, brave, and independent. I would be honored to represent you.

really hit home, especially in light of Terra Lawson-Remer’s close association with Toni Atkins who, in my experience, personifies “bureaucracy and inefficient government.” In other words, I voted for Terra Lawson-Remer, rather than Olga Diaz, despite Atkins’s endorsement. (And also because I am still upset by the dodgy decision to fire Charles Lester, then executive director of the California Coastal Commission, of which Olga Diaz was an alternate member, in February 2016.)

Not voting for Toni Atkins in this primary election was somewhat challenging, since she has no competition on the ballot, but I did manage to come up with a protest vote, writing in “Sisyphus” as an alternate.

This seemed the perfect metaphor for my growing frustration with my fake representatives in Sacramento, and for the perennial burden of voting ... truly, a Sisyphean labor, if ever there was one!

Unfortunately, as I have noted elsewhere, I won’t have this protest option in November 2020, since write-in candidates for a voter-nominated (“top two”) office are not allowed (that is, not counted) in general elections.

If Senator Atkins does not address my grievances over the legislature’s imprudent revisal of Cal. Civ. Code § 841 before then, I will have no choice other than to leave this section of my ballot blank, and cast no vote at all for “State Senator, 39th District” in the November 2020 general election.

My vote for Member of the State Assembly, 77th District

Of particular import to me: the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of San Diego (DSASD) is again endorsing Brian Maienschein (“Law Enforcement’s Choice!”) for State Assemblymember, 77th District.

In the glossy tabloid mailer listing candidates and ballot measures endorsed by DSASD (complete with a handy checklist of ballot recommendations that I can “tear off ... and bring ... with you to the polls!”) appears the following:

Brian Maienschein has been a good friend and leading supporter of law enforcement throughout his time in local office and as a member of the State Assembly, we are confident that Brian will keep supporting the public safety community and making our neighborhoods safer.

I have opined at length on how we should not equate Maienschein’s (always unspecified) “support” for “the public safety community” with “making our neighborhoods safer” and, given the recent gun trafficking scandal roiling the San Diego sheriff’s office, my opposition to those who continue to equate the two like this has only hardened.

Of note, the DSASD endorsement neglects to mention that Brian Maienschein opportunistically switched parties (from Republican to Democrat) immediately after squeaking out a victory (as a Republican) in the November 2018 election.

The fact that the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of San Diego has chosen to endorse newly-minted Democrat Brian Maienschein over the Republican Party candidate, June Yang Cutter, was the last incitement I needed to take a calculated risk and vote for Cutter.

This is an historic vote for me, since I’ve never voted for a Republican in my life.

But I’m hoping June Yang Cutter wins in November, and proves to be a more effective representative in Sacramento — for ordinary folks like me — than Maienschein has been.

facsimile of marked-up ballot section

^  Detail documenting my vote for representatives to the California State Legislature, from my mail-in “Official Ballot – Democratic (NP)” for the Presidential Primary Election on 3 March 2020 (San Diego County, California).
     This proves that I voted the way I say I voted.
     I am not just making idle threats.

Mine is only one vote, of course, but it makes a principled statement nonetheless.

I will not, under any circumstances, knowingly vote for a fake representative.

My vote for President of the United States (selected from among the Democratic Party contenders)

In 2016, I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary. This year, I voted for Elizabeth Warren in 2020’s Democratic presidential primary.

In both cases, my vote was not cast in reaction to Donald Trump, but was an enthusiastic endorsement of the sort of change I’d like to see in Washington.

Even though I am not, as a voter, motivated or mobilized by the “Dump Trump” gestalt which has overrun this country, I do think it’s important to address the pernicious electability question dogging women candidates this campaign season.

As I understand it, many anti-Trump voters worry that no woman can beat an “alpha male” like Donald Trump. While I don’t wish to appear flippant about this legitimate concern, I have to say: If Donald Trump personifies our idea of an alpha male, this country is in even bigger trouble than I thought!

In my experience, women like Elizabeth Warren are tough as nails: reliably courageous and fierce fighters when they need to be. In a mano a mano match-up, I would bet on the mighty mini-Nancy Pelosi — impeccably groomed in her trademark high heels — against that oversized, pudgy bully, Donald Trump, every time. Remove the protective layers of mediation (e.g., his Twitter feed and carefully-staged campaign rallies) distancing him from FTF combat with a true adversary, and Donald Trump can’t hold his own — let alone dominate — in a real confrontation of intellects.

If you reject Elizabeth Warren because of her many detailed “plans” and policies — not the direction in which you want this country to go — that’s fine. But to reject Warren because you have an amorphous fear that she can’t beat Trump — solely because of her gender — that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy none of us deserve to have thrust upon us.

My own reasons for supporting Elizabeth Warren are several, only a few of which I will summarize here. Is she perfect? No. Has she made mistakes? Several. Humanum est.

More important to me is if she is smart & confident enough to admit and learn from her mistakes ... to accept counsel and criticism from others ... to govern prudently ... to use the “bully pulpit” of the presidency with humility. IMO, Warren is all these things.

She is also the architect of one of our best models of good government in modern history: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). We can judge the agency’s effectiveness by its long list of enemies, which include Wall Street, obstructionist Republican senators, and Donald Trump, who is intent on gutting such a successful federal agency, in large part because it was established during the Obama adminstration.

Elizabeth Warren, who proposed and established the CFPB, was removed from consideration as the bureau’s first formal director after Obama administration officials became convinced Warren could not overcome strong Republican opposition. On July 17, President Obama nominated former Ohio Attorney General and Ohio State Treasurer Richard Cordray to be the first formal director of the CFPB.
     However, Cordray’s nomination was immediately in jeopardy due to 44 Senate Republicans vowing to derail any nominee in order to encourage a decentralized structure of the organization. Senate Republicans had also shown a pattern of refusing to consider regulatory agency nominees.
     Since the CFPB database was established in 2011, more than 730,000 complaints have been published. CFPB supporters [including] the Consumers Union claim that it is a “vital tool that can help consumers make informed decisions.” CFPB detractors argue that the CFPB database is a “gotcha game” and that there is already a database maintained by the Federal Trade Commission although that information is not available to the public.

(Wikipedia, s.v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, accessed 2/27/2020; n. pag.)

Testimony in US Congressional hearings of 2017 have elicited concerns that the wholesale publication of consumer complaints is both misleading and injurious to the consumer market. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) said at one such congressional hearing, “Is the purpose of the database just to name and shame companies? Or should they have a disclaimer on there that says it’s a fact-free zone, or this is fake news? That’s really what I see happening here.” Bill Himpler, executive vice president of the American Financial Services Association, a trade group representing banks and other lenders responded “Something needs to be done.” “Once the damage is done to a company, it’s hard to get your reputation back.”
     Mick Mulvaney, as acting Director of the CFPB [appointed by Donald Trump], removed all 25 members of the agency’s Consumer Advisory Board on June 5, 2018, after eleven of them held a press conference on June 3 in which they criticized him.

(Wikipedia, s.v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, accessed 2/27/2020; n. pag.)

I have filed my own complaints with the CFPB, and been impressed by the efficiency with which they were handled (that is, before the Trump administration came to power and actively interfered with the agency’s functioning). I even thought their website was well-designed.

All this is in pointed contrast with my attempt to lodge consumer complaints with California state agencies during 2017–2018 when the construction company hired by a realtor to do renovation work on a neighbor’s home used my residential trash bin to illegally dump toxic waste — not just once, but twice! I caught them in the act the first time, complained vigorously, and couldn’t believe it when they did it again the next week, presumably because they knew they could get away with it.

And it turns out they were right. There was nothing I could do. The Better Business Bureau, to which I complained first, is completely powerless (they couldn’t even compel a perfunctory response from the construction company’s owner). More surprising, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) could do nothing either. Due to the lack of coordination between state and local government agencies, with everyone off in their respective silos, cases like mine fall through the cracks in California because no one has jurisdiction, let alone policies & procedures in place for consumers to follow in documenting abuses.

So from my perspective, Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a remarkable achievement, and a harbinger of what is to come if Warren is in charge of implementing radical healthcare reforms and a Medicare-for-all type system — with much-needed cost controls — designed to serve patients/consumers first & foremost. Indeed, I can’t think of anyone better suited to tackle the complicated accounting shenanigans in which hospitals engage to inflate costs and defraud healthcare consumers, including those of us with elite private insurance plans. (Even I, who have excellent private coverage, am plagued by “surprise medical bills” over which I have so little control, in a system rigged against the sick & vulnerable, that I am contemplating taking the issue to the CFPB. I figure the Trump administration will jump at any opportunity to investigate malfeasance in such an iconic liberal institution as the University of California. ;-)

In addition to the regulatory & administrative chops Warren would bring to the presidency, we can look forward to a POTUS committed to principled, representative government. This is not just an after-thought for her; it’s what she’s all about. To take just one example: her innovative proposal for securing U.S. elections is grounded in her beliefs that “Our democracy shouldn’t be about keeping people out — it should strive to bring everyone to the polls.” and “Politicians are supposed to compete over how many voters they can persuade, not how many they can disqualify or demoralize.” (E. Warren, “My Plan to Strengthen Our Democracy,” 2019 position paper, n. pag.); see the sidebar entry on advancing our democracy for some introductory comment .

In sum: if I can’t have principled, representative government in Sacramento, at least with a Warren presidency, I can have it in Washington.

**  N O T E  **    The Nation has published 2 valuable perspectives on choosing among the most progressive contenders for the Democratic nomination. As introduced by editor D. D. Guttenplan: “Although The Nation has not — yet — endorsed a candidate in the Democratic presidential primaries, we’ve long made clear our admiration for the two real progressives in the race: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  ¶   But just because we still cling to the view that the longer the two of them remain viable candidates, arguing for bold, radical ideas, the better, doesn’t mean everyone in our orbit shares that inclination.  ¶   When Nation editorial board member Zephyr Teachout told me she was endorsing Sanders and asked if the magazine would be interested in publishing her reasons, I said, ‘Of course.’ You can read the result below. However, I also asked her colleagues on the board whether any of them cared to make the case for Warren. Richard Parker accepted the challenge. You can read the result here.” (The Nation, vol. 310, no. 4, 10 Feb. 2020, p. 3)
pointerWhy I Support Bernie Sanders for President: He has proven that he can connect and build trust across race, class, and party lines” by Zephyr Teachout (The Nation, 310.4 [10 Feb. 2020]: 3–4 and 8).
pointerWhy I Support Elizabeth Warren for President: She has demonstrated her ability to win elections, and offers a far more detailed and plausible approach to governing” by Richard Parker (The Nation, 310.4 [10 Feb. 2020]: 3–4 and 8).