March 5: Dull and duller for the election
The primary election is less than four weeks away. It’s nothing to get excited about. In fact, it’s overwhelmingly underwhelming. And where there is a little controversy, it’s for the wrong reasons.
Why? First, it’s a primary election, so one of its purposes is to select candidates for the November election. We’ve returned to a partisan primary, and my Democratic ballot has 11 partisan offices. But five of those are uncontested. Others, like the governor’s race, feature one likely candidate (Gray Davis) and some others, who are making a statement by running but don’t have a chance.
Second, this election is a vehicle for electing a state superintendent of public instruction and voting on six tepid ballot measures. These include a couple of bond measures that are likely to fail, tighter regulations for chiropractors and a modification to term limits that wouldn’t excite even the most ardent term-limits proponent. Ho hum. That wraps up the state.
But what about our fair county? In six of seven countywide offices, incumbents are running unopposed. Apparently the sheriff, district attorney, auditor, superintendent of schools and tax collector are doing a good job. At least, they haven’t screwed up enough to provoke a contested race. Appointed Assessor Dale Flippin is running to be elected “permanently.”
But look at the race for clerk/recorder. Hey, this rather lackluster office is being contested! If contender Kevin Waggoner wants to win, he’ll need to charge incompetence, malfeasance or neglect on the part of incumbent Lorraine Jewett-Burdick. That would have to include inability to manage, unwillingness to attend to the job, driving staff from the Recorder’s Office, and harassing previous candidate Deni Dax until she quit. But even if any of those things were true, the voters have to care. My personal objection to service in this department is that we have to pay $3 to get a photocopy of our own recorded documents, but I don’t think either candidate will fix that.
Now what about those supes races? Oh, my. The large amounts of money Elizabeth Martin and Bruce Conklin have raised (over $50,000 and $30,000 respectively, as reported by The Union) will scarcely be enough to get these incumbents re-elected. And yet they are good people. Their problem, of course, is that they have blundered very badly by making NH 2020 their running mate. I’m not even saying NH 2020 is a bad thing, but it’s now so controversial that it’s a certified dagger in the heart of a campaign.
In District 3, NH 2020 has spawned one-issue opponent Drew Bedwell. His campaign literature is vague, bland and, frankly, not too literate. NH 2020 has made opponent Mark Johnson appear to be a balanced middle-of-the-roader. His ads say it all: “Bruce Conklin is for NH 2020. I oppose it.” Conklin has allowed it to come to this.
I haven’t seen the District 4 literature, but I doubt that Izzy Martin is running a strong “I support NH 2020 and I’m proud of it” campaign. The Union is filled with letters from the usual suspects describing her as dedicated and hard-working. Of this, I have no doubt. But what about astute?
I fear the more important issues will be ignored. Despite Supervisor Van Zant’s assertions (“County in front on affordable housing, economy, and parks” in The Union on Feb. 1), I would suggest that the county is way behind on important issues, and the incumbents should be explaining lack of progress to the voters.
And why Administrator Ted Gaebler gets big bonuses and why the county spends $18,000 for out-of-county department head retreats and why Alta Sierra won’t be part of a regional sewage survey. There’s more, but you can complete this list yourself.
About Nevada City. The race for two seats on the City Council is probably of little consequence. Candidates’ literature and sample ballot statements are filled with phrases like “preserve the neighborhoods,” “retain the character of our neighborhoods” and other bland claptrap. Nevada City government strikes me as increasingly unwilling or unable to confront its problems. I presume the elitists will stay in control until the city collapses.
We still have a month for things to heat up, but, generally, I’d caution you not to expect any real information about real issues from real candidates.
Barry Schoenborn is a technical writer, and a 13-year resident of Nevada County. His column appears the second Saturday of the month.
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