Gaines vs. Pugno: That’s my choice?

My choices for 6th Assembly: a conservative and an arch-conservative. What’s a Democrat to do?

I almost spit out my coffee when I read the Roseville Patch headline Top-Two Primary Hurts GOP, California Republican Insiders Say. Obviously, those GOP people don’t live in my 6th Assembly District where the top two vote recipients were both conservative Republicans. The 2010 Proposition 14, the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act, which I supported, has only left this liberal Democrat with no choice in the November General Election.

I’m a nice guy, really!

The incentive to retreat from voting is only exacerbated by the way the current candidates characterize us. Gaines, the wife of a current Republican State Senator, and Pugno, author and legal counsel to Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage, are both vying to see who can be more conservative. I have never received any district correspondence from Assemblywoman Gaines or any campaign literature from Pugno. As a Democrat, I suppose I don’t exist in their eyes.

I love America more than you

Both wrap themselves in a mantle of über patriotism vilifying their perceived opposition with characterizations such as “ultra-liberal special interests” and “liberal agenda of forcing conservatives to abandon our core values!”, as reported in the Sacramento Bee. I suppose this is all bluster in order to fire up the base and raise money. However, the constant drum beat that liberals are evil gets old.

Howdy neighbor

For the record, I am fairly certain that Beth Gaines and Andy Pugno would make great neighbors on either side of me. Aside from politics, they seem honest, love their country and feel they are called to protect those ideals they hold most dear. These two statements could also be attributed to most liberal Democrats in the district as well. To Pugno and Gaines: save your vitriol and rhetoric for your opponent. As a resident in the 6th Assembly district, I am a constituent and not the sinister bogeyman you portray me or liberals in general.

No choice, no vote

Already, I have heard from fellow Democrats in the district that they have given up on voting in 2012. We were never under any illusion that a Democrat would ever win the seat, given the dominance of GOP voter registration in the district, but it was always fun to cast your vote for the sacrificial liberal. Now, we don’t even get to do that.

My choices are not between Gaines or Pugno, but whether to vote at all. For all the democratic statisticians, I predict you will see a significant drop in voting in those contests where the top two voter winners are from the same party. People may cast ballots, but they will just skip contests where there they feel there is no representation.

Non-partisan representation

Here is an idea that some one can take and run with; let’s add two non-partisan statewide representatives to both the Assembly and Senate. They wouldn’t be affiliated with any party, although their positions would be evident, and they could represent those folks who feel disenfranchised from the current voting system.

I still feel the open primary will be positive for California overall. It is unfortunate that some districts will have a general election race where both candidates are from the same party. It will be interesting to see if much changes from the politics-as-usual with the new system. Yes, I will vote, but the 6th Assembly District race will be left blank on my ballot.

  • Richard Winger

    I hope the author has some empathy for members of California’s minor parties. The author is disenfranchised for Assembly. But minor party members, who are accustomed to also enjoying voting for members of their own party in November, are completely disenfranchised in November 2012, except for President. And this column might have mentioned that the legislature unanimously passed a bill this year, AB 1413, deleting write-in space on November ballots for Congress and state office, which makes the situation worse. The author was Paul Fong, a Democrat from Santa Clara County.

    • Kevin Knauss

      As I so deftly delineate with my own ego-centric whine: all politics is local. Party politics are about as undemocratic as you can get. Thank you for the information about the write-in candidates.

      While I did speak to minority parties, you’re argument is not lost on me. May I save myself by noting that I mused about non-partisan candidates in the Senate and Assembly as a muted response to the open primary glitch. Regardless, I won’t hold my breath about any other reforms, they happen less than snow in the central valley.