California Forum

To weed through California candidates, here are two key questions to ask

California voters will have the opportunity to vote on dozens of candidates and ballot measures on Nov. 6.
California voters will have the opportunity to vote on dozens of candidates and ballot measures on Nov. 6. AP

For many Californians, it seems like a tsunami of policy proposals have been released this election season.

The volume of ideas – coupled with the challenge of finding credible assessments of them – makes deciding which candidate or proposal to support all the more difficult. And even when we find reliable information, it often reads like a review of a candidate’s capacity to lead as much as an assessment of their proposal.


As someone involved in policy-making for decades, I know that initial proposals are often altered by the political process, making them as much a reflection of a candidate’s values as their ability to be thoughtful.

It is in this vein that I encourage my fellow voters to look beyond initial ideas, and seek answers to two important and interdependent questions: What are the candidate’s core values? And what is their world view?

In politics, statements about core values can be so overused they seem banal. Some would even argue that these values are private and don’t belong in campaigns. I strongly disagree. As recent experiences have shown us, there is a strong connection between core values and how elected officials govern.

I’m not suggesting there is an acceptable or predetermined manner by which candidates should present their core values, but they should be assessed by voters at least as much as their initial policy proposals. How values have shaped past behavior – particularly when a candidate has made mistakes – are important indicators of a candidate’s leadership.

A candidate’s world view is connected to, but distinct from, core values. It is what you see when you look at the world around you, and it will determine what you seek to change and how.

For example, two competing candidates could agree that families are not as secure as they should be, but their reasons for believing this may differ. Some people look at our society and believe it has declined from previous success. They seek a return to a time, perhaps 50 years ago, when they believe that most families were more stable, safer and happier.

But others believe that a half century ago many families were even further from achieving the American Dream, and that we still have not done enough to give them opportunity because of their race, class or sexual orientation.

A world view that seeks a return to a former time in our society and a world view that believes our best society still needs to be created will result in dramatically different policy positions on a range of issues, despite a common core value of commitment to family.

As Californians and Americans, we can agree to elect leaders whose core values reflect a commitment to inclusion, integrity and a belief in the dignity of all people. We should also assess the extent to which their world view is rooted in the past or is shaped by false information or prejudice. By doing so, voters can best determine who to support and how to address our challenges.

Chet Hewitt is president and CEO of the Sierra Health Foundation and a participant in The Sacramento Bee/McClatchy Influencers series. He can be contacted at Find the series (with more Monday on where to get reliable information on the election) at

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