This week, by tradition, the campaign enters its home stretch. Voters can be forgiven for forgetting anything is on the November ballot besides Donald Trump.
Hijacked by a poser, the nation has gawked at Trump’s antics like Sunday drivers passing a big-rig explosion. That’s normal; it’s instinctive to notice unusual behavior. But this ballot also asks serious policy questions that Californians don’t want to get wrong.
For example: Shall we legalize recreational marijuana? Are the immense social justice benefits of ending weed prohibition worth the impaired drivers and other downsides experienced in Colorado and Washington?
Should we hike the tobacco tax to better reimburse doctors who take Medi-Cal patients? Or will that just punish the poor?
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Speaking of vice, what about guns? Should background checks be required for purchasing bullets?
Meanwhile, do we want to continue that “temporary” school funding tax on the wealthy we passed during the recession? Or are taxes already too high?
At least four incumbent GOP seats are in play in California, plus the Bera-Jones race.
Are we finally ready to repeal the death penalty and focus justice policy more on rehabilitation than prison? Shall we vote yes on Proposition 67 and affirm the statewide plastic bag ban? And those are just the initiatives.
Down-ballot, there are chances all over the state to shift or shore up the Republican-dominated Congress, or simply to cast a second vote for or against Hillary Clinton or Trump.
At least four GOP-held House seats are in play in California, in districts with high numbers of Latinos. With districts ranging from 70 percent to 26 percent Latino, Reps. David Valadao, Jeff Denham, Steve Knight and Darrell Issa seemingly have their work cut out for them, given Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and derision of Mexicans.
Also, there’s Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, the Republican trying to unseat Democratic Rep. Ami Bera. Jones started the race as a Trump supporter, though he has become less full-throated with time and poll results.
Legislative races matter, too. Though Democrats dominate the Legislature, a growing contingent of moderates tends to vote pro-business. Is that what we want? If so, there’s a choice to be made in the race for termed-out Democratic Sen. Lois Wolk’s seat in Davis. Does the state Senate need another liberal voice like Wolk’s – in which case, former Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada is the ticket – or a moderate like Assemblyman Bill Dodd?
Then there are the local races from Woodland to West Sacramento. Sacramento County will decide whether to impose a half-cent sales tax for transportation. Meanwhile, Citrus Heights Councilwoman Sue Frost and architect Mike Kozlowski are vying for the seat vacated by County Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan. Is the conservative district better served by Kozlowski’s business focus? Or Frost’s ideological bent?
Such questions will inform life here long after November. So if you haven’t, register to vote at registertovote.ca.gov by the Oct. 24 deadline. Don’t let democracy be trumped.