Joyce Terhaar

Voting Tuesday? Use these tools to pick a candidate


In Bill Dodd’s run for California Senate District 3, his 2016 campaign fund at first glance looks like he’s upside-down: $319,051 raised through May 21 of this year and $804,877 spent.

Those are the numbers readily viewed by any of us on Cal-Access, the clunky and confusing campaign disclosure website provided by the state of California.

Switch to The Money Trail at and you will quickly see that Dodd, a Democrat with a long history of public service in Napa, has raised $1.82 million this campaign season, which began Jan. 1, 2015. As of May 21 he’s spent $940,283.

He’s not upside-down, after all.

And scroll to The Money Trail detail within the District 3 race and you’ll also see all the outside money flowing on Dodd’s behalf, starting with $1.43 million from Ed Voice Independent Expenditure Committee. The money involved to elect Dodd is substantial, overshadowing the competition.

Any Californian – particularly those who want information to vote – should have ready access to information like this. Given the sorry state of Cal-Access, The Money Trail might be the best option in California for voters or politicos who want to understand how special interests are trying to influence our legislative elections and ballot measures.

The Sacramento Bee set out this year to provide tools on our website that are designed to help you make informed choices this election season.

We’re all inundated with television or online ads and, even more, glossy mailers and booklets that spin a candidate’s best characteristics or attack the competition. Listening to the emotional or patriotic backdrop of a commercial, though, doesn’t offer nearly enough information to make an informed choice at the polling booth. And most voters will never have an opportunity to sit down with a candidate and chat.

So what to do? Some voters start with friends and family. Some read all the mail and watch the commercials and the news coverage from candidate speeches. I’d urge you to do a bit more. Here are options we provide; other media will offer some of these tools as well:

$1.43 million The amount Ed Voice Independent Expenditure Committee is spending on behalf of Bill Dodd’s Senate run

▪ Our Voter Guide at is a bit different from what we are able to provide in print: It allows you to type in your address to pull up your personal ballot. With each race, you can compare any of the candidates to learn their stands on issues including immigration, the economy and terrorism. This will allow you to easily research each candidate before you make your decision. If you’re a fan of Facebook, you can share your picks as well.

▪ The Pick Your Candidate tool offers a bit of a shortcut for congressional and legislative races. You fill out a survey about your beliefs on several issues. The tool will rank the candidates for you, in order of those who most closely mirror your positions. This and the Voter Guide cut through all the political spin in each election cycle to focus on what matters – what do the candidates believe? Are their values the ones you want in your representative?

▪ PoliGRAPH is our updated fact checking. Reporters research the facts behind political rhetoric to rate claims as True, Iffy or False. The Bee has fact-checked debates, advertisements and political speeches.

▪ The Bee’s Editorial Board has interviewed candidates and researched issues to provide its endorsements in 26 races and ballot measures. You can simply look at the list or read the editorials about the race, which delineate the reasons behind the endorsement and discuss qualifications of those not endorsed.

▪ The Money Trail is a comprehensive look at fundraising, to avoid the hunt-and-peck necessary at Cal-Access. Political candidates might have more than one campaign committee, for instance, especially if they are incumbents. The Money Trail reflects the most recent information available on all candidate contributions and spending and the activity of outside spending groups. Reporter Jim Miller is updating daily at this point in the campaign.

These five options show a mix of old-fashioned reporting and new digital tools. All are designed to augment our daily political coverage to help make your life a bit easier as you work to stay informed. We use tools like The Money Trail ourselves, as the data enables deeper watchdog reporting.

The Field Poll reported last week that 23 percent of likely voters interviewed already had voted early or by mail. For the first time in a California statewide election, mail ballots do not need to be received by the time the polls close, if they are postmarked Tuesday and arrive within three days after Election Day.

23 percent The proportion of likely voters interviewed by The Field Poll who already have voted in California’s primary

Final results may be harder to come by on election night, as a result. You will be able to track the races that interest you at, typically about a half hour after polls close. We’ll update results regularly until the totals are in. In print, we’ll publish the latest update prior to the start of our presses, followed later in the week by full four-county reports once all races have been counted.

Will Sacramento have a new mayor once results are counted? To avoid a runoff, the leading candidate will need 50 percent plus one vote.

Will California see, for the first time in a statewide election, two Democrats advance to the general election, rather than a candidate from each major party? Some pundits and polls predict that will happen in the race for U.S. Senate.

Get the information you need to make a decision. Then vote.