On the primary results

If there is one day you might expect me to blog, it is the day after an electon. But yesterday attorneys in Stockton’s federal bankruptcy trial made their closing arguments in Sacramento court. I was there. The column on the closing arguments, and the complex facets of Stockton’s case, will be in tomorrow’s paper.

As for the election, labor lost. Mayor Anthony Silva was dealt a minor setback.

The deputy sheriff’s union backed Pat Withrow for Sheriff, but incumbent Steve Moore won. A law enforcement coalition backed Paul Canepa for board of Supervisors (and vehemently opposed Kathy Miller), but Miller won. Labor backed Christina Fugazi for the council, but she finished second to Diane Burgos-Medina (Fugazi made the runoff, though).

Moore had the advantage of incumbency, but also the baggage. He’s been in office for almost eight years but has not added a single, much-needed jail bed. That made him vulnerable. Withrow, however, never provided enough concrete details about his proposed solution—modulars—to refute Moore’s contention the idea is not feasible.

Miller deserved to win. She went through the crucible of Stockton’s fiscal crisis and emerged a strong leader. Canepa always seemed squeamish about power and agonized by tough decisions.

Miller made one misstep, the campaign mailer that listed excessive police salaries. That brought out popular Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones, who called it “misleading.”

In my view the mistake was semantic. When discussing the police it is necessary to make an important distinction between police and a police unions. When police are on the street, they deserve respect and support (but also scrutiny). When they are at the bargaining table, they deserve scrutiny (but also respect). The right policy is to be pro-police but anti-overcompensation. Miller’s flyer arguably failed to make this distinction.

But that misstep was not fatal.   

These labor defeats occurred because literate voters are still drawing lessons about fiscal prudence from the recession and Stockton’s bankruptcy. A voter who cannot get a cop to respond to a burglary, or a city worker to fill a pothole, or who has seen his or her library branch closed, is in no mood to let labor hold sway over the council.

Also labor’s candidates were simply inferior. If labor wants to win local elections it has to stop backing Xochitl Padereses whose sole qualification is backing labor and find qualified candidates with broader platforms that will improve the lives of all citizens in addition to giving labor a fair shake. 

Another campaign theme was name recognition. It did not carry Canepa to victory. I never understood why a family car wash business should be a political asset. But then 287,000 Californians voted for Leland Yee though he has been arrested on corruption charges. Evidently name recognition counts for a lot.

On the other hand, Susan Lofthus was the top vote-getter in her council district race, presumably in part because her father, Ort Lofthus, owned KJOY and was a very prominent civic activist.

A rather sad case is Motecuzoma Sanchez, who also ran against Lofthus. Sanchez is finishing a master’s in public administration, while Lofthus, it is said, has been disengaged from civic affairs most of her life. Yet Sanchez didn’t even make the runoff. It is occasion to wonder what’s in a name.

As far as I know, Mayor Anthony Silva made no endorsements. Probably because his advisors know full well his endorsements would identify a candidate as a member of the idiocracy and doom their campaign. But some of the candidates are his allies: Rick Grewal in District 3 vs. Elbert Holman, for certain.

Silva faces a steep uphill battle to emerge from his self-inflicted political exile. Moses Zapien and Michael Tubbs remain on the council; Holman and Burgos-Medina are favorites. That’s four anti-Silva votes right there. For Silva to gain control all the underdogs would have to win, and that is unlikely.

Trivia: Lofthus was Supervisor Steve Bestolarides’ prom date. If Besto runs for mayor after he terms out on the Board of Supes, Stockton might see its first government prom couple.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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