I’ve certainly been there. You stare at your ballot. You see some names you’re relatively familiar with. You sweat a little. Who to choose? Who. To. Choose? If you’re lucky, you’re deciding between two great candidates. If you’re not, well… let’s just hope you are. In trying to decide who to vote for, you check your trusted references (i.e. CLCV — thanks by the way). But something doesn’t quite add up. The endorsements don’t quite match what you had heard elsewhere from other sources.
To be clear, the candidates CLCV endorses are the ones in a given race we believe will make the most pro-environmental legislators. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily going to be progressive on every issue (just conservation) although they could be. These are viable candidates who we believe will be the strongest and most effective on the environment if and when they make it to Sacramento or Washington — that’s it. Sometimes this is difficult to do because there are several candidates with strong environmental records that we have to choose from. In rare instances, this leads us to a dual endorsement because we believe both candidates stand out as potentially effective and committed environmental leaders, but to the best of our ability we try to avoid it.
So how do we get to the point of making a decision? The process is simple, but definitely thorough. We research candidates ahead of time and send out questionnaires to candidates deemed viable. This isn’t some short questionnaire either. If we had a nickel for every time a candidate complained about how long and challenging our questionnaire was, we’d have enough money to pay off California’s debt. Trust me when I say, we take our questionnaire very seriously and purposely make it as comprehensive as possible. Then we interview the candidates. It’s not enough for us to just accept answers at face value, but we put candidates through the ringer to make sure they really know what they’re talking about. Think of it like a job interview. It’s easy to look good on paper, but we’re not looking for good. We’re looking for the best. Our environment needs it and deserves it.
Now I’d be lying if I said the results weren’t sometimes interesting, and we’ve surprised a few people with two particular endorsements this season: Hector de la Torre for Insurance Commissioner and Kamala Harris for Attorney General. But with a closer look I’m sure you’ll see where we’re coming from.
Hector de la Torre for Insurance Commissioner
One of the more common questions we’ve been asked is “why did CLCV endorse Hector de la Torre and not Dave Jones or a dual endorsement?” Both candidates have a strong working relationship with CLCV. But what distinguishes de la Torre is the type of leader he has been for the environment in the legislature and the type of leader we believe he would continue to be if he is elected Insurance Commissioner.
Why? Because de la Torre pushed our community when we needed it. His challenge to us made our community stronger. In 2004, the environmental community had a particularly difficult year. We only got twelve of our priority bills to the governor; of the twelve, he only signed seven into law. De la Torre worked with us to figure out why we had such a rough time and helped us organize our priorities in a way that has since led to huge legislative successes like the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). He followed up his efforts by acting as the environmental community’s voice on the Assembly floor. When bills were on the floor for a vote, he was there convincing his colleagues who were swing votes to vote for the environment. This is the type of hard worker and problem-solver that he is. That’s why Hector de la Torre received our sole endorsement.
Kamala Harris for Attorney General
We endorsed Kamala Harris for Attorney General out of a large field of candidates including four sitting legislators. Here are some of the reasons. As District Attorney in San Francisco, she has used unfair business practice laws to shut down polluters and has pledged to continue to do so as Attorney General. She strengthened San Francisco’s environmental enforcement team and has successfully prosecuted a number of cases against polluters including getting a $2 million settlement against U-Haul, felony convictions against fraudulent smog shop operators, and convicting Alameda Publishing for dumping hazardous waste. She also established San Francisco’s first Environmental Justice law enforcement unit -something long overdue around the state.
Kamala views crimes against the environment as equivalent to other types of crimes, which is a rarer perspective than you think. We believe she will use the Office of the Attorney General to aggressively ensure enforcement of California’s environmental laws by strengthening the circuit riding attorneys, restarting the Legislative unit, and aggressively enforcing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) the premiere California law that guarantees that environmental and health impacts are taken into consideration for any public and private projects in the state.
I hope you have a better understanding of our endorsement process. Please make sure to vote on June 8th — better yet, help turn out the vote by volunteering for your favorite candidates. California’s environment needs more champions!