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GOOD Voter Guide to California: Governor

Who's running for governor in California, and what you need to know about them.


Over the course of the next two weeks, we will be publishing primers about the important items on the ballot in California as part of our GOOD Voter Guide.

Carlos Alvarez

Political Party: Peace and Freedom

Candidate Platform: In essence, Alvarez is for the working people. The overview: Alvarez wants “every person in L.A. to have a job; food; decent housing; access to free, quality health care and education; and a clean environment,” as he believes these to be not privileges, but fundamental human rights. More specifically: predominantly concerned with the rights of workers, he believes that “every worker should have the right to be in a union,” and that “the minimum wage should be $15 per hour”.

Background and History: Alvarez is a Los Angeles native. Despite being just 23 years old, he is already a seasoned community activist and has lead many of Los Angeles's largest rallies, including those against the Iraq war, Prop 8 (Alvarez is openly gay), and the Israel-backed war against the Palestinians. He is a principal leader in the pro-immigrants and LGBT communities, and is a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (quick review: a socialist believes that the vast amount of wealth in society belongs to those that create it, namely the working people). He is a grocery worker at Vons/Pavillions, and (presumably in connection with this) is a member of United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 770, in Los Angeles. In 2009 he ran for mayor of Los Angeles, notably garnering more votes than any socialist candidate since 1957. He is serious about his campaign, and has appeared on many news outlets as well as at events throughout the state.

Civil Rights: Alvarez has a history of fighting against police brutality, and wants a “community run police force”. He calls for electoral reform as he and other third party candidates are being excluded from the debates. He is against the death penalty, stating, "The death penalty—like the U.S. ‘justice’ system has historically been used across the United States as a weapon against the poor, against the working class, and has an overwhelming racist character. No rich man was ever executed, and only a handful of wealthy individuals are even among the 2 million prisoners in the country." In addition to this, Alvarez is a firm union supporter and says he would support, and stand with, labor unions for both documented and undocumented workers.

Economic Responsibility / Justice: Against the way the current system is run, Alvarez's campaign says that the current system creates the vast profits of the few by exploiting the poor, who, he states, bear the majority of the economic crisis. By contrast, he "would tax the corporations and end all tax breaks to developers and landlords” and “would not cut necessary social services or lay off employees." He wants all bonds and flat taxes eliminated, having stated that they imply that working people and the super-rich are somehow equal.

Environmental Responsibility: Alvarez is a firm believer in creating a sustainable solution to the climate crisis. He was not however, in support of Measure B (a local measure a few years back about putting solar panels around L.A.) because it imposes a flat tax to pay for it, which he believes is unfair to the working class. His alternative would be to fund solar power and renewable energy sources by imposing high taxes and penalties on corporations.

Health Care: Alvarez wants free quality health care for all, including preventative, emergency and long-term care, paid for by corporations, banks and Big Oil.

Education: He calls for free quality education for all, starting in pre-school all the way through college.

Reproductive Freedom: "Free abortion on demand for all." You heard him. On demand. Though probably not from Direct TV.

Fun Facts: Alvarez wants to lower the voting age to 16… Could be great, could be terrible.

Sources: Alvarez for Governor; Party for Socialism and Liberation; The Los Angeles Times; Carlos Alvarez, Party for Socialism and Liberation Candidate for L.A. Mayor Facebook Group; Carlos Alvarez, Party for Socialism and Liberation Candidate for L.A. Mayor YouTube video

Jerry Brown

Political Party: Democrat

Candidate Platform: Brown’s manifesto: “Let’s Get California Working Again.” His top five priorities are, in descending order: jobs, education, environment, clean energy jobs, and pension reform.

Background and History : Life-long California resident Jerry Brown has lived a unique life. He's been, among other things, a conventional heir to a political dynasty, a hippie-monkish governor with a taste for visionary ideas, a populist insurgent and talk-show host who rubbed shoulders with the radical Left, and a nuts-and-bolts mayor of a corroded California city. Brown began his career as a public servant in 1969 after spending three years in the seminary and then working as a lawyer. His first elected office was as a member of the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees. (See, it’s important who you vote for in the little races - Jerry has gone all the way up the ladder). Jerry has heldmany posts in the public sector of California, elected as Secretary of State, California Governor in 1974 (at age 36 (!) and right after Ronald Reagan) and 1978 (carrying the famously Republican Orange County), and Mayor of Oakland. Brown has led delegations, done the lecture circuit, worked with Mother Teresa and studied in Japan (studying Zen) and Mexico. He was Chairman of the Democratic Party till 1991, and has run for President of the United States (3 times) and for U.S. Senate (just once). He is currently Attorney General for the State of California.

Civil Rights: As Governor, Brown appointed more women, Asians, Latinos and blacks to high government positions than any other chief executive. As current Attorney General, he has refused to defend Prop 8 in court, and believes that same sex couples have the right to be married—when he was Governor the first time he went as far as to decriminalize homosexuality. He opposes Arizona’s anti-immigration law and believes immigration needs to be “regularized by the framework of law.” In 1975 he signed the Agricultural Labor Relations Act into law, which gave farm workers the right to unionize, and which benefits a number of undocumented immigrants who work in California's agriculture industry. He does not, however, support sanctuary cities.

With respect to the Mary Jane, he doesn’t support legalization, saying "We're going to get a vote of the people soon on that, but I'm not going to support it." (See the current Prop 19). As Attorney General he created guidelines to help police separate the criminals from legitimate clinic sellers and to protect patients from arrest; and in his first stint as governor, he liberalized the state's marijuana law.

Back to criminals for a sec: his term as Mayor of Oakland saw the crime rate drop for most of his time in office. He managed to hire more police officers but murders did spike his last year in office. He is against the death penalty - "thinks we are better of without it" - but says he will uphold the law and has done so, defending many death sentence convictions as Attorney General. While Governor he appointed a staunch anti-death penalty judge to the California Supreme Court.

Economic Responsibility / Justice: Well, when Brown was Governor the first time, he gained a rep as a fiscal conservative—more than Ronald Reagan himself. (This, friends, is an accomplishment.) Jerry has been attacked heavily by competitor Whitman that he raised taxes during that time, though these claims have been debunked, and, in fact, taxes were somewhat lowered during his tenure (though he did sign an increase to gas taxes). During that time, California produced 25% of the nation's new jobs, and he aims to repeat that record. Brown oversaw large state surpluses in his early years as governor, which happened without any new tax increases. Some blame Brown for sitting on the surpluses, which allowed the tax revolt movement for Proposition 13 (the prop that capped property taxes back in ’78 which is often cited as the reason that Cali is so broke) to gain steam. Brown opposed Proposition 13 before it passed, but after it did, he became an ardent defender, calling himself a "born-again tax-cutter", and won the endorsement of Howard Jarvis, the proposition's chief backer. In this year's race, Brown says there should be no tax increases without a vote. As Mayor of Oakland, Brown helped begin its revitalization by attracting $1 billion in investments and by supporting a pro-business policy that helped bring people and businesses back to the area.

Environmental Responsibility: Brown has provided a seven-point plan that includes a moritorium on new off-shore drilling, and supports measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. His average legislative record when he was Gov was 86% by the California League of Conservation Voters. (That’s not too bad). Brown signed into law the California Coastal Protection Act, earned federal protection of Northern California wild and scenic rivers, started the California Conservation Corp, brought about the country's first building and appliance energy efficiency standards and made California the leader in solar and alternative energy. Brown definitely does not support the passage of Prop 23, which would suspend the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act.

Health Care: As Attorney General, he has not joined other states to contest the Constitutionality of Obama’s reform bill. Among his personal achievement claims in this area, his website lists curbing Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse, protecting patients, fighting drug marketing and curbing prescription drug price inflation. Signs point to Jerry signing off on single payer health care that Gov Schwarzenegger has vetoed twice. Fun fact: Brown legalized the practice of acupuncture in California.

Education: Brown offers a 12 point plan that includes more money for higher education and gives more decision authority to local k-12 schools. He helped create two high performing charter schools while he was mayor of Oakland (Oakland School for the Arts and the Oakland Military Institute) but has also admitted that his school reform platform was “largely a bust” while serving as Mayor because was unable to get the support he needed on the school board to make much change.

Reproductive Freedom: Pro-choice. Brown does not support parent notification laws. He supports Medicaid funding of abortions and is backed by NARAL, Pro-Choice California and Planned Parenthood.

Fun Facts: His nickname when he was Governor the fist time around was "Governor Moonbeam". On whether he will accept a salary as governor (GOP candidate Meg Whitman says she will decline one cuz she’s already got a billion bucks) he said: "Hell yes, I'll take a salary. I need the salary."

Key Donors and Endorsements: Endorsements: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, California Nurses Association, Code Pink, National Organization of Women, California Professional Firefighters, Los Angeles City Council, various environmental orgs, La Sheriff Lee Baca, San Jose Mercury News, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, Sacramento Bee.

Sources: Jerry Brown Campaign Website; The Los Angeles Times; The New York Times; Mother Jones; Mercury News; The Sacramento Bee; KPBS; NBC; California Healthline; GreenGov; Politifact.com; Factcheck.org; The Los Angeles Times; The Attorney General of California website; American Conservative; SFGate.com

Chelene Nightingale

Political Party: American Independent / Tea Party

Candidate Platform: 1) Support Prop 23 and overturn AB 32- California's Global Warming Solutions Act.

2) Secure the border.

3) Get water back to the Central Valley.

Background and History: Born in Puget Sound, moved to Southern California in the early 1990s. Back in Puget Sound, she started a graphic design company, but then was—honest to goodness—spotted in a mall and began a career in modeling and then acting. She went on to be a producer, including shows like the All New Captain Kangaroo Show. In 2005 she gave it all up to focus on her family, then started a small business with her hubby. She has been super active in politics since then, mostly with regard to demanding secure borders and ‘no amnesty no how.’

She has acted as director of "Save our State," an anti-illegal immigration group which has been known to hold anti-immigrant marches through Mexican-American neighborhoods and which has an active skinhead and Neo-Nazi element involved. Nightingale, at the helm, has tried to make the Neo-Nazi element feel unwelcome, she says that’s not what the group is really about, but, regardless, SOS has remained a pretty militant anti-immigrant organization. (The Southern Poverty Law Center calls it a "hate group") This year she was requested by the National Constitution Party leaders to run for Governor. If elected, she wants to "govern ourselves the way our Founding Fathers intended."

Civil Rights: Are state's rights civil rights? She is a huge proponent of the former, and thinks the feds should really just butt the eff out. "Each state must embrace its own destiny and California is no exception." She most certainly does not believe in gay marriage.

On Border and Immigration: In response to a "mass criminal invasion" and to protect Cali, she would place the state military on the border to help with patrol, and demand that our National Guard are sent back home. She wants to end "all public benefits for illegal aliens" and abolish any CA sanctuary cities.

Economic Responsibility / Justice: Here's the deal. Nightingale's plan to combat wasteful spending by the state is to have the state legislature go part-time and she would reduce business regulations, lower business taxes, and line-item veto all unconstitutional bills. She and her team would audit the state's books and assets, curtailing unnecessary spending while needless assets are sold for profit. She would create a new bank (the Sound Money State Bank) that would "adhere to the California Constitution" and would offer low interest loans. As for AB 32—abolish that thing. And, finally she would explore a flat tax option.

Environmental Responsibility: Nightingale believes that “global warming” is “just another U.N. model to enact stricter government regulations.” She believes that scientists have proven that our climate is actually cooling and that the warming science has been inconclusive, that humans are totally responsible enough to take care of the planet, we just need the freedom to do so. In her words: "People are more important than fish!" Also, owls. She thinks that the federal Endangered Species Act has turned our Central Valley into a dust bowl to save a few Delta Smelt. She wants to open the pumps that are a danger to those smelt and get water flowing back to the central valley while she works on permanent solutions like building new water systems. And don't even get her started on AB-32. She believes that it will cost consumers and small businesses billions and cost the state millions of jobs. No comment on anything we should do to protect our natural resources.

Education: Nightingale wants to stop educating "illegals," encourage home schooling, allow parents to "opt out” of education that does not fit their family values, force schools to improve through competition and allow parents to choose the best schools for their children by eliminating school district boundaries. And as she says, "Most people lose their jobs when they don't perform well. America's highest paid teachers should not be any different."

Reproductive Freedom: No "abortions of convenience".

Fun Facts: In high school, Nightingale and a close friend created the Spirit Club for which she served as vice-president. Back when she was a model/actress she was on an episode of Northern Exposure.

Key Donors and Endorsements: Former 2008 Presidential Candidate Chuck Baldwin, G. Edward Griffin (Author, Creature From Jekyll Island), Former 2008 Presidential Candidate Tom Tancredo. Also: RogueOn.org, and, as of early October, 3,173 people "like" Nightingale on the Facebook.

Sources : SmartVoter.org; Nightingale for Governor; Independent Political Report; The New America; Southern Poverty Law Center

Dale F. Ogden

Political Party:Libertarian

Candidate Platform: Reduce spending by California state government at least to 1998 levels, Reduce state employees' salaries and pensions to private sector levels, Reduce or abolish state income taxes & reduce sales taxes.

Background and History: Ogden received a B.A. in math from Townson State University. He started his postgraduate in Actuarial Science at Loyola but never quite finished. He is currently the President of Dale F. Ogden & Associates, an insurance firm, and has also worked at KPMG and Kramer Capital Consultants. Inc. He has never held office, though he has been a candidate for several offices including: Governor, State Senate, and Insurance Commissioner.

Civil Rights: Ogden is a strong supporter of 2nd and 9th amendment rights. He wants to legalize all drugs in order to end the drug war. He states that we should make it easier for guest workers to come to America and that “ immigrants who work hard and don't break the law should have access to citizenship or legal status.” He wants to put together a panel to pardon folks who commit victimless crimes (like gambling or marijuana possession). He also has a plan to disband all swat teams and to prosecute any law enforcement agents who violate the rights of citizens.

Economic Responsibility / Justice: Ogden believes that reducing government is the only way to increase prosperity. If voted governor he would use the line item veto to reduce wasteful government spending and the federal and state courts. He wants to abolish state personal and corporate income taxes. He also proposes to reduce pensions, move the retirement age for police and firefighters back to 60 to 65. He suggests no pensions for workers who haven't worked for the state less then five years and no pensions for elected or appointed officials. He also wants to outlaw unions for state workers.

Environmental Responsibility: He wants to repeal carbon limit laws claiming that Al Gore falsified the record and that the stolen e-mails in the "climategate" scandal prove that global warming is unfounded - even though the English Courts revealed that there was no falsified data in those “climategate” scandals.

Health Care: He states that he is against the health-care reform bill and wants to reduce California's roll in regulating health insurance.

Education: Believes the state should get out of the education business and that it should be left to cities and counties. Increase competition through Vouchers.

Sources: Dale Ogden campaign website; SmartVoter.org; Votesmart.org; Libertarian Party; Dale Ogden's personal website

Laura Wells

Political Party: Green

Background and History: Laura Wells is from Michigan, and previously ran for State Controller as green candiate. She works as a financial systems developer.

Economic Responsibility / Justice: She’s got some new taxes in mind: tax the oil that’s taken from CA and apply a sales tax on wall street transactions. She says she wants to rework prop 13 (the 1978 prop that capped property taxes in Cali) so that it doesn't benefit large corporations and billionaires. Wants a State Bank for California so that California does not have to rely on Wall Street. (Not totally clear on what that means.)

Environmental Responsibility: She's a Green, so there you go, and she proposes: "cleaner, sustainable, local energy" and is against nuclear power and carbon sequestration. The next great job creator? That would be the green economy.

Health Care: Single payer universal health care.

Education: She wants: class size reduction, increased public school funding , more early childhood programs, restoring enrollment at the Cal States, and affordable higher education. She does not want: Corporate charter schools and teacher pay linked with student tests scores because leads to urban schools converting to charter schools.

Reproductive Freedom: Supports "freedom of choice" for patients.

Key Donors and Endorsements: The majority of her endorsements are from other Green Party canidates and members.

Other: Because she’s never held office it’s difficult to find evidence of her actions. Her website doesn't have much on her background or work experience - what is there is pretty vague. Her website still references props from last June rather than this November.

Sources: Laura Wells campaign website; Californiality.com

Meg Whitman

Political Party: Republican

Candidate Platform: Meg Whitman believes there are three key areas for California to focus on to move the state out of deficit and into prosperity: 1) job creation, 2) reduced state government spending 3) reform of the K-12 educational system. Meg’s goal is to create two million new jobs by the beginning of 2015, get rid of runaway spending to create long-term fiscal stability, fix the failing school system, and to provide economic opportunity for future generations.

Background and History: Whitman was born and raised on Long Island, New York. She attended Princeton University as an economics major and went on to Harvard University where she earned her MBA in 1979. She didn't let the Ivy League down, and has held executive positions at companies such as Disney, Bain and Co. (founded by Mitt Romney), and Hasbro before joining eBay as its CEO in 1998. Whitman is credited with making the online retailer the commercial success that it is today, expanding services to Europe, Asia, Latin America while acquiring PayPal, Skype, and StubHub. She once raised eBay's stock 60 percent in 12 months. She sat on the board of Procter & Gamble and DreamWorks, has been featured in Time as one of the world’s most influential people, and has been ranked "The Most Powerful Woman in Business" by Fortune Magazine. Meg served as National Finance Co-Chair for Governor Mitt Romney during his 2008 Presidential campaign, and then as National Finance Co-Chair for the McCain-Palin campaign. She retired a billionaire from eBay in 2008 to focus on politics.

Civil Rights: Whitman supports California’s Proposition 8, however she believes that same-sex marriages that took place before the ban should be recognized, and that gay and lesbian couples should be permitted to adopt children and that civil unions are ok.

Whitman has said that she supports Arizona's right to enact their new immigration law for its state, but that “it's not for California.” So what is for California immigrants? Well, no amnesty, that’s one thing. She wants the construction of a border fence with Mexico and increased law enforcement to the Mexican border. She supports policies that would not allow undocumented immigrants admission to state funded colleges and universities (no DREAM Act for her) and she is opposed to bi-lingual education. She supports a guest worker program but no citizenship for those in the country illegally. Also, she’s interested in instituting random workplace inspections for employers suspected of hiring the undocumented. In fact, she has argued that one way to address illegal immigration is to hold employers accountable for hiring workers who are not in the country legally. This position became awkward for Meg when it came to light in September that her longtime housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, was in the country illegally. Whitman says that as soon as she found out she fired her. Diaz disagrees.

Whitman supports California’s three strikes law (25 to life after your third serious crime), supports the death penalty, and believes in the right to bear arms. She would like to build new prisons as opposed to exploring early release for incarcerated people or sentencing reform. She is opposed to the legalization of marijuana.

Economic Responsibility / Justice: Not a fan of the taxes, Whitman wants to spark new job growth by implementing targeted tax cuts. She would eliminate the $800 new business tax required for start-ups as well as taxes on manufacturing equipment. She would also ax state tax on capital gains and provide a $10,000 credit for home purchases.

Environmental Responsibility: Whitman “supports California’s renewable energy requirements and believes in promoting clean sources of energy that will help create green jobs and less dependence on fossil fuels.”

However, Whitman has said that if elected, she would "probably" suspend California AB 32 (the state’s major initiative for reducing climate change/greenhouse gas emissions) for one year to "study its economic implications.” (Critiques argue that a one-year suspension would create a great amount of economic uncertainty and negatively affect clean tech investment and job creation.) Initially she had said that she would repeal the bill on her first day in office, and then said she would "probably" veto it, and now advocates a year suspension. She has also said that she will vote against Prop 23, which also wants to suspend the landmark environmental legislation. Whitman opposes further restrictions on water supply in the Central Valley, opposes off shore drilling, and believes in exploring new energy solutions, including nuclear energy.

Health Care: Whitman had said that she would like California to join the list of states suing to overturn the new Federal Health Care law. However, she later revised her position on the lawsuit, but still thinks that it will hurt the economy and should be repealed. She believes that we should open up California to more insurance competition so there are more choices and more ability to buy plans.

Education: She would like to send money directly to school districts as uniform block grants, with responsibility for the grants placed on local school administrators. She would like to grade all public schools and provide access to this information online, as well as provide special bonuses to high-achieving teachers. Whitman would also like to invest $1 billion in the U.C. and Cal State systems.

Reproductive Freedom: Whitman supports abortion rights, but not late term abortion. She voted in favor of California Proposition 4, which requires minors to notify a guardian or parent prior to an abortion.

Fun Facts: Whitman is the fourth wealthiest woman in California according to Forbes, with a net worth of $1.3 billion, and has spent more of her own money than any other self-funded political candidate in U.S. history. Also, this one's fun: Whitman did not vote for 28 years, in her own words, an "atrocious" voting record.

Key Donors and Endorsements: Whitman has raised $10 million in individual contributions along with a record breaking $119 million from personal coffers. She is endorsed by Former Governor Pete Wilson, various Republican Congress people and Senators, newspapers like the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the San Jose Mercury News. Also, the CA Chamber of Commerce, Farm Bureau Federation, Floral Council, Peace Officers’ Association, Restaurant Association and the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of California.

Sources: Meg Whitman campaign website; Diffen.com; WhoRunsGov.com; Slate; CaliforniaWatch.org; Reuters; Forbes; SFGate.com; The Los Angeles Times; The Mercury News (2)

Some disclaimers: This guide is a volunteer operation, not produced by GOOD. Due to research fatigue, lame candidate websites, and Murphy's Law, you may spot a mistake or two. Some candidates simply don’t provide a lot of info, and our researcher styles varied, so some profiles may differ or seem a bit incomplete.

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