GOOD Voter Guide to California: Secretary of State

Examining the candidates for California's Secretary of State.

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.

Secretary of State is the Chief Elections Officer, controlling state voting method (paper trail versus electronic mysteries); is responsible for disclosing campaign and lobbyist information, some commercial documentation, and the State Archives; and serves on state trade commission.

Debra Bowen \n

Political Party: Democrat

Candidate Platform: Debra Bowen is recognized for her strong support toward open government reform, emphasizing the importance of creating a transparent and accessible government and believes the use of new technologies can aid these efforts. As Chief Elections Officer of California, she is also committed to empowering voters. She rallies to increase voter registration and voter turnout as well as expand voter education. Bowen is committed to election integrity and fights for increased accountability of private-sector election contractors who design and manufacture voting equipment. Bowen actively supports cracking down on fraud in business deals and elections, and maintaining the personal privacy of citizens.

Background and History: Debra Bowen began her career as a lawyer that fought for many grassroots causes in her local community in Southern California in the 1980s. By 1992, Bowen became an “accidental politician” and she was elected to the California State Assembly representing the 53rd Assembly District in the South Bay, and was then elected to the State Senate representing the 28th district (Los Angeles and the South Bay). While in the Senate she chaired the California Senate’s Committee on Elections, Reapportionment, and Constitutional Amendments. In 1993, after realizing the difficulties of citizen access to public legislative information, Bowen authored a bill that made all of the info about the bills passed in California available on the Internet ... in 1993. After her term limits were maxed in the Senate, she was elected to the position of California Secretary of State in June of 2006. Upon her election as California’s new chief elections officer, Bowen commissioned a “top-to-bottom” review of California’s $450 million investment into proposed electronic voting systems...a review and audit that showed many flaws ... after which she withdrew her approvals and imposed major security and auditing requirements on electronic voting systems. Bowen’s decision was honored in 2008 when she received the John F. Kennedy Profile of Courage Award for her bold leadership, commitment to protect the integrity of the vote, and choosing principles over partisanship.

Civil Rights: During Bowen’s 14 years in the State Legislature she actively supported efforts to expand the rights of the LGBTQ community. As Secretary of State she maintains the Domestic Partners Registry and works to ensure that members of the community know how to use it. Bowen is very active in women’s rights and is an advocate against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. As the SOS she maintains the Safe at Home program which is a confidential address program that helps protect the identities of survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking victims and people that work with reproductive health clinics.

Environmental Responsibility: Bowen began her political career volunteering for the grassroots organization Heal the Bay, an environmental advocacy group dedicated to protecting Santa Monica’s Bay. She still remains active in the organization. She is also the chair of the Natural Resources Committee. Bowen is married to Mark Nechodom, the Deputy Director for Energy and Climate in the Office of Environmental Markets at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Education: Bowen spends much of her time traveling and speaking in high schools and colleges across the state encouraging youth to get out and vote. She prides herself in reaching out in creative ways and emphasizes the use of social media.

Reproductive Freedom: Bowen believes that abortions should always be legally available. She also protects the safety and confidentiality of those that work in reproductive health care clinics through the Safe at Home Program.

Key Donors and Endorsements: Bowen is endorsed by the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, California Association of Professional Scientists, California National Association of Social Workers, California Coalition of Law Enforcement Associations, California Federation of Teachers, California Teachers Association, and the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California.

Marylou Cabral\n

Political Party: Peace and Freedom

Candidate Platform: The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) believes that the answer to the problems facing the United States is the "socialist transformation of society." It is an anti-war and anti-capitalist platform. Cabral's web page states that she is "adamantly against the corporate owners, ruling-class politicians and the racism, sexism, anti-LGBT bigotry and exploitation they promote." Cabral's main goals as a candidate are jobs, quality education and accessible free health care for citizens and non-citizens.

Background and History: Marylou Cabral is a 22-year-old Cal State Long Beach student majoring in Art Education with the goal of teaching art in the public schools and becoming Secretary of State. Cabral, whose parents immigrated from Zacatecas and Sinaloa, Mexico, has been involved in social justice issues from a young age and has joined with immigrant rights organizers in L.A. County and as a volunteer organizer with the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition.

Civil Rights: In a letter to her college newspaper, in a reply to a letter criticizing her stance against a tenured professor who is said to be aligned with the American Third Position Party, and is “known as a white supremacist intellectual”, she wrote, "Racism is the main problem in this country. It has been since its birth. Whether it is aimed at Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Pacific-Islanders, Arabs or anyone else, it should not be tolerated."

Economic Responsibility and Justice: She says: "We are moving forward with the task of building a revolutionary Marxist party based on the working class, and seek unity with all those who agree with our perspective. Such a party must not only look to a different future, It must be engaged in all of today's struggles against oppression and exploitation." Thus, she wants taxes on large corporations to be increased and the minimum wage too; to $15 an hour.

Environmental Responsibility: Cabral supports punishing those responsible for harming the environment and holding them fiscally liable. Believes in ending environmental destruction.

Health Care: The PSL appears to support President Obama's heath care plan, as they released a statement criticizing the right wing media for calling the plan "socialist." Cabral is critical of the power and wealth of the health care insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Education: Cabral supports free public education from pre-school through college. She recently offered her support for the L.A. teachers union protest against the Los Angeles Times, in regard to the paper's public printing of teacher's evaluation scores. She wants to see job training for young people.

Reproductive Freedom: Pro-Choice. Supports women's reproductive rights.

Key Donors and Endorsements: Fellow members of the PSL and the Peace and Freedom parties.

Sources:Party for Socialism and Liberation; Daily 49er; Project Vote Smart; Smart Voter
Damon Dunn\n

Political Party: Republican

Candidate Platform: Dunn, who once had a 5-game stint in the NFL, states that the focus of his administration will be to personally go door to door in inner cities to ask people to register to vote. He has also noted that he has voted once in the last 33 years. Regardless, he wants there to be a mandatory 100 percent voter registration requirement because he said, "the cost of not voting is just too great." As for the business filing part of the job of Secretary of State, Dunn says he would use his business experience to concentrate on the jobs we are losing to other states, and looking at the reasons why so that solutions may be found.

Civil Rights: As to his experience of the historic 2008 election and why he skipped voting in it, African American Damon Dunn stated that "I don't remember how I spent that day. It was probably like any other Election Day for me." Um, wow. He supports Prop 8.

Economic Responsibility and Justice: Supports the use of electronic voting systems and calls for transparency. Wants ID required at the polls to ensure fair elections.

Education: Wants to create an education system where the student is at the center, not education bureaucracy. He has been committed to helping youth through his volunteer efforts but offers no concrete plan for his views, although, this job does not call for specific plans in education. He also volunteers with the Latino Educational Attainment Initiative.

Key Donors and Endorsements: He is the top contributor to his own campaign with $60,097, Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, New York Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin. Various southern california local leaders, including: Fountain Valley Mayor Larry Crandall, Lindsay Councilmember Suzi Picaso, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, Orange Unified School District Trustee Dr. Alexi Deligianni
Sources:The Los Angeles Sentinel ; Damon Dunn; Los Angeles Times; Database of Football; Ballotpedia; Los Angeles Examiner; San Francisco Gate; Mercury News; Hip Hop Republican
Ann Menasche\n

Political Party: Green

Candidate Platform: Clean and publicly funded elections, a more representative democracy, and a crack down on corporate crime.

Background and History: Menasche is the daughter of Turkish immigrants. She grew up on Long Island, New York, attended Vassar College in the 1960s, and was super active in the social movements of the time. Then she moved to Frisco, got her law degree and came out as a lesbian. She practiced law specializing in housing discrimination and civil rights. She is now in San Diego still practicing law, fighting Prop 8 and living with her partner—to whom she is married. She is currently on the County Council of San Diego County Green Party.

Civil Rights: Repeal Prop 8 in 2010.

Environmental Responsibility: Ann believes in “ecological wisdom.”

Health Care: She supports universal single payer healthcare and removing private profit-making health insurance from the business all together.

International: “End the fruitless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cut the military budget. Bring our troops home now!” Use that funding for jobs, health care and education—not war.

Key Donors and Endorsements: Laura Wells, Green Party candidate for Governor

Sources:Green Party; Ann Menasche; Smart Voter
Merton D. Short\n

Political Party: American Independent Party

Candidate Platform: Short believes that most of the problems in the country are the result of disobedience to the Constitution. If elected, he would like to restore compliance with the Constitution and significantly increase the registered voting population with a constitutionally informed electorate.

Background and History: Short was born in the Ozark Hills of Missouri. His father passed away before he was a teenager, and the family was penniless during the Great Depression. (We can’t find how old he is, but he probably hung with our grandparents). After high school, Short moved to Kansas City and worked for Hallmark. He then attended Wichita University on a music scholarship and played snare drum in the ROTC marching band. Merton joined the Naval Aviation Cadet Program, and began studying aeronautical engineering. There, he trained as a navy fighter pilot and served on a Jeep carrier in the Pacific. He later was a Commanding Officer for a mission regarding nuclear weapons delivery into the Soviet Union and also served during the early part of the Vietnam War. He then served in upper management at various aviation related companies. Merton has been Chairman of the American Independent Party twice.

Economic Responsibility and Justice: Short believes the Federal Reserve System is unconstitutional and economically diasterous for the country, and supports action to audit it.

Sources:Redwoods District Constitution Party; Project Vote Smart
Christina Tobin\n

Political Party: Libertarian

Candidate Platform: Electorial reform! Christina Tobin wants to make elections more open to Independents and third party canidates. She proposes to do this by fighting Prop 14 (the top-two primary), and allowing for instant runoff voting.

Background and History: Christina Tobin is an activist in third party and Independent politics. She founded a nonprofit that addresses issues for voters and candidates. In 2008, she served as Ralph Nader's "ballot access coordinator" when he ran for president as an Independent.

Economic Responsibility and Justice: Christina stays true to her passion for election reform by only discussing budget reforms that revolve around election reform. Ideas include: all-mail voting, filing fees in stead of petition gathering, small party nominations by convention instead of primary, avoiding lawsuits by repealing unconstitutional elections laws, moving to electronic resources for election related publications, and charging cost of printing for those who request paper copies.

Key Donors and Endorsements: Christina Tobin's endorsements include a broad range of political leanings: from a cofounder of the Green party to Libertrian leadership. From Peace activists to Tea Party activists. They include: Anne Goeke (co-founder of the Green Party of the United States), Michael Jingozian (National Vice Chairman of the Libertarian Party), Wayne Root (Media Personality, Libertarian and Tea Party Activist), Kevin Zeese (Executive Director of Campaign for Fresh Air and Clean Politics), Cindy Sheehan (you remember her!), and Cheri Bunker (Vice President of the Oroville TEA Party Patriots). We imagine that these people have probably never all been on the same list together before.

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.