Nov 2022 Santa Cruz Voter Guide

Electoral Action Working Group - 10.13.2022
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Elections can be opaque and our intent with this voter guide is to hopefully cut through some of the fog and provide some rationale for how a socialist should approach the general election.

Socialists believe that the working class must take power for itself in order to radically transform our society into one based on the values of democracy and radical equality, rather than profit and individualism. Ultimately, our strategy must be centered on the project of developing and deepening the organization of the working class and building connections that span the divisions that cut across our society–divisions of race, of gender, of culture, of nationality and of citizenship etc. To that end, we recognize that our struggle must take place on all fronts and electoral politics is a battleground that cannot be ignored.

Our chapter has recently overhauled our endorsement process in order to make endorsements more meaningful. When we endorse something it involves extensive discussion of the whole chapter, and a commitment to expend real time and resources on the campaign; this means that we do not, and cannot, endorse in every race; endorsement decisions involve the strategic choice of where we do and don’t want to put our time and energy. This year, despite endorsement requests from many worthy candidates, the ONLY campaign that the chapter formally endorsed is the Empty Home Tax (Measure N), which is our chapter’s top electoral priority.

That said, we do feel it is important to give members and fellow travelers recommendations on how they, as individuals, should vote. Elections can be opaque and our intent with this voter guide is to hopefully cut through some of the fog and provide some rationale for how a socialist should approach the general election. What follows is the result of a group of chapter members getting together and discussing the ballot in detail. This does not constitute formal endorsement with a commitment of DSA resources. DSA is a diverse group with a wide range of opinions and the recommendations below merely reflect the general character of our conversation with one another. If you still have questions, we encourage you to reach out to your comrades!

One last thing to mention here: following the practice of our comrades in DSA-Los Angeles, we have opted not to make recommendations in many races where a Democrat is expected to coast to victory. We are not Democrats, we don’t hew to that party’s line, and we don’t endorse a blanket “lesser evilism” in every race, regardless of strategic context. More broadly, we consider the Democratic Party to be one of the main obstacles to advancing real socialist politics and, while it may be necessary to back them strategically from time to time, DSA does not have a general policy of recommending Dems. Do what you have to do with regard to these candidates, and remember: a ballot is not a test where you get marked down for not filling out every question. If you don’t want to vote for Gavin Newsom, for instance, you don’t have to. 

Finally, a ton of credit goes to DSA-Los Angeles, which consistently puts out an excellent voter guide. Much of the analysis that follows is lifted in whole or in part from the very thorough research done by our comrades to the south. We encourage you to check out their full guide here.

Local Measures

Measures K&L

K & L are both bonds to raise funds for school infrastructure (K would fund High schools and L would fund Elementary schools) and we encourage you to vote YES. The way that school funding works in California is deeply flawed and relies on local property taxes and bonds to provide even basic staffing and infrastructure. This produces tremendous inequity between districts, as wealthier places are more able and willing to fund schools than poorer areas. Measures like this don’t really address the serious structural underfunding of public education but they are a necessary stopgap. What is actually needed is better funding at a state and federal level (supplied by greater wealth and corporate taxes to start), but until that happens, these band-aids are nevertheless necessary. Socialists support well funded public education and so we say Vote YES on K&L.

Measure M

Like K&L, if you live in the area covered by Loma Prieta Elementary District, you should vote YES on this one. Unlike K&L, this is a parcel tax, which is slightly less problematic than a bond measure that creates municipal debt to fund education, but it still doesn’t address the need for better state and federal funding; that said, schools need money so vote YES.

Measure N

Measure N is our chapter’s top priority this election. It would place a tax on homes that are kept empty for more than 8 months of the year and use that money to build more affordable housing in Santa Cruz. It came out of DSA’s electoral working group, had been endorsed by DSA-SC and National DSA, and the bulk of the on-the-ground campaign for N has been DSA members. This is the first step in finally getting a handle on the out of control housing crisis, it fits with our objective of taxing the rich and it is just smart policy. If you make less than $87,000 a year you will qualify for the housing built by this measure. We HIGHLY encourage you to vote YES and to come out and canvass with us to pass Measure N.

Measure O

DSA has had extensive discussion of Measure O and our organization, and the left in Santa Cruz more broadly, remains deeply divided on this ballot measure. We encourage you to talk with your comrades about it and form your own opinion.

Measure P

Measure P would raise a tax on hotels and motels in Santa Cruz and generate revenue for city services. We are all for raising taxes on the tourism industry and while we would be more in favor of a more progressive tax structure–taxing luxury hotels at a higher rate than budget motels–we nevertheless recommend voting YES on this one. 

Measure Q

No position

Measure R

No position

Measure S

No position

Measure T

No position

Local Candidates

There are a lot of candidates running for local offices in the county, from school and fire board seats, to supervisors and city councils.  We have chosen to make recommendations only in the contests where DSA members have specific knowledge of the race and made a strong argument that our strategic aims as a chapter intersect with a particular race or candidate.  There are surely other worthy candidates, but they either did not request support or make a case to our working group.  

Santa Cruz County Supervisor District 3

This one is complicated. Justin Cummings is a member of DSA, we endorsed him in 2018 and as a city council member he has voted on the correct side of things more often than not. Further, his opponent is a true villain on many of the core issues that we are engaged in: housing, houselessness, development, policing, etc. However our support cannot be without qualification. Justin voted against extending renter protections in 2019, against the will of DSA members. In 2020, during BLM uprising, Justin worked to de-mobilize street protests and offensively kneeled with the chief of police. He later went on Fox News and used this image to denegrate the defund movement. In fact, he is still using the image of him kneeling with the chief to campaign for office. All of this gives us real pause in recommending him. While Justin is unquestionably better than his opponent, he has not lived up to what we hope a DSA endorsed candidate should be.

It’s also very important for us to be very clear as to how dangerous Justin’s opponent is, Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson. Shebreh is not simply an opportunistic moderate Democrat, nor is she simply an explicit conservative, like her city council colleagues Donna Meyers or Renee Golder. Shebreh is the candidate of the capitalist class, holding strong support from the unholy alliance of reactionary anti-homeless groups you’ll see on NextDoor (Santa Cruz Neighbors; aka Westside Neighbors, Eastside Neighbors, Grant St Park Neighbors, etc) and organized business and real estate capitalists (Santa Cruz Together PAC, Santa Cruz County Realtors Association, Santa Cruz County Business Council, and the Chamber of Commerce).

Besides having a solidly anti-progressive voting record, Shebreh’s work in criminalizing poverty is the core of our concern about her candidacy. Shebreh did not merely support sweeps and vote for radical anti-homeless policies like the TOLO, CSSO, and OVO (camping and parking bans that target the unhoused), she has taken a leadership role in actively building liberal buy-in for these hateful and harmful policies by simultaneously sanitizing them with care-washing language (weak or outright false promises of shelter and services in exchange for mass criminalization) and greenwashing language (arguing about ecological impacts of houselessness, presence of debris, etc), whilst rejecting any input from homeless advocacy groups.

When her corporate allies say she is “tough minded” and will “hit the ground running” once she’s elected, we know what that means. She will immediately set her sights on building political support around policies that criminalize the poor in Santa Cruz county, and do so by using carewashing and greenwashing rhetoric. Although most conservative or centrist candidates could be considered class war candidates, representing the capitalist class, Shebreh seems uniquely ambitious and focused on playing this role.

Santa Cruz County Supervisor District 4

If you live in the Watsonville supervisor district we recommend Filipe Hernandez over his opponent. Filipe is by no means a perfect candidate. He lists Sheriff Jim Hart prominently as one of his endorsers, which makes us question how critical he will be of law enforcement as a supervisor. Nevertheless, he has come out strongly in favor of labor and has shown up for striking workers at Starbucks. His opponent, on the other hand, is both more politically conservative and is facing very serious allegations of child sex abuse, which makes this a pretty clear-cut case of Hernandez being the preferred candidate.

Santa Cruz City Council Distict 4

Hector Marin is a DSA member and a self-described socialist. He is also the only person of color running for city council and we are confident that if Hector wins he will be a real challenge to the power of developers on council. Hector asked for our chapter endorsement and had a very strong interview with our electoral working group. While we ultimately opted to keep our chapter resources laser focused on measure N (which Hector supports) we nevertheless strongly recommend that you vote for Hector.

Important note: Early in the race, there were two DSA candidates vying for this position; Hector Marin and Bodie Shargel. Bodie has since dropped out of the running and endorsed Hector’s campaign. This is important for members to know as his name will still appear on the ballot despite no longer campaigning for this city council seat.

Santa Cruz City Council District 6

Sean Maxwell is the progressive candidate running in District 6 and by far the preferable candidate to his real-estate backed opponent. As a member of the Planning Commission, Sean supported a package of concessions that would kneecap the criminalizing aspects of OVO (anti-homeless parking ban) whilst bolstering the otherwise lackluster promises of services by the city. We recommend you vote for Sean. 

Santa Cruz City Mayor

Joy Schendledecker is an active DSA member who is regularly involved in Ecosocialist and mutual aid organizing, as well as our electoral working group. She was also one of our chapter’s delegates to the National DSA convention last year and so her DSA credentials are impeccable. She has a long track record in our community of supporting houseless people, and started an organization, Sanitation for the People, that has done a lot of good mutual aid work in town. Her opponent, on the other hand, is basically the definition of an establishment candidate, who takes money from and gives money to all sides of every issue, in an unprincipled effort to build a coalition so broad that it will never actually take a meaningful stand on the plight of the downtrodden. Between Schendeldecker and Keeley, the choice is as obvious as it could be. Like Hector Marin in district 4, Joy requested a chapter endorsement and had a strong interview with our EAWG. In the end, we opted to keep our resources focused on Measure N but we unqualifiedly recommend that you vote for Joy Schendledecker in the general election. 

State Measures

Proposition 1

This proposition will codify the right to an abortion, and other reproductive care for individuals, into the California state constitution. This is an easy one. Vote yes.

The chapter has not formally taken a position on any other candidates, measures, or propositions. For statewide propositions and candidates, we suggest you consult the DSA Los Angeles voter guide.

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