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The Times' recommendations for Tuesday's California primary

The Times' recommendations for Tuesday's California primary
  (Los Angeles Times)

Voters who pass up the June 5 election will find in November that others have made many of their decisions for them. For example, the state’s top-two primary system dictates that in five months, there will be two finalists to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown, and polling suggests that one of them will be Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat. But who will be the other? John Cox, a Republican endorsed by President Trump? Or Antonio Villaraigosa, the Democratic former Assembly speaker and L.A. mayor? Or someone else?

A similar story is shaping up in the U.S. Senate race, where polling shows incumbent Dianne Feinstein well ahead of fellow Democrat Kevin de León, who in turn is just slightly ahead of Republican James P. Bradley. Until California changed its primary system a decade ago, we could be assured that the November contests would pit a Democrat against a Republican, as well as the standard-bearers in smaller parties. But depending on voter decisions Tuesday, we could end up with two Democrats, two Republicans or two just about anything else — not just in these races but in every congressional and partisan statewide race.

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In other races, it’s a different system. In county races (for sheriff, for example), in judicial races and in the superintendent of public instruction contest, any candidate who gets more than half the vote Tuesday wins outright, with no November runoff.

The Times endorses selectively, and in this round, it has focused on those races of greatest interest and those that could be concluded on June 5.

Our recommendations:

U.S. senator: Dianne Feinstein. California’s senior senator faces a serious challenge from state Sen. Kevin de León, who calls himself the leader of the “resistance” to President Trump. But Feinstein has performed well and presents a dignified and pragmatic counterweight to the White House and her GOP counterparts. This is not the time to trade away seniority, gravitas and experience.

Governor: Antonio Villaraigosa. When he was Los Angeles mayor, Villaraigosa showed character and political courage by making tough budget decisions during a severe economic downturn, upsetting traditional supporters but doing what he believed was right. As Assembly speaker, he demonstrated a keen ability to bring people together to advance needed legislation. He is a tested leader.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony Thurmond. It’s a close call, but Assemblyman Thurmond is a slightly stronger candidate than Marshall Tuck. Thurmond has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to at-risk students and a deep understanding of the obstacles they face.

Proposition 68: Yes. This $4.1-billion bond would help pay for state and local parks, crucial water projects and rivers (including the Los Angeles, San Gabriel and Santa Ana rivers). Yes, we’ve had other water bonds, and we will have more, including an even larger one in November. Voters should be wary of excessive debt. But this bond is needed, and the interest payments would be well within the guidelines for prudent expenditures.

Proposition 69: Yes. This measure requires the fuel tax and vehicle fee revenue raised last year to be spent, as intended, solely on transportation projects, such as construction, repair and maintenance of highways, roads, bridges, traffic reduction and public transit.

Proposition 70: No. Proposition 70 is ballot junk food, filling space without providing anything of substance. It’s the result of a deal between Democrats and Republicans to require a two-thirds supermajority vote in the Legislature to approve how cap-and-trade revenue is spent in — get this — one year only, 2024. Every year until then, and every year after, the regular simple majority rule would still apply. What? Exactly. It’s silly. Just say no.

Proposition 71: Yes. If a ballot measure doesn’t specify when it takes effect, it kicks in the day after the election — even if all the votes are not yet counted and we’re not even sure whether it actually passed. This measure eliminates that goofiness by delaying the effective date until after the results are in and the election is certified.

Proposition 72: Yes. This measure would ensure that property taxes don’t go up just because the owner adds a rainwater capture system. As with fire safety systems and earthquake retrofitting, Californians should not be penalized for adding something that is beneficial to the whole community.

Los Angeles County Sheriff: Jim McDonnell. Reform of the department under McDonnell remains a work in progress, and in some respects, his first term has been underwhelming. Still, he remains a better choice than challengers Bob Lindsey and Alex Villanueva, who are good at detailing their disappointment with the incumbent but not at laying out how they would do better.

Los Angeles County Assessor: Jeffrey Prang. Three appraisers in the Assessor’s Office think they can do a better job than their boss, but it’s hard to see how. Prang has erased the taint of corruption left by John Noguez, his disgraced predecessor, and has improved his office’s efficiency and public service. Prang is doing well and should be allowed to continue in a second term.

Los Angeles County Supervisor, District 1: Hilda Solis. Solis has served her district well. That’s a good thing because nothing on election day will stop her from being elected to another four-year term. No one filed to run against her.

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Los Angeles County Supervisor, District 3: Sheila Kuehl. Currently the chair of the Board of Supervisors, Kuehl has helped move the county forward on a variety of needed initiatives, including housing the homeless and overhauling justice programs.

Superior Court Judge:

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Office No. 4: Alfred A. Coletta. An experienced criminal prosecutor, Coletta has tried a wide variety of criminal cases and has won plaudits from defense lawyers and judges for fairness.

Office No. 16: Sydne Jane Michel. Michel is a seasoned Redondo Beach prosecutor who has the presence to command a courtroom while still respecting the lawyers appearing before her.

Office No. 20: Wendy Segall. Critiques from lawyers who have worked with each of the two candidates in this race give the edge to Segall.

Office No. 60: Holly L. Hancock. An accomplished deputy public defender, Hancock likely will make a good judge.

Office No. 63: Malcolm H. Mackey. Mackey is the only judge in this year’s L.A. Superior Court election who is being challenged for reelection. He is a good judge with decades of experience, and the public would be well-served by keeping him on the job.

Office No. 67: Maria L. Armendariz. Armendariz is a judge of the State Bar Court, which hears professional misconduct cases against lawyers and metes out discipline as necessary. Her professional background is varied and impressive.

Office No. 71: David A. Berger. An impressive criminal prosecutor, Berger has the experience and demeanor required of a good judge.

Office No. 113: Michael P. Ribons. Ribons is a civil trial lawyer and offers an appealing brand of experience somewhat different from the typical judicial candidate.

Office No. 118: David D. Diamond. The chairman of the Burbank Police Commission, Diamond is also a criminal defense lawyer.

Office No. 126: Rene Caldwell Gilbertson. A deputy Los Angeles County counsel, Gilbertson has spent most of her career in dependency court, representing abused or neglected children. The court is badly in need of judges in dependency cases, and Gilbertson would prove an asset.

Office No. 146: Emily T. Spear. Spear is a deputy district attorney and the best choice for this seat.

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