Secretary of state contenders spar at San Diego forum

Derek Cressman, left, speaks during a candidate forum in Sacramento. Others there were state Sen. Alex Padilla, second from left, Pete Peterson and Dan Schnur. They and three other candidates debated again Tuesday in San Diego.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

All seven active candidates for California secretary of state jousted verbally during a forum in San Diego on Tuesday, with most promising to increase the state’s dismal voter registration and turnout.

Green Party candidate David Curtis, an architectural designer, said he will be more neutral in office. “Greens don’t take corporate money,” he said. “I think it’s a benefit to the office.” He also proposed changing the top-two primary process so minor-party candidates are not scrubbed off the ballot for the runoff.

Republican Roy Allmond, a program technician in the secretary of state’s office, said he would increase voter turnout buy requiring election day to be a holiday. He also would have the secretary of state’s office collect all campaign contributions before passing them on to the candidates so they can be immediately disclosed.


Derek Cressman said his management experience as former vice president of Common Cause, a campaign finance watchdog agency, makes him the best qualified candidate. “We can’t afford to have our next secretary of state go through on-the-job training,” Cressman said.

Dan Schnur said he is running as a no-party-preference candidate because he doesn’t think the state’s top elections officer should look like he is taking sides. The former chairman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission outlined his plan to ban fundraising during legislative sessions. “There are a lot of us who are frustrated with politics,” he said. “We are frustrated because there is too much money in politics.”

Democrat Jeffrey Drobman, an engineer and software developer, proposed to eventually have Californians vote on their smartphones and personal computers over the Internet. “Online voting gives you better access” and would boost voter turnout, he said.

Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) proposed allowing people to vote before election day and even at curbside for disabled people who cannot make it to a polling place. He proposed to expand the voter rolls by 1 million active voters by the end of his first term. There are more than 8 million Californians who are eligible to vote but not registered.

Republican Pete Peterson called the state’s database of campaign contributions and lobbyist spending one of the state’s “great technology failures” and said he would make it easier to search and use to see trends of which special interests are supporting which candidates. The executive director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement at Pepperdine University cited his work at making government information systems in the city of Bell and elsewhere more transparent to citizens.

The San Diego forum was attended by about 200 people and was sponsored by the ACLU’s California Voting Rights Project, California Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of California. It was held at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation in San Diego.