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Opinion: Yes, you have to vote for judges and community college trustees too

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla visits the Dodger Stadium Vote Center on Sept. 24.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla visits the voting center at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 24.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it’s Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. Here are the state’s pandemic guidelines for Halloween and Día de los Muertos, and here’s my “tl;dr” version: If you want to trick-or-treat or go to a big party — don’t.

Speaking of the pandemic, Americans have been voting under the most unusual circumstances since the Civil War in an election that ends Tuesday. Regular readers of this newsletter know that the L.A. Times Editorial Board has endorsed selectively in races from president on down to school board, and the recommendations that typically draw the most reaction from our readers are for up-ballot races like president and members of Congress. Surprising, then, might be this fact: Our endorsements in races that tend to get overlooked — think Superior Court judges and Los Angeles Community College District trustees — tend to get readership levels that rival our recommendation for president.

Part of the reason for this is that whereas voters typically don’t need to read our endorsement for president to know that the editorial board favors Joe Biden over Donald Trump, most people probably don’t even know who the candidates for community college trustee or Superior Court judge are, much less how to vote on them. This is where members of our editorial board do perhaps some of their heaviest lifting, interviewing and researching candidates who have limited, if any, national or even local exposure (a notable exception being when Omarosa Manigault — yes, that Omarosa — ran for L.A. school board).

More than with other endorsements, readers actually ask the L.A. Times for our recommendations on judges, community college trustees, school board members and the like. So, in the spirit of civic service, I’m leading off this newsletter with down-ballot endorsements in races for which they have the potential to be of greatest use to voters. This isn’t to say that how you vote for president is not important (to the contrary, defeating Trump is critically important, as the editorial board explains here) — only that your mind is probably already made up about it.

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Los Angeles District Board of Trustees
Seat 1: Andra Hoffman
Seat 3: Gerry Anderson
Seat 5: Nichelle Henderson
Seat 7: Chris Han

Why should you care about these races? From our endorsement: “The Los Angeles Community College District is a vital part of the region’s educational infrastructure, offering a transition between high school and four-year college, certificates in vocational and technical training programs, one-off courses for the merely curious and a chance for older students to learn new skills.”

Los Angeles County Superior Court judges
Office No. 72: Steve Morgan
Office No. 80: David Berger
Office No. 162: David D. Diamond

Why should you care about superior court judges? From our endorsement: “Positions like judicial seats on the Los Angeles County Superior Court — the largest unified trial court in the nation — loom large as building blocks in a foundation of justice. While the governor fills most of the court’s more than 450 judicial offices, voters have a chance to help shape this critical tribunal.”

Los Angeles Unified School District
Measure RR: Yes on the $7-billion bond, because the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear that new investments in public education are critical.
Board of Education Seat 3: Scott Schmerelson
Board of Education Seat 7: Tanya Ortiz Franklin

Los Angeles City Council
District 4: David Ryu, who has “impressed during his first term with his willingness to listen, learn and respond, and to fight the good fight in the face of opposition from defenders of the status quo.”
District 10: Mark Ridley-Thomas, an experienced, accomplished politician whose “perspective will be especially helpful as the council grapples with how to reimagine policing in L.A.”

Los Angeles County offices and measures
District Attorney: George Gascón, “one of the first police leaders to question the old-style tough-on-crime approach.”
Board of Supervisors District 2: Holly Mitchell, who has a “vision of and commitment to better justice, better health and smarter development.”
Measure J: Yes on rethinking public safety, because L.A. County needs to allocate a greater share of its budget to programs that take a community-based, care-first approach.

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California ballot measures
Proposition 14: No on a $5.5-billion general obligation bond for the state’s stem cell research institute.
Proposition 15: Yes on creating a property tax “split roll” for commercial and industrial real estate.
Proposition 16: Yes on repealing the ban on affirmative action in state programs.
Proposition 17: Yes on restoring parolees’ right to vote.
Proposition 18: Yes on allowing some 17-year-olds to vote in California primary elections.
Proposition 19: No on extending a property tax benefit, which would worsen inequality in California.
Proposition 20: No on rolling back criminal justice reform in California.
Proposition 21: Yes on giving cities the flexibility they need to establish their own rent control policies.
Proposition 22: No on letting rideshare companies rewrite employment law in California.
Proposition 23: No on costly dialysis clinic reform that hasn’t been shown to improve patient care.
Proposition 24: Yes on expanding personal data privacy protections in California.
Proposition 25: Yes on ending cash bail and the poverty penalty in California.

Congress
House of Representatives, District 25: Christy Smith, a centrist lawmaker “interested in quietly working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make government better.”

President
Joe Biden: He and his running mate Kamala Harris are more than just “not Donald Trump.” They are the leaders we need to heal our nation after four disastrous years under the incumbent commander in chief.

Stay in touch.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re the kind of reader who’d benefit from subscribing to our other newsletters and to the Times.

As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.


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