Endorsement: Why the L.A. Times endorsed so many newcomers this year
Election day is more than a week away, but because of early voting the June 7 primary election is in full swing now. The full list of L.A. Times endorsements runs in print today and is available online at latimes.com/endorsements.
This year offers a rare and bracing change with more competitive state and local races than in the recent past, giving voters a choice of more than one qualified candidate. This is due in part to the decision to move Los Angeles city election dates to coincide with county, state and federal elections and the number of open seats at the local and state level. There’s also been a groundswell of activism and political organizing in the last few years, driven by the homelessness crisis and calls for police reform after the murder of George Floyd.
Our endorsements reflect that change. Incumbents and political insiders bear the burden of proof this year. Have they lived up to their promises? Have they been wise stewards of taxpayers’ money? Have they been willing to tackle the toughest problems and make progress toward fixing them? If not, in many races there are qualified, ambitious challengers ready to step in and do the job.
That is a departure from past elections, particularly in L.A. city races, when we have bemoaned, repeatedly, the lack of credible candidates capable of ousting incumbents or at least giving them a serious challenge that would force them to up their game. Typically, incumbents would line up their big donors early — usually business and labor interests — and few challengers could compete, so they would skip the race or wait for an open seat.
With so many noncompetitive races and off-cycle elections year after year, many Angelenos tuned out and voter participation was embarrassingly low. That’s not the case now. With Los Angeles municipal elections now merged with county, state and federal elections and a switch to permanent all-mail ballots, elections officials expect a larger turnout than in many past municipal elections with more voters who are people of color, low income and younger.
Incumbents and longtime insiders still typically have the advantage in fundraising, endorsements and name recognition. But this year has brought a wave of political newcomers in L.A. city races, who are riding a swell of progressivism and activism that has energized many across the nation. We’ve endorsed many of them over incumbents or longtime insiders: Hydee Feldstein Soto for city attorney, Kenneth Mejia for city controller, and City Council candidates Eunisses Hernandez, Dulce Vasquez, Kate Pynoos and Danielle Sandoval.
Why take a chance on a newcomer? After years of corruption scandals, weak housing policies, broken promises to make streets safer and a lack of fiscal transparency and accountability, City Hall could use fresh ideas and new leaders.
Sometimes it’s easy to encourage voters to oust an incumbent. At this point, a utility pole would be a better Los Angeles County sheriff than Alex Villanueva, because it wouldn’t cause any more damage. Voters, thankfully, have a strong, respected challenger in former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna. Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has had too many ethical lapses, so why give him a second term when there is an excellent challenger on the ballot in Assembly member Marc Levine, a conscientious lawmaker committed to protecting consumers?
We look at the totality of each candidate, including how his or her experience and skills would serve the office. That’s why we picked Republican Lanhee Chen for state controller. Although he hasn’t held elected office in the past, he is a public policy expert and we think he could bring independence and a critical eye to the state’s fiscal watchdog agency.
We don’t make endorsements lightly. They come after interviews and reporting and lots of debate among the editorial board. Sometimes a candidate’s experience is less than ideal or some of the positions they hold are not necessarily supported by the editorial board. It’s rare, if not impossible to find the perfect candidate. The task for the board — and for voters — is to weigh a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and contrast it with the others in the race to pick the best possible person.
Whether or not you find our arguments and recommendations persuasive, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.
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