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An Occasional Note on the 2008 Campaigns, No. 9

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

An Occasional Note on the 2008 Campaigns, No. 9

::Orebama?::
Although current news is focused on the North Carolina and Indiana primaries to be held this coming Tuesday, voters in the Oregon primaries (to be decided May 20) were mailed their ballots last week and some might vote before those other two primaries are decided. That is because Oregon’s election is conducted by mail only. Voters had until April 29 to register. This means that the focus of the Obama campaign in Oregon—on one website, dubbed O4O—is already on GOTV, getting out the vote.

::Floriduh!::
Mail-in ballots are the subject of much controversy. Proponents argue that it reduces the cost of elections; opponents say that it depresses voter turnout and increases the opportunity for voter fraud. Florida’s House Bill 429, which authorizes board of county commissioners to choose to have certain elections by mail, had its first reading on March 4, after being referred out of the Committee on Ethics and Elections.

HB429 would have an effective date of July 1, 2008, enabling Democrats to redo the Florida primaries. A parallel bill in the Florida Senate, SB880, was read for the first time on April 3, and is currently with the Community Affairs Committee. The effective date on this bill is 1/1/09, but that could be changed when the two bills are readied for passage in both chambers of the legislature.

::San Francisco::
California’s Direct Primary Election is on June 3. This is the part of the election cycle where, among other things, candidates for a party’s “downticket” races are decided. Downticket races that will appear on the November ballot include those for the SF district currently represented by Nancy Pelosi in Congress. She is being challenged in the June primary by Shirley Golub, who supported Dennis Kucinich in the presidential primary in February.

Since the Democratic primary is open, and the Republicans are fielding only one candidate in their primary, there’s a possibility that SF Republicans could cross over and vote for Golub. However, according to a recent newspaper report, which focused on Cindy Sheehan’s efforts to qualify for the November ballot as an independent candidate to oppose Pelosi, Republicans make up only 10 percent of the voters in District 8. To see a sample ballot for one of San Francisco’s districts, click here.

::Oakland::
Over in Oakland, Rep. Barbara Lee is unchallenged in the Democratic primary, but the local State Senate race has two contenders. Also on the ballot is the race for an At-Large representative on the Oakland City Council. Although local body races are ostensibly non-partisan in the U.S., candidates seek to be endorsed by the major parties or groups that are closely allied with those parties.

The first U.S. politician I met, way back in 2000, is someone who was Green back then, but changed her party registration to Democrat just a month ago in order to secure such endorsements. Rebecca Kaplan was narrowly defeated in her bid for an At-Large seat on the council in 2000, but has since been polishing her political credentials as director of the board of the local transit authority, ACTransit.

::BJ for President!::
I confess I had to close my eyes and think of London in order to watch This Week on Sunday, as the whole hour comprised a town hall meeting with Hillary Clinton. The things we do out of duty! Aside from NBC, which had her rival, other Sunday talking-head shows featured guests and pundits talking about the tightening of the race between the two Democratic candidates. The thrust seemed to be that Obama is unelectable in November.

Given that U.S. elections are what they are—so unlikely to unseat incumbents that there isn’t even any competition, the farce that is open primaries, and the willy-nilly switching of party affiliations between small parties and larger ones just to get elected—it was a delight to have watched earlier in the week, the BBC News interview with newly elected Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Bizarrely, even though the BBC says that Johnson has given up his U.S. citizenship—he was born here in the States—the CBS correspondent in London left the idea in viewers minds on the Saturday evening national newscast that Johnson could one day run for President. Imagine that! A bumblefoot running for office instead of a robotic spewer of talking points!

::Recommended Viewing::
David Brancaccio used to host a current affairs program about California on PBS, but when veteran journalist Bill Moyers left Now to host his own program, Brancaccio took his place. This week, Brancaccio interviewed Dan Schnur, who was campaign manager for McCain’s 2000 bid for the Republican nomination—and famously said that McCain lost because he was rude to people who came to his town hall meetings—and Willie Brown, former Mayor of San Francisco who came to notice at the Democratic National Convention in 1972 with an impassioned plea for McGovern delegates to be seated.

The interview is here.

::One last word::
I am not downmarket. In the course of talking about why he supports Hillary Clinton, North Carolina’s governor, Mike Easley, this week said she was better at attracting “downmarket” voters. No doubt he’s as tired as we all are of the “white, working-class, voter” meme that’s been doing the rounds for months now, but it’s a bit rich to call Obama an elitist and then call the very voters he supposedly doesn’t attract “downmarket”!

*************

rosalea.barker@gmail.com

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