For first time voters, the ballot can feel like just another stressful scantron test, but it doesn’t have to be. In this voting guide, we cover major elections like the U.S. House of Representatives race, where Democrats are fighting to take back the U.S. House of Representatives, possibly making the 2018 midterm election a turning point in national politics. Californians will elect a governor to succeed Jerry Brown, possibly choose a new senator, as well as vote on several major ballot measures. Closer to home, Palo Altans are filling two vacant Board of Education seats and voting on members of the city council. In our coverage of statewide races, we break down the candidates issue by issue. When writing about the school board race, we focused on the candidates’ experience and the planks of their campaigns. Unlike larger scale politics — where the same debates appear again and again — it’s not always clear what problems will arise over the course of a school board term.   v

Board of Education

Stacey Ashlund is a parent and former software engineer who has served on several local governing bodies, including two site councils, Partners in Education Advisory Council and Project SafetyNet, and was the Parks and Recreation Commissioner for Palo Alto. When interviewed, Ashlund emphasized the importance of expanding wellness centers and other mental health resources to middle and elementary schools to start well-rounded teaching as early as possible.  

Christopher Boyd runs what he claims is a STEM-based after-school program, although the Palo Alto Weekly asked him to withdraw from a school board candidate forum over “concerns about how he was representing his after -school program.” He says parents need to be more involved in the district’s decisions, and called out the school board at one of the meetings for having a “lack of heart.” Boyd also criticized the district’s expensive legal battles, discouraging “throwing legal fees at hurt children.”

Ken Dauber is the current president of the PAUSD school board and is running for re-election this fall. He stated that he is focused on improving student wellness, ensuring fiscal responsibility, narrowing the achievement gap, supporting special needs students, and advocating for the implementation of a homework policy that prevents test and project-stacking. He also stated that he has always “been a strong voice in particular for fiscal prudence,” referencing an “unaffordable” three-year compensation agreement which only he voted against. Dauber called closing the achievement gap his “top priority.”

Shounak Dharap is a lawyer and former Gunn High School student. Dharap stated that his experience as a PAUSD student and attorney will bring a new perspective to the school board. Most notably, he calls for increased professional oversight and an “inclusive and supportive environment through a renewed focus on innovation, equity and community.” Dharap also affirmed support for programs like Connections, AAR and Paly’s Social Justice Pathway, the formation of wellness centers at both Gunn and Paly and the implementation of an improved social-emotional learning curriculum.

Kathy Jordan is a parent, active community member and former professional tennis player. Jordan emphasizes how change is needed on the board, sharply criticizing the handling of Title IX complaints and how the budget is managed. Palo Alto Weekly described her as a “watchdog,” and she supports hiring a general counsel to handle the district’s legal problems. When Jordan was asked about her at times adversarial relationship with student publications, she responded that The Campanile didn’t meet the “professional standards” of journalism outlined by California Education Code 48907, which details student press rights.

Alex Scharf, at 21 years old, is the youngest candidate and a recent Paly graduate. He is a student at Foothill College, and organized an event advocating for mental health in PAUSD in 2015. “We should be spending money on the students, not on legal fees,” he stated. Scharf emphasized how teachers should be accommodating of mental health issues and stated that students leaving PAUSD should be prepared “mentally as well as academically.” He stated his support for the removal of zero periods to reduce student stress, and suggested including life skill lessons in PE class. He also praised the addition of wellness centers to high schools.

Senate

Dianne Feinstein, first elected to the Senate in 1992, has served
as chair of the Senate Committee on Intelligence and Senate Rules Committee. She is currently the leading Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Healthcare — Feinstein’s website shows her support for adding a “public option,” where people could choose to buy government-provided health insurance in competition with private insurance. She also wants to lower the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 55 years of age, but doesn’t support single-payer healthcare.

Gun Control­­­­ — Feinstein led the fight to ban assault weapons in 1993. She has stated that gun lobbies have too much power in Congress, and consistently voted for stricter gun regulations throughout the years.

Marijuana — Though notable for having opposed marijuana legalization in the past, Feinstein’s stance has recently shifted. She has now signed onto a bill that would give states the choice of setting their own marijuana policies.

Kevin de León, another Democrat,  has been in the state legislature since 2006. He served as President pro Tempore of the State Senate for four years, and was narrowly endorsed by the California Democratic party this year.

Healthcare — De León is a strong supporter of Medicare for all, which is a single-payer healthcare system. He says the Affordable Care Act was a “step forward,” but says that it does not go far enough. De León advocates that Medicare for all is the way to cover the Americans who still lack health insurance.

Gun Control — In the California Senate, de León supported multiple gun control bills and legislation. Like Feinstein, he wants to ban assault weapons, as well as expand background checks. He also wants to increase funding for gun violence research.

Marijuana — De León supports the federal legalization of marijuana. He sees it as an important revenue opportunity, as California generated an estimated $643 million from marijuana taxes in 2017, its first year of legalization.

Governer

Gavin Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco and current lieutenant governor, is the Democratic candidate. Newsom generally says that the state should expand spending to solve its affordability problems.

Housing — Newsom supports spending large sums of government money to create low-cost housing zones and, if elected, plans to develop 3.5 million new housing units by 2025. He also advocates for stronger rent control to protect tenants from paying too much or being forced out.

Environment — Newsom set a goal for California to not only hit 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 — a goal recently set by Gov. Jerry Brown — but also to become a net exporter of clean energy. In addition, the Democratic candidate supports replacing diesel trucks with hydrogen fuel cell or electric vehicles.

Immigration — Newsom defends California’s “Sanctuary State” policies, and wants to fund legal defense for undocumented immigrants. He says the state should implement workplace protections for undocumented workers to make sure they receive the correct wage and are guarded from harassment.

The Trump Administration — Gavin Newsom says he would break with the federal government on immigration policy and also called for the President to resign over explicit comments.

John Cox, a Republican businessman in the race for governor, says that many of California’s problems — homelessness, healthcare and general affordability — can be solved by lowering taxes.

Housing — Cox says that the biggest obstacle to affordable housing is “red tape, taxes, sweetheart contract deals, fees and outdated environmental rules.” He wants to reduce the cost and hassle of building in the state so that developers can produce more homes, raising supply and lowering prices.

Environment — The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Cox only recently said that humans contribute to climate change, and that he’s skeptical that the state is “making a real impact” on carbon emissions. Cox emphasizes that environmental policies aren’t worth what he sees as the associated economic drawbacks.

Immigration — Cox rejects California’s “Sanctuary State” policy, which limits how local law enforcement cooperates with federal immigration authorities. He takes a hard line on immigration, saying that policies like those proposed by Newsom have “allowed violent criminal aliens to escape prosecution.”

The Trump Administration — Cox has been endorsed by President Donald Trump, and says he would participate in federal programs like sending the National Guard to the border.

City Council

Eric Filseth, Tom Dubois and Cory Wolbach, the current incumbents on the Palo Alto City Council, are running for re-election. Alison Cormack, a former employee of Google and the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, is running on a campaign focused on library renovation, finances and communication. Pat Boone, a political outsider and former media consultant, is campaigning on traffic and transportation.

See our feature about the City Council elections for more details.

Ballot Measures

PROPOSITION 6 — REPEAL OF THE GAS TAX

As the California Secretary of State reports, a 12-cent-per-gallon increase to the tax on gasoline was passed to help pay for improvements to highways, roads and public transit. Proposition 6 would repeal that increase. A Los Angeles Times poll shows that this tax is unpopular, but the left-leaning “Fix Our Roads” political group is attempting to fight the measure. Advocates for the proposition argue that it would be cheaper for families, and would drive economic growth in the oil industry. Critics say that the bonus money to spend on infrastructure is worth the cost.

PROPOSITION 10 — ALLOW LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO ENACT RENT CONTROL

CNBC reported that California is the second most expensive state to live in, and this is particularly relevant in Palo Alto. If passed, this proposition would repeal a housing law passed in the ‘90s, giving local authorities more power in enforcing rent control to force down prices and ensure as much affordability  as possible. Proponents say the measure would protect housing access, ensure affordability, maintain diversity and allow better budget planning. Opponents say that low revenue for landlords would mean the living spaces deteriorate and property tax revenue would falter.

PROPOSITION 12 — TREATMENT OF FARM ANIMALS

This proposition aims to combat factory farming practices, and would set square footage requirements for farm animals. If they aren’t met, the meat and animal product in question would be banned from sale. This proposition would also ban the sale of eggs from chickens raised in cages by 2021. Those against the measure say that it would just increase the cost of consumer goods, while those in favor say that the improved treatment of animals is more important.

How to Register to Vote

If you are a citizen of the United States and 18 years of age, you can register to vote. If you are 16 or 17 years old, you can pre-register so that you will be able to vote as soon as you are 18, and you won’t have to register later.

Go to this link for the California Secretary of State’s website to register or pre-register to vote online. All you need is your address and either your driver’s license number or Social Security Number.

The latest day to register if you want to vote in the Nov. 6 election is 15 calendar days before the election, or Oct. 22.