ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEMOCRAT
There are really only two serious candidates in this race, Kamala Harris, the San Francisco district attorney, and Rocky Delgadillo, the former Los Angeles city attorney. Harris has a comfortable lead, with Delgadillo in second and the others far behind.
Delgadillo is on his second try for this office. He ran against Jerry Brown four years ago and got nowhere. And in the meantime, he's come under fire for, among other things, using city employees to run personal errands for him (picking up his dry-cleaning, babysitting his kids) and driving his car without insurance. On a more significant level, he made his reputation with gang injunctions that smacked of ethnic profiling and infuriated Latino and civil liberties groups. It's amazing he's still a factor in this race; he can't possibly win the general election with all his baggage.
Harris has a lot going for her. She was among the first California elected officials to endorse Barack Obama for president, and remains close to the administration. She's a smart, articulate prosecutor and could be one of the few women atop the Democratic ticket this year. We were never comfortable with her ties to Willie Brown, but he's no longer a factor in state or local politics. These days, she's more closely allied with the likes of State Sen. Mark Leno.
That said, we have some serious problems with Harris. She's been up in Sacramento pushing Republican-style tough-on-crime bills (like a measure that would bar registered sex offenders from ever using social networking sites on the Internet) and forcing sane Democrats like Assembly Member and Public Safety Committee Chair Tom Ammiano to try to tone down or kill them (and then take the political heat). If she didn't know about the problems in the SFPD crime lab, she should have, and should have made a bigger fuss, earlier.
But Harris has kept her principled position against the death penalty, even when it meant taking immense flak from the cops for refusing to seek capital punishment for the killer of a San Francisco police officer. She's clearly the best choice for the Democrats.
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER, DEMOCRAT
Two credible progressives are vying to run for this powerful and important position regulating the massive — and massively corrupt — California insurance industry. Dave Jones and Hector De La Torre are both in the state Assembly, with Jones representing Sacramento and De La Torre hailing from Los Angeles. Both have a record opposing insurance industry initiatives; both are outspoken foes of Prop. 17; and either would do a fine job as insurance commissioner. But Jones has more experience on consumer issues and health care reform, and we prefer his background as a Legal Aid lawyer to De La Torre's history as a Southern California Edison executive. So we'll give Jones the nod.
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION, DISTRICT 1, DEMOCRAT
BETTY T. YEE
Betty Yee has taken over a job that's been a stronghold of progressive tax policy since the days of the late Bill Bennett. She's done well in the position, supporting progressive financial measures and even coming down, as a top tax official, in favor of legalizing (and taxing) marijuana. We're happy to endorse her for another term.
SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION
Two prominent Democratic legislators are running for this nonpartisan post, state Sen. Gloria Romero of Los Angeles and Assembly Member Tom Torlakson of Martinez. It's a pretty clear choice: Romero is a big supporter of charter schools who thinks parents should be able to move their kids out of one school district and into another (allowing wealthier white parents, for example, to abandon Los Angeles or San Francisco for the suburban districts).