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San Diego Decides by Voice of San Diego

San Diego Decides is Voice of San Diego’s elections podcast. Hosts Sara Libby and Ry Rivard break down individual races and ballot measures San Diegans will weigh in on this year, as well bigger issues like the mechanics of voting, state-level drama and more.
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San Diego Decides by Voice of San Diego
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May 16, 2016

This week we explore races full of lawyers: the race for city attorney and two San Diego Superior Court judge races.

The first race is full of intrigue, campaign ads, sniping among candidates and has a lot of people’s attention. Sara Libby and I talk with Andy Keatts, who has been covering the race. Recently, he's explored the client lists of Robert Hickey and Rafael Castellanos and looked at how frequent city foe Cory Briggs’ endorsement is affecting Gil Cabrera’s campaign.

The judges’ races, though – you’d be hard pressed to find much out about either of them. Forty-three of the San Diego Superior Court’s 128 sitting judges are up for election this year. Only two are actually in races, though: The rest are running unopposed, so will be elected automatically.

We talk with Johanna Schiavoni, a local appellate lawyer who worked on judicial endorsements when she was head of the Lawyers Club of San Diego. She tells us how judges races work and how voters can get more information on these important but unheralded contests.

Crazy Ballot Initiatives

This ballot measure is actually on the ballot in June, so it may not be that crazy: Proposition 50, which would prevent state legislators from receiving pay while they are suspended. In 2014, three state senators were suspended for various and separate allegations of wrongdoing, but each kept getting their Senate salary. That seemed sorta odd, so this proposition aims to change things.

Sen. Joel Anderson of San Diego is a major opponent of the ballot initiative, though. Rather than strengthening ethics in Sacramento, Anderson argues the constitutional amendment here would weaken it: “Prop. 50 is designed to make you feel like the Sacramento political class actually wants to take a tough position to root out corruption. What they are really doing is hiding from you the fact that they would not make the tough decision to expel a convicted felon—their buddy,” he writes in the official state voter guide.

The Legislature already has the power to expel lawmakers. An expelled lawmaker’s seat becomes empty, so someone else takes their place. Because of this, Anderson argues, relying on suspensions rather than expulsion is the wrong path, because a suspended lawmaker is allowed to keep occupying the office while the lawmaker’s district does not have an active representative.

Favorite Things

My favorite thing is the language political journalists use when they are out and about in rural America. Usually, these are folksy-sounding words and phrases that real people don’t really use – towns and people are “hardscrabble” and when people eat they are said have “tucked into hearty meals,” whatever that means.

Sara Libby’s favorite thing is the Twitter account @PhotosOfTV, which archives the most interesting chyrons (those bits of text at the bottom of the screen). Lately, PhotosOfTV has noticed a man whose title is simply “Tired of Birds”; a segment on the “Cankle Criss” striking America and a Northern Virginia woman who is apparently a “’Notable Tree’ Owner.’”

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