Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Voting on Issues

The California Primary Election for the Democratic candidate for Attorney General seems to be drawing out-of-state attention. That is because the favored candidate, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris is being challenged by Chris Kelly, listed as "Attorney/Businessman" on the ballot but better known among the digerati as the former Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook. Enough mud has been slung through television advertising to attract the attention of CNET News staff writer Caroline McCarthy, who has her own column on CNET News called The Social. McCarthy files her stories from Manhattan; but Kelly's Facebook connection seems to have put a blip on her radar, at least since she saw the YouTube posting of Harris' ad attacking Kelly as responsible for Facebook's controversial privacy policies. As a writer with a "social software beat," she was probably justified in preparing a column that addressed Kelly's side of the story:

In response, the Kelly campaign has called the ad "patently false" and pointed out that Kelly, who took a leave of absence from Facebook and then formally resigned his post in March, has actually been critical of Facebook's handling of its most recent privacy controversy.

However, her next paragraph, while basically accurate, does not really tell the whole story:

Harris, who has been endorsed by California's current senators as well as several major newspapers, is still considered the front-runner in the field of seven total primary candidates. Kelly, who has financed his candidacy with $12 million of his own money, is considered to be her closest challenger.

The part that is missing concerns how much of that $12 million went into attack ads against Harris! Now I do not watch a lot of network television; so my exposure to locally-targeted advertising comes primarily from what gets run during local news broadcasts. Whether or not this is a valid sample space, I can report that, now that Election Day is here, I never saw the anti-Kelly ad; but I have lost count of the number of times I have seen anti-Harris ads. The attacks on Harris must have been having enough of an effect to prompt her team to respond in kind, but it looks as if they got to the boob tube with too little too late.

For the record I have already cast my vote; and, for this part of the ballot, I see no reason to hide my decision. I should begin by saying that I make it a point to read all information that the California Secretary of State provides about the choices I can make. That means that all candidates for Attorney General from all parties were invited to submit position statements; and, when I found the pages for the Democratic candidates in my Official Voter Information Guide, I discovered that neither of these candidates had submitted a statement. (In all fairness I should observe that Jerry Brown did not submit one for his gubernatorial contest, either; but that is another matter.) Among the statements that were available, I found one by a candidate who actually had a position and a philosophy to go with it. Alberto Torrico wrote about education as "the best strategy to prevent crime and rehabilitate criminals." This is admittedly a highly idealistic philosophy; but it is still an idea with some substance that, in this case, brings a lot more to the issue of law enforcement than no ideas at all. Torrico clearly did not have the sort of economic resources available to either Harris or Kelly; so the best he could do by way of promotion was a series of robocalls, which were basically as intrusive and offensive as any other robocalls. Nevertheless, they were not as offensive as the mud that Harris and Kelly were slinging at each other; and I continue to believe that his ideas deserve more attention. This should make it clear how I decided to vote for this particular contest!

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