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Post-election commentary
November 19, 2012, 05:00 AM By Sue Lempert

In San Mateo County, 63 percent voted for Proposition 30, the governor’s plan to balance the state budget and safeguard education funding (at least for a while). That’s 10 percent higher than the statewide approval of 53.9 percent. For the anti-union Proposition 32 which would stop payroll political contributions, the county’s vote was 64 percent against. In the Bay Area, only Alameda, Marin, San Francisco and Sonoma had higher numbers.

When it came to repealing the death penalty, Proposition 34, San Mateo County voters approved while it failed statewide. County voters split their votes on modifying the Three Strikes law, Proposition 36, with 50 percent voting for and 50 percent voting against. The proposition passed statewide with more than 71 percent of the vote. Voters were also split down the middle on Proposition 37, the labeling of genetically modified food. Yet it received proportionally more votes in San Mateo County than in any other Bay Area county. This measure failed statewide.

What’s really amazing when you look at the data, is how few people vote on the propositions. It’s a call to get rid of them.


San Mateo County measures held a few surprises. Most people expected Measure A, the county sales tax increase, to fail miserably. But it won handily, heavily financed by Seton Medical Center, which plans on receiving a sizable sum for seismic upgrading of its Daly City facility. Many expected voters to turn down a change in how we elect our supervisors. Twice before voters had said "no” to district elections but this time the answer was a resounding "yes.”

Will this have implications for the next supervisor’s race? Probably. Especially in North County’s District Five with its large Filipino and Hispanic population (In Daly City, whites make up only 25.9 percent of the population while Filipinos make up 35 percent and Latinos 22 percent). Two Caucasian candidates, Warren Slocum and Shelly Masur, were the choices in the November election for District Four. When Slocum, the victor, retires, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Alicia Aguirre, the first Redwood City Latina mayor, made a successful run, especially if Masur doesn’t try again. Just as the national electorate and the county’s school population is already less white, expect more color in local elected offices in the future.

County voters turned down a measure to make the controller an appointed office. Very disappointing because these administrative positions should be appointed and not elected. It’s a challenge for the electorate to know who would make a good controller and even more difficult to monitor performance. The current controller, Bob Adler, was appointed by the supervisors to replace Tom Huening, when Huening retired mid-term. Adler is a professional, not a politician. The county is fortunate to have him. Huening would not have left his post unless he knew his assistant could easily take over the job. Now some well-known politician could run for the job with a well-financed campaign when the position opens in 2014. Adler has already shown he has the stuff to do an outstanding job but he may not want an election fight. It would be a shame if he couldn’t continue serving.

People don’t like to surrender a chance to vote. We complain about the propositions and yet when given a chance, we don’t want to change the initiative process. The Charter Review Committee recommended that the controller’s job be appointed. The supervisors agreed. It’s too bad the electorate didn’t follow suit.


Congratulations to our new state Assemblyman Kevin Mullin and new state Sen. Jerry Hill. They both work hard, are Sacramento savvy and will probably play a major role in the Legislature.


One of the most rewarding results in November was that Big Money and independent expenditures could not buy an election. According to the New York Times, millionaires and billionaires gave nearly $500 million to independent groups to defeat President Obama. The biggest conservative group, American Crossroads, the Super PAC founded by Karl Rove, spent $104 million in the general election but none of its candidates won. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $24 million in 15 Senate races. Only two won. Sheldon Adelson, the casino king, spent $53 million on nine candidates. Eight lost.

And let’s not forget the amount of outside money from Arizona which was spent to defeat Proposition 30 and pass Proposition 32 in California. As Abe Lincoln said, "you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Sue Lempert is the former mayor of San Mateo. Her column runs every Monday. She can be reached at




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