A Stanford voter’s overview of the California midterm elections

Oct. 25, 2018, 1:05 a.m.

This article is the first in a two-part series of voter guides leading up to the Nov. 6 midterm elections.


With the midterms less than two weeks away, political groups across campus are working to get out the vote. On Wednesday, Stanford in Government (SIG), the Women’s Community Center (WCC) and the Haas Center for Public Service sponsored a voter education workshop titled “Bring Your Own (Absentee) Ballot.”

The event began with a short presentation by Kris Kasianovitz, the state and local government librarian for Green Library. Then, students took part in small group sessions during which they could research their local candidates and ask questions about any aspect of the voting process.

Kasianovitz’s presentation centered on sources to help students access nonpartisan, transparent political information.

“The goal today is to get [students] into [their] ballots and into looking at sources to research candidates … and ballot measures,” Kasianovitz said. “There are a number of resources out there to help you vote, but you have to be able to evaluate those sources and their bias.”

With this in mind, The Daily has compiled a voter guide of important local and state races, breaking down each candidate’s platform.



The gubernatorial race in California pits current Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (D) against  businessman John Cox (R). While Newsom has raised more money and has consistently led in the polls, Cox, who has not held political office, says he is the best candidate to “clean out the barn” in Sacramento. Cox’s priorities include bringing down the cost of living, affordable housing and improving roads and highways, whereas Newsom has campaigned on defending LGBT, immigrant and workers’ rights, along with investing in schools and affordable housing.

Lieutenant Governor

The race for California Lieutenant Governor is between two Democrats: State Senator Ed Hernandez and businesswoman Eleni Kounalakis. Hernandez, an optometrist, is committed to debt-free college education, expanding access to affordable healthcare and the reinstatement of DACA. Kounalakis, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Hungary under former president Barack Obama, campaigns for affordable housing, lower tuition for University of California and California State University schools and a halt to the expansion of offshore oil drilling.

Attorney General

The race for the state’s chief lawyer and top law enforcement official features incumbent Xavier Becerra (D) — who replaced Kamala Harris in the role after she won a Senate seat — and retired judge Steven C. Bailey (R). In his short stint as Attorney General, Becerra has gained national attention for California’s lawsuits against the federal government over controversial policies like healthcare and immigration. Bailey often accuses Becerra of being too adversarial against the Trump administration, believing it prevents Becerra from dealing with the state’s crime issues. As such, Bailey has campaigned on being tough on crime while Becerra advocates criminal justice reform.

Secretary of State

The California Secretary of State’s duties include record keeping and organizing elections. This year, constitutional and election law attorney Mark Meuser (R) seeks to unseat incumbent Alex Padilla (D). Due to the nature of the job, the campaigns have centered on election and campaign finance laws. Padilla aims to protect voter rights and increase campaign finance transparency, while Meuser wants to clean up voter rolls, reducing potential voter fraud.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

In the most expensive race for superintendent in California’s history, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D) faces Marshall Tuck (D), a schools improvement director. With Thurmond backed by the California Teachers Association and Tuck supported by the California Charter School Association, the race is seen by many as primarily a teachers’ unions versus charter school debate.

U.S. Senate

The Senate election pits longtime incumbent Dianne Feinstein (D), who has held California’s senate seat since 1992, against State Senator Kevin de León (D). De León says it is time for a fresh voice in Washington, campaigning on issues like comprehensive immigration reform, “Medicare for All” and clean energy. Obama has endorsed Feinstein, while the California Democratic Party has endorsed de León.

California’s 18th Congressional District

In the congressional race where Stanford is located, incumbent Anna Eshoo (D) faces Christine Russell (R), who has served as a controller or CFO in Silicon Valley for over 30 years. Eshoo’s priorities include healthcare and consumer protection while Russell seeks to reduce wasteful government spending. Russell’s platform is highlighted by the fact that she refuses to accept money from donors or spend money on political ads, running what she calls “strictly a grassroots campaign” on her website.

California’s 24th State Assembly District

In Stanford’s assembly district, professional engineer Alex Glew (R) seeks to unseat incumbent Marc Berman (D). Glew wants to resolve the public employee pension deficit, focus on local state issues and create policies promoting both job creation and public transportation. Berman’s priorities include affordable housing, improving the California Master Plan for Higher Education and improving infrastructure.

Santa Clara County Sheriff

Finally, the sheriff’s race in Santa Clara County is the first election for sheriff to make it to the general ballot in two decades. Incumbent Laurie Smith — whose recent term has been fraught with controversy, including the death of an inmate and the admittance of ICE agents into the county’s jail — faces retired undersheriff John Hirokawa. Both candidates have mentioned prison reform in their campaigns, but Hirokawa seeks to “change the organizational culture from the top down.”

Voting awareness on the farm

Given the number of different candidates and ballot measures up for a vote, groups like SIG and Stanford Women in Politics (SWIP) are helping to educate the college electorate. SWIP has set up a phone number for students to text with questions about their local candidates, as well as for instructions on how to send in absentee ballots.

Several of Stanford’s partisan political organizations are gearing up for the midterms as well. Last week, the Stanford College Republicans released its official endorsements on Facebook. SCR has endorsed almost exclusively Republican candidates, except Tuck for Superintendent of Public Instruction and Steve Poisner, an independent, for Insurance Commissioner. 

In many instances, SCR encouraged each voter to “leave [their] ballot blank” in elections with two Democrats running.

“‘Leave Ballot Blank’ means that we have concluded that both candidates are equivalently unacceptable such that a voter should indeed leave his or her ballot blank,” SCR wrote at the end of its voter guide.

Given its pronounced opposition to candidates “of capitalist parties like the Democrats or the Republicans,” Stanford’s International Socialist Organization took a different approach to the midterms.

“We believe that the only way forward for progressive politics is to build independent organizations that unapologetically fight against the corrupt two-party system in the US that prides ‘bipartisanship’, big-money corporate donors, and compromise with naked racism and sexism over any sort of cohesive political platform,” ISO wrote in an email to The Daily.

Because propositions “occasionally afford ordinary people the opportunity to endorse progressive reforms, or to potentially block harmful legislation,” ISO does encourage voting on some of the California ballot measures, endorsing No on Proposition 5, No on Proposition 11 and Yes on Proposition 10.

The Stanford Democrats are sticking mainly with the endorsements of the California Democratic Party.

“We’ve decided to mainly concur with the California Democratic Party’s slate of endorsements,” Stanford Democrats Gabe Rosen ’19 wrote to the Daily. “However, we would like to point out certain areas of difference: for Senate we endorse Feinstein, for AD 15 we endorse Wicks, for AD 76 we endorse Horvath, for District 4 of the Board of Equalization we endorse Schaefer and we support a Yes on Proposition 3.”


This article has been updated to reflect that Stanford College Republicans endorsed two non-Republicans, Marshall Tuck and Steve Poisner. The Daily regrets this error.

Contact Patrick Monreal at pmonreal ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Patrick Monreal '22 is the forefather of the satire section. He still kind of hangs around meetings and pretends to contribute to news. A native of Fresno, California, he is majoring in Earth Systems on the oceans track and minoring in chemistry. Contact him at pmonreal 'at' stanford.edu.

Login or create an account