Editorial: Ann Ravel for California Senate District 15

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This article was originally published by The San Francisco Chronicle.

One of California’s most competitive state Senate races, in the heart of Silicon Valley, features two experienced, savvy public servants. Either Dave Cortese, a Santa Clara County supervisor, or Ann Ravel, a former Obama appointee to the Federal Election Commission, has the seasoning and policy chops to represent this dynamic district in the State Capitol.

But this is not a close call. Ravel is exactly the type of thoughtful, bold and truth-telling independent Democrat that District 15 deserves — and is solely lacking overall in Sacramento.

The difference between the two could not be more apparent in our editorial board interviews with the two candidates. Cortese was solid, if predictable, on both the issues and his philosophy of governing. He checks all the position boxes for a Democratic candidate, and it is no surprise that he has assorted establishment endorsements.

It is no disrespect to Cortese that he comes up second in this race.

However, Ravel has shown her willingness to blow up boxes. We have seen it in her performance as a campaign-finance warrior as chair of the state Fair Political Practices Commission (appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown) and then as the accept-no-dysfunction vocal contrarian on the deadlocked Federal Election Commission. At the Fair Political Practices Commission, she administered the state’s biggest campaign fine, $1 million, after a relentless investigation to reveal the dark money from the conservative Koch brothers behind the 2012 campaign against a temporary tax increase (Prop. 30) and restrictions on union dues for political purposes (Prop. 32).

It was no surprise that President Barack Obama tapped Ravel to become a deputy assistant attorney general, where her portfolio included going after Big Pharma for price gouging and then holding Big Oil accountable for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, before ultimately placing her on the election commission. She resigned from the election commission shortly after President Trump took office, but has been a national spokesperson about the cost to public policy of its toothlessness when Don McGahn (yes, that Don McGahn, later Trump’s White House counsel) was chairman.

Cortese has deep roots in the district (school board, San Jose City Council), and so does Ravel. She was Santa Clara’s county counsel for 11 years, where she used her authority to take on Big Tobacco and manufacturers of lead paint.

Fearless is a word that keeps coming up in characterizing Ravel’s professional life.

It was evident in our editorial board interview in which she brought up her disagreement with us on Proposition 15, which would change the landmark Proposition 13 of 1978 to tax commercial property at market value. Her critique was detailed and grounded in the reality facing small businesses within her district. She also pointed to the costly burden it would impose on county assessors.

We may not agree with Ravel on that issue, but we appreciate the diligence she applies to issues. Her proposals for incentivizing housing included an area that many of her fellow Democrats are loath to touch: the abuses of the California Environmental Quality Act with lawsuits to stop development on motives that have nothing to do with protecting natural resources. She even had a reasonable solution: a system comparable to equal-employment complaints in which the challenges would be reviewed for their validity before advancing to court.

Her analysis of AB5, which severely restricted the ability of businesses to use independent contractors, also reflected a real-world sensibility that is too often lacking among doctrinaire politicians. She said the 2019 bill had “good purpose’’ — guaranteeing benefits to workers — but the practical concerns were abundant. As of the end of the recent session, the Legislature had granted more than 100 exemptions. Sacramento needs more independent thinkers on the front end of measures with such wide-ranging impacts, especially in Silicon Valley.

In a race this intense, it’s probably inevitable that Ravel would be subject to a smear campaign about her position on Prop. 16, which would restore affirmative action by repealing Prop. 209 of 1996. She has made it plain that she was “a beneficiary of affirmative action” when hired by the county years ago and her website had long supported the legislation to put Prop. 16 on the ballot. An out-of-context clip from her meeting at a No on 16 event in July has been exploited by Cortese supporters. To be clear: Ravel supports Prop. 16.

“Dirty politics at its best,” she said of the smear.

Ann Ravel knows all about dirty politics. She is not intimidated by it, and has shown her willingness to fight for the public interest. Californians would be well served if more women of her caliber and mettle ran for office.

She gets our endorsement in the Nov. 3 election.

This commentary is from The Chronicle’s editorial board. 

CONTACT THE CAMPAIGN

EMAIL : [email protected]
PHONE : (408) 459-9076

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