first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WITH a poll showing a remarkable number of undecided voters heading into the June 6 primary, California may see a wave of bad decisions as last-minute deciders choose candidates without a clue who they are really voting for. The poll by the Public Policy Institute of California shows a stunning 33 percent of Democratic voters haven’t decided between state Controller Steve Westly and state Treasurer Phil Angelides, who are in a statistical dead heat. Westly blew an April lead by spending too much time trashing Angelides, leaving lots of undecided women who dislike negativity. PPIC survey director Mark Baldassare says indecision in the governor’s primary is not because voters are “uninformed,” but because they are filled with angst. Fair enough, but only in the gubernatorial primary. Voters choosing finalists for attorney general, state controller, treasurer, insurance commissioner and lieutenant governor are not the least bit informed. They’re going to pick somebody because they’ve heard their name. This year, that could bode particularly ill for California. To wit: For the political springboard of lieutenant governor, the better-known candidate is Insurance Commission John Garamendi, with excellent state Sen. Jackie Speier working hard to broaden her ID outside the Bay Area. Perpetual candidate Garamendi is a self-promoter and bumbler. In 2003, while running for governor during the recall, Garamendi launched a carefully timed attack on home insurance companies, conducted “raids” on them and got great press for an “emergency regulation” to stop them from using certain databases to decide which homes to insure. Soon after Garamendi abandoned the governor’s race, his trumped-up claims were tossed out by a Superior Court judge who said Garamendi didn’t even have authority to launch his crass “emergency regulation.” Now Garamendi has crafted another shameless media event, claiming that car insurers tried to “bribe” him to stop proposed regulations that would reduce the use of ZIP codes in setting auto premiums. Garamendi is dissembling. In truth, he was approached by Democratic consultant Darry Sragow whose integrity is unquestioned, unlike Garamendi’s to inform Garamendi that insurers planned to spend $2 million fighting the ZIP-code rule. Had insurers failed to warn Garamendi, he would have called it a stealth attack. More important, Garamendi’s self-serving proposal would raise auto premiums statewide but lower rates in a handful of urban counties jammed with Garamendi voters. Sweet. Can Speier, with her gutsy voice against special interests, overcome Garamendi’s name ID? If she can, at least we’d see a real November race between thinking people Speier and the certain Republican nominee, Sen. Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks. A similar problem is unfolding in the primary for state controller, the official who gives fiscal advice to local governments and helps oversee the nation’s largest public pension fund. If voters blindly choose by name ID, the Democratic nod goes to the obnoxious showboat trial lawyer, Sen. Joe Dunn of Orange County. With an ego that arrives in any room before he does, Dunn takes credit for “cracking” Enron a legislative pile-on that in fact involved dozens of legislators, in which Dunn was lucky enough to hold a choice post. He’s a gridlocker, incapable of working with Republicans, but he faces the lesser-known Democrat John Chiang. Chiang is a tax law expert, whose fiscal abilities unlike Dunn’s have shined in his posts on the Franchise Tax Board and state Board of Equalization. On the Republican side, while former conservative Assemblyman Tony Strickland is capable of working with both parties, his rival, Republican state Sen. Abel Maldonado, would represent more than the conservative wing of the GOP. Maldonado is one of fewer than 10 “moderate” politicians in California’s extremist 120-person Legislature. By now, the GOP should have turned Maldonado into its shooting star, its rising Latino. Instead, because Strickland says all the right things to woo conservatives, the GOP has failed to make Maldonado a household name. That’s a national embarrassment for a party short on diversity. But best of luck to the impressive Maldonado in a race that isn’t over. One other race has a similar tale to tell: Sen. Deborah Bowen of Marina del Rey is the reasonable and smart Democrat for secretary of state. But Sen. Deborah Ortiz of Sacramento, a flamethrower lacking common sense, had an edge with better name ID in early polls. Bowen got her party’s backing a rare good decision by the Democrats. If Bowen wins, voters will have a solid choice between her and the able incumbent, moderate Republican Bruce McPherson. The bottom line is that in these crucial “down ballot” races, indecisive voters have a rotten habit of going with a name they heard someplace. If they don’t pay better attention, California could be harmed for years to come. Jill Stewart is a print, radio and television commentator on California politics. Contact her via her Web site, www.jillstewart.net.last_img read more