Exclusive: Local Government Election Results in California Highly Relevant to Labor Issues

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California’s primary election night was overshadowed by the support from Wisconsin voters for state elected officials who implemented a modest reform of collective bargaining for public employees. But here is an exclusive report on how the June 5, 2012 election also brought good results for advocates of fiscal responsibility and economic and personal freedom in California.

Some might say that voters are being hoodwinked by FOX News, conservative talk radio, and the Dayton Public Policy Institute. To me, it’s clear that a majority of Californians do not see tax increases, more government spending, and expanded government programs as the solution to the state’s economic struggles.


Similar to what’s taking place in numerous states throughout the country, voters in the San Diego region are actively responding to a challenging economy by calling for smaller and more efficient government. I will elaborate in a future post about the ten years of behind-the-scenes tedious work that led to this development in San Diego County, but for now I’ll outline the good news.

I’ve already posted on the easy 58% victory in the City of San Diego for Proposition A, which enacts a Fair and Open Competition ordinance prohibiting the city from requiring construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on taxpayer-funded construction. I also reported already on the 57% victory in the City of El Cajon for Proposition D, a new charter that includes a Fair and Open Competition provision and also gives the city authority to establish its own government-mandated construction wage rates (prevailing wages) for city projects. (Boy, unions hate it when local governments take power away from the state!)

There will be a heated campaign up to November 5 for San Diego Mayor. Advocate of economic freedom (and San Diego City Councilman) Carl DeMaio will face leftist Congressman Bob Filner. This election will feature a passionate debate over the benefits of capitalism versus socialism! If DeMaio is elected as Mayor, there will be a dramatic change in political culture in the City of San Diego. I will write more about DeMaio in a future post.

(See Filner’s letter here telling the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce to oppose Proposition G in part because it would be a “fool’s errand” to seek federal funding for the city if Proposition G passed. It did pass, and somehow the federal money continues to be piped in, as shown by evidence of continued federal grants to the city’s Capital Improvement Program here.)

Also, Councilman DeMaio’s Proposition B to reform public employee pensions in the City of San Diego won with 66% of the vote. And this was not the only successful urban public employee pension reform measure to win voter approval in California on June 5: Mayor Chuck Reed’s Measure B to reform public employee pensions in the City of San Jose (a much more liberal city than San Diego) passed with 70% of the vote. Apparently Californians are a lot like people in Wisconsin: they understand that future economic growth and job creation cannot be anchored on excessive government payouts obtained by public employee unions through politically-manipulated collective bargaining.

Also in the City of San Diego, Scott Sherman won a city council seat. He supports economic freedom and fiscal responsibility. Ray Ellis – also an advocate of economic freedom – will face Sherri Lightner in November for another city council seat.


Even in much more liberal Northern California, there was good news beyond the win for public employee pension reform in the City of San Jose.

In Placer County, construction unions flushed $30,000 down the toilet in funding 92% of the campaign of Pam Tobin, who challenged incumbent Kirk Uhler for a seat on the Placer County Board of Supervisors but lost, 60% to 40%. I was at the Uhler election night victory party in Granite Bay and was pleased to see the result. See my exclusive investigative report revealing and analyzing the union sources of Tobin’s campaign contributions here.

But Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery won re-election. She voted in 2010 against the currently-in-effect Fair and Open Competition policy banning Project Labor Agreements on county construction projects.

Elsewhere in Placer County, 65% voters in the City of Auburn rejected Measure A, a proposed charter that would have given authority to the city to establish its own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (prevailing wages) on city projects.

In an earlier post I compared the City of Auburn’s charter campaign to the charter campaign of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes (in Los Angeles County) in 2011. In both cases, large and politically sophisticated construction unions used their well-funded labor-management cooperation committees, political action committees, and general budgets to steamroll over a home-grown local grassroots movement.

ADVICE to CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS and CITY STAFF seeking a CHARTER: contact Labor Issues Solutions, LLC for a free consultation and some honest assessments of what it takes to win against aggressive self-interested union opposition. You’re fighting a political machine, as city council members and community activists have recently learned through experience in Rancho Palos Verdes, Auburn, Redding, Paradise, South Lake Tahoe, Folsom, and Elk Grove. You CAN win like Oceanside did in 2010 and El Cajon just did on June 5, 2012 (see below).

There was a gratifying victory in Contra Costa County, where Danville Mayor Candace Andersen won 60% of the vote and easily defeated Contra Costa Community College District Governing Board member Tomi Van De Brooke for the open seat held by the late Supervisor Gayle Uilkema. Van De Brooke only received 28% despite receiving the “benefit” of nasty union-funded mailers about abortion sent to district voters. This is yet another case in which Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) in California made a politician accountable to the voters for supporting costly union-backed policies in order to lock up union campaign support. Regrettably, the Project Labor Agreement imposed by Van De Brooke in December 2011 for community college district construction projects will remain as a legacy of this election.

In Sonoma County, there will be a clash between two ideologically opposite members of the Santa Rosa City Council for an open seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. The candidate for economic freedom, John Sawyer, will face off against pro-union candidate Susan Gorin.

In Solano County, pro-union challenger Skip Thomson defeated Mike Reagan, the one solid advocate for economic freedom on the Solano County Board of Supervisors. Reagan barely held onto the seat against Thomson four years ago. The Project Labor Agreement policy for Solano County construction projects will continue, now without an opposing view on the board.

In Yolo County, incumbent Duane Chamberlain survived a challenge from union-backed Woodland Mayor Art Pimentel for a seat on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.

Voters rejected Measure J, a $59.5 million school bond measure to modernize a high school in the City of Antioch. That was a whopping target for a Project Labor Agreement, as shown by the construction union funding of the campaign to support Measure J.

Disappointing results were seen in the elections for Sacramento City Council, where candidates backed by business groups lost, as usual. The Sacramento City Council continues to be dominated by politicians lukewarm toward economic growth. I believe this results in part from voter distrust of candidates funded by housing tract developers, and NOT because voters love unions. In fact, I think union connections would be a liability for incumbents if campaigns chose to focus on them aggressively.


Voters in the City of Yreka (near the Oregon border on I-5) voted 720-650 to approve possession of up to six backyard hens (no roosters) in residential areas of the city. As Yreka City Councilman Bryan Foster said to KDRV News Channel 12 (ABC) in Medford, Oregon: “The chicken issue, for me, it centers around private property rights and really, government interference.” Isn’t it refreshing to hear that kind of statement from a California elected official, even when it’s broadcast from an Oregon TV station? See my earlier post on this hotly-contested issue here.


  1. KOREN Communications says:

    Another stellar report Mr. Dayton. Thank you for producing it. We’ll be broadcasting a link to it to our inquiring clients.

  2. Perry Valantine says:

    Your conclusions about union influence are confusing. In some cases, you attribute the defeat of charter initiatives to union opposition. Yet, in other cases, you say they passed in spite of union opposition. Same with candidates: they either succeeded (or were defeated) because of — or in spite of — union support.

    It makes me wonder if union support or opposition was really the cause of any of these results. Could it be that voters just voted for what they believed, without regard to what the unions thought? Maybe the unions aren’t as powerful and fearful as you make them out to be. Maybe, after all, they aren’t the cause of all the nation’s ills. It’s nice to have a handy scapegoat, though, isn’t it?

    • Kevin Dayton says:

      Mr. Valantine:

      Thank you for reading my post and submitting your comments. I’ll respond to them because of your credibility as a leader in Costa Mesans for Responsible Government (http://www.cm4rg.org). Let me clarify my post.

      Regarding the defeat of the two proposed charters in the City of Auburn and the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, unions opposed to the charters spent far more than the supporters of the charters. The union-backed mailers stirred up controversy in these towns, bringing up questions about whether or not the city councils in Auburn and Rancho Palos Verdes would begin acting like the city council in Bell if they obtained additional local authority for governance. The supporters of these charters weren’t effective in advancing their side of the message. Strategically, I think the unions are right on target with their campaign messaging – they were able to keep the focus on something besides union political power. There’s no way that a local home-grown operation is going to overcome this kind of campaign. As an opponent of the proposed Costa Mesa charter, you’re probably aware of this strategy.

      In the two populous cities where charters recently passed (Oceanside, El Cajon), unions did not have the spending advantage in getting out their message. Voters were persuaded by arguments concerning local control and fiscal control.

      All of these cities would probably be considered to have a center-right leaning voting population. Perhaps there is a more fundamental cultural difference between the San Diego County cities and the cities in suburban Los Angeles and Sacramento counties, but I think it’s reasonable to assert that a majority of voters there aren’t naturally inclined to support government policies pushed by labor unions. The defeats in Auburn and Rancho Palos Verdes were the result of union-funded mailers that deflected the arguments concerning the charter to unrelated and generally unfair assertions of potential future corruption. Some of those union-funded mailers connecting Bell to the proposed charters contained outright falsehoods or went right to the edge of falsehood.

      Regarding the candidates, truly the union campaign in support of Tomi Van De Brooke for county supervisor in Contra Costa was a miserable failure. Notice the unions did not focus on their issues when reaching out to voters in this district and in the Roseville/Granite Bay county supervisor district in Placer. The union mailers in support of Pam Tobin in Placer County did not mention the key labor union issues at all.

      I noted in my post that the results of Sacramento City Council races did NOT seem to be related to union issues. Ironically considering it’s Sacramento, the political consultants and candidates there seem to have trouble finding an issue that moves ordinary voters or clearly defines candidates.

      Regarding union political power, in California unions have money, know-how, infrastructure, and volunteers to help with campaigns in a state where ordinary people don’t have much involvement with local politics. Unions are a valuable and formidable asset to campaigns, and that’s why most Democrats (and a few Republicans) in the state seek them out for campaign support. With that campaign support comes certain pledges that perhaps are unwise. I have no qualms about pointing that out in public forums – may we Americans always be diligent to protect our rights to speak on government matters.

      Are unions a handy scapegoat for the economic woes of the State of California and local governments? I don’t want to lump all unions together. Some public employee unions are flexible and understand that tough times require tough decisions. Cities such as Folsom, for example, seem to be maintaining a cooperative relationship between the city and its public employee unions. Others will never compromise and firmly believe the only problem is that people aren’t giving enough of their money to the government. I have not analyzed the high-profile Costa Mesa situation, and I wouldn’t want to make a judgment until I looked at the actual documents (as opposed to relying on newspaper articles).

      Regarding construction trade unions, they have a necessary place as a check and balance against the human tendency to greed and selfishness. That doesn’t mean the government should give them monopoly control of work, though. And truly, the calculation of “prevailing wage” in this state is a dishonest sham.

      Also, I would include unions as just one of numerous causes of our problems; in fact there is probably not one American who isn’t responsible in some way for them. We are all selfish at heart, and isn’t it great that we can get away with demanding everything for “free” and living off debt? In the old days, you would have paid for a newspaper in order to read this commentary. Now, it’s free, and I have to figure out how to pay for production and subsistence.

      Look at my posts on Capital Appreciation Bonds – it’s an utter shame that these banks are taking advantage of school board members who mainly seek office because they want kids to do better in school. No one know about this issue, no one understands it, and no one will make any money by trying to stop it.