November 2018 Voter Guide

Max Ghenis
8 min readOct 17, 2018

Between October 9 and November 6, San Franciscans have the opportunity to vote on over 30 citywide and statewide offices and ballot measures. Outcomes of this election will affect taxes, infrastructure, housing, education, healthcare, and governance, to name just a few topics. Voters’ choices will tangibly affect every Californian.

Statewide offices are mostly partisan. Some candidates I recommended in the June primary advanced to the general election, and for these candidates I link to the relevant recommendation. If there’s only one Democrat, I don’t generally write much or any justification, given the state of today’s Republican Party.

San Francisco offices are either nonpartisan or have multiple Democrats running, so my recommendations hinged on issues and experience. As was the case when writing my June guide, the housing shortage continues to affect virtually every issue in San Francisco (as well as the Bay Area and even California). Candidates’ stances on housing therefore carried substantial weight: every elected office down from Supervisor to school board has a say in whether we built enough housing to make our city affordable and inclusive. Transportation was also important to me: I believe reducing private vehicle reliance is critical to San Francisco’s climate and mobility effectiveness goals. When relevant, I weighed other issues like fair taxation and effective governance as well.

These values influenced my votes on ballot measures too, as did other ballot-measure-specific principles I list in that section of the guide.

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This guide is ordered and sectioned according to the ballot’s structure. Depending on where you live some of these will be absent.

Voter-nominated offices


Newsom is the sole Democrat.

Lieutenant Governor: ELENI KOUNALAKIS
Kounalakis places more emphasis on and has more experience dealing with California’s most pressing issue: housing.

Secretary of State: ALEX PADILLA
Padilla is the incumbent and sole Democrat.

Controller: BETTY YEE
Yee is the incumbent and sole Democrat.

Treasurer: FIONA MA
While Ma has downplayed the severity of our pension crisis, she is the sole Democrat.

Attorney General: XAVIER BECERRA
Becerra is the incumbent and sole Democrat.

Insurance Commissioner: RICARDO LARA
While this is a technocratic post that should be appointed rather than elected and neither candidate is ideal, Lara is a qualified Democrat with political experience and interest in single-payer healthcare.

Board of Equalization District 2: MALIA COHEN
Cohen is the sole Democrat (also, California should dissolve the Board of Equalization).


Reelect Feinstein, a liberal leader and pragmatic legislator. Kevin de Leon is a Berniecrat unlikely to be effective in Washington.

U.S. Representative: NANCY PELOSI
Speaker Pelosi is not only the sole Democrat, but one of the most effective legislators of our time, who has led the party through Obamacare and the Resistance alike.


Assembly District 17: DAVID CHIU
Chiu, the incumbent, has fought strongly for housing, especially in recently getting BART the power to build more housing on BART-owned land in his bill AB 2923.

Assembly District 19: PHIL TING
Ting is the incumbent and sole Democrat. He’s also been a huge advocate for CalEITC, California’s match of the Earned Income Tax Credit, one of the best antipoverty tools out there.

Nonpartisan offices


California and District 1 Justices: YES
No judges have exhibited reason to not be reelected.


State Superintendent of Public Instruction: MARSHALL TUCK
Tuck understands the importance of teacher reforms for improving education.

Olivieri and Selby are pro-housing, unlike opponent incumbents John Rizzo and Brigitte Davila who opposed turning a CCSF-owned parking lot into housing.

Board of Education: PHIL KIM, JOHN TRASVIÑA
Kim is a bold pro-housing pro-transit reformer, and Trasviña’s experience as law school dean and HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing can usher in equitable use of school-district-owned land while preparing our kids for higher education.

Community College Board and Board of Education are not ranked-choice races, so while you can select up to three candidates, selecting all three can dilute the chances of those you most prefer.

Ballot measures

Guiding principles:

  1. Vote “no” if the legislature can do it. Ballot measures make government inflexible by requiring more ballot measures to modify them. And with 16 of them on this November’s ballot — many of them complicated — plus another 17 elected offices, voters are less equipped to arrive at optimal choices than legislators and their staff. New taxes and amendments to previous ballot measures must go to the ballot, but when a law can be enacted at the legislature rather than the ballot, it can also be studied and reformed as needed.
    Proposition 10 (No). Propositions 11 and 12 (Yes) could be at least partly legislated, but faced or would face challenges. Proposition 7 (Yes) gives the legislature power over Daylight Savings Time.
  2. Vote “no” on budget set-asides, including state general obligation bonds. For similar reasons to the above, budget set-asides reduce legislators’ ability to reprioritize the budget based on changing circumstances and newly available data. California general obligation bonds are also a form of set-aside, since they must be repaid from the General Fund.
    Propositions 1, 3, 4, C, and E (No) are set-asides. Proposition 2(Yes) loosens an existing set-aside.
  3. Vote “no” on tax cuts and “yes” on taxes, including city general obligation bonds. California and San Francisco have pressing challenges that can often be addressed with additional tax revenue. San Francisco general obligation bonds are funded by property taxes, which are some of the most efficient taxes (land can’t move to avoid the tax, and the real estate boom has made many property owners wealthy).
    Propositions 5 and 6 (No) are tax cuts. Proposition A (Yes) is a tax increase, as are Propositions C and D (No), though they conflict with other principles.
  4. Maximize well-being. Whether mitigating the impacts of climate change, creating opportunity for newcomers, or improving medical care, I support public policy that helps as many people as possible. Sometimes this has costs, such as to homeowners, drivers, or EMTs, but when the benefits outweigh the costs that’s generally my preference. This principle also connects to the other three: in budgeting and other laws, legislators are best equipped to make decisions to maximize well-being, and tax revenue enables governments to invest in programs that help the neediest.
    Touches on many propositions.

For nonpartisan guides, I recommend, a rigorous and fun website, and reports from the California Legislative Analyst and San Francisco Controller.

State propositions

Proposition 1: NO
While this $4 billion general obligation bond would in part fund useful housing programs, it also unnecessarily further subsidizes homeownership and comes at the cost of other General Fund expenditures like education and healthcare.

Proposition 2: YES
Allowing funds for mental illness treatment to be used for housing would help homeless people with mental illness, and loosens a restrictive set-aside.

Proposition 3: NO
This $8.9 billion general obligation bond for water projects comes at the expense of other General Fund uses, adding to June’s $4 billion bond for unaccountable water projects.

Proposition 4: NO
This general obligation bond takes $1.5 billion plus interest from the General Fund for children’s hospitals — including private hospitals — removing important flexibility from the General Fund.

Proposition 5: NO
Allowing seniors to transfer their low property tax assessments to new homes would cost local governments $1 billion per year and expand the disastrously regressive Prop 13 (1978).

Proposition 6: NO
Repealing last year’s gas tax would remove a key tool for reducing carbon emissions and halt critical transportation projects.

Proposition 7: YES
The legislature should have the power to make Daylight Saving year-round if it sees fit.

Proposition 8: NO
This measure to cap dialysis companies’ revenue to 115 percent of some costs doesn’t belong on the ballot: it’s the result of labor unions playing hardball in negotiations, and could put dialysis patients at risk.

Proposition 9 removed from the ballot

Proposition 10: NO
With the power to enact unlimited rent control laws, cities could block housing development when needed most, while also harming newcomers and young people.

Proposition 11: YES
The legislature should have resolved disputes to continue to require EMTs to remain on-call on breaks, but given the life-or-death nature of this problem, voters should pick up the pieces to avoid significant new ambulance costs.

Proposition 12: YES
While it would ideally be legislated, mandating space requirements for farm animals is both humane and pro-environment.

San Francisco

Proposition A: YES
Climate change raises the stakes in rebuilding the Embarcadero seawall, and property taxes are an efficient funding mechanism for the $425 million bond.

Proposition B: NO
This data privacy measure does not belong on the ballot: it could be legislated (and especially should be given its technical nature that could require revisions); is largely nonbinding; and should addressed at the federal level.

Proposition C: NO
While we could use more homelessness funding today, Prop C sets aside $700 million per year in permanent funding (the largest in San Francisco’s budget); we should instead give Mayor Breed a chance to enact her plan and avoid gumming up the legislature’s budgeting in perpetuity.

Proposition D: NO
This severe additional gross receipts tax on the nascent cannabis industry could threaten its viability and push sales back underground.

Proposition E: NO
Indefinitely setting aside $35 million per year from the hotel tax for arts deprives health services and public safety of general funds.

San Francisco officials

BART District 8 Board: JANICE LI
Li is most committed to using BART land for housing over parking.

Assessor-recorder: CARMEN CHU
This position should not be elected, but as long as it is, Chu has been competent in the seat and lacks her opponent’s skepticism for market-rate housing.

Josefowitz championed regional housing development on the BART Board and supports growth in this northern district; Stefani is more skeptical of growth but would avoid electing a Republican to the office.

District 4 Supervisor: TREVOR MCNEIL #1, JESSICA HO #2
McNeil is willing to challenge the Sunset’s historical opposition to density, while Ho would avoid challenger Gordon Mar’s preference for local control over predictable development rules.

District 6 Supervisor: CHRISTINE JOHNSON #1, SONJA TRAUSS #2
Trauss’s YIMBY leadership has changed the national conversation on housing, but Johnson’s similar pro-housing stances, plus support for congestion pricing, enthusiasm for reforming Prop 13, and being the only candidate not to endorse Prop 10, make her the standout.

District 8 Supervisor: RAFAEL MANDELMAN
Mandelman has no serious competition: the only other candidate doesn’t have a campaign website.

District 10 Supervisor: THEO ELLINGTON #1, SHAMANN WALTON #2
Only Ellington is committed to including market-rate housing in this Bayview district’s development plans; Walton’s views are more vague but less dogmatically anti-market-rate than competitor Tony Kelly.



Max Ghenis

Co-founder & CEO of PolicyEngine. Founder & president of the UBI Center. Economist. Alum of UC Berkeley, Google, and MIT. YIMBY. CCLer. Effective altruist.