Federal offices - Democrats, all the way down. And I'm probably not even going to waste any time explaining this. But with the new jungle primary system, make sure you know which ones the Democrats are. I'm not sure it will be indicated on the ballot. Or there might be two of them! Depending on your district. (Or two Republicans, in which case, I'm sorry...try to make the best of it).
State legislature - Even more Democrats! Have you seen the state of the California Republican Party? They make the national guys look like geniuses.
Propositions - Holy shit there's a lot of them. And interesting ones, too. Ones that maybe actually require some thought, and potential revisions to my "vote no on everything" philosophy. For the record, I think my new rule is to vote no on everything, unless it repeals an earlier proposition, has been placed on the ballot by the legislature, legalizes gay marriage, OR raises taxes...then it merits further consideration. To get into specifics:
Prop 30: Raises taxes! And although it does appear to be an initiative rather than a referendum, it's heavily backed by Jerry Brown, so I think the quality of law writing should be close to what you could expect coming out of the legislature (not a high bar, I know, but one that a lot of initiatives don't meet). It's bad for California to have so much of our revenue dependent on the incomes at the very top, because those incomes are more volatile, but it's even worse to not have any revenue at all. Voting yes.
Prop 31: The hardest one to fit into a convenient metric. It's more serious/wonky sounding than most of the "gee, this sounds like a good idea" initiatives I generally end up voting against, and the SF Chronicle is endorsing it. However, I think I remember not always agreeing with the SF Chronicle endorsements in the past, and this LA Times editorial against it is pretty compelling. So, voting no.
Prop 32: Republican scheme to ban one of their opponents most reliable sources of campaign funding and weaken the influence of unions? Voting no.
Prop 33: Gee this sounds like a good idea...or wait, why exactly do we need an initiative to set rates for car insurance? And how much do you want to bet that higher income people are more likely to maintain continuous car insurance coverage than lower income people, regardless of how safe of drivers they actually are? I actually think I may have gotten screwed by this exact kind of policy (although I'm not sure, because wouldn't the fact that they are trying to pass it now imply that it wasn't the law six years ago?) when I tried to get car insurance for the first time after college. Turns out, nobody believes you that the reason that you didn't have car insurance before was that you weren't actually driving (or were using a car sharing service), so I paid really high rates at first. Seems like this could screw over a lot of people who try to cut costs by going a few months or years without driving a car. So yeah, voting no.
Prop 34: Gee this sounds like a good idea...and it probably actually is. Doesn't fit into a neat little metric, but the Death Penalty is costing the state a whole lot of money for very little benefit, and it's probably wishful thinking that we'll even get politicians who are immune enough to the appeal of being "tough on crime" to abolish it. So finally, maybe something the initiative process is good for. In fact, let's add that to the metric...initiatives that are "weak on crime" merit further consideration due to the distorting influence of electoral politics on these issues in the legislate. I hear there's very little likelihood it will pass though, probably because the same people who those politicians are worried about also vote on initiatives. I'll do my part though. Voting yes.
Prop 35: I'm as against human sex trafficking as the next person, but this is almost the opposite of Prop 34...I see very little reason why it would be difficult for the legislature to address these issues, with a lot more flexibility and less risk of unintended consequences than you get with an initiative. Voting no.
Prop 36: Speaking of unintended consequences...is it too much to hope we might be able to finally do something about the unintended consequences of Three Strikes? Probably. But it's still important to keep trying. Voting yes.
Prop 37: Gee this sounds like a good idea..and that's why I'm voting no. Unintended consequences, inflexibility of the initiative process, sounds like something the legislature would be better equipped to address, rinse was repeat. (This is the labeling GMO products one, by the way).
Prop 39: So what I'm discovering is that maybe I shouldn't even bother writing this and should just post a link to the LA Times endorsements instead, because I seem to almost always agree with them. They make a good case for why this isn't likely to be handled by the legislature (as a tax increase, it needs a two thirds majority to pass, and as out of step with the rest of California as the reactionary element of the California GOP is, they consistently hold onto just over one third of the seats in the legislature) until and why the ballot box budgeting that's included in the measure is an acceptable compromise (only lasts five years). So, voting yes.
Prop 40: Speaking of the reactionary California GOP, they keep trying to change the rules of the game rather than change their platform so that they might actually, you know, appeal to more than a third of California voters. Turns out non-partisan redistricting still isn't enough to negate the fact that California isn't actually a particularly conservative state, so Republicans want to try something else. I see no particular reason why they should get to. Voting yes. (Yeah I know that's confusing, but voting yes actually approves the current districts, voting no means that someone has to come up with new district lines).
Prop 41: Oh wait, there is no Prop 41. Only ten propositions this year...clearly not nearly enough of them.
So my biggest challenge with this election is just figuring out what local stuff is going to be on my ballot, and what district I'm in for things like the school board elections. So, for anyone who's looking for it, here are links to the various maps (which all seem to take forever and a day to load, unfortunately)...
Merced County Board of Supervisors
Merced Irrigation District
Merced Community College District
Merced Union High School District
Merced City Elementary School District
Based on this, I think I only really need to develop an opinion on who I want for the Merced Irrigation District...which is a little daunting, because the main controversy seems to revolve around how many acre feet of water is needed for farming in different parts of the county, which of course I am one of the world's leading experts on. I don't think I want to sit back and just let people with more expertise than I have vote, however, because unfortunately the people who take time to develop expertise are going to be the ones that have financial interests at stake, and that can be a dangerous thing. So, water allotments! There isn't a whole lot of information on the internet to work with, but what I can piece together makes me think I should probably vote for the incumbent, Gino Pedretti. He has the endorsement of a couple of different unions, which isn't an automatic deciding factor for me, but is a positive. Also, the comments in the Merced Sun Star have some useful information, specifically one from someone calling himself "patriotfreedom" who sounds like a guy I'm likely to disagree with on most things. I think I can piece together the point that he's trying to make about the current system being unfair to El Nido (if people would typically use less than four but more than two acre feet of water without a cap, and the rules are that El Nido gets 50% as much water as the rest of the county, a cap at four acre feet negative effects El Nido and no one else), and although there really isn't enough in this article to figure out much about his views, I guess I find it encouraging that he seems to be saying that farmers will have to adjust their planting in response to drought conditions (whether this is controversial, I don't know, but based on the "Congress Created Dustbowl" signs up and down the valley I don't doubt the ability of Central Valley farmers to protest the reality that water is in fact a limited resource.)