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I believe in protest voting, at least in the primary.  It's a small way of letting the world know that there are people who, even if they will fall into line in the fall, do want something better.

California's "Top-Two Primary" experiment will make protest voting in the fall impossible.  Only two names will be on the ballot for each race except for President; no write-ins will be allowed.  So, fellow Californians, if you're going to cast a protest vote, it's going to have to be in June!

I'll vote for the re-election of California's Senator Dianne Feinstein in November, even with some misgivings.  (I'll do so even if she's not running against Orly Taitz, for whom some mischevious Democrats who ignore warnings about "playing with fire" are casting their ballots.)  But in June?  I'd like to cast my protest vote, please!

Is there a Democrat worth supporting?  Last night, I decided to find out.  And -- there is!  Join me below the gnocchi for more.

Cross-posted in re-edited form from a story in the Orange Juice Blog.


If I want to "send a message from the Democratic left" in the primaries, is there any Democrat in the U.S. Senate race for whom I -- or for that matter you -- could vote?  Yes, five of them are running -- and as I was contemplating filling out my ballot I realized that I don't know a damn thing about any of them other than that they are Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate. So I begin my journey of exploration yesterday evening.

I have rated the candidates (listed here in their order on the ballot) in a slightly unusual way -- one that does not take into account their likelihood of winning the primary or the November runoff.  This is a protest vote, after all!  Accordingly, I rate them on their ideological attractiveness to progressive Democrats, adjusted for website presentation and coherence, on a scale of 0 to 5, where Dianne Feinstein is a 3.0.

David Alex Levitt, Computer Scientist and Engineer,

Levitt is a biracial (Jewish and West Indian Black) former New Yorker who now lives in Silicon Valley. His self-description page is wordy and interesting, just the way I like it, and so I suggest that you go read it yourself; seriously, if you're a progressive Dem, you won't be sorry. Nice story, well told.

Levitt's campaign is concentrating on three issues:

(1) Rescue our soldiers from Afghanistan --“ where truth tellers like Lt. Col. Dan Davis conclude there is no achievable mission and not one more life should be lost in a war that isn't keeping us safer.

(2) End the prohibition of medical marijuana“ and the ongoing destructive federal raids on California medical dispensaries.

(3) Expand Medicare to all Americans - provide not-for-profit universal single-payer insurance to younger, healthier people at even lower rates - the way most other civilized countries do.

And he's an ACLU member and opposed to CISPA and SOPA. You will surely understand why I give him: 5.0/5

Mike Strimling, Consumer Rights Attorney,

Mike Strimling is running on a platform of taxing the rich, whom he tells us have the lowest tax rates that they've had in 80 years and the lowest for any modern country. If you want to know why we should tax the rich more, and if you like to read a lot of very dense text, you should read Mike Strimling's page.  It tells you a whole lot about taxing the rich. If you vote for Mike Strimling intentionally, rather than by lot or due to his ballot designation, it is a fair bet that you either want to tax the rich or you want other people to think that you do.

What his web page doesn't tell you much of anything about is Mike Strimling. That seems to be intentional. I will quote this much, because I think it gets the point across well:

Your vote will be a simple vote to tax the rich.  You aren't radical - you just want to tax the very rich at the same rates they were taxed from 1918 to 1982.  Then, tax rates on the top 2% of incomes averaged 5 times higher than the rich pay now - and America was strong

What's this candidacy about?  What are our other positions?  You might guess what Mike's positions are on other issues, but we don't want to mix up this vote. The point is to send a very clear message with your vote - to tax the rich.  You don't need to believe anything else to cast this vote. It doesn't commit you on any other issue.  Republicans and Independents are invited to vote to tax the rich, along with Democrats, in this open primary.  Vote your beliefs!  Tell your friends!  Let's turn this ship around

And there you have it! If you want to send a clean an unambiguous message, Mike's your guy. Nice -- but not much of a presentation -- and the "single issue" approach seems sort of cranky. So I'm giving Mike: 4.0/5

Diane Stewart, Businesswoman & Finance Manager, website,

Diane Stewart has worked in finance departments in Silicon Valley for over 20 years and is now a small businesswman. She is running on a platform of "Revitalize Our Schools, Rebuild Our Economy, Restore Our Communities" -- and she starts off with opposition to the "Compromise Tax Initiative" because the money is going to the state's general fund rather than directly to the schools. (She doesn't mention Molly Munger's initiative prominently if at all, but I would presume that she's for it.) She is pro-choice, pro-marriage equality, pro-marijuana decriminalization, and has various criticisms of education policy and various proposals to cut workers' commuting time. Some of these lead to a somewhat diffuse populist critique. Decent positions, but not a great presentation. To be kind, I'll give her: 3.5/5

Nak Shah, Environmental Health Consultant,

Here's what Nak Shah has to say:


Nak Shah is the Candidate that All Americans can trust to make America what All Americans want Let us Restore America Together and make necessary changes so that majority of Americans can be Happy and Prosporus.

Nak Shah beleives in public service and the Government is by the people for the people and in the interest of the people and intends to deliever on that promise when elected as US SENATOR.

Nak Shah will govern based on listening to concerns from all Americans

He beleives if Elected his office will be the Office of ALL AMERICANS and He will make laws that all Americans want so that if brings propority to all Americans

He will Never Stop listening to concerns from any Americans as long as it is in the interest of America.

Pretty general stuff -- and not all that well-written. He's anti-war, but also a bit isolationist. I think that he gets: 3.0/5

Colleen Shea Fernald; Mother, Consultant, and Artist,

The first thing I have to say about Colleen Fernald is that I don't feel like reviewing her at all; on coming to her website (last), I found that she tragically lost her teenage daughter last month. That pretty much makes everything else beside the point.

She's a peace candidate whose political views are a familiar "Occupy" pastiche of progressive, anti-government, somewhat isolationist, anti-two-party system, anti-capitalism and socialism, and sometimes conspiratorial. She's also very anti-illegal immigration. She describes herself as "both pro-choice and pro-life" (abortion legal but unnecessary) and as "omni-partisan." You can read the rest yourself; I'm not going to critique it -- except to say that she clearly has a good heart and a powerful yearning for justice.  And my heart goes out to her at such a terribly trying time. Overall, maybe a little generously, I'll give her: 4.0/5


Who is the best progressive "protest vote" within the Democratic Party? I see three plausible choices as answers to that question, one of which I think is clearly superior.

If you buy the argument that all your protest vote should do is to send a message in favor of increasing taxes on the rich, Mike Strimling appears to be the clearest way to do so.

If you like the passionate mix of issues from peace to victim's rights and beyond -- and if the idea of giving a grieving mother a few votes tugs at your heart -- there's Colleen Fernald.

However, David Levitt -- who also has the advantage of being first on the ballot -- offers a better voting option than anything I expected to find when beginning this project. He has a beautiful website, clearly conceived and presented, and his policy positions are incisive and spot on all the way down the line.  He pushes an intelligent and critical Occupy platform and he does it extremely cogently and well. To me, he is the best protest vote in this election.

You can make a case for putting the albatross of Orly Taitz around the Republican Party's neck -- or you can make a case that we shouldn't want to give her nuttiness that prominence, and Levitt specifically rebuts the "pro-Orly" reasoning on his website -- but for me the issue is settled. I will, without a moment's hesitation, cast my protest vote for him this June -- and if he somehow makes the top-two, I'll vote for him in November and I'd be happy to see him in the Senate. When someone this good comes along, they get my vote, period.

11:04 AM PT: Levitt makes a good argument that he can snag the second spot in the runoff here.  In a Survey USA poll, week of April 1, DiFi had 51%, with 30% undecided.  In second place were Dan Hughes and Elizabeth Emken, tied with 2%!  Then 12, including Levitt, Stewart, and Taitz, have 1% each.  Levitt has the top ballot position -- that itself can be worth a few points!  Sounds crazy -- but it might work!

Originally posted to Doane Spills on Thu May 24, 2012 at 09:52 AM PDT.

Also republished by California politics.

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