Oakland resident Laura Wells kicks off gubernatorial bid
on February 3, 2010
Laura Wells, a candidate for the Green Party’s nomination in California’s gubernatorial race, kicked off her election campaign in Oakland on Monday. More than 100 supporters gathered at La Estrellita restaurant near Oakland’s downtown and placed their hope in the 62-year-old former financial and business analyst to bring changes to the bankrupt state.
It was a night of celebration for Wells, but the decoration of Well’s campaign party seemed less than festive. There were no colorful balloons or flags, only a “Laura Wells for Governor” banner hanging on the wall of the stage where the candidate would later make a speech. Wells was in a plain black suit with her hair immaculately groomed, busily circling the restaurant and introducing herself to people nibbling on chips and light snacks, including a hardcore Green Party member who had colored his mustache green.
This year was actually supposed to mark Wells’ third bid for the position of State Controller, she said. Wells gained 420,000 votes in the 2002 election, more than any other Green Party candidate has earned in a partisan statewide race. But this year, she said she decided to run for governor because the governor gets to decide more than a state controller. “I thought I would follow the money, but I decided to fix the money,” Wells said.
An Oakland resident for more than thirty years, Wells’ platform covers everything from the economy to education, health care, energy and climate policy. But her biggest focus is on making changes to Proposition 13. According to Wells, the root of California’s misery lies in the anti-tax measure, which passed in 1978 when property taxes skyrocketed because of significant land appreciation. This is a problem, Wells says, because Proposition 13 made it hard to raise taxes today by requiring a 2/3 vote of the Californian legislature to approve them. It only requires a simple majority to lower them.
The current tax system, Wells says, is a burden on middle- and lower-income households. Sales tax was raised to almost ten percent last year. As for income tax, Wells says, the wealthiest five percent of the state’s residents pay 7 cents for every dollar they earn while the poorest twenty percent pay 12 cents for every dollar they make. Wells wants to reform Proposition 13 to make it easier for the state to raise money for education and other needs. “If we keep the good part of Proposition 13 and fix the bad part, we should have enough revenue for education,” Wells says.
She is also against issuing bonds. She says it is like saying, “We want it, but we don’t want to pay for it, so let’s put it on credit, and have our children and grandchildren pay.”
On the health care front, Wells is a strong supporter of a single-payer system, which she believes will insure all Californians and push down the cost of treatment. She says over 20 percent of California residents are currently uninsured and everybody should have affordable medical care. As a governor, Wells promised that she would sign SB 840, the single-payer system bill, which Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed.
When it comes to clean energy, Wells opposes nuclear fusion power and carbon sequestration. She prefers localized electricity generation. She argues that renewable sources such as solar or wind will allow people in the community to control energy production and eventually lower its cost, without being dependent on big energy corporations.
Her supporters expect that Wells’ gubernatorial bid may attract supporters among those fed up with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s handling of state politics or those who feel that President Barack Obama has shifted to the political center. They also hope her bid will bring attention to Proposition 13, which neither Republican nor Democratic candidates have been willing to talk about reforming. “Laura put out some positive real hopes, not ‘hope’ in quotes,” said Green Party member and Fairfax town vice mayor Larry Bragman, during a speech at the kick-off party.
Some see this election as a good time for the Green Party. Last week the Supreme Court threw out regulations that prohibited corporations from buying campaign commercials that explicitly advocate the election or defeat of candidates. “The Green Party does not take any corporate funding. Once people realize how significant it is, they might listen to us more closely,” said Woody Hastings, Sonoma County resident, who owns a green business.
Tim Laidman, a member of the Green Party County Council in Contra Costa County, agreed, saying that people were disappointed that the Obama administration bailed out big banks. “Our small-business-oriented mission would appeal to both traditional and liberal people now,” said Laidman.
Statewide, there are currently 33 elected officials who belong to the Green Party, including the mayor of Richmond, Gayle McLaughlin.
Wells is less well-known than other gubernatorial candidates including former Oakland Mayor and state governor Jerry Brown, who is also the incumbent Attorney General, or Meg Whitman, former Chief Executive Officer of eBay, who is running for the Republican Party. But Wells does not seem intimated or overconfident. Wells says a political campaign is about talking to people with respect. “We might not know everything, but people do understand if we explain. I would really like to make people understand how fixing Proposition 13 can make a difference,” said Wells.
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