Adam Gray got an “F” on his report card – or one of them, anyway. That could really mess up the 21st District Assemblyman’s chances of being valedictorian some day.
What makes this rating interesting is that it comes from the far left-leaning People’s Report Card of California, and Gray is a Democrat in a district in which 45 percent of the voters are registered Democrat, 31 percent Republican and 18 percent want no part of either party. He was one of seven Democrats to flunk the group’s courage test – scoring based on his votes on issues they value – and they promise to target in upcoming elections those who don’t study harder and get their grades up to their definition of snuff. The People’s Report Card ratings caught the attention of the Los Angeles Times. Gray wasn’t mentioned specifically in the story, but lead the accompanying chart.
The irony is that he is a leftist to the right, and too far to the center for the extreme left. He can’t win for losing, as they say, except at election time, when he crushed Republican opponent Greg Opinski with nearly 69 percent of the vote.
Sure, the race might have been closer if not for the fact that Opinski is under indictment for bribery in Merced County and didn’t mount a campaign. But if Gray is vulnerable in 2018, it will be because he did that liberal thing by voting for the 12-cents-a-gallon gas tax – not because he wasn’t liberal enough on the things the People’s Report Card used to rate the Assembly members. Those don’t necessarily include issues that are important to Valley residents.
They ranked pols on a clean water bill, but not on regional water planning on the heels of a five-year drought. They dinged him for twice voting “no” on bills to give farm workers overtime, but didn’t throw those votes out when he later voted “yes” for what he deemed a stronger bill that achieved the same on the third try. His “no” votes, including giving voting rights to low-level felons, reflect the opinions of many Valley residents if Letters to the Opinion Pages and comments on social media are a viable gauge.
Report cards from these groups are a way of herding politicians into lockstep with their goals and contributors, and exist on both sides of the political spectrum. You won’t find many or any advocating for across-the-aisle cooperation in this era of extreme division in Washington or Sacramento.
“They look at all the bills and how you voted and what’s important to them,” said State Sen. Anthony Cannella. R-Ceres, who also voted for the gas tax because it will commit the state to invest $500 million in transportation projects in Merced and Stanislaus counties – parts of the state that generally get ignored.
Cannella knows all about the report cards. In 2013, he voted to spend money on a program to get concealed weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill. One group, the Gun Industry Association, rated him an F – the only Republican to flunk its ratings. Yet in 2016, he voted for another gun law and got a “A” grade from the Firearms Policy Coalition, another pro-gun group that ranks politicians from A+ to a low of “TYRANT,” and in all capitals.
“I try to vote the district and common sense,” Cannella said. “One year, I got a 72 percent rating from the NRA.” When someone criticized his high rating from the gun lobby, he replied, “The NRA wouldn’t think 72 percent is that high.”
The range of ratings says plenty, but from partisan standpoints.
Gray last year received a 100 percent rating from the California Federation of Teachers and from the California Clean Money Action; 93 percent from an animal rights group; 83 percent from Drug Policy Forum and 75 percent from the Congress of California Seniors. He also received endorsements from a engineers, peace officers, gun advocates, crime victims, firefighters, healthcare and business groups that span conversative and liberal interests.
On the downside, he got a 13 percent rating from the right-wing Capitol Resource Institute; a 43 percent rating from the Sierra Club; and a 37 percent by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the latter rating given before he voted for the gas tax.
And he failed the 2016 Political Courage Test, according to the People’s Report Card of California.
Some folks in the middle-of-the-road Central Valley would consider that a passing grade.