Capitol Alert

Swearengin changes ballot designation in California controller’s contest

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the Republican candidate for California controller, has revamped the ballot designation that voters will see in November, changing it from the June primary’s “Mayor, City of Fresno” to “Mayor/CEO.”

“We thought that was a more accurate description,” Swearengin consultant Tim Clark said Thursday of the new designation.

But the campaign of Swearengin’s Democratic opponent, Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, Thursday criticized the “CEO” title and called Fresno’s absence from Swearengin’s designation “a transparent attempt to desert a sinking ship that she has helped steer into the rocks.”

California law gives candidates wide latitude on ballot designations. The titles generally are limited to three words and must reflect candidates’ “current principal professions, vocations, or occupations.” The law also allows candidates to switch titles between elections.

Swearengin became Fresno mayor in 2008. At the monthly luncheon of the Sacramento Press Club last week, Swearengin spent the bulk of her speech highlighting her Fresno tenure of “direct elected executive experience” and what she claims is the city’s rebound from recession. “We’re running on her Fresno experience. Fresno is our running mate,” Clark said Thursday, dismissing the Yee campaign’s criticism.

Of the CEO designation, Clark pointed to Fresno’s City Charter, which reads, “The Mayor shall be the Chief Executive Officer of the City.” Measure L, Sacramento’s strong-mayor ballot measure, includes similar language: “The chief executive officer of the city shall be the mayor.”

But the Yee campaign statement said, “Swearengin has never worked as a CEO in the private sector, which is the clear misimpression she wishes to leave with voters.”

For her part, Yee’s November ballot designation is “California State Board of Equalization member,” the same as it was in June. Her title was “Equalization Board Member” when she ran for re-election in 2010. And in her 2006 campaign, she was “Acting Equalization Boardmember” – thanks to her appointment to serve out the term of former member Carol Migden after Migden’s election to the state Senate.