Capitol Alert

John Chiang ‘strongly leaning towards running’ for governor

In California’s long, drawn-out race for governor in 2018, there are two ways for a potential candidate to make his or her intentions known.

The first is to do what Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom did a year ago, when he opened a campaign account and began a spate of fundraising more than three years ahead of the election.

The second, more common path, is to tease.

Consider John Chiang.

In August, the state treasurer told the Los Angeles Times he was “contemplating” a run for governor.

Three months later, Chiang was “very interested,” according to Capitol Weekly.

And on Tuesday, at a California Business Roundtable event, Chiang offered this incremental inch forward: “I am strongly leaning towards running.”

When asked what would make up his mind, he said, “I’m almost there.”

In addition to Chiang, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former state Controller Steve Westly are widely expected to compete in a wide-open race to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown. Other potential Democratic candidates include billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

In a cautious critique of the field, Chiang noted seminars he has conducted for small business owners and women, among others, and said, “We do the hard work that makes progress that I think other people aren’t as focused on.”

Chiang acknowledged after the event that “not much has changed” in his assessment of the campaign from last summer. But as a current holder of statewide office, he said he is “focused on doing the work of the Treasurer’s Office.”

Chiang said he has spoken privately with people who have said they will support him if he runs. He declined to identify them.

“I think it’s going to be very crowded,” he said of the number of likely candidates. “I think it’s going to be wide open. It’s going to be very exciting. I think people are going to offer what they have for their vision for the state of California, and I want to put up my vision.”

Newsom, the only candidate to start raising money for the race, has more than $8 million on hand.

Chiang is not without resources, however. He ended 2015 with about $3.3 million left over from his last campaign, money he could carry over.

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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