To make progress, California needs a strong group of statewide officials.
The best choices for down-ballot state offices were clear before the top-two primary in June. No compelling reasons have emerged to change our recommendations, so we stand by them for the Nov. 6 election.
California’s resistance to the Trump administration is largely playing out in courtrooms. As attorney general, Xavier Becerra has been leading that charge and doing it well.
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Becerra has filed some 40 lawsuits against the federal government over environmental policy, immigration and other issues, and just added net neutrality to his list. By taking part in multi-state legal challenges, he is making sure that California’s interests are represented.
Republican Steven Bailey, a retired judge in El Dorado County, would not be the stalwart advocate California requires against Trump’s reckless policies.
Steve Poizner wants to return to the job he held between 2007 and 2011. This time, the former Republican is trying to do so as an independent – and if he wins, that would be a first in California politics.
In his previous stint, he battled health and auto insurance giants on unfair rate hikes while still granting enough profits to keep them in the state. California still needs that balance, especially in health care as Republican attempts to dismantle Obamacare are complicating premiums and costs.
Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara was our second choice in June, and he remains so. His labor-friendly record raises concerns over whether he can be an honest broker between insurers and unions, and his support for single-payer health care without a realistic plan to finance it is worrisome.
This should be a nonpartisan office, so electing an independent would be a good start.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
This is a nonpartisan office, but it’s too bad for California students that this race is now a front in the big-money battle between supporters of charter schools and the public teacher unions that oppose them. That fight, while important, too often distracts from the many other problems facing education.
Tony Thurmond, a Democratic Assemblyman from Richmond, is backed by unions and is too supportive of them on some issues, notably teacher tenure. But he has a long history of championing the poor, disabled and foster children who depend on public education most to give them a real shot at the California Dream.
That experience gives him a slight edge over Marshall Tuck, a Democrat who is closely aligned with the charter reform movement.
Secretary of State
Alex Padilla, the Democrat seeking re-election, has compiled a very strong record. Too rare for politicians these days, the former state senator from Los Angeles focused on carrying out his campaign promises from 2014: to modernize voting equipment, build voter registration and increase turnout. As of Sept. 7, more than three-fourths of eligible Californians were registered, nearly 1.5 million more than in 2014.
He pushed for a new all-mail voting system that is being tested this year in Sacramento and four other counties. Also, Padilla has reacted responsibly to an issue that didn’t really exist in 2014 – Russia’s interference in U.S. elections.
Republican Mark Meuser, an attorney in Walnut Creek, is nowhere near as qualified. Instead, he is pushing fake reports of voter fraud – people using the names of the deceased and undocumented immigrants going from precinct to precinct. For someone who wants to be California’s chief elections officer, that is unacceptable.
Democrat Fiona Ma is the most qualified to protect California’s financial stability, especially since there could be another economic downturn in the next four years.
A certified public accountant, she is a former speaker pro tem of the state Assembly. As a member of the state Board of Equalization, she blew the whistle on its nepotism and accounting problems, leading to its overhaul. She wants to create a banking system for cannabis, which is becoming more important by the day as the legal weed industry grows. She is endorsed by the current treasurer, John Chiang, which counts for a lot.
Republican Greg Conlon, who also ran for treasurer in 2014, is a CPA and former president of the California Public Utilities Commission. But he doesn’t match Ma’s combination of smarts and experience.
Betty Yee, the Democratic incumbent, has done a stellar job as the state’s chief financial officer. She conducted audits of small cities and Central Valley water districts, and pushed to strip power from the Board of Equalization. If re-elected, she has pledged to focus on tax reform and the state’s huge public employee pension funds – both areas that deserve more scrutiny.
There’s no reason to take a risk with a new controller.
Republican Konstantinos Roditis, an Orange County businessman, is campaigning on a massive restructuring of the tax code with what he calls “trickle-up” taxation. It’s a far-fetched plan, and he doesn’t need to be an elected official if he really wants to get it on the 2020 ballot.