Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, Schools Chief Among Statewide Offices up for Grabs in California
Voters will choose California’s next attorney general, lieutenant governor, schools chief and other statewide officeholders on Tuesday. The race for superintendent of public education is shaping up to be an expensive showdown between unions and charter-school advocates. Attorney General Xavier Becerra wants to stay in the job he was appointed to last year. In the contest for secretary of state, the incumbent Democrat Alex Padilla is hoping to hold onto his seat against a GOP challenger. Either candidate running for insurance commissioner will make history with a win.
Here’s a look at the down-ballot races:
Republican Steven Bailey, a former state court judge, hopes to replace Xavier Becerra, who became California’s first Latino attorney general last year after Kamala Harris left for the U.S. Senate.
Becerra wants voters to keep him in the job to continue battling the Trump administration. Formerly a longtime Los Angeles congressman, Becerra regularly makes national headlines challenging the GOP president’s efforts to change environmental and immigration policies.
Bailey calls the focus on Trump policies “a waste of taxpayer resources” and says he would concentrate on fighting crime. Before becoming a judge, Bailey was deputy legislative director of the California Department of Social Services in the 1980s.
Bailey has lagged in fundraising and ethics questions have further complicating his efforts. He has denied allegations he used his judgeship to aid his political campaign, improperly accepted gifts and steered business to a firm where his son worked.
A judicial ethics panel is reviewing the case and a decision is expected after the election.
The contest is a Democrat-on-Democrat matchup after no Republican finished in the top two spots during June’s blanket primary. Eleni Kounalakis, a former diplomat, and Ed Hernandez, a state senator, advanced after raising substantial money to get their names in front of voters as they seek to replace Gavin Newsom, the heavy favorite to be the next governor.
Although the job holds little real power, it’s seen as a launching pad into higher office.
The lieutenant governor serves as a University of California regent, a California State University trustee and as a state lands commissioner overseeing conservation and public access. The lieutenant also acts as governor when the top executive is away.
Both candidates say they want to lower college costs, and both oppose oil drilling off the California coast.
If elected, Kounalakis would be the first woman to hold the position. She emphasizes her background as a developer and former ambassador to Hungary.
Kounalakis vows to stop sexual harassment in workplaces, hold perpetrators accountable, and ensure women receive equal pay for equal work.
Hernandez, chair of the Senate Health Committee, authored a bill increasing transparency around drug pricing last year. It passed over opposition from pharmaceutical companies.
He also had a hand in passing laws to protect access to clean air and water, increase funding for schools and career education programs, and provide one year of free community college.
He says he wants to protect against sexual harassment, hold abusers accountable, and remove offenders from office.
Either Republican-turned-independent Steve Poizner or Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara will break ground for a California statewide office. Poizner, a former insurance commissioner, would be the first independent to win such an election and Lara would be the first openly gay statewide officeholder.
The Department of Insurance enforces insurance laws, licenses and regulates companies and investigates fraud.
Poizner, a wealthy Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur who lost a bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2010, ran as an independent because he said the office should be free of politics.
Lara, who authored a failed bill that would have provided state-run health insurance, said that remains a top priority.
Poizner has said he would focus on making sure homeowners have adequate protection against wildfires and other natural disasters.
Both have promised not to take insurance money, though Lara had to give back money he took from the political action committee of the nation’s largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer.
SECRETARY OF STATE
Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla is seeking re-election against Republican attorney Mark Meuser.
Padilla emphasizes his record of sparring with President Donald Trump and often denounces the president’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in California.
Padilla called on the president to take a tougher stance to avoid having the public’s confidence in fair elections undermined.
“I believe as commander in chief he has an obligation to address it and, frankly, put Putin and any other foreign nation that seeks to undermine our democracy on notice that the actions will not be tolerated,” he said in July.
Padilla also refused to comply with the Trump administration’s requests to provide data on California voters, arguing it was politically motivated.
Meuser is running on a platform of purging voter rolls of people who have moved or died and conducting audits to ensure ineligible people aren’t registered to vote. At the same time he promises to increase the number of voters in the state by making sure residents know the easiest ways to register. He also wants to make it easier for California’s military members to vote while deployed out of state.
Democrat Fiona Ma and Republican Greg Conlon are vying to replace outgoing Treasurer John Chiang.
The treasurer manages the state’s money and sits on the boards of California’s public employee pension funds.
Ma, a State Board of Equalization member and former assemblywoman, says she would make socially responsible investments with the state’s money. She says her experience as a certified public accountant will help keep the state’s fiscal house in order. She touted her experience balancing budgets at the local level and at the state level during the Great Recession, and overseeing the collection of $60 billion in state revenues.
Conlon, also an accountant, challenged Chiang in the last general election. He served on the California Public Utilities Commission as president for two years and commissioner for four. He also was commissioner of the state’s Transportation Commission for two years.
He wants to overhaul public pension programs by starting a new defined-contribution plan for new employees. He promises to eliminate the $800 minimum State Franchise Income Tax to help start-up corporations.
Democrat Betty Yee faces Republican Konstantinos Roditis in her re-election campaign.
The California controller serves as the state’s top accountant and audits various state programs. The controller sits on several state boards and the State Lands Commission.
Roditis says he would advocate cutting government spending and auditing high-speed rail, a project Republicans frequently criticize because of rising costs.
Yee says she has promoted tax policies that are equitable for vulnerable populations, including people living in poverty and LGBT people.
SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION+
Assemblyman Tony Thurmond and former Los Angeles schools executive Marshall Tuck are vying to be the state’s top public education official.
The race has become a proxy battle in a larger fight over how best to improve California schools. On one side of the debate are powerful teachers unions, which back Thurmond. On the other side are wealthy charter-school and education-reform proponents, which support Tuck.
Thurmond has stressed opposing the Trump administration’s agenda, including proposals to transfer money from traditional public schools to charters.
Tuck has emphasized giving families a choice in the schools their children attend, including nonprofit charter schools. His donors include charter school advocates such as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Tuck ran for the seat unsuccessfully in 2014. Incumbent Tom Torlakson beat him with union backing.
Tuck and Thurmond both want to spend more on public schools and ban for-profit charter schools.
Thurmond and Tuck are Democrats, but the race is nonpartisan and their party affiliation won’t appear on the ballot.