|With current controller Steve Westly declaring his intent to run for governor early this year, the position of state controller immediately became one of the most up-for-grabs statewide offices. The field includes three Democrats and two Republicans—with no definitive front-runner. The office has not traditionally been a launching pad to higher state offices, but Westly, who largely self-funded his candidacy in 2002, is trying to change that.|
If Steve Westly ran for reelection, he almost certainly would not have faced any opposition from Democrats in a primary. But when Westly announced his gubernatorial ambitions and Attorney General Bill Lockyer announced that he would seek the office of treasurer instead of governor, down-ticket Democrats began to shuffle around.
Three, Sen. Joe Dunn of Garden Grove, Assemblyman Dario Frommer of Glendale and John Chiang, a member of the Board of Equalization, all left the race for treasurer and relocated to the race for controller.
Perhaps, Lockyer’s $10 million campaign kitty had something to do with it.
In fact, controller is the third statewide office that Sen. Dunn has declared for. Initially, the southern California lawyer declared for attorney general, but well-known former Governor Jerry Brown had him re-declare as a candidate for treasurer. At the time, Lockyer was expected to run for governor. When he didn’t (and instead announced for treasurer), Dunn re-re-declared for controller.
Dunn is termed out of the Senate and looking for an elected office to continue to serve in. Frommer, who is currently a top lieutenant to Speaker Fabian Nunez and is termed out in 2006, still has yet to serve in the Senate.
John Chiang, who serves as chair of the low-profile Board of Equalization, which deal with tax policy, is looking to move to a higher profile office. In a letter to supporters when he announced his candidacy, Chiang wrote, “I have concluded that my financial management and tax policy experience as the chairman of the State Board Equalization and a member of the Franchise Tax Board best suits me to assume the duties of State Controller.”
None of the Democratic candidates have statewide name ID. And less than $200,000 separates the three in terms of campaign funds raised (no candidate has raised $1 million, as of June 30). By almost every account, the primary is wide open.
The race for the Republican nomination is a classic moderate-conservative duel. The moderate candidate is Sen. Abel Maldonado, the only Republican Latino senator, who represents the Central Coast.
Maldonado is currently serving as co-chair of the governor’s efforts to woo Latino voters in the special election. Indeed, on several occasions Maldonado has appeared alongside the governor, most recently in August to announce new water and rest regulations for farm workers. Those appearance are driven, in part, by the fact that Maldonado is the Latino Republican elected to the highest office in the state.
Running against Maldonado is former Assemblyman Tony Strickland, a conservative from Moorpark. He was termed out of office last year; his wife, Audra, replaced him in the Assembly.
Neither candidate has raised much money (Maldonado has just more than $100,000 spread across three accounts, and Strickland is just short of $200,000).
In a down-ticket race that is not likely to stir much media coverage (or campaign contributions) Strickland has the advantage of support among the more conservative grass-roots elements of the Republican Party. That support, historically, has been very important in Republican primaries in this state, where the more conservative candidate the more successful they have been.
Still, Maldonado is likely to try to convince voters that he is a more viable general election candidate, as both a moderate and a Latino.
As with the Democratic primary, this race remains wide open.
Candidate: John Chiang
Current Job: Board of Equalization Member
Cash on Hand: $679,996.99, as of June 30.
Candidate: Joe Dunn
Current Job: State Senator, Garden Grove
Cash on Hand: $ 770,385.95, as of June 30.
Consultants: Richie Ross
Candidate: Dario Frommer
Current Job: Assemblyman (and Majority Leader), Glendale
Cash on Hand: $ 854,192.61, as of June 30.
Candidate: Abel Maldonado
Current Job: State Senator, Santa Maria
Cash on Hand: $101,550.54, as of June 30.
Consultants: Jim Nygren
Candidate: Tony Strickland
Current Job: Former Assemblyman
Cash on Hand: $190,598.38, as of June 30.