Once again, GOP candidates are underdogs in almost every statewide race–and
once again, Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to be the exception to the rule.
After an embattled fall that saw him humiliated in the special election, the
incumbent governor has had the luxury of sitting back and watching his two
lesser-known rivals beat up on each other.
The race for the Democratic nomination has resembled a high-stakes poker
game. Controller and eBay millionaire Steve Westly anted-up with $22 million
of his own money to become an instant player. He pulled ahead in the polls
when Treasurer Phil Angelides went dark for three weeks in April to save
money. Then Angelides business benefactor Angelo Tsakopoulos raised $5
million with an independent-expenditure committee. Westly called the bet
with $5 million more of his own money, then raised it another $5 million on
Not only has Schwarzenegger been able to sit by as the Democrats spent money
attacking each other, he’s also had the luxury of watching that race go
negative. After months of pledging to run a clean campaign, during two
televised debates Westly was quickly drawn into a mudslinging contest with
Angelides, a noted political pugilist. Recent weeks have seen Angelides
portray Westly as a “weakling” who has repeatedly capitulated to
Schwarzenegger. Westly, in turn, has jumped all over Angelides political
connections with Tsakopoulos and others.
The issues? Angelides has staked a clear role as the traditional Democrat in
the race, calling for higher tax rates for rich Californians who have a
received a windfall from President George W. Bush’s repeated rounds of
upper-class tax cuts. Schwarzenneger has tried to race to the middle after
last fall’s embarrassment. He’s been seemingly in favor of everything
lately, touting both his giant infrastructure-bond package and the state’s
recent improved fiscal health.
Westly, meanwhile, largely has failed to capitalize on his recent momentum
with many specific policy proposals. His proposal to improve revenues by
decreasing lottery payouts failed to generate much traction. The last few
weeks have seen Angelides back on the air and back in a virtual tie.
Angelides also got a bump when he picked up the party endorsement at the
state convention in April.
Things could change after June 6, when the Democratic nominee is decided and
the party presumably unites behind him. There is no question that
California’s dominant party wants to get rid of Schwarzenegger, who has
vetoed legislation around several favorite party causes, from gay marriage
to the minimum wage. While it seems unlikely that a Republican will take any
other statewide race, Schwarzenegger’s celebrity does not seem to have been
diminished by the last three years in the public eye. Angelides or Westly
will be faced with overcoming that name recognition with a depleted campaign
account after what already has proven to be an exhausting primary race.
California’s lieutenant governorship has not traditionally been a
high-profile role. But whoever takes over the post from Democrat Cruz
Bustamante next January will have an opportunity to be active in some of the
states most controversial political issues.
For instance, the lieutenant governor sits on the University of California
Board of Regents and could take on the compensation scandals that have
wracked the upper echelons of the system in recent years. They also will be
able to have a say on fixing the state’s aging levees, as a member of the
California’s Emergency Council. Then there’s the giant infrastructure-bond
package, whose direction the lieutenant governor could help influence as
chair of the Governor’s Commission on Building for the 21st century.
But, many say, the office is whatever you make it–and the top candidates all
have big plans. Republicans have united around Sen. Tom McClintock,
R-Thousand Oaks. In contrast to the scrum of Democrats running for both
governor and lieutenant governor, McClintock and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
have presented themselves as a unified Republican ticket. McClintock is
known for being staunchly conservative, and this reputation helped
Schwarzenegger stare down a threatened right-wing revolt at the state
convention in March.
On the Democratic side there are three major candidates: Insurance
Commissioner John Garamendi, and senators Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, and
Liz Figueroa, D-Sunol. Running one-two in the polls, Garamendi and Speier
having been taking shots at each other. They largely have ignored Figueroa,
who has touted her role as an immigrant and has kept fighting with a new ad
campaign. While she trailed Garamendi in the last Field Poll, taken in
March, Speier is the leader in fund raising. Both she and Garamendi have
touted plans to reform the state’s higher-education system.
The strangest moment so far in the campaign probably came last week, when
Garamendi accused automobile insurers of “coercion, extortion and blackmail”
for launching a $2.4 million campaign attacking changes to car-insurance
regulations. Insurers denied the charges.
The Republican primary to be the state’s next attorney general has been a
breeze for Sen. Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno, who faces no real opposition.
But on the Democratic side of the aisle, the pitched battle to be the
state’s next top cop has been the most bitter of the down-ticket statewide
Democratic primaries, making the Democratic races for state controller and
secretary of state seem downright cordial.
The race pits Jerry Brown, 68, the current mayor of Oakland, former
secretary of state, governor and presidential candidate, against Rocky
Delgadillo, the city attorney of Los Angeles.
Polls have show Delgadillo trailing Brown by as much as 41 points, according
to an April Field Poll, and the Delgadillo camp has responded with an
The campaign’s first ad highlighted what they say has been Brown’s wavering
stance on abortion. Delgadillo said he and Brown are “miles apart” on a
woman’s right to choose and accused Brown of calling abortion “killing” and
helping “a violent anti-abortion activist get out of prison,” citing events
and an interview in 1988. But the Brown campaign says that the Oakland mayor
remains committed to abortion rights.
Delgadillo has amassed the resources to at least put his political spots on
the air, though the abortion spot received little money. He has raised more
than $3.7 million in total, and had $2.6 million cash on hand as of March
17. Delgadillo will need every penny to raise his visibility, which was 27
percent last November, as high as Brown’s, which was an even 70 percent in
the same Field Poll. Brown had $4.2 million cash on hand as of March 17.
Delgadillo’s latest wave of ads attack Brown’s record on crime as mayor of
Oakland, long one of the state’s most crime-ridden cities. The ad blames
this year’s spate of homicides–49 already–on budget cuts Brown made in 2003
to the city’s public-safety budget.
With a first name like Rocky (his given name is Rockard, though Rocky is the
name on the ballot), Delgadillo has said that he relishes the underdog role.
In his first campaign for city attorney, which he has cited repeatedly in
interviews, Delgadillo says he trailed his opponent by more 30 points going
into Election Day, but still pulled off an upset.
But, in a pithy press release, the Brown campaign has offered Delgadillo “a
calculator to help him with election math,” saying the last poll showed
Delgadillo down by only nine points.
Brown, buoyed by a 40-point lead, remains the favorite in the race to face
Poochigian in the fall. Po
ochigian himself has surprised some Capitol
insiders by quietly amassing a substantial campaign chest, with $2.7 million
cash on hand as of March 17. Pierre-Richard Prosper, a war-crimes prosecutor
under President Bush, briefly flirted with making a run at Poochigian, but
dropped out before the filing deadline.
The state controller’s race features something not seen in most statewide
races this year: real contests in both major-party primaries.
The Republican side pits former Assemblyman Tony Strickland former Senator
Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria. Strickland is the ideological favorite of
party stalwarts. A founding member of the conservative Club for Growth, he’s
running on an anti-tax message, and favors repealing the state gas tax.
Maldonado has lambasted Strickland for reports that he and his wife,
Assembly member Audra Strickland, R-Moorpark, have paid each other
consulting fees for working on their campaigns. Strickland, meanwhile, has
said Maldonado is not conservative enough.
The race also features three lesser-known Republican candidates: Bret R.
Davis, David Harris and Jim Stieringer. Strickland currently holds a slight
lead in the polls. But most voters of both parties remain undecided in this
down-ticket race, and neither party has endorsed a candidate.
The two Democrats–Board of Equalization (BOE) member John Chiang and Sen.
Joseph Dunn, D-Santa Ana–have been running a friendlier race. Chiang has a
reputation as a whip-smart policy wonk. At the BOE, he has pushed the agency
to help foster financial education for California’s citizens.
Dunn, meanwhile, has been touting his leadership during California’s energy
crisis in 2001. His campaign bills him as, “The man who cracked Enron”–a
title bestowed on him by California Lawyer Magazine–for hearings he held the
on the energy trader and other companies that allegedly manipulated energy
markets. The pair are running neck and neck in polls.
The state controller influences fiscal matters via their role as a board
member of the Franchise Tax Board and BOE, as well as their ability to call
The winner of the wide-open Republican primary for state treasurer will face
Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who, in the term limits shuffle, is hoping to
move from his post as the state’s top cop to its financial bookkeeper.
Lockyer, a former Senate leader, faces no opposition in the June primary.
The Republican primary pits Board of Equalization (BOE) member Claude
Parrish of Palos Verdes against Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Northridge.
Neither candidate is particularly well known. An April Field Poll showed
Parrish with a slight 3-point lead over Richman, though more than 70 percent
of the Republican-primary electorate remained undecided.
And the chances for both of winning the GOP nomination increased markedly
with the announcement last fall that Republican businessman Bill Simon, the
party’s 2002 gubernatorial nominee, and his $1 million campaign account were
leaving the race. At the time, Simon wrote to supporters that the decision
was “not a political decision, but a personal one.” Simon had been the
prohibitive favorite to win the nomination.
As a member of the obscure BOE, Parrish, 58, has represented one-fourth of
the state’s population for the last eight years. In that post he touts some
small successes, such as cutting taxes on certain auto repairs, herbal tea
and, as treasurer, says he would have California firms underwrite the
In Sacramento, Richman, who was elected to the Assembly in 2000, has been
known as one of the few legislators–of either party–willing to work across
party lines. A moderate Republican, Richman joined forces with fellow
moderate Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla, D-Pittsburg, in proposing a California
“Citizens Assembly,” where average voters could have more involvement with
Richman’s moderate reputation, however, may not serve him well in what has
traditionally been a fairly conservative statewide Republican primary. But
Richman’s signature effort in the Legislature is popular with the GOP
faithful: shifting the state’s public-pension system away from “defined
benefit” to a “defined contribution” system. A version of Richman’s proposal
was part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s original special-election reform
package, though it was scuttled early in the year.
The pension system is at the center of responsibilities of the state
treasurer, who sits on both the CalPERS board and CalSTRS board, two of the
largest investment funds in the country.
For the primary, Richman has outraised Parrish nearly two-to-one, raising
almost $1 million in total to Parrish’s $400,000, though Richman has spent
much more as well. As of March 17, both candidates had less than $200,000
cash on hand.
Whoever wins the primary will face the war chest of Lockyer, totaling some
$10 million, who was long expected to run for governor but instead brought
his bulging campaign account to this down ticket office.
The office of insurance commissioner, first created as an elected post in
1988 by Proposition 103, is one of the more powerful of California’s
down-ticket statewide offices. The commissioner has the power to regulate
the insurance rates in the state and to adjust the insurance industries’
But this June’s primaries offer little in the way of competition. The
all-but-certain Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, faces only
token opposition from Southern California businessman John Kraft, who ran
unsuccessfully for the same office in 1994.
The likely Republican nominee is Steve Poizner, a multi-millionaire from the
Silicon Valley whose wealth scared away two other conservative challengers,
Dr. Phil Kurzner and Gary Mendoza, the GOP nominee in 2002.
Poizner already has pumped just shy of $3 million into his candidacy. The
self-funding Poizner has vowed not to accept any money from the insurance
But Poizner faces the uphill battle of running against a better-known
opponent. A November Field Poll showed that 73 percent of Californians knew
Bustamante, though only 35 rated him favorably. Only Gov. Schwarzenegger was
known to more voters–with Bustamante outpolling former-Gov. Jerry Brown as
well as actors Warren Beatty and Rob Reiner.
By contrast, only 15 percent said they had heard of Poizner, who has never
held elected office.
But Poizner is likely to dip into his vast personal resources to introduce
himself to the state’s voters. Last fall, he served as chair of the Yes on
77 campaign, Schwarzenegger’s redistricting initiative, and was featured
prominently in television ads aired across the state. For that effort,
Poizner contributed $1.75 million.
In 2004, Poizner ran for the state Assembly in a losing campaign in a
heavily Democratic Bay Area district, though he spent more than $6 million
in the effort.
Bustamante, who ran for governor during the 2003 recall, has been ratcheting
up his own fund-raising campaign in preparation for a general-election
showdown with Poizner. He has raised just under $800,000–though more than
$150,000 (20 percent)–comes from the insurance industry he hopes to
It is an issue the Poizner campaign already has seized on.
For his part, Bustamante is highlighting his own battle with obesity in his
campaign. He has launched the Web site startwithcruz.com, that looks more
like a self-help site than a candidate site. Bustamante has lost more than
40 pounds since January, weighing in at 235 pounds at the end of April.
With a fall ballot packed with initiatives and the governor’s ra
Bustamante team hopes such a quirky campaign will keep the lieutenant
governor in the public eye and help push him into the office of insurance
Secretary of State
The 2006 race for secretary of state was not supposed to have a Republican
incumbent or a competitive Democratic primary. In 2002, San Francisco
Democrat Kevin Shelley was first elected to the post. But in early 2005,
amid a swirling storm of scandals that included an abusive office
environment and using the office for partisan gain, Shelley resigned.
That gave Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger the power to appoint a replacement, and
the governor named moderate Republican Bruce McPherson, a former state
senator and newspaper editor. McPherson is the only incumbent Republican
besides Schwarzenegger on the fall ballot. He faces no opposition in the
But two termed-out female Democratic senators have thrown their hats in the
ring to challenge McPherson–Deborah Ortiz of Sacramento and Debra Bowen of
Marina del Ray.
The two ‘Debs’ agree on many of the issues that would face the next
secretary of state, who oversees and administers the state’s elections and
many of the public documents. Both support publicly financed campaigns. Both
support a ban on any future secretary of states from endorsing other
political candidates or receiving donations from voting-equipment firms, the
subject of legislation authored by Bowen, 50.
And both support raising the budget of the state’s campaign-watchdog agency,
the Fair Political Practices Commission, the subject of legislation authored
by Ortiz, 49.
The biggest policy difference between the two is whether to certify
electronic voting machines created by Diebold–a Democratic bogeyman after
the 2004 presidential election–for future California elections. Bowen
opposes the certification, while Ortiz says there appears to be sufficient
safeguards against potential fraud.
Neither candidate is well known by the electorate. A November Field Poll
showed Ortiz with 22 percent name recognition to 17 percent for Bowen.
And neither candidate has the resources to launch an expensive television
campaign necessary to introduce themselves to the state’s 33 million
Both candidates have raised similar amounts of money. As of March 17, Ortiz
had $384,133 cash on hand compared to $322,411 for Bowen. Ortiz also had a
slight advantage in an April Field Poll, showing her with a three-point
lead, albeit with 61 percent of the electorate still undecided.
Bowen’s campaign received a boost at the end of April, when the Los
Angeles-area Democrat secured the coveted endorsement of the California
Democratic Party. That endorsement means that Bowen’s name will be on the
state’s endorsement card, which is mailed out to one million high-propensity
The winner of the primary will face McPherson, who has raised money at a
rapid clip in the last six months, compiling a campaign chest of $547,000
cash on hand as of March 17. McPherson also won the endorsement of the
powerful California Teachers Association, the only statewide Republican to
Board of Equalization
Who’s down with BOE? A whole bunch of candidates, many of whom you’ve
The Board of Equalization (BOE) oversees the collection of sales and
property taxes. It contains four districts, two of which trend strongly
Democratic and two of which are strongly Republican. These representatives
sit on the BOE with the state controller.
The first district, which represents the California coast north of Santa
Barbara, pits acting BOE member Betty Yee, a Democrat, against Republican
David Neighbors, and several smaller party candidates. Given the
registration makeup of the district and the fact she already has served on
the BOE, Yee is the strong favorite.
Republican incumbent Bill Leonard is favored in the 2nd District. This huge
district covers the majority of the state, including all of the inland
counties above San Bernardino. A former Assembly Republican leader, Leonard
trumps his opponents in name identification. However, he faces a primary
challenge from Ed Streichman, a state auditor with 21 years experience
working at the BOE. The winner of this primary will face one of two
Democrats: printing executive Tom Bright or Tim Raboy, a criminal
investigator with the BOE. Raboy has been endorsed by the Sacramento Bee.
The 3rd District, representing the southernmost part of the state, pits
Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Murrieta, against party activist Michelle Steel
and three other Republicans: accountant Lewis Da Silva, businessman Hal
“Jimbo” Styles, and BOE auditor Steve Petruzzo. Steel is the wife of former
state party chairman Shawn Steel, and will give Haynes something he probably
hasn’t seen for awhile: a challenge from his right. The Republican winner
will be favored against Democrat Mary Christian-Heising, a businesswoman and
journalist who has long been active in San Diego-area politics.
The 4th District seat, which represents greater Los Angeles, is being
vacated by John Chiang, a rising young Democratic star who is running for
controller. Two Democratic Assembly members are vying to replace him: Jerome
Horton, D-Inglewood, and Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park. The other Democratic
candidates are businesswomen Vonny Abbott and Rita Rogers. The Republican
candidates are Assessment Boards Chairman John Wong and businessmen Glen
Forsch and Sam Song Yong Park.
– Malcom Maclachlan