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Endorsement Watch: State executive races

Gloria Romero and Abel Maldonado on the state Senate floor in Sacramento. (AP photo)

The Press Democrat Editorial Board made endorsed Gloria Romero for state schools superintendent on May 20, along with its picks in the primaries for lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, insurance commissioner and the Board of Equalization. A copy of the endorsement is attached below. Did the PD Editorial Board make the right picks? Disagree with the choices? Post a comment to share your thoughts with other members of the community.

Want to know more about each candidate?

CLICK HERE to go to the SmartVoter page for the state executive races.

PD Editorial: School chief
Romero’s reform record makes her best pick for superintendent

If you want to assess the three leading candidates for state schools superintendent, check out their supporters.

Larry Aceves, a retired superintendent who served small school districts around the state, is endorsed by fellow administrators.

State Sen. Gloria Romero is aligned with charter school advocates and people who believe that student achievement should be a factor in evaluating the performance of teachers and principals.

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson is the favorite of the teachers unions.

All three candidates understand the value of education and care deeply about public schools, but only one has a record of challenging the status quo. That’s why The Press Democrat recommends Gloria Romero for state superintendent of public instruction.

Romero, a Los Angeles Democrat, calls education “the civil rights issue of our time.” In her quest to reward classroom innovation and hold educators accountable, she overcame vigorous opposition to pass legislation this year affirming that student achievement data can be used in teacher evaluations. The same bill expands open-enrollment opportunities and allows parents to force their local school boards to revamp some of the state’s poorest-performing schools.

Critics — including Torlakson and Aceves — contend that data-based evaluations are unfair, potentially penalizing teachers who take on difficult assignments. But we’re not convinced that a system can’t be devised that rewards those teachers for their students’ progress over the course of a school year.

Romero also is cosponsoring a measure to give school boards greater control over their budgets, and she wants to allow those districts that must make layoffs to retain their most effective teachers, not just the teachers with the most seniority.

As state superintendent of public instruction, her job would be to help implement some of the policies that she helped craft in the state Senate.

Nine other people are running for the non-partisan position, but none of them can match Romero’s credentials for this important job.

Here are our recommendations for some of the other contested state offices on the June 8 ballot:

Lieutenant governor, Republican: Abel Maldonado was recently confirmed to this post and, based on his willingness to work toward a bipartisan state budget last year and his sponsorship of the open-primary measure on the June 8 ballot, he deserves the GOP nomination for a full term.

•  Lieutenant governor, Democrat: Serving on the boards of California’s university systems is among the few official duties of the lieutenant governor. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom would be a strong advocate for public universities.

Attorney general, Republican: As head of the state’s largest district attorney’s office, Steve Cooley of Los Angeles is well versed in criminal and appellate law, and he has been unafraid to pursue public corruption cases.

•  Attorney general, Democrat: Of the six Democrats on the ballot, only San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris has run a prosecutor’s office. Her tenure hasn’t always been smooth, but she has pursued both gang prosecutions and efforts to reduce costly recidivism.

•  Secretary of state, Republican: Damon Dunn, a former NFL player, concedes he never voted before last year. But he is focused on increasing voter participation, while Orly Taiz has devoted her time to Quixotic court challenges to President Barack Obama’s citizenship. It will be a big challenge for either of these candidates to match the credentials of Democrat Debra Bowen, the incumbent.

•  Insurance commissioner, Republican: We admire the willingness of Assemblyman Mike Villines of Clovis to help break the state budget deadlock last year, but he lacks the expertise of Brian FitzGerald of Napa, a lawyer in the state Insurance Department for 16 years.

•  Insurance commissioner, Democrat: Dave Jones of Sacramento has a history of consumer advocacy and would bring valuable expertise on health insurance and health care reform from his experience as chairman of the Assembly Health Committee.

•  Board of Equalization, 1st District, Democrat: This board, which handles tax matters, including appeals and property assessments for public utilities, is as powerful as it is obscure. Betty Yee has represented this district well for six years. Her background as a past deputy director of the state Department of Finance is an important source of experience and expertise on state tax issues.

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