The Press Democrat Editorial Board made its endorsements for eight state constitutional offices: Larry Aceves for superintendent of public instruction, Abel Maldonado for lieutenant governor, Steve Cooley for attorney general, Bill Lockyer for treasurer, John Chiang for controller, Debra Bowen for secretary of state, David Jones for insurance commissioner and Betty Yee for Board of Equalization.
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PD EDITORIAL: State offices
Here are our recommendations for constitutional offices
The challenges facing California’s public schools are steep, both in the classroom and in the boardroom.
Parents expect — and children deserve — better performance, the federal government is insisting on reform, drop-out rates are too high, the achievement gap too wide, and the state budget is going to be tight.
That’s the reality facing the state’s next superintendent of public instruction. The Press Democrat believes that Larry Aceves is best suited to meet the challenges.
Aceves is a former superintendent, having led several small and medium-sized districts around the state. He finished first in the June primary, ahead of better known candidates from the state Legislature including Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, and state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles.
Of the three, Romero had by far the strongest reform credentials, but Aceves has valuable administrative experience. He expresses support for charter schools, doesn’t oppose using student scores as a factor in teacher evaluations and says more money isn’t the solution for every problem the schools face. He also recognizes the need to focus on the colleges that educate teachers for California schools.
Torlakson, the other candidate in Tuesday’s run-off election for this nonpartisan seat, is a former teacher. But he has close ties to the California Teachers Association, siding with the union on issues such as open enrollment, and may be an impediment to reform.
Here are our recommendations for the other state constitutional offices on Tuesday’s ballot:
• Lieutenant governor: California would function just fine without a lieutenant governor. That’s not an option in this election, nor is it a reflection on Republican Abel Maldonado, who was appointed to the post this year. Maldonado proved his worth in the state Senate, rising above partisan rancor to help pass a state budget and ensuring that California voters had a chance to institute an open-primary system that might lead to a little more bipartisanship in Sacramento.
• Attorney general: As district attorney in Los Angeles County, Republican Steve Cooley has done an admirable job of policing corruption, most recently in the city of Bell, where officials allegedly fleeced the taxpayers. Cooley also has been tough on crime, without giving in to the worst excesses of the three strikes law.
• Treasurer: Democrat Bill Lockyer, who is seeking a second term as the state’s banker, has become the designated grown-up in Sacramento, displaying independence and maturity in his blunt calls for real reform of the state’s dysfunctional budget process and its outdated tax code. He’s done an outstanding job of maintaining demand for California bonds even at the depths of the state’s fiscal crisis, and he has been a strong advocate for ending the cozy relationships between CalPERS and companies seeking pension fund money.
• Controller: Democrat John Chiang deserves a second term, having emerged as a responsible leader during the state’s budget meltdowns and a role model for transparency in government. Chiang has kept the public regularly apprised about the state’s tax receipts and its cash reserves, important information when IOUs are on the horizon. He has ideas worth exploring for simplifying the state’s tax code, and he produced an actuarial analysis that showed the extent of the state’s unfunded liability for retiree health benefits.
• Secretary of state: When’s the last time you heard about California’s secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections and important records? Probably not recently, and that’s a reflection of the work of Democrat Debra Bowen, who is running for a second term. She reacted quickly to concerns about electronic voting machines before there were election disruptions. We’d like to see her move with the same resolve to make her office’s website more useful to Californians who want to gather and analyze information about elections and campaign money.
• Insurance commissioner: This is a little-known post with an oversized impact on the lives of Californians. The commissioner regulates premiums for auto and homeowners insurance and will play a central role in implementation of health care reform. We admire the independence displayed by Republican nominee Mike Villines on the state budget in the Assembly, but he can’t match the experience and expertise of Democrat David Jones, who has stood up to insurers while chairing the Assembly’s insurance and judiciary committees.
• Board of Equalization, 1st District: 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 deputy director of the state Department of Finance is an important source of experience and expertise on state tax issues.