California Election Watch 2014: California Proposition Guide

November 4, 2014 Statewide Election

Produced by KQED News and The California Report
  • Proposition 1

    The Water Bond

    Proposition 1

    At A Glance

    Proposition 1 authorizes the state to borrow up to $7.12 billion to spend on a wide range of water infrastructure projects. The money would fund new dams and reservoirs, water recycling projects, flood protection and efforts to clean and protect drinking water, among other projects. California taxpayers would ultimately spend about $500 million a year for three decades in order to pay off the borrowing, for a total cost of more than $14 billion.

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    What does Proposition 1 actually do?

    • $2.7 billion to build new reservoirs
    • $1.5 billion for environmental restoration in rivers, lakes, streams, and watersheds
    • $900 million to clean up or prevent groundwater pollution
    • $810 million for efforts to mitigate the impact of rising sea levels, increased drought and other climate change-related shifts
    • $725 million for projects that recycle wastewater or saltwater
    • $520 million for projects to improve and protect the quality of drinking water

    The Inside Scoop

    If ever politicians have thought they could get voter support to borrow billions of dollars to shore up California’s water infrastructure, the middle of a historically bleak drought is it.

    But in truth, Prop. 1 isn’t a response to shrinking reservoirs and brown lawns. This $7.5 billion proposal is a modified version of an $11 billion water bond crafted back in 2010, a do-over hurriedly drafted by legislators worried that voters would balk at the higher pricetag.

    The first voter they had to win over was Gov. Jerry Brown. Early on, he signaled that he’d prefer the 2010 water bond go down to defeat – he could simply say he didn’t write it – rather than take ownership of a new debt plan at the same time he was running for re-election on a platform of ... yes ... less debt.

    Still, Prop. 1’s biggest challenge was history. Water fights in California are often epic battles pitting development and cities against environmental causes, agriculture, and rural communities.

    The drought, though, seems to have motivated a truce in the bigger war. Prop. 1 sets aside the ongoing thorny issues about who gets water and focuses, instead, on some simple improvements in small doses: $2.7 billion for dams and groundwater supplies, $1.5 billion for river and stream protection and restoration, and smaller amounts for everything from wastewater treatment to levee improvements.

    Will Prop. 1 help prepare California for more climate change? Some, it seems, but probably not enough. How will the bucks be divvied up? A state commission will decide in some cases, state agencies in others.

    The measure does not, it should be noted, add any money to the governor’s much-debated plan for twin water tunnels underneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Talk about a political live wire.

    Prop. 1 is a step on the path toward a more reliable water supply for California, but not a long-term solution. And it probably has such broad support because numerous interest groups believe there’s still a much larger water war yet to fight.


    What are the arguments?

    Supporters say ...

    These projects will allow California to store more water for dry years, clean polluted water in rural communities and better provide for fish and wildlife – all without raising taxes. Plus, it requires oversight and annual audits to be sure the money is spent as it’s supposed to be.


    Opponents say ...

    California doesn’t need more expensive dams to provide water decades down the road, harming fisheries and creating pressure to divert more water from Northern California rivers. Instead, the state should fix its leaky and aging water infrastructure and promote regional water self-sufficiency.


    Who is spending on these campaigns?

    Additional Resources:

  • Proposition 2

    The Rainy Day Fund

    Proposition 2

    At A Glance

    This state constitutional amendment would make big changes to California’s rainy day budget reserve. Proposition 2 would require some money be set aside every year, and would require additional funds be set aside when capital gains tax revenues reach a certain target level. It would also require half of the money set aside to be spent on specific debts for the next 15 years, and would impose a new limit on how much money local school districts can keep in their own reserve funds. Prop. 2 doesn’t raise any taxes.

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    What does Proposition 2 actually do?

    • Sets aside 1.5 percent of each year’s state general fund tax revenues.
    • Sets aside even more money in years when capital gains tax revenues – paid by the wealthy -- add up to more than 8 percent of the state’s general fund revenue.
    • From 2015 to 2030, uses half of the funds set aside to pay debts owed to schools, local governments and pensions.
    • Increases the maximum size of the rainy day fund to 10 percent of general fund revenues, with new rules about how to spend any spillover cash.
    • Deposits in the new rainy day fund could be suspended only because of a natural disaster, or when funds aren’t enough to pay state expenses at a level that’s averaged over three years.
    • Adds a requirement to the state constitution that a governor continue the existing tradition of providing annual budget information to legislators
    • Creates a new, but probably rarely used, earmarked reserve fund for K-14 schools, in years when capital gains taxes are high.
    • Adds a new statewide cap on how much money local school districts can keep in their own cash reserves.

    The inside scoop

    California already has a state constitutional mandate to stash away money for bad times, one that voters enacted in 2004. So why are we doing it all over again?

    The short answer: The old one didn’t work. Consider yourself warned about the promises of proposition campaigns, but that’s another story.

    Prop. 2 is a more ironclad version of the state’s existing budget reserve fund – one that would be awfully hard to crack open when future political fevers demand the money be spent instead on the here and now.

    The process of creating a rainy day fund is actually pretty straightforward: You have to agree on what tax revenues you can live without spending (by deciding what amount is considered surplus), and then you have to agree on both the rules governing how to fill the piggy bank and rules on when to break it open.

    That’s where things get tricky.

    State government forecasts of tax revenues are, at best, imperfect. Number crunchers can rarely say with certainty what revenues are truly extra … and what revenues are part of an upward trend that will last for years. Then, of course, every interest group seems to have a different definition of what constitutes a rainy day -- a crisis that necessitates spending the saved cash.

    2004’s Proposition 58 created the existing state budget reserve. But neither the man who championed it, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, nor Gov. Jerry Brown ever pushed much money into it. It’s a piggy bank that pretty much sat empty every year. Lawmakers waived the annual transfer of funds so often that there wasn’t anything to fall back on during California’s most recent budget crisis.

    Fixing Prop. 58 hasn’t been easy, though, and here’s why: Democrats and liberal interest groups have generally viewed any kind of mandatory transfer of tax revenues as a de facto cap on state budget spending – something conservatives have wanted for years to slow down (or stop) the growth of government programs.

    Enter Prop. 2, a compromise led by Brown and former Assembly Speaker John Pérez that focuses on capital gains revenues, the volatile tax dollars paid by the state’s most wealthy. Yes, there were still critics … but none of them came forward to mount serious opposition. As for Brown – well, there’s nothing he loves more than a ballot measure preaching fiscal prudence to go along with his re-election campaign promising … of course … fiscal prudence.

    Notice how Prop. 2 mandates that some of the money in the early years go to paying off debt – that’s a key part of Brown’s current governing philosophy.

    In fact, the biggest flash point over Prop. 2 – if there’s one at all – is over its creation of a new cap on the size of local school district cash reserves. Yes, that has nothing to do with the state’s budget reserve. But it was a political concession, during the 2014 budget negotiations in Sacramento, one championed by the powerful California Teachers Association.

    (And by the way, why are two propositions numbered differently from all the rest? The legislature and governor numbered them that way, ostensibly to offer them as a package deal to voters. But they’re not; Prop. 1’s water bond and Prop. 2’s budget reserve formula do not depend on each other’s passage to take effect.)


    What are the arguments?

    Supporters say ...

    A strong rainy day fund will protect schools and taxpayers from the boom and bust cycles that can lead to devastating budget cuts and unnecessary tax hikes. The mandated debt payments will cut the state’s debt faster, to free up money down the road and stabilize budget-making in Sacramento.


    Opponents say ...

    A dangerous provision inserted into the proposition would limit how much money schools can keep in their own reserves, eliminating the cushion that allowed schools to survive state budget cuts and delayed payments in recent years. Sacramento shouldn’t be allowed to deny schools their own source of financial stability.


    Who is spending on these campaigns?

  • Proposition 45

    Insurance Rate Regulation

    Proposition 45

    At A Glance

    This ballot initiative would give the state’s elected insurance commissioner the authority to reject excessive rate increases in health insurance plans sold to individuals and small businesses. That’s 16 percent of all health plans in California. (Large employer plans are not included.) Currently, the state’s Department of Managed Health Care and Covered California have the power to regulate or negotiate rates with health insurers, respectively. The commissioner can review health insurance rates under current law, but has no power to change them.

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    What does Proposition 45 actually do?

    • Require health insurers to publicly disclose and justify their rates
    • Give the state insurance commissioner power to approve or reject those rates
    • Allow the public to challenge rates in court
    • Require insurers to pay a fee to cover the costs of implementing the measure

    The inside scoop

    Call it the accidental initiative.

    The backers of Prop. 45 – a proposal to give California’s independently elected insurance commissioner greater power over health insurance rates – expected it to be on the November 2012 ballot. That was a presidential election with the largest voter turnout in California in years, at a time when the future of federal health care reform was a very big – but not quite settled – issue.

    Trouble was, backers submitted voter signatures so late that election officials couldn’t verify them in time for 2012. That pushed the proposal to this fall.

    And that’s an important piece of history. The Affordable Care Act’s impact in the state, through the Covered California exchange, is now much more solid than it was in 2012 - and as such, some question whether Prop. 45’s time has come and gone.

    Prop. 45 would essentially shift and consolidate some - but not all - of the power over health insurance rates into the hands of the independently elected insurance commissioner. For years, that power has been dispersed between the commissioner, who is elected by voters, and the state’s Department of Managed Health Care, under the control of the governor.

    And therein lies the fight over Prop. 45. Supporters say this power shift would be a good thing, while critics say it would be a disaster. And the truth: No one knows for sure.

    It’s true that Prop. 45 could create some wrinkles in the way Covered California operates, especially if health insurers decide to simply pull out of the state exchange if they dislike a ruling by the newly empowered insurance commissioner.

    It’s also true that incumbent Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, a proponent of Prop. 45, has clashed with Covered California’s leaders several times in the past year over insurance rates that the exchange has negotiated; this initiative would give him some new muscle.

    And it’s true that analysts have raised questions over language in the initiative that refers to 2012 insurance rates in the individual and small business markets. Remember, this was supposed to be on the 2012 ballot. Would that mean the insurance commissioner could retroactively go back and start cancelling existing rates … and possibly ordering refunds from insurance companies?

    Prop. 45 was modeled on the 1988 initiative that established a system to review and reject auto and home insurance rates deemed too high. The backers of that 26-year-old initiative are the same ones behind this expansion into health care.

    In the end, voters have to decide whether to bestow some new power on the insurance commissioner over the cost of health care, or whether this initiative’s 2012 expiration date has long since passed, making it unworkable in 2014.


    What are the arguments?

    Supporters say ...

    Now that everyone’s required to have health insurance, it’s even more important to stop excessive and unreasonable rate hikes. Auto and home insurance companies have to justify their rates and get permission to raise them; health insurers should, too.


    Opponents say ...

    This isn’t about keeping health insurance rates down; it’s about who has power to regulate them. The state has an independent agency charged with negotiating reasonable rates and offering affordable plans in the state marketplace, Covered California. We shouldn’t pass a measure that conflicts with the agency’s mission.


    Who is spending on these campaigns?

  • Proposition 46

    Medical Malpractice Lawsuits, And That’s Not All

    Proposition 46

    At A Glance

    This ballot initiative is one of those complex three-in-one measures. It would increase the amount of money victims of medical malpractice can be awarded, from the current $250,000 – a cap set in 1975 – to $1.1 million. It would require doctors to check the state’s prescription database before prescribing narcotics, in an attempt to stem drug abuse. It would also require doctors to undergo random drug testing.

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    What does Proposition 46 actually do?

    • Raises the cap on non-economic (pain and suffering) damages from $250,000 and adjusts for inflation to $1.1 million. Provides annual adjustments for inflation in the future
    • Gives the Medical Board of California a year to set up a system for drug testing doctors, modeled after federal guidelines for testing pilots and truck drivers
    • Requires hospitals to test doctors randomly and within 12 hours after an unexpected patient death or serious injury at the hospital
    • Recommends doctors or other witnesses report other doctors who appear to be influenced by drugs or alcohol while on duty
    • Requires doctors and pharmacists to check the state’s prescription drug database before prescribing or dispensing Schedule II or III narcotics to first-time patients only. This is to discourage people from attempting to get the same drugs from more than one doctor

    the inside scoop

    Make no mistake about it; the central fight in this complex initiative is whether to raise California’s 39-year-old cap on the amount of money that courts can award for pain and suffering to a victim of medical malpractice.

    That’s not to say that Proposition 46’s two other big proposals – a mandatory check of a statewide database to prevent prescription drug abuse, and new drug testing for doctors – aren’t interesting or important; they are.

    But this initiative reached the ballot because of what failed to happen at the state Capitol in 2013. Last year, legislators were unable to broker a deal between trial lawyers and doctors over the state’s 1975 cap on damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits. Lawyers wanted to lift the $250,000 cap to at least $1 million, doctors objected - and so the question shifted to this fall’s ballot.

    Prop. 46 supporters have emotion and anger on their side, led by initiative proponent Bob Pack, a Bay Area man whose two young children were killed by a driver later found to have abused prescription drugs. Pack has long crusaded for a higher cap on medical malpractice awards, and for forcing doctors to run a patient’s name through a prescription drug database before handing over more pills.

    Prop. 46 opponents have the money to promote their message: that the initiative is overly complex and, perhaps, deeply flawed. By a factor of almost 10-to-1 over supporters, doctors and insurance companies have bankrolled a campaign that claims rising malpractice premiums will drive doctors away from the profession, and that Prop. 46’s rules on the database and the drug testing are poorly written.

    The rhetoric on both sides is overheated, so here’s what we know for sure:

    Is California’s cap on medical malpractice awards for pain and suffering lower than other states? Yes. Might a looser cap mean more lawsuits? Yes, but not necessarily more successful lawsuits.

    Do both sides see merit in the prescription drug database? Yes. Has the database project been plagued with technical glitches? Yes. Should doctors who are under the influence treat patients? No. Is there currently some professional policing of this behavior? Yes. Is that policing enough? It depends on whom you ask.

    Does any other state have mandatory doctor drug testing? No. Does Prop. 46 mean tipsy physicians will get caught? Not necessarily. Do some doctors simply oppose it on principle? Perhaps.

    That last part of Prop. 46 – doctor drug testing – is the real political powder keg in this initiative. Even Bob Pack, the longtime crusader, conceded in his interview with KQED that the idea was a late addition to his quest. Critics put it more bluntly: having doctors “pee in a cup” was a political sweetener designed to put Prop. 46 over the top.

    You’ll hear a lot about Prop. 46 between now and Election Day. And it’s just the kind of proposal, regardless of its merits, that frustrates voters who simply want to do the right thing - but don’t know whether the proposal in front of them will do that.


    What are the arguments?

    Supporters say ...

    The $250,000 cap on damages for pain and suffering was set in 1975 and has never been adjusted for inflation. Prop. 46 could help reduce prescription drug abuse, and it will require doctors to be tested for drug use, just as people in other sensitive professions are.


    Opponents say ...

    This measure isn’t about protecting patients; it’s about making it easier to sue doctors. Doctors and hospitals that pay their own medical malpractice could see premiums go up. State and county hospitals that self-insure could see legal fees mount.


    Who is spending on these campaigns?

  • Proposition 47

    Criminal Sentencing, With a Nod to Schools

    Proposition 47

    At A Glance

    This initiative would change some nonviolent drug and property crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor. And because that would mean less time served in a local jail or state prison, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office projects “hundreds of millions” of dollars in annual savings. Where would that money go instead? Proposition 47 would divert those dollars to school truancy programs, victim services, and mental health or drug treatment programs.

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    What does Proposition 47 actually do?

    • Treats all shoplifting crimes of $950 or less as a misdemeanor
    • Narrows the circumstances when the theft of property worth $950 or less can be charged as a felony
    • Makes all cases of receiving stolen property worth $950 or less a misdemeanor
    • Makes writing a bad check for less than $950 a misdemeanor, but still allows for a stiffer penalty if the offender has committed at least three previous forgery crimes
    • Makes possession of illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin for personal use a misdemeanor
    • Exceptions: In all of these cases, if the suspect had been previously convicted of any of several crimes involving sexual assault, gun violence or other violent felony, these reduced penalties would not apply
    • Allows offenders serving felony sentences for these crimes to ask that their sentence be reduced to a misdemeanor, but a judge is not required to grant the change
    • Annual savings, as estimated by governor’s advisers, to be spent as follows: 25 percent for K-12 truancy and dropout programs, 10 percent for victims services grants, 65 percent for mental health and substance abuse programs designed to keep people out of jail

    the inside scoop

    In a state where voters are usually asked to get tougher on crime, Prop. 47 does just the opposite: It asks voters to, in some cases, loosen things up. And, thrown in for good measure, it also promises more financial help for schools.

    The initiative’s backers say too many taxpayer dollars are spent to send people convicted of some property crimes to either a local jail or state prison. They argue that Prop. 47 will allow many of those crimes to be treated as misdemeanors, with the savings funneled into California schools.

    Prop. 47 comes at a time when Californians are wrestling with the high cost of jails and prisons, and comes just two years after voters relaxed the three-strikes law – a tough-on-crime initiative passed in 1994. As such, it’s possible that the state’s voters may be loosening their historically “punishment only” attitude.

    The chief backer of the measure is George Gascón, the district attorney of San Francisco. And Prop. 47 has bipartisan support, with backers arguing that the state needs to make the punishment fit the crime. Certainly schools could use the money Prop. 47 would save (the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office ventures only a guess of “hundreds of millions of dollars” annually for local and state governments). But a number of Prop. 47’s supporters see this more as a common sense, punishment-fit-the-crime kind of thing.

    The real source of opposition, to the extent opponents have the resources to actually run a campaign, seems to stem from Prop. 47’s provision that allows a second chance in court for felons already serving time for these lower-level crimes. They point out that not all nonviolent offenders are nice people, and they argue that the Prop. 47’s new thresholds for punishment (based on the value of the item or the harm done) are way too arbitrary.

    The Prop. 47 campaign, on both sides, has far less money to blast these pro and con messages onto the airwaves than others on the November ballot. As a result, this could be a real sleeper debate by the time votes are counted on Nov. 4.


    What are the arguments?

    Supporters say ...

    It will reduce prison spending overall and stop wasting prison funding and space on petty criminals. That means spending can focus on serious and violent crimes, and the most dangerous criminals will stay locked up. Money saved will go to programs that help kids stay in school, and to crime victims and drug and alcohol treatment.


    Opponents say ...

    Stealing a gun that costs less than $950 should not be a misdemeanor; neither should possession of a date-rape drug. Reducing penalties for these crimes doesn’t make the public safer. The measure would also require the release of dangerous criminals who could appeal their sentences, and it would give judges little discretion to keep them in prison.


    Who is spending on these campaigns?

  • Proposition 48

    A New Tribal Casino

    Proposition 48

    At A Glance

    In July 2013, the Legislature approved an agreement between the state of California and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians for a new casino complex in Madera County, just north of Fresno. If built, it would be the first “off reservation” casino in California. Proposition 48 asks: Do you agree with the Legislature’s action in approving this project? (Yes) Or do you disagree, and want this project to be rejected by the state? (No)

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    What does Proposition 48 actually do?

    • Your vote authorizes or denies a 2,000 slot-machine casino adjacent to Highway 99 in Madera County, owned and operated by the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians. Profits would also benefit the Wiyot Tribe of Humboldt County.
    • The land for the casino project is not part of the tribe’s traditional reservation, but was approved as new tribal land by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
    • The tribe hopes to break ground on the casino project next year. It would be the 61st tribal casino in California, authorized under ballot measures approved by voters in 1998 and 2000.

    the inside scoop

    This measure is a referendum, which means that voters have a different question posed to them: Do you agree or disagree with the Legislature’s decision to approve a new tribal casino in Madera County?

    If a majority of voters say NO, the casino won’t be built.

    North Fork has tribal land in its tiny Sierra Nevada home, but it’s not truly a reservation… and even then, it’s on a remote, rocky hilltop. The site designated for the casino, sitting next to Highway 99, has been approved by the feds as tribal land. But despite local and state support, critics say it’s a bad move. Hence the referendum.

    In this case, it’s all about whether you believe the backers of the casino – that it’s all about just one casino – or opponents, who argue that it’s a precedent for casinos built on land that isn’t a designated Native American reservation.

    California voters have ratified tribal gaming twice, in 1998 and again in 2000. Now, 60 tribal casinos operate across the state, a multibillion-dollar industry that has been both complimented and criticized for its impact on Native Americans and the communities in which those casinos operate.

    But this project, a proposed new casino owned by the Central Valley’s North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, is different: It would be the first “off reservation” casino in California, situated on land near Highway 99 north of Fresno. The casino’s supporters may dispute that it’s an “off reservation” project, but that term is a fair one based on how the tribe got the land: The federal government approved the tribe’s acquisition of land that was neither an existing reservation nor land given to a technically landless tribe.

    The referendum was filed by a longtime critic of tribal gaming expansion, but there are signs that a few existing gaming tribes – that may see more strict rules as a way to limit competition – are pondering a paid campaign to persuade Californians to vote "no" on this referendum.

    The project has also found a powerful opponent in U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who criticized the federal approval of the tribe’s new land and remains at odds with Gov. Jerry Brown on his agreement to a casino compact.

    So is the North Fork project an anomaly or a precedent? That’s really the crux of Prop. 48, and the only two players who know the answer are the U.S. secretary of the Interior and Brown.

    The feds control whether or not a tribe gets new land that’s approved for building a casino. And as governor, Brown has the sole power to agree to – or reject -- a formal gaming “compact” with a tribe.

    Even then, no Las Vegas-style tribal casino can be built in California without the approval of the Legislature. Only one other off-reservation project – proposed for a site in rural Yuba County – has ever gotten the blessing of the governor, and it remains in limbo in the Legislature precisely because of this fight over the North Fork deal.

    Again, a vote in support of Prop. 48 endorses the Legislature’s action on the Madera County project; a vote in opposition tells lawmakers that they made a mistake.


    What are the arguments?

    Supporters say ...

    The new casino will provide needed jobs and economic growth in an area of high unemployment. It will generate money for tribes, promoting self-sufficiency at no cost to taxpayers. The money will be shared with a non-gaming tribe that has few opportunities for economic improvement. The agreement with the tribe calls for annual payments to the state, to cover the costs of the casino operation.


    Opponents say ...

    The new casino breaks a promise made to Californians: that tribal gaming would remain limited, and restricted to original reservation lands. Prop. 48 would allow the state’s first off-reservation casino, opening the door to other tribes that want to locate a casino closer to freeways, cities and urban neighborhoods. A new casino will only siphon jobs from other casinos nearby, not provide real job growth.


    Who is spending on these campaigns?

  • Governor

    The race for the next top executive of California features a Democratic incumbent who is a second-generation politician with a lifetime in public office versus a Republican challenger with fiscal experience in Washington, D.C., and in the private sector.

    Watch: KQED's Gubernatorial Debate

    Jerry Brown
    Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown

    Democrat


    Occupation

    Governor of California

    find him at

    jerrybrown.org
    @jerrybrowngov

    Meet the candidate

    Brown is running on his record in office since being elected to his third term as California’s governor in 2010. He held the post for two terms in the 1970s and early ‘80s. Brown was the mayor of Oakland from 1999 through 2006 and, most recently, served as California’s attorney general.

    If elected

    • Brown says he intends to keep California’s budget balanced – and on time. He’s promising to reduce the state’s debt load, partly through Prop. 2’s plan to pay down a chunk of debt over 15 years.
    • He kept his promise not to raise taxes without voter approval, but sales taxes and income tax for higher earners increased with the passage of Prop. 30 in 2012. That measure directed the increased revenue to California schools and slowed class cuts in the public university system, and Brown says schools will remain a main focus in his administration.
    • In line with his message of environmental and economic stewardship, Brown is pushing for the passage of statewide propositions 1 and 2, which provide $7 billion in water infrastructure and increase the revenues going into the state rainy day fund.

    Additional Reading

    Jerry Brown
    Neel Kashkari

    Republican


    Occupation

    Businessman

    Find Him At

    neelkashkari.com
    @neelkashkari

    Meet the candidate

    Kashkari is running on his record of economic and business leadership in the private and public sectors. He worked on energy policy at the U.S. Treasury and in 2008 was confirmed as assistant secretary of the Treasury. As the nation headed into the Great Recession, Kashkari created the Troubled Asset Relieve Program.

    If elected

    • Kashkari says the first thing he’d do if elected is cancel the $68 billion high-speed rail project, which he says is being funded by raising Californians’ gas and energy bills.
    • His K-12 education plan emphasizes expanding charter schools and deregulating traditional public schools by rewriting the state’s education code. In higher education, Kashkari wants to require 20 percent of CSU and UC courses to be available online within 4 years and to tie some state funding to measures like the number of degrees the universities confer.
    • To create jobs, Kashkari proposes a 10-year corporate income tax holiday for companies that move to California and create 100 jobs or open new factories. He’d push for a safe way to expand fracking and reform the California Environmental Quality Act as part of a broader “regulatory relief” strategy.

    Additional Reading

    The Inside Scoop

    Make no mistake about it: the 2014 governor’s race is a referendum on the incumbent and on the pace of California’s economic recovery.

    Few California politicians have ever captured the fascination of the public more than Edmund G. Brown, Jr., who has never denied the advantage gained by being the scion of a famous political family. (He publicly thanked his mother, after winning his first statewide election in 1970, for giving him his father’s ballot-tested name.) For more than 40 years, Brown has been on a personal and political odyssey – two terms as governor, three campaigns for the White House, Calcutta with Mother Teresa, the mean streets of Oakland as mayor and in 2010 another stint as governor.

    And three terms as governor is enough, says challenger Neel Kashkari. Kashkari is a GOP newcomer, a former investment banker whose claim to fame is his role as the assistant U.S. Treasury secretary who wrote the 2008 bank bailout, TARP.

    Kashkari’s campaign seems centered on refuting Brown’s quip in January that “California is back.” He points out, accurately, that a lot of Californians still don’t have much to cheer. One in four live in poverty, and the jobless rate remains above average in 34 of the state’s 58 counties.

    Brown’s reply: the state is on the right track to recovery, and he’s the guy to keep it there. He points to the 1.4 million new jobs created since 2010, the balanced state budget and the new program he led to spend more education dollars on children from low-income and non-English speaking families.

    What else is big in this race? Kashkari would abandon the state’s high-speed rail project (Brown says it’s an essential part of the state’s transportation future). Brown says November’s water bond will boost supply and reliability (Kashkari says it scrimps on money for reservoirs and dams). Kashkari says the state shouldn’t be spending money to help offer legal services to the recent flood of migrant children (Brown says it’s a humanitarian crisis).

    Neel Kashkari faces daunting odds: a big gap in opinion polls, a 20-to-1 fundraising disadvantage and a Republican party more focused on legislative and down-ticket races than helping him. And so the question for the voter: do you like what Jerry Brown has done and believe he’s the guy to keep the recovery going? Or does the state need a reboot by an outsider who promises to re-examine and reshape its future?

  • Lieutenant Governor

    The position is a stand-in when the governor is out of state or otherwise unable to perform the duties of the top office in California. The lieutenant governor also holds a seat on the UC and CSU governing bodies, the Ocean Protection Council, California Emergency Council, and commissions on state lands and economic development. The race features a Democratic incumbent and former mayor of San Francisco running against the former chairman of the California Republican Party.

    Gavin Newsom
    Gavin Newsom

    Democrat


    Occupation

    Lieutenant Governor of California

    find him at

    gavinnewsom.com
    @gavinnewsom

    Meet the candidate

    Gavin Newsom launched his political career in San Francisco, serving as a supervisor and the city’s mayor. He briefly ran for governor four years ago but dropped out of the race and ran for lieutenant governor instead. Newsom is known as a champion of same-sex marriage and an advocate for civic participation through technology.

    If elected

    • Newsom says he’ll continue to prioritize economic development and job creation through a focus on manufacturing and exports.
    • He says development of the state’s natural resources should be balanced with environmental stewardship.
    • Newsom says he wants to broaden accessibility to higher education, and has been a minority vote against raising tuition in the state’s public universities.

    Additional Reading

    Ron Nehring
    Ron Nehring

    Republican


    Occupation

    Businessman

    Find Him At

    ronnehring.com
    @ronnehring

    Meet the candidate

    Ron Nehring is a political strategist, commentator and lecturer who has led the state’s Republican Party. He’s worked to broaden the appeal of the GOP and has criticized conservatives on the national stage for alienating Latino voters and stalling on immigration reform.

    If elected

    • Nehring says he’d use the office’s leadership of the economic development commission to push for tax code reform, which he calls a “job killing mess that is driving jobs and people elsewhere.”
    • He supports more charter schools in K-12 education and reforming teacher tenure laws to “ensure good teachers in every classroom.”
    • Nehring says he would try to repeal California’s “realignment” program, which houses some criminals in county jails instead of state prisons. He says the program “seriously jeopardizes public safety.”

    Additional Reading

    The Inside Scoop

    If this race finds you asking yourself, “What does the lieutenant governor do?” you’re not alone. Ostensibly the second-in-command, the person nicknamed “lite guv” has very few formal duties. The lieutenant governor serves as: president of the State Senate, acting governor when the chief executive leaves the state, a UC regent and a CSU trustee and has a few other small duties here and there.

    Still, it’s a job with fairly high visibility and a potential stepping stone to being governor, and voters on Nov. 4 will either keep it in the hands of Democrat Gavin Newsom or give it to Republican Ron Nehring.

    Newsom, the one-time mayor of San Francisco and a brief candidate for governor in 2010 , has admitted that he’s found it hard to find his footing playing second fiddle to Brown (and the two have a complicated relationship that certainly isn’t helped by style and generational differences). Nonetheless, Newsom has spent time talking about using technology to boost government and has railed against UC and CSU tuition increases. Recently, Newsom has urged legalizing marijuana and suggested – in a break with the governor – that the state should re-think high-speed rail.

    Ron Nehring has served as a San Diego County school board trustee, but is really known in political circles as the former chairman of the California Republican Party. Among GOP loyalists, he has strong name recognition, but beyond them he’s relatively unknown. Nehring supports lower taxes, less government spending and says he’d try harder than Newsom to use the lieutenant governor’s chairmanship of a state economic commission as a jumping-off point.

    This is a classic Democrat versus Republican race, with strong liberal and conservative positions on both sides. It’s been 20 years since California had a governor and lieutenant governor from different parties – even longer since the lieutenant governor was a complete newcomer to statewide elected office. Will 2014 be any different?

  • Attorney General

    The attorney general is California’s top law enforcement officer. The election will pit an incumbent Democrat from San Francisco who is well known statewide and nationally against a Republican challenger, an attorney in private practice.

    Kamala Harris
    Kamala Harris

    Democrat


    Occupation

    Attorney General

    find her at

    kamalaharris.org
    @kamalaharris

    Meet the candidate

    Kamala Harris describes herself as career prosecutor. She worked in the San Francisco and Alameda County district attorney's offices before winning the election for San Francisco’s DA in 2002. She served two terms and was elected California’s attorney general in 2011.

    If elected

    • Harris says she would vigorously defend California’s climate change legislation and prosecute polluters.
    • She says she would continue to prioritize fighting human trafficking and has sponsored legislation to seize assets of convicted traffickers.
    • Harris says she would continue to work for same-sex marriage legalization nationally.

    Additional Reading

    Ronald Gold
    Ronald Gold

    Republican


    Occupation

    Attorney

    Find Him At

    rongold.org
    @rongold2014

    meet the candidate

    Ronald Gold says he campaigned for Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign in college, and later worked for former Gov. Ronald Reagan’s administration. He was a deputy attorney general in the 1970s, and entered private practice 35 years ago.

    If elected

    • Gold says he would not appeal a recent ruling challenging state teacher tenure laws.
    • He says “the time for the legalization of marijuana has come.”
    • Gold says he supports legislation that would allow people in the country illegally to register in a state program that would allow them to work legally in California.

    Additional Reading

    The Inside Scoop

    What a difference four years makes.

    In 2010, Democrat Kamala Harris eked out a narrow victory in the race for attorney general, defeating Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley by less than 75,000 votes out of more than 8.7 million cast.

    This time, Harris has drawn a Republican challenger whom most reporters couldn’t even find using a Google search prior to the June primary.

    GOP candidate Ron Gold, who briefly was a deputy attorney general and is otherwise a come-from-nowhere challenger, holds positions on a few issues that are not only unconventional for a Republican, but also stand in stark contrast to the cautious and careful incumbent Harris. Gold advocates legalization of marijuana and a much more limited use of the death penalty than in current law. Harris has avoided comment on either.

    Harris has used her first term to wage high-profile battles against mortgage lenders and drug traffickers, and has crafted the ensuing PR so well that she’s managed to generate buzz both in Sacramento (a possible candidate for governor in 2018?) and Washington, D.C. (the new U.S. attorney general? A future nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court?).

    Harris carefully navigated the broad powers given to the attorney general, declining to help save the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage but defending the existing rules of teacher tenure stricken down by a Los Angeles judge this summer.

    And because challenger Ron Gold has both limited resources and a smaller resume, odds are Kamala Harris runs a stealth campaign, relying on the generally good reviews she’s gotten on a few key issues to ask voters for another four-year term.

  • Secretary of State

    The current secretary of the state is termed out, so voters will chose a new chief elections officer in November. The office also oversees campaign finance disclosure and the incorporation of new businesses in California. The race is between a Democratic state senator with a broad legislative record, including efforts to expand voting rights COMMA and a Republican who has researched and advocated civic engagement for much of his professional career.

    Pete Peterson
    Pete Peterson

    Republican


    Occupation

    Educator

    find him at

    petesos.com
    @pete4sos

    Meet the candidate

    Pete Peterson has been an advocate of civic engagement and technology as a fellow and executive director of public policy think tanks in California. He co-authored a national seminar on public engagement, and he currently teaches a class on the subject at Pepperdine University.

    If elected

    • Peterson says he would audit the state’s voter database to ensure it’s accurate and up to date.
    • He says he would work to put polling place information and absentee ballot tracking into voters’ hands – on their mobile devices. He says he would release campaign finance data in a more accessible format, spurring innovators to create new ways to visualize money in politics.
    • Peterson says he would allow businesses to register with the secretary of state entirely online and reduce the waiting period for incorporating a new business in California. He would also advocate cutting some business franchise taxes.

    Additional Reading

    Alex Padilla
    Alex Padilla

    Democrat


    Occupation

    State Senator

    Find Him At

    alex-padilla.com
    @senalexpadilla

    meet the candidate

    Alex Padilla has represented the San Fernando Valley, north of Los Angeles, in the state Senate since 2006. He’s authored some 80 bills that have been signed into law on issues ranging from education to public safety and the environment. He authored the state ban on plastic bags recently signed into law.

    If elected

    • Padilla says he’d expand voter participation by encouraging greater registration, expanding the office’s social media outreach and advocating for more civics classes in California schools.
    • He says he would update the secretary of state’s website with a focus on campaign finance transparency and streamlined access to voter information.
    • Padilla says he would also prioritize expediting business incorporation in California by pairing down a backlog of applications and collaborating on economic development with other state agencies.

    Additional Reading

    The Inside Scoop

    This is one of only three “open” races on the statewide level, where an incumbent is stepping down in 2014 due to term limits. And this race was a crowded contest in the June primary: five candidates, one of whom was an independent and another who was indicted on federal corruption charges before Election Day.

    The two men left standing represent a real insider-outsider choice for voters when it comes to the job of chief elections officer.

    Democrat Alex Padilla blazed a trail through the political world at an early age, quickly rising through the ranks of the Los Angeles City Council en route to eight years as a state senator.

    Republican Pete Peterson is a newcomer, a leader of a civic engagement think tank at Pepperdine University and a marketing and communications guy before that.

    Both men promise to be reformers when it comes to money in politics and voter engagement. But that’s the “bully pulpit” potential of the job; a Secretary of State is a bit more of a person who’s tasked with making the trains run on time when it comes to elections and other duties like business LLC filings.

    Even so, the next secretary will face some unique challenges: the state is way behind on updates to a statewide voter database system mandated by the federal government. Its campaign finance filing and reporting database runs on outdated computer code. And wide swaths of Californians seem so apathetic that they don’t even register to vote. Can one of these guys fix that? That’s the big question in 2015 and ahead.

  • Controller

    The California controller is the state’s chief financial officer. The controller has investigative authority over state spending and is California’s accountant and bookkeeper. The incumbent is termed out, so voters will pick a new fiscal watchdog in November. It could be a Democratic tax commissioner overseeing the state’s Central Coast or a Republican mayor of Fresno.

    Betty Yee
    Betty Yee

    Democrat


    Occupation

    Board of Equalization member

    find her at

    bettyyee.com
    @bettyyee2014

    Betty Yee was initially appointed to the state Board of Equalization in 2005, and since then has been elected to the position twice. Prior to that post, Yee was chief deputy director for former Gov. Gray Davis. She’s held staff positions on fiscal policy committees in both houses of the state Legislature.

    If elected

    • Yee says the 1978 law, Proposition 13 that changed how property taxes are assessed, and the more recent Proposition 30 that raised sales and some income taxes, are driving inequity in the state. She says she would push for comprehensive state tax code reform.
    • Yee says she would use the controller’s position on the CalPERS and CalSTRS boards to shore up the state’s public employee retirement system, and she would work to identify investment risk before the system suffers huge losses in a stock market crash.
    • She says she would utilize the controller’s position on the State Lands Commission to push for environmental stewardship and combat climate change.

    Additional Reading

    Ashley Swearengin
    Ashley Swearengin

    Republican


    Occupation

    Mayor of Fresno

    Find her At

    ashleyforca.com
    @ashley4CA

    Ashley Swearengin has been mayor of Fresno since 2008, and has worked to keep the city out of bankruptcy despite a more than $100 million budget deficit. She chaired the San Joaquin Valley chapter of the California Partnership, a group working on poverty founded by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    If elected

    • Swearengin says she would prioritize spending oversight by tracking the state’s debt and liabilities and reducing them over time. She would advocate for 10 percent of the state’s general fund being allocated to paying debts, investing in infrastructure and building an emergency reserve.
    • She says she would establish an independent audit of the controller’s office – to watch the watcher – and would expand access to data underlying the controller’s fiscal audits of state programs by putting it online for anyone to see and analyze.
    • Swearengin says she would create an economic growth plan and annual audit the state laws and policies that impact California’s ability to attract new businesses and create jobs.

    Additional Reading

    The Inside Scoop

    The state controller is California’s chief financial officer and paymaster, and it’s another of the limited open seats this fall. The race received an awful lot of attention this summer, when two prominent Democrats vying for one of the two spots on the November ballot were locked in a close recount of votes.– a recount that didn’t change the June 3 results.

    With the Democratic vote split, the top vote-getter in June was Republican Ashley Swearengin, the mayor of Fresno. She watched for weeks as the two Democrats attacked each other and sweated out the vote tally. The eventual victor of that duel was Democrat Betty Yee, a longtime member of the state Board of Equalization.

    Both women come with credentials that they argue will help them do the job. Yee has had a hand in state government finances for some 15 years and comes across as a low-profile policy wonk. Swearengin is a charismatic Central Valley politician who touts her executive leadership at the helm of one of the only California cities with a strong mayor charter. Both pledge to use the controller’s audit powers to further shed light on questionable spending of tax dollars.

    The job of controller is much more prominent than it used to be, in large part because of the state’s fiscal crises of the 2000s, when the controller was embroiled in fights over issuing IOUs and unpaid government invoices. There was also a brief clash in 2011 about whether legislators deserved their paychecks after they passed a budget later vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

    Democrats are concerned a Swearengin victory would give her the platform to run for governor or U.S. Senate in years to come. Republicans will no doubt seek to call Yee another example of the state Democratic Party status quo when it comes to managing California’s finances.

  • Treasurer

    The state treasurer manages California’s investments, oversees the sale of state bonds and makes payments for the state. The current treasurer is termed out, so voters will choose between a Republican accountant and businessman with past state commission experience and a Democrat who is the current state controller.

    Greg Conlon
    Greg Conlon

    Republican


    Occupation

    Businessman and accountant

    find him at

    gregconlon.com
    @gregconlon

    meet the candidate

    Greg Conlon is a retired certified public accountant who previously headed the state public utilities commission and held a seat on the transportation commission, both appointed positions. This is his second run for treasurer after an unsuccessful attempt in 2002. He’s campaigning with a small fraction of his opponent’s resources.

    If elected

    • Conlon says he’d work to improve California’s credit rating to make purchasing state bonds more appealing.
    • He says he would draft legislation to reduce income and capital gains taxes, which he says would encourage economic growth and attract more businesses to California.
    • Conlon would seek to keep the state public employee retirement systems afloat through negotiations with the Legislature, governor and public employee labor unions.

    Additional Reading

    John Chiang
    John Chiang

    Democrat


    Occupation

    State Controller

    Find Him At

    electjohnchiang.com
    @johnchiang4CA

    Meet the candidate

    John Chiang has worked as a tax law specialist for the IRS. He was a staffer for Sen. Barbara Boxer and an attorney in the state controller’s office long before he ran it. He held a seat on the state tax commission before being elected to state controller in 2006. He is termed out of that office.

    If elected

    • Chiang says he would continue his commitment to sound budgetary policy in the somewhat narrower office of treasurer.
    • He publicized a nearly $65 billion unfunded liability in the health care fund for retired state employees and has proposed a five-year plan to start paying down the shortfall.
    • Chiang says he would continue to push for transparency in the state retirement funds, building on successful legislation he sponsored requiring disclosures from Wall Street firms that solicit investment of public pension money.

    Additional Reading

    The Inside Scoop

    This is technically an open seat in November, but it feels very much like a race with an incumbent because the Democrat who hopes to become the state’s banker has spent the past eight years as the state’s paymaster.

    John Chiang, who served two four-year terms as controller, now wants to move to this position. Not a single Democrat challenged his plan in the primary season, and Chiang now sits on an impressive pile of campaign cash and is the undisputed favorite to win the race.

    Republican Greg Conlon, a Bay Area accountant who briefly served on the state’s Public Utilities Commission, draws the short straw to take on Chiang in this race. He argues the controller’s office has not been run as well as it should have been these past eight years – proof of why Chiang should not get to move over to the job of treasurer.

  • Insurance Commissioner

    California’s insurance commissioner regulates insurance companies, enforces state insurance law and fields complaints regarding the insurance industry in the state. This election pits a Democratic incumbent and former state assemblyman against a Republican state senator who also owns an insurance company.

    Dave Jones
    Dave Jones

    Democrat


    Occupation

    Insurance Commissioner

    find him at

    davejones2014.org

    meet the candidate

    Before he was elected insurance commissioner in 2010, Dave Jones represented California’s 9th Assembly District for two terms. Jones has championed California’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act in his current position.

    If elected

    • Jones says he’ll continue to hold insurance companies accountable for premium increases. He has required insurers to reduce proposed hikes more than 500 times since taking office. He says fraud investigations during his tenure have led to more than 2,000 arrests.
    • He has used the office to be an advocate for consumer protection. Jones pushed for, and won, nondiscrimination regulations in health insurance. He advocates for insurers to invest in low-income communities.
    • Jones supported the Affordable Care Act and opposes the cancellation of some individual health insurance policies that companies say the law required them to close.

    Additional Reading

    Ted Gaines
    Ted Gaines

    Republican


    Occupation

    State Senator and Insurance Agent

    Find Him At

    tedgaines.com
    @tedgaines

    Meet the candidate

    Ted Gaines was a state assemblyman before he was elected a state senator in 2010. He also owns Gaines Insurance in Roseville.

    If elected

    • Gaines says he would roll back regulations on the insurance industry that make it difficult for companies to offer new products.
    • He says the Department of Insurance has become a “hostile bureaucracy” that is driving companies out of the state, reducing competition and pushing up rates.
    • Gaines says he would work to increase criminal penalties for insurance fraud and to reduce “frivolous” litigation that he says generates a significant cost to California.

    Additional Reading

    The Inside Scoop

    This is one of those statewide offices that doesn’t quite do what you think it might. The insurance commissioner oversees the regulation of some, but not all, kinds of insurance offered in California. Most notably, the office does not have full oversight of health insurance, which also falls under the supervision of the governor’s administration.

    The incumbent, Democrat Dave Jones, is seeking a second four-year term and has spent a great deal of time maneuvering himself to play a role in California’s implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act. That’s meant sparring occasionally with the state agency overseeing the process and sponsoring Proposition 45, this fall’s initiative that would expand his power over health insurance rates.

    Jones is a former state legislator, and his challenger also comes from the ranks of the legislature: Republican Ted Gaines. Gaines is also an insurance broker, and promises to change – mainly by speeding up – the way the Department of Insurance approves new insurance products.

    Bottom line: one candidate wants a hand in shaping the state’s health insurance future, the other wants to ease what he sees as the bureaucratic burdens imposed by state officials on the insurance industry.

  • Superintendent of Public Instruction

    California’s superintendent of public instruction oversees the state Department of Education and provides policy direction to local school districts. The office is nonpartisan, but the incumbent schools chief and his challenger still present a stark choice to voters on the future of California’s public education system.

    Tom Torlakson
    Tom Torlakson


    Occupation

    State Superintendent of Public Instruction

    find him at

    tomtorlakson.com
    @tomtorlakson

    Meet the candidate

    Tom Torlakson was a Bay Area high school teacher beginning in the 1970s. He served three terms in the state Assembly and two in the state Senate before he was elected superintendent of public instruction in 2010.

    If elected

    • Torlakson would work to renew 2012 voter-approved tax increases that slowed cuts to public education in the wake of the Great Recession.
    • He says career and technical training is an important option for high school students, and he would work to expand those programs.
    • Torlakson supports California’s adoption of federally uniform curriculum goals called Common Core, which states across the nation are struggling to implement. He says California is ahead of other states in adopting the standards and he will continue to work for a smooth implementation.

    Additional Reading

    Marshall Tuck
    Marshall Tuck


    Occupation

    Educator and schools executive

    Find Him At

    marshalltuck.com
    @marshalltuck

    meet the candidate

    Marshall Tuck was an executive at a Bay Area software company before becoming president of Los Angeles charter school operator Green Dot Public Schools in 2002. He then was a founding CEO of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a public and private venture.

    If elected

    • Tuck says schools need more funding but he would reform the education code to decrease regulation on public schools and allow them to operate more like charter schools before asking taxpayers for more money.
    • He says teachers unions have too much influence at the state level and supports the ruling in Vergara v. California, which declared some teacher tenure protections unconstitutional.
    • Tuck says the state is underprepared for Common Core. He has a technology plan that includes providing small grants to effective teachers to produce online videos to help other teachers.

    Additional Reading

    The Inside Scoop

    Two things make this race, which is historically one of the most ho-hum on the California ballot, one of the best races to watch this fall.

    First, this is a nonpartisan office – which means voters don’t have a “D” or “R” label on which to rely. And as it happens, both men in this fall’s race are Democrats: incumbent Tom Torlakson and challenger Marshall Tuck.

    And they have very different takes on the value and future of teacher tenure – an issue highlighted by this summer’s blockbuster ruling in Vergara v. California that found the state’s strong tenure law a burden for ensuring equal access to good teachers for kids in poor communities. Tuck has applauded the ruling; Torlakson has criticized it, and supports the state’s decision to file an appeal.

    The ruling has sparked a new discussion about the power of the state’s two biggest teacher unions and the need for education reform. And given its timing, it has helped fuel the idea that incumbent Tom Torlakson could find himself ousted if the political winds blow the right way.

    Torlakson has had a long career in local and state legislative office, and, as a one-time teacher, is a loyal ally of the powerful California Teachers Association – which spent heavily to boost his campaign in the June primary. In his criticism of the Vergara ruling, Torlakson has insisted it’s not the existing teacher tenure rules that are the cause of problems in schools.

    His challenger, Marshall Tuck, sees himself as an advocate of systemic change in education. Most notable on his resume was a stint as CEO of the non-profit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, the public-private effort launched by former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to improve conditions at some of the city’s most failed schools. Tuck is trying to use the Vergara ruling as a springboard to point out how the problems facing K-12 education in California can’t be solved by those who helped build the existing infrastructure.

    The superintendent of public instruction, in truth, has limited power over California schools, even though the position does lead the state Department of Education. Still, the job offers a pretty sturdy soapbox from which to lead public discussions about the future of education. And this race may hinge on the larger debate about teachers and failing schools.