John Chiang for state controller
The state controller's main responsibility is to account for and manage all of the state's funds. When it comes to that responsibility, incumbent John Chiang has done a solid job -- a point even his opponent, state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, conceded in a recent editorial board meeting.
So this is a race largely about approach and temperament, and when it comes to those considerations, we find that Chiang is the better candidate for this office. Chiang deserves a second term.
The last four years have been a tough time to be California's controller. Chiang's major role in Sacramento has been to be the bearer of bad news for both parties, especially when it comes to the ever-tardy state budget. Last summer, Chiang issued hundreds of millions of dollars in IOUs instead of checks in order to ration the state's dwindling cash supply while state legislators bickered. It was a politically difficult move that didn't endear him to anyone, but it was the right move to make. It kept the state afloat, earning him accolades from multiple ratings agencies.
With the state's finances unlikely to improve dramatically over the next several years, the controller will have to hold firm against political considerations. Chiang has shown he can do that.
Strickland believes that Chiang hasn't done enough auditing to eliminate governmental waste, fraud and abuse -- the first place he would audit, Strickland told us, would be the Los Angeles Unified School District. Chiang counters that he's had the "most successful audit operation in California's history, saving the taxpayers $2.33 billion over the course of my first term."
Strickland would also look to streamline government departments and find ways for agencies to spend less money. But the controller's authority over spending decisions is decidedly limited.
With a proven track record for exercising leadership under pressure, Chiang is the right candidate for this position.