DTLA—When history looks back at Gov. Jerry Brown’s third and fourth terms, he may be best remembered for repairing California’s battered economy. Through a series of tough if not always popular moves — think shuttering Community Redevelopment Agencies across the state — he eradicated a $27 billion deficit left by his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Governors have many tasks, but maintaining a healthy economy is the most important, as fiscal status impacts so much else, including funding for schools. That is why, on election day, Californians should look for someone who can continue Brown’s economic legacy, while also taking a responsible approach toward the environment and some social issues.
The person who can best achieve those aims is John Chiang.
Chiang is not the flashiest candidate in the race — not even close — but his eight years as state controller and four as treasurer (his current post) makes him the best prepared to helm a diverse state with nearly 40 million residents and a $190 billion budget. His experience dovetails with a unique combination of wonkish responsibility and surprising toughness — recall 2008, when, amid a budget battle, the low-profile controller stymied Gov. Schwarzenegger’s threat to slash the pay of state employees to minimum wage.
Chiang has other qualifications. In 2016 he released a hefty financial blueprint for the state (titled “Building California’s Future Begins Today”). On the campaign trail he has discussed using state tax credits to spur more affordable housing. He understands the importance of getting a handle on pensions and improving California’s infrastructure. He’s been a board member of Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles.
Chiang may not be as progressive as some other candidates, but being progressive for its own sake is not what California most needs (he amusingly dubs himself the “fiscally responsible progressive”). Competence, wisdom and the ability to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle are more important. We do hope that, if elected, Chiang improves his ability to connect with Californians — people want a leader they can get behind, someone who excites them.
We prefer Chiang over Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. While Newsom carries the race’s most impressive record on social causes such as marriage equality, and has been active on gun control, we question how fiscally stringent he’d be as governor, and if he could take tough positions that anger his supporters. Additionally, over seven years as lieutenant governor he seems to have been most focused on getting to the governor’s mansion.
Then there’s Antonio Villaraigosa. We believe the best predictor of future success is past performance. While the former L.A. mayor scored a huge victory by championing Measure R, which kicked off L.A.’s mass transit building boom, his tenure was marked more by flash than substance, with personal foibles and too much me-first ambition undermining his potential to benefit Angelenos. California can do better.
Delaine Eastin brings a strong resume and a fiery approach, but lacks the fiscal experience of Chiang. The two leading Republican candidates, John Cox and Travis Allen, have right-leaning agendas that are out of step with California in 2018.
The time is right for John Chiang.
Copyright 2018 Los Angeles Downtown News