Your guide to the California treasurer election: Jack Guerrero vs. Fiona Ma

Jack Guerrero and Fiona Ma
Jack Guerrero and Fiona Ma
(Courtesy photos)

Republican Jack Guerrero, 48, appears to be a long shot in the November election to unseat Democratic state Treasurer Fiona Ma, 56.

The treasurer is the state’s top banker and is responsible for managing its finances and investments, and serves on powerful boards and committees that oversee the state employee pension systems and allocate state bond financing for affordable housing, and for education, infrastructure and environmental projects.

No challenger has defeated an elected incumbent state treasurer since 1958. Guerrero would be the first Republican treasurer since Matt Fong was elected to the office in 1995. No Republican has been elected to a statewide office since 2006.


Yet even after Ma won a lopsided victory in the June primary and remains popular among California voters despite a string of scandals, Guerrero continues to gun for the seat, waging a campaign of sharp rebukes of the democratic establishment of Sacramento and promises to reform the office.

For as long as anyone can remember, pundits have used the ‘midterm’ label for elections halfway between presidential elections. But what does it mean?

For the record:

11:06 a.m. Oct. 13, 2022An earlier version of this article said Fiona Ma represented portions of the San Joaquin Valley while serving in the state Assembly. Ma represented a portion of San Francisco and other Bay Area cities.


Who are the candidates?

Both Ma and Guerrero are certified public accountants who got their start working for Ernst & Young, one of the Big Four accounting firms.

Ma was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2002 and served until 2006. She was then elected to the state Assembly, representing a portion of San Francisco and other Bay Area cities, for three terms between 2002 and 2012. During her time in the Legislature, she won passage of bills focused on consumer safety, such as a ban on toxic substances in baby and children‘s products. Ma was also the first Asian American woman to serve as California Assembly speaker pro tempore.

Ma also served on and chaired the state Board of Equalization, on which she pushed efforts to tax Amazon in purchases with third-party sellers, as well as taxing and offering more guidelines and consumer transparency for the state’s marijuana industry.

In 2018, she was elected state treasurer, defeating Republican Greg Conlon, as well as Guerrero, who finished third in the race.


Before politics, Guerrero did auditing and consulting work with Fortune 500 companies.

In 2013, Guerrero ran for local office after Cudahy, where he lives, was rocked with scandals. As mayor aiming to move his hometown past its legacy of corruption, he called on the state controller to audit the city’s finances and administrative controls.

He continues to serve on the City Council and is an open supporter of former President Trump and opposes abortion.

A child of Mexican immigrants who worked in Vernon factories, Guerrero is a lifetime resident of Cudahy. He calls himself a “survivor of the public education system,” decrying the poor quality of schools he attended growing up in low-income Latino neighborhoods. He went on to attend Stanford University and Harvard Business School.

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Where the candidates stand on issue the state’s debt

Guerrero has attempted to make up ground by criticizing the way the state is handling its debt and the large amounts of unfunded debt of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS, and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, which manage pensions for California public school educators and other public employees. He has said the state is overspending on “pet projects” and calls for less taxes and less government spending.

Guerrero said that, if elected, he plans to show up on the Senate and Assembly floors to warn lawmakers about spending bills that would increase state debt.


“I’m going to be doing that until the legislators are sick and tired of seeing my face,” he said.

Throughout the campaign, Ma emphasized her office’s work on monitoring the state’s debt, which she said is taken into consideration for every piece of legislation.

Of the issue of unfunded liability for pensions, she is confident in the state’s investments in private equity, real estate and foreign investments and expects to fully fund the programs by 2040.

“Meaning that there’s gonna be enough money in the fund to pay off all of our retirees that need money,” she said.


Where the candidates stand on the state’s budget

Ma’s priorities in a second term would center on addressing the state’s housing crisis.

She had championed Assembly Bill 140, passed in 2021, which gives the treasurer’s office a say in the direction of the California Dream for All program, which aims to make homeownership, especially for first-time home buyers, more affordable. The bill has been heralded as a valuable tool to help close the racial wealth gap.

She also is focused on streamlining the process for distributing funding for affordable housing projects, which she said could move more efficiently and with more transparency for those applying for bond money and tax credits.

“If we can make that happen, that would be like the crown jewel for housing,” she said.

Guerrero‘s priorities would be lowering taxes and making it easier for entrepreneurs to do business in the state.

He warned of the potential effects of wealthy business owners and investors leaving California in recent years, heading for states with less of a tax burden.

“I fear that the more we push high income earners out of the state the more seriously we’re going to have a hit to our revenue base as a state and of course if these are business owners leaving the state, you know, they’re going to take the jobs with them as well,” Guerrero said.


Ma admitted that California is not the easiest state to do business in, but said many remain because of other factors, such as California’s weather, diversity and overall entrepreneurial spirit and “our can-do attitude.”

She pointed to the low- and middle-income earners who are also leaving California, in even greater numbers than the wealthy, because of high costs of living, a reality that is driving her to focus on affordable housing.

Guerrero said he intends to help low-income Californians through training programs for joining the workforce and for the government to offer incentives to encourage investment in the private sector to address areas of need.


Past coverage

Republican Jack Guerrero in the November election faces the difficult task for trying to unseat Democratic state Treasurer Fiona Ma.

Oct. 11, 2022

California state officials, including treasurer, education superintendent and insurance commissioner, expected to win reelection despite scandals.

Sept. 27, 2022


L.A. Times Editorial Board Endorsements

The Times’ editorial page publishes endorsements based on candidate interviews and independent reporting. The editorial board operates independently of the newsroom — reporters covering these races have no say in the endorsements.

The L.A. Times’ editorial board endorsements for statewide ballot measures, elected offices in Los Angeles city and county, L.A. Unified School District board, L.A. county superior court, statewide offices, the state Legislature and U.S. House and Senate seats.


How and where to vote

Ballots will be in the mail to all 22 million registered voters in the state no later than Oct. 10. Californians can return ballots by mail, drop them at collection boxes or turn them in at voting centers. They can also cast ballots early at voting centers or wait until Nov. 8 to vote at their neighborhood polling places.


Californians can register to vote or check their status at

Here’s how to vote in the California midterm election, how to register, what to do if you didn’t get mail ballot or if you made a mistake on your ballot.


Follow more election coverage

California voters head to the polls Nov. 8 to vote for candidates for U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, California governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, controller, treasurer, attorney general, and races for the state Senate and Assembly. Local races include Los Angeles mayor and L.A. County sheriff. There are also seven ballot propositions for voters to decide.

In the November midterm election, California is one of the battlefields as Democrats and Republicans fight over control of Congress.


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