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Opinion

Endorsement: Will the next governor of California lead the ‘resistance’ or break it?

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Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, accompanied by his wife Patty, arrives to officially place his name on the primary election ballot as a candidate for California governor.
(Los Angeles Times)

It may not be a presidential election year, but the stakes in the June 5 primary election remain high for California voters. The primary election will winnow the ranks of men and women hoping to be the next governor to the two who will advance to the runoff in November. The final candidates for eight other statewide positions will be settled, too, including a U.S. Senate seat, as well as those for 53 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The outcome in a handful of the House races may well determine whether Democrats will be able to regain control of the House next year.

Voters approved a crucial change in California’s elections in 2010, abandoning partisan primaries in favor of a “top two” (or “jungle”) approach that advances the two highest vote-getters to a November runoff regardless of their party affiliation. Thus, we could see two Democrats, two Republicans, two members of the Green Party, or any other combination of candidates competing in any given state or federal race in November.

Will the gubernatorial primary yield two mainstream Democrats, such as Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa? Or will voters defy expectations and rally around edgier candidates, such as Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen, an avowed Trump supporter who wants to build the border wall and repeal the state’s gas tax, and Delaine Eastin, a former state superintendent of public instruction who is calling for single-payer healthcare and free college?

The choice is a weighty one. Not only does the governor oversee the operations of a vast state government, he or she (which would be a first — a woman has never held the office of governor in California) can quickly become a leader on the national stage. In these turbulent times, California has emerged as the seat of the anti-Trump opposition. Will the next governor lead that opposition, or break it?

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In these turbulent times, California has emerged as the seat of the anti-Trump opposition. Will the next governor lead that opposition, or break it?

At home, the next governor will face a number of emerging crises — in housing and homelessness, water, transportation, and criminal justice, to name just a few. He or she will also have a tough act to follow in Jerry Brown, the state’s only four-term governor. Brown’s famous fiscal prudence helped guide the state from a $25-billion deficit in 2011 to a $6-billion surplus — with billions more in a rainy day fund — and helped restrain a Democratic majority in the Legislature that wanted to ramp up spending considerably faster as the economy recovered. Meanwhile, Brown launched the grand infrastructure plans of a bullet train and the Bay Delta tunnels, projects that will either advance or hit a dead end under the next governor.

The Los Angeles Times editorial board will make an endorsement in the race in the coming weeks. To prepare, we will interview the candidates on the ballot; examine their experience, platform and past performance; and talk to people who can offer deeper insight into what kind of governor they might make. We will also endorse a candidate in the U.S. Senate race. Incumbent Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who has served in the Senate for more than 25 years, is facing an unusual intraparty challenge from the former leader of the California Senate, Kevin de León, as well as some 30 other candidates. And we will make recommendations regarding the five measures on the statewide ballot, Propositions 68, 69, 70, 71 and 72. There is no runoff for ballot measures.

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In order to focus our attention on the biggest (and most crowded) statewide races, we won’t be offering a recommendation until the November election in a number of contests. These include most statewide races, such as state treasurer and insurance commissioner.

We will, however, make endorsements in all nonpartisan statewide and local races because these races may be finally decided on June 5. If one candidate earns more than 50% of the vote, that person will win outright and there will be no runoff. These posts include the state superintendent of public instruction, two Los Angeles County supervisors, the county sheriff and assessor, and a number of judges.

The eventual winners of these various offices will have the power to affect the lives of Californians and Angelenos on a daily basis, so it’s important for voters to choose wisely. We will help where we can.

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion and Facebook.


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