Meet the candidates running to be California’s next governor in Tuesday’s primary


Welcome to your guide to the 2018 California governor’s race.

The general election is Nov. 6. Campaigning is underway for the June 5 primary, and these are the best-known candidates in the race, in alphabetical order.

The candidates profiled have met certain criteria, including: previous election to public office; at least 5% support from likely voters in an independent, established public opinion poll; or demonstrated fundraising ability.


Travis Allen

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach)
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press )

Top jobs: Three-term Republican assemblyman from Orange County, first elected in 2012.

Biggest controversy: Widely criticized for claiming that a recent California law would “legalize” child prostitution.

Particulars: Allen, 44, lives in Huntington Beach with his wife, Arielle, and their 8-year-old daughter. He is a graduate of Cal State Long Beach.

As a member of the California Legislature’s Republican minority, Allen has earned a reputation as an outspoken conservative who invites controversy. Allen proudly boasts of voting for Trump in 2016.

He came under fire in December after writing an opinion article in the Washington Examiner with the headline “California Democrats legalize childhood prostitution” — an allegation that created a national stir. Travis was referring to a new law that decriminalized prostitution for minors, allowing law enforcement officers to treat minors as victims of sex trafficking rather than offenders.


Several news outlets declared Allen’s allegation an outright falsehood.

In May, Allen launched a drive for a ballot measure to repeal new gas taxes and vehicle fees, which polls show are unpopular with Californians. The increases, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in April, would raise $5.2 billion annually for road repairs and mass transit. He has made the repeal effort a central theme of his campaign.

Allen grew up in Chula Vista, where his father worked as an attorney and his mother served on the school board. Allen, an avid surfer, earned a degree in economics at Cal State Long Beach. He worked as a financial advisor for A.G. Edwards & Sons before launching his own firm.

Allen said he decided to run for the Assembly after watching friends, family members and clients move out of California because of rising taxes and the declining business climate he said was caused by Democratic policies.

Video and analysis from the May 8 debate »

Sign up for the Essential Politics newsletter »

John Chiang

State Treasurer John Chiang
(Irfan Kahn / Los Angeles Times )

Top jobs: Elected state treasurer in 2014 after two terms as state controller.

Biggest splash: Docked state legislators’ pay for failing to pass a balanced budget on time.

Family tragedy: Chiang’s sister, Joyce, a government lawyer in Washington, was murdered in 1999.

Particulars: Chiang, 55, lives in Torrance. He graduated from the University of South Florida and Georgetown University Law Center. He is in the midst of a divorce proceeding and is separated from his wife.

Chiang, a Democrat, has been elected to statewide office three times: twice as controller and once as treasurer in 2014.

The eldest son of Taiwanese immigrants, Chiang grew up in Chicago and New York and moved west after earning his law degree. He worked for then-state Controller Gray Davis and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. In 1998, he won a seat on the state Board of Equalization, which oversees the collection of tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue. It was his first time in elected office.

As controller, Chiang made headlines in 2011 when he decided to withhold state lawmakers’ pay after they failed to produce a balanced spending plan by the June 15 deadline.

Two years earlier, Chiang also made news by refusing an order by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to furlough state workers three days a month amid the state budget crisis. The courts ultimately overruled Chiang, but his action made him a hero to organized labor.


Jan. 28: This article previously stated incorrectly that Chiang is divorced.

New poll finds a volatile race for second place »

John Cox

John Cox
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times )

Top jobs: Attorney and certified public accountant in Chicago.

Biggest splash: Cox, a Republican, in 2003 ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in Illinois against Barack Obama.

Particulars: Cox, 62, lives in Rancho Santa Fe and is married with four children. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago and earned a law degree at Chicago Kent College at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Cox, a Rancho Santa Fe venture capitalist, announced his gubernatorial bid in early March of 2017. Cox has contributed millions of his own money to fund his campaign.

Cox did not vote for President Trump in the 2016 election but now says he backs the president 100%. Trump returned the favor with an endorsement late in the primary race that appeared to elevate Cox’s status.

The Republican several years ago unsuccessfully pushed a ballot initiative to overhaul Sacramento by establishing a “neighborhood legislature,” which would add 12,000 “citizen legislators” elected in neighborhoods to the 80 Assembly members and 40 senators who currently make up the California Legislature.

News about the race for governor »

Delaine Eastin

Top jobs: California superintendent of public instruction from 1995 to 2003. She served in the Assembly from 1986 to 1994, including as chairwoman of the Education Committee.

Biggest splash: The only woman elected as California superintendent of public instruction.

Particulars: Eastin, 70, lives in Davis. She earned a bachelor’s degree at UC Davis and a master’s degree at UC Santa Barbara. She is a Democrat.

Eastin, a Democrat, began her career in politics as councilwoman in Union City on the east side of the San Francisco Bay and later served two terms as the state’s superintendent of public instruction. During her tenure, she was a vocal advocate for the state’s class-size reduction law.

Eastin has been out of elected office since 2003. She is chairwoman of the board of Educate Our State, a nonprofit organization that advocates for California schools. She is also chairwoman of ClosetheGapCA, a political group that focused on electing more women to the Legislature in 2016.

Eastin said she believes that public school funding is no longer a top priority among politicians in Sacramento. She criticized them for failing to provide additional money for preschool and failing to adopt full-day kindergarten.

Behind the candidates: explore the money in the gubernatorial campaign »

Gavin Newsom

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
(Frazer Harrison / Getty Images )

Top jobs: California’s lieutenant governor since 2011. Mayor of San Francisco for two terms, from 2004 to 2011.

Biggest splash: Newsom, a Democrat, created a national firestorm as San Francisco mayor in 2004 when he ordered the city to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Baggage: While mayor, he had an affair with his campaign manager’s wife.

Particulars: Newsom, 50, lives in Marin County with his wife and four children. He is a graduate of Santa Clara University.

He launched his campaign for governor in February 2015.

Since announcing his bid, Newsom proposed a statewide initiative to toughen California gun laws and threw his support behind another measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Both initiatives were passed by state voters in the 2016 general election.

Newsom ran for governor in the 2010 election but dropped out of the race after the entry of Democratic rival Jerry Brown, who went on to win. He ran for the lower-profile lieutenant governor’s office instead and is now serving his second term.

Newsom gained national attention as mayor of San Francisco in 2004 when he directed the city to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That was a catalyst for a nationwide political wrangle over the issue that ended when the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the right of gays to marry in 2015.

As mayor, Newsom also helped launch the country’s first universal healthcare initiative. Newsom has proposed the adoption of a universal healthcare program for California.

Amanda Renteria

Top job: Political director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for president.

Making history: Became the first chief of staff of Latino descent for a U.S. senator when she worked for Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow.

Ran for Congress: Renteria tried to unseat Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) in 2014 and was crushed, even though the Central Valley district is heavily Democratic.

Particulars: Renteria, 43, lives in Menlo Park with her husband and two children. She earned degrees in economics and political science at Stanford University and an MBA at Harvard University.

Renteria jumped into the governor’s race in February, very late in the campaign process, leaving her job with Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra to run.

The Democrat has done little campaigning so far. She’s made clear she wants to appeal to younger female voters.

The Central Valley native worked as an economic policy advisor for Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California before serving as chief of staff to Stabenow.

After her unsuccessful bid to oust Valadao, her only prior run for public office, Renteria became the political director of Clinton’s historic presidential campaign, which ended with a surprise loss to Republican Donald Trump.

Before entering politics, Renteria worked as a math teacher in the Central Valley and later as a budget analyst for the city of San Jose. While at Stanford she played third base for the softball team and also walked on to the women’s basketball team.

Michael Shellenberger

Top jobs: Founder and president of Environmental Progress, an environmental research and advocacy organization in Berkeley.

Biggest splash: Shellenberger created a stir in 2004 when he co-wrote the essay “The Death of Environmentalism,” a critique of the environmental movement.

Power trip: A major proponent of nuclear energy.

Particulars: Shellenberger, 46, lives in Berkeley with his wife and two children. He graduated from Earlham College in Indiana and earned a master’s at UC Santa Cruz.

This is the first run for public office for Shellenberger, a Democrat who has spent more than a decade riling up the country’s environmental movement. He said he decided to run, in part, to break up the California Public Utilities Commission, which he blames for burdening Californians with some of the highest energy rates in the nation.

Shellenberger’s organization and think thank, Environmental Progress, is a major supporter of nuclear energy, which he says has been demonized for decades by environmental groups and Democratic politicians such as Brown.

Shellenberber also supports hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas extraction in California, as long as it’s regulated for safety and environmental protection.

Though considered a long shot, Shellenberger thinks his pro-energy, pro-jobs message will resonate with Californians.

Track the congressional races that will make the difference in California »

Antonio Villaraigosa

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
(Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images )

Top jobs: Los Angeles mayor for two terms, from 2005 to 2013. Speaker of the state Assembly from 1998 to 2000.

Making history: Elected as L.A.’s first Latino mayor since 1872.

Baggage: While mayor, he had an extramarital affair with a local television reporter.

Particulars: Villaraigosa, 65, lives in Los Angeles. He is married to his second wife, has four children and is a UCLA graduate.

When he announced his bid for governor, Villaraigosa said the focus for his campaign would be education, poverty and Californians left behind in the “new economy.”

Villaraigosa, a Democrat, served as mayor of Los Angeles for eight years. During his tenure, the city struggled to cope with plummeting revenues amid the nation’s economic downturn. He wrestled for concessions from public employee unions that were necessary, in part, because of raises that Villaraigosa had approved before the recession hit.

Villaraigosa successfully led the campaign for Measure R, a $35-billion transportation package passed by voters in 2008 that imposed a countywide half-cent sales tax. The measure is credited with reshaping the region’s notoriously inefficient transit system. Under his watch, the city also hired hundreds of new police officers and violent crime plummeted.

He considered a run for governor in 2010, as well as a U.S. Senate bid after Barbara Boxer announced her retirement. He eventually decided against both.

The rest of the field

Akinyemi Agbede, Democrat, mathematician

J. Bribiesca, Democrat, retired medical doctor

Thomas Jefferson Cares, Democrat, Blockchain start-up CEO

Robert Davidson Griffis, Democrat, entrepreneur/economist/father

Albert Caesar Mezzetti, Democrat, retired educator

Klement Tinaj, Democrat, CEO/educator/artist

Yvonne Girard, Republican, judicial assistant

Peter Y. Liu, Republican, no ballot designation

Robert C. Newman II, Republican, research clinical psychologist

Christopher N. Carlson, Green, puppeteer/musician

Josh Jones, Green, author

Zoltan Istvan, Libertarian, entrepreneur/transhumanist lecturer

Nickolas Wildstar, Libertarian, recording artist

Gloria Estela La Riva, Peace and Freedom, graphic artist

Shubham Goel, No Party Preference, virtual reality manager

Hakan “Hawk” Mikado, No Party Preference, CEO/business owner

Desmond Silveira, No Party Preference, senior software engineer

Jeffrey Edward Taylor, No Party Preference, marketplace minister

Johnny Wattenburg, No Party Preference, business owner

Dropped out

Former Assemblyman David Hadley (R-Manhattan Beach)

Former football star Rosey Grier

Former Rep. Doug Ose (R-Sacramento)

Announced they will not run

Former state Controller Steve Westly

Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles

Kevin Faulconer, mayor of San Diego

Tom Steyer, political activist and former hedge fund manager

Ashley Swearengin, former mayor of Fresno

Follow @philwillon on Twitter for the latest news on California politics


This article is regularly updated to include changes to the race.

This article was originally published Jan. 24, 2018.