In Governor’s Race, Left Turns Worry Business Community

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

In deep blue California, many Democratic gubernatorial candidates have their left turn blinker on constantly supporting policy moves in a progressive and risky direction. How does that sit with the state’s business community, which treasures certainty?

While the business sector is not monolithic, there is a common concern expressed by all types of business leaders that California is a difficult place to operate. The attitude is shared by the CEOs who year in and year out list the state last in business friendly environment to small businesses that express similar concerns in an annual survey.

While it is the tax, regulation and mandate issues that concern business leaders who are following the developing governor’s race, overall progressive agendas help gauge where the candidates are headed.

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom has jumped behind the single payer health care plan, minimum wage increases and taken enough liberal positions to receive the endorsement of former Democratic Party head John Burton, godfather of California liberal causes.

Treasurer John Chiang, who calls himself a fiscally responsible progressive leader, has endorsed a union backed plan for CalPERS that the Sacramento Bee editorial page argued was “stepping over the line” in a state that is already extremely labor-friendly “using the government’s power to force private employers into labor contracts.” (Editor’s Note: See Update below.)

Tom Steyer, who is contemplating jumping into the race, has been labeled by columnist Joel Kotkin a new kind of socialist because of his policies.

Delaine Eastin promotes a progressive agenda that calls for more spending, especially for education.

Then there is Antonio Villaraigosa, the one time Los Angeles mayor and Assembly Speaker, one time union organizer who tussled with teachers’ unions and called the single payer plan “snake oil.” While conventional wisdom has it that a fiscal responsible Chiang might battle Villaraigosa for business backing, the former mayor may be focusing his campaign to pick up business support.

Political strategist and pundit Arnold Steinberg suggests Villaraigosa’s plan could consist of locking down the Latino vote and moderating positions to capture the business community.

Business groups are studying the records and the rhetoric of all the candidates. Business leaders hope to come together as a unified force to support a preferred candidate and make a difference in the coming election.

(Update: The Sacramento Bee editorial page updated its analysis of the John Chiang’s  CalPERS proposal noting:The staff recommendation would add to CalPERS contracts – except those with investment managers – a provision that encourages, but does not require, management to stay neutral in labor organizing activities.” Chiang also responded to the editorial with an op-ed which can be found here.

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