All the constitutional offices will be contested in the November election but there seems little contest for many of the positions — except one. There will be a brawl for the office of Secretary of State.
Every political bookmaker has the governor winning re-election by four or five touchdowns. No one has stepped up to challenge the Attorney General. The treasurer’s race seems to be locked down by the current controller and the controller’s office has a couple of recognized opponents who, if no other viable candidate comes forward, will face each other in both the June election and the top-two runoff in November.
The Secretary of State’s race has drawn five candidates with credentials. Two Democratic legislators, two academics (one who has a political background) and a former official of a good government group are all vying for the post.
Isn’t the Secretary of State’s office mostly ministerial?
Sure it is a statewide office and can be seen as a jumping off point for bigger and better things. Let’s not forget that our current governor once served as the California Secretary of State.
But with other positions that arguably offer more influence and power it seems surprising that the Secretary of State’s office has drawn so many qualified candidates while other statewide posts are lacking for contenders.
According to the Secretary of State’s website the office’s responsibilities include:
- Serving as the state’s Chief Elections Officer
- Implementing electronic filing and Internet disclosure of campaign and lobbyist financial information
- Maintaining business filings
- Commissioning notaries public
- Operating the Safe at Home confidential address program
- Maintaining the Domestic Partners and Advance Health Care Directive Registries
- Safeguarding the State Archives
- Serving as a trustee of the California Museum
Okay, important tasks but hardly the nectar that draws the most political bees.
In checking out the election websites of the five recognized candidates for the office it seems that a few have other things on their mind that go beyond the office’s responsibilities.
Enter Senator Alex Padilla’s election website and you are greeted with a column headlined: Support My Legislation Banning Single-Use Plastic Bags. Not exactly the platform usually associated with the Secretary of State’s office.
Derek Cressman, the former Common Cause leader, has among his issue items on his website getting rid of the Citizens United decision affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. That would be more a job for Congress than the California Secretary of State.
Senator Leland Yee has a much simpler website.
He expresses a goal more in line with the office. “I will be a Secretary of State committed to fair elections and expanding access to our democracy.”
Republican Pete Peterson, who runs the Davenport Institute at Pepperdine University, lists a five point plan.
The first point of the plan suggests he be paid based on his job performance. Will the legislature okay a plan allowing government officials to be paid for performance? No way they want to set that precedent.
Political communications expert and USC professor Dan Schnur is running as a No Party Preference candidate. His website also contains a five point plan highlighted by Schnur’s call for banning campaign contributions during legislative sessions.
Who would have thought that the most hotly contested statewide race would be for Secretary of State? Clearly, one reason is that it is an open seat. The office has taken some criticism recently with the performance of the online technology, access to funding reports, and the difficulties in registering start-up businesses. The candidates feel the office is ripe for reform rhetoric.
How the election plays out in June to narrow the field to two will keep political junkies focused on the race. With three Democrats battling it out, could Peterson’s designation of preferring the Republican Party get him one of the top two spots for November if Republican voters unite behind him?
How will Schnur’s wild card run affect the race? As someone well known to the political world and the media, will he be able to find a spot in the top two? As a former Republican, the Democrats in the race will probably tag him as a member of the GOP in sheep’s clothing. A master of the political quip, Schnur may be able to manage such attacks — if he has the resources to reach the voters.
If Schnur is successful with his No Party Preference candidacy that would undoubtedly open the door for more candidates to declare a NPP designation in future elections.
Who would have thought a Secretary of State’s race would be the most fascinating to watch in any election year?