Candidate registration hasn’t closed yet but the first debate in the highly contested Secretary of State race took place yesterday in Los Angeles. It was a relatively genteel affair with candidates agreeing on the need to get more voters to participate in elections and improving technology to advance the state’s democracy – but some political shots were fired.

Independent candidate Dan Schnur challenged the other candidates to help build trust in government by calling for the expulsion from the senate of convicted Senator Rod Wright and indicted Senator Ron Calderon. None of the other candidates took up his challenge.

While championing public financing, former Common Cause official Derek Cressman, a Democrat, managed to slip in a reference to a fine Democratic senator Alex Padilla once faced for an election violation.

Cressman declared that he was the only candidate to pledge not to seek another office while serving as Secretary of State.  Schnur said that was false. He too had made that pledge.

Republican Pete Peterson said the only two people on the panel who could vote to do something about a political fundraising ban were senators Padilla and Leland Yee, yet they did nothing.

Expect more political challenges as this multi-candidate election heats up.

Each of the six candidates on the panel tried to carve out a niche to separate himself from his opponents.

Schnur emphasized the need to build trust in government by banning fundraising during legislative sessions. Senator Leland Yee, a Democrat, emphasized the need for students to be educated about their civic responsibilities while trumpeting his effort to get voters registered online. Pete Peterson stressed the need for improved technology and follow through to make sure the technology improves the Secretary of State’s responsibilities.

Green Party candidate David S. Curtis called for public financing, proportional voting and equal time on the airwaves for all candidates. Cressman centered his candidacy on undoing money in politics chiefly by overturning the United States Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Padilla emphasized his ability to work with both parties in the legislature and promised to get the resources from the legislature necessary to fix data problems overseen by the Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State’s office also has a large role in managing business records and registrations. Padilla was the only candidate who mentioned business a couple of times saying he would modernize the business division to help small business.

The ACLU, the League of Women Voters and the California Endowment’s Center for Healthy Communities sponsored the forum. Questions from moderator Azalea Iñiguez, Telemundo news anchor, mainly focused on issues about access to voting, including felony disenfranchisement. There were no questions about voter fraud prevention or about the Secretary of State’s responsibilities when it comes to businesses.