Despite the virtual certainty that Governor Brown will win his bid for reelection, voter’s voices at the ballot box in November will count more than they have in a very long time. First, because passage of Proposition 1, the Water Bond, is critical to the future of California’s economy and because passage of Proposition 2, the Rainy Day Fund, is critical to the future stability of California’s finances.  And second because of three races for constitutional offices with great importance to how our state is governed.

For the first time in recent history, candidates who are unshackled by allegiances to power brokers and special interests have a real shot at winning all three of these important races: Marshall Tuck for Superintendent of Public Instruction; Ashley Swearengin for State Controller; and Pete Peterson for Secretary of State. Tuck is a Democrat, the other two Republicans, but all three of them have consistently put State above party. None of them are career politicians. They are all young but highly experienced problem solvers. They all exude competence, integrity, intelligence, energy and dedication to making California golden once again. They’re all passionate about measuring and delivering results.

California, once ranked first in K-12 education, is now ranked 45th in the nation. More than 2.5 million children in California’s public schools cannot read at grade level. Marshall Tuck’s highly successful experience with Green Dot Public Schools and the Los Angeles Partnership for Schools provides evidence that he knows how to turn around failing schools. He believes what researchers have repeatedly told us — the biggest difference-maker is the quality of teachers in the classroom.  While the status quo continues to hand-cuff good teachers and protect bad ones, Tuck sees his mission as providing a public education system that enables all children to succeed and good teachers to flourish.

Despite the claims made by political leaders that our state budget is now “balanced”, that’s true only in the mythical world of California government accounting. In fact, using standard accrual accounting methods the state budget remains way out of balance. And voters are right to suspect that the imbalance results, at least in large part, from government waste. California needs a truly independent controller; someone like Ashley Swearengin who is both independent and well experienced in ferreting out waste and fixing fiscal imbalances.

California voters don’t show up to vote much anymore. In the June primary election, only 25% of registered voters showed up. Polls tell us that’s because they see special interests controlling the outcome of most elections and wonder whether their vote will make a difference. Pete Peterson is running for Secretary of State as the “Chief Public Engagement Officer”. He sees his mission as rekindling trust in democracy. Bringing transparency to government has been his mantra as executive director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership, and his experience in applying technology to enable civic engagement is sorely needed in California.

Together, the three candidates have the capacity to help address what may be California’s biggest problem, the loss of middle-class jobs. Tuck is committed to providing young Californians the skills needed to be employable in our 21st century economy. Swearengin’s expertise is in economic development and job creation. Peterson has personal experience with the morass in the Secretary of State’s office, where getting a business license can take months. All three count MBA’s among their degrees, not an insignificant qualification for a State that wants to restore middle-class jobs.

All three candidates entered their campaigns as heavy underdogs, but they all have a legitimate shot at winning their races. Swearengin and Peterson are registered Republicans in a State that is heavily Democratic, but Swearengin was the top vote-getter in the June primary, and polls are showing Peterson and his opponent to be in a very close race. Thanks in part to endorsements from the editors of every major newspaper in the State, Tuck is leading in the polls against an incumbent who was backed in the primary by $4.5 million in “independent expenditures” from the California Teachers Association – more than the CTA had spent in any other prior race in its history.

Voters have an opportunity in this important election to weigh in on issues of both policy and leadership Support of Propositions 1 and 2 will give California a stronger economic and more fiscally stable foundation.  Electing Tuck, Swearengin and Peterson will be a game-changer for California, providing evidence that voters are no longer willing to sit back and allow single-interest groups to continue to determine how our state will be governed.