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Incumbents seek re-election in June to five statewide offices

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POSTED May 11, 2014 7:15 p.m.

SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Incumbents are seeking re-election in five of the eight contests for statewide office in the June primary, and voters will see familiar names on the ballot for the three vacancies.

Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, all Democrats, are running for their second and final terms in the offices they now hold. If Brown wins re-election, it will be his fourth term as governor, allowed because he served his first two before the state’s term-limits law.

Current officeholders are among the candidates for the three remaining offices: controller, treasurer and secretary of state. All eight of the constitutional offices are held by Democrats, something Republicans hope to change this year.

Controller John Chiang is termed out of his current post but is running for state treasurer.

Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, is termed out of the Legislature and is running for state controller. So is Betty Yee, who is termed out of her post on the state Board of Equalization after representing 21 northern and central California counties on the tax board.

Two Democratic state senators are among eight candidates on the ballot for secretary of state, although Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco ended his campaign after he was arrested on federal corruption charges.

They are among 53 candidates seeking the eight statewide offices. That doesn’t count another 11 candidates running for the Board of Equalization, whose members represent one of four districts that divide the state.

This is the first statewide primary in which the top two vote-getters in each contest will advance to the November general election, even if they are from the same political party. Voters approved that system four years ago.

“We’re in new territory,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll.

Aside from the top-two format, he said the off-year primary is likely to be “an incredibly low-turnout election” that will draw a disproportionate share of older voters. That will give Republican candidates a better chance to reach the November ballot, which would be more difficult during a presidential election year or if no incumbent was running for governor.

Democrats dominate Republicans in voter registration, 44 percent to 29 percent.

In Newsom’s bid for a second term as lieutenant governor, he is being challenged by three Republicans, a fellow Democrat and three candidates from other parties. His best-known opponent is former California Republican Party chairman Ron Nehring, who held that post from 2007 to 2011.

Newsom, formerly mayor of San Francisco, also is being challenged by fellow Democrat Eric Korevaar of La Jolla, whose website says he could do the work of the lieutenant governor with half the office’s current $1 million budget.

Attorney General Harris faces four Republicans, including longtime state legislator Phil Wyman. He proposed that state lawmakers who are found guilty of crimes that endanger the lives of others should face public execution by hanging, firing squad or lethal injection as a deterrent to others.

That prompted intraparty criticism by fellow Republican David King. The former San Diego deputy city attorney and regional water quality control board member said Wyman should withdraw from the race.

Harris also is being challenged by Orly Taitz, an Orange County attorney and dentist who has repeatedly filed “birther” lawsuits challenging Barack Obama’s right to be president despite his Hawaiian birth certificate. Taitz’s online candidacy statement says that as attorney general she would prosecute state officials who ignored evidence that Obama fabricated his birth certificate.

The controller’s race pits two Democratic stalwarts against each other, in Assembly Speaker Perez and Board of Equalization member Yee.

Perez was far outpacing Yee in fundraising, according to mid-March campaign finance reports, with nearly $1.8 million banked to her $100,529. Yet a Field Poll last month showed Yee leading Perez, 19 percent to 14 percent, in a bid for the second spot on the November ballot.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, led the Field Poll with support from 28 percent of likely voters, although 38 percent had yet to pick a favorite in the six-way controller contest.

Controller Chiang, a Democrat, faces Republican and Green Party challengers as he runs for state treasurer, the state’s other leading fiscal office. Republican accountant Greg Conlon of Menlo Park was appointed by former Gov. Pete Wilson to the state public utilities and transportation commissions. Green Party candidate Ellen Brown of Santa Clarita espouses a variety of global conspiracy theories on her website and in her books.

Jones’ bid for a second term as insurance commissioner is being challenged by state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville. On the secretary of state’s official candidates list, Gaines lists himself as an independent insurance agent and does not mention that he is a current state lawmaker.

The incumbent, a former member of the state Assembly, had $1.6 million in his campaign account heading into the final months of the primary campaign, eclipsing the $32,000 in Gaines’ insurance commissioner account.

Gaines emphasizes his lawsuit against Covered California, the agency operating the state’s insurance marketplace under the federal Affordable Care Act.

He criticizes Covered California for forcing nearly 1 million residents to give up their previous insurance policies because they did not meet the higher standards of the federal law. His lawsuit, filed in March, seeks to stop any future health insurance policy cancellations.

Gaines also has established a parody Twitter account alleging that Jones isn’t doing enough for consumers.

Jones held news conferences last year criticizing Covered California for not extending the deadline for consumers to obtain new policies that complied with the law. He also orchestrated agreements by Blue Cross and Blue Shield to delay cancellations into early 2014 because the major health insurance companies had not provided proper notice to policyholders.

Jones supports an initiative on the November ballot that would give the insurance commissioner the authority to approve rate increases by insurers. Gaines opposes it, campaign spokeswoman Betsey Hodges said.

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