In a state dominated by Democratic lawmakers, Fresno’s two-term Republican mayor Ashley Swearengin faces an uphill climb in her race for California State Controller.
A Field Poll from last month had her trailing her challenger, Democrat Betty Yee, nearly 2 to 1, and the share of registered voters in California strongly favors the Democratic Party — Republican voters make up just 28.4 percent of the electorate, while Democrats make up 43.4 percent.
Swearengin admits she must attract California’s independent voters — even some registered Democrats — in order to win, and has distanced herself from the California GOP on the campaign trail.
“The State Controller needs to take an independent approach, and really needs to be separate and apart from a lot of the traditional party politics we see happening in Sacramento,” Swearengin told Warren during an in-studio interview.
The State Controller is elected statewide as California’s chief financial officer, and is responsible for ensuring the budget is spent the way it’s supposed to be and that the state’s bills are paid on time. The Controller can audit other state agencies, and serves on 81 boards and commissions, including the Franchise Tax Board, the Coastal Commission, the Lands Commission and the Board of Equalization, which administers taxes.
Both Swearengin and Yee call the Controller job “nonpartisan,” but Swearengin has gone the extra mile. At the GOP convention in Los Angeles last month, she declined to say whether or not she’d vote for Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari. And she’s made very few public endorsements for California Republicans. Yee has said she supports all Democrats on the November 4 ballot.
When asked why she’s withheld endorsements, Swearengin said she has no interest in engaging in conventional state politics.
“I did not come to my position today through any sort of traditional political process,” Swearengin said. “I have not been in party politics before serving as mayor, and really have not been as mayor. Frankly, this is what I’m used to. This is what I’m comfortable with.”
Swearengin also noted she’s secured endorsements from editorial boards statewide, including the Los Angeles Times, the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles News Group, among others. She says that’s proof of her bipartisan appeal.
You can hear Swearengin’s interview on Which Way, LA? below. Listen to Democratic candidate Betty Yee talk to Warren, here.