Why The Chronicle Won’t Endorse California’s State Treasurer Primary


Republicans haven’t held statewide office in California since 2006. Take a look at the race for state treasurer and it’s easy to see why.

Democratic incumbent Fiona Ma faced a series of scandals during her first term. In February, Orange County media reported that Ma stepped in personally to help a president of a local police union count his union pay into his state pension – and received generous campaign contributions of said union as the process unfolds. Last October, the Sacramento Bee reported that Ma, who chose to live in San Francisco, billed taxpayers for her housing when she and her staff spent the night in Sacramento for work — to the tune of $32,000 in her first two years in office. This report follows the revelation that Ma regularly shared hotel rooms with his subordinates on these trips, a practice as questionable as it may seem after a former staff member filed a lawsuit against Ma for harassment. sexual activity that allegedly occurred during some of these stays. The staff member also alleges that Ma wrongfully fired her afterwards.

In an endorsement interview, Ma denied all allegations of impropriety. But his answers weren’t particularly contrite. She has, for example, betrayed no intention of paying for her own lodging in Sacramento, a curious choice given all the trouble her hotel bills have caused.

Despite all this, the Republicans did not bother to oppose a formidable opponent. And, unlike the race for insurance commissioner, where Democrat Marc Levine takes on incumbent Ricardo Lara after Lara’s series of ethical missteps, no other Democrats are running for treasurer.

Ma’s main Republican challenger, Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do, has been charged with his own ethical lapses. In 2020, Do’s campaign would have secretly laundered more than $22,000 in campaign contributions through the county’s Republican Party account, which had the effect of keeping the identity of the donors secret. The California Fair Political Practices Commission finally concluded no evidence of illegal activity. But Do’s chief of staff was banged by the commission for similar alleged activity a few years earlier.

California election results

Do did not respond to our repeated interview requests.

Ma’s other Republican challenger, Jack Guerrero, is a councilman from the small town of Cudahy in southeast Los Angeles County. He is a bright and engaging figure, having graduated from Stanford, Oxford and Harvard respectively. His campaign is primarily focused on consolidating unfunded liabilities in California’s retirement systems — essentially pension IOUs to public servants that the state currently doesn’t have enough money to back up. But Guerrero lacks meaningful support from his party infrastructure — and his largely self-funded campaign is not designed to win. If Guerrero was purely a fiscal conservative in dollars and cents, we might seriously consider his candidacy. But he leads a militant campaign; Among other ideas, Guerrero is a proponent of school vouchers whose plans include finding legal avenues to publicly fund the development of private schools.

Peace and Freedom Party candidate Meghann Adams did not respond to our interview requests.

Which brings us back to Ma.

Ethics scandals aside, Ma is an excellent candidate. She works hard and has been sinking state coffers despite logistical challenges during the pandemic. She is a passionate supporter of responsible divestment of public funds from fossil fuels and Russia.

But his judgment in his first term was a disappointment, especially as his good advocacy with the government earlier in his career helped bring about crucial reforms to the Equalization Board.

With the opponents she faces, Ma will sail into the general election if she doesn’t win the primary. She doesn’t need our support. And, given the seriousness of the harassment charges against her, she won’t understand just yet.

This comment is from The Chronicle editorial board. We invite you to express your views in a letter to the editor. Please submit your letter via our online form: SFChronicle.com/letters.


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