‘Down ballot’ doesn’t mean unimportant

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has done exactly what he promised in 2014 – improved voting machinery, increased registration and boosted turnout. He should be reelected.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has done exactly what he promised in 2014 – improved voting machinery, increased registration and boosted turnout. He should be reelected. rbenton@sacbee.com

It’s called “down ballot,” but the offices beyond Governor are important to keep our state functioning and moving in the right direction. The best choices for these offices were clear before the top-two primary in June, and we’ve seen no compelling reasons to alter our recommendations. Here are the candidates The Sun-Star recomends in the Nov. 6 election.

Attorney General

California’s resistance to the Trump administration is playing out in courtrooms. As attorney general, Xavier Becerra has been leading that charge and doing it well. Becerra has filed some 40 lawsuits against the federal government over environmental policy, immigration and other issues, and just added net neutrality to his list. By taking part in multi-state legal challenges, he is making sure California’s interests are represented.

Insurance Commissioner

Steve Poizner wants to return to the job he held from 2007 to 2011. This time, the former Republican is trying to do so as an independent. If he wins, that would be a first in California politics. In his previous stint, he battled health and auto insurance giants on unfair rate hikes while still granting enough profits to keep them in the state. California still needs that balance, especially in healthcare as attempts by Republicans to dismantle Obamacare are complicating premiums and costs.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

This has become a proxy war between supporters of charter schools and public schools. That fight distracts from the many other problems facing education. We prefer Tony Thurmond, the former Assemblyman from Richmond who has a long history of championing the poor, disabled and foster children. Marshall Tuck, the darling of the California Charter Schools Association, is said to have $11 million at his disposal.

Board of Equalization

This antiquated board – mired in controversy and steeped in scandal – has long since outlived its usefulness. It should be disbanded and its duties rolled into other offices of state government. Tom Hallinan of Ceres has pledged to work from within to get rid of the board to just that.

Secretary of State

Alex Padilla, the Democrat incumbent, has compiled a very strong record. Too rare for politicians these days, he has done what he promised in 2014: modernizing voting equipment, building registration and increasing turnout. Also, Padilla reacted responsibly to Russia’s interference in U.S. elections. Republican Mark Meuser has bought into the fake news that there is widespread voter fraud.

State Treasurer

Democrat Fiona Ma is the most qualified to protect California’s financial stability. A certified public accountant, she is a former speaker pro tem of the Assembly and as a member of the state Board of Equalization, she blew the whistle on its nepotism and accounting problems, She wants to create a banking system for cannabis, a necessity as the legal weed industry grows. She is endorsed by the current treasurer, John Chiang, which counts for a lot.

State Controller

Betty Yee, the Democratic incumbent, has done a stellar job as the state’s chief financial officer. She conducted audits of small cities and Valley water districts, and pushed to strip power from the Board of Equalization. If re-elected, she has pledged to focus on tax reform and the state’s huge public employee pension funds – both areas that deserve more scrutiny. There’s no reason to take a risk with a new controller.