September 14, 2017 12:22 GMT by

California Today: A Finance Man in the Race for Governor

California Today: A Finance Man in the Race for Governor

Thursday: Checking in with the state treasurer, homeless crises in San Diego and Anaheim, and bracing for Ben Shapiro in Berkeley.

Good morning.

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John Chiang, California’s bespectacled treasurer, is a finance man.

His two decades in public office have been all taxes, budgets, bonds and pensions.

It’s a resume that Mr. Chiang, a Democrat, hopes will persuade voters that he is the governor California needs as it wrestles with a housing crisis and gaping income equality.

He’ll need to outshine two bold-name rivals in the 2018 race: Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor, and Antonio Villaraigosa, a former mayor of Los Angeles.

Mr. Chiang, 55, grew up in a suburb of Chicago, the son of immigrants from Taiwan.

He studied finance at the University of South Florida and law at Georgetown University, before relocating to the Los Angeles area in 1987, where he lives today.

Since then, he has climbed methodically up the ranks of state politics, from political staffer to tax official to controller to treasurer.

Still, Mr. Chiang is not widely known. (On that note, it’s pronounced Chung).

To remedy that he embarked this summer, camper in tow, on a yearlong tour of all 58 California counties.

We caught up with Mr. Chiang by phone. Some excerpts:

Q. How do you see California’s role under the Trump administration?

A. Well, California will have to continue to lead. One of my campaign themes is that we will take a different road. We’re not going to take a road to the past. We’re not going to go back to the divisions, the arguments about who is important. We recognize that our diversity is part of our fabric.

What distinguishes you Newsom and Villaraigosa?

If you look at the record, who’s getting it done. We get the job done.

During the last financial crisis, I was the Democrat who challenged the governor, who challenged the Legislature when they were passing unbalanced budgets.

Or today, challenging President Trump when he talks about reducing access to health care. We supported budget change language so that we could protect community clinics that serve one in every seven Californians.

Are Asian-Americans underrepresented in California politics?

I think in a lot of local communities they are. Part of this is like the maturation of many communities. Individuals come to this country and at the beginning they’re trying to build stability in their lives. So I think the focus is on “How do I get to work?” or “How do I even get work?”

How do you describe your style?

Friendly and effective.

What’s your biggest professional regret?

Can I give a personal regret?


My dad did all the right things. He was an immigrant, and I wish before he passed away that he didn’t have to undergo all the stress that he did, whether it’s bigotry, whether it’s health issues, whether it’s economic issues. Good, hard-working middle class people just face life’s struggles. So when you have good people, you just wish that life could be easier.

This interview has been edited and condensed.