When incumbent Kenneth Cory bowed out of the state controller's race, he set off the most furious bipartisan state campaign of the year. Three Republicans and three Democrats have survived the scramble for money and public notice in a sniping campaign waged largely in television ads.
The spirited battle for the Democratic nomination has been dominated by aggressive advertisements featuring such diverse symbols as the Med fly and missing children. Most often in the public eye have been two candidates, state Sen. John Garamendi of Walnut Grove and Assemblyman Gray Davis of Los Angeles.
For months, Garamendi sought to blame Davis for the most unpopular actions of Davis' one-time boss, former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., whom the assemblyman served as chief of staff.
Davis' ads, describing him as the candidate who can make a difference, highlight his campaign to reunite missing children with their families.
The third and most conservative of the Democratic candidates, Assemblyman Alister McAlister of Fremont, has opted for the road not often taken in political races--ingenuity. He employed a Randy Newman sound-alike to warble a tune in radio ads about the "big boys" backing his opponents and dubbing McAlister "Honest McHonest."
On the Republican side, state Sen. William Campbell of Hacienda Heights and Sonoma Assemblyman Don A. Sebastiani have waged a two-man battle, mutually ignoring the third GOP candidate, former Fair Political Practices Commission chief Dan Stanford. (A fourth candidate on the ballot, former state Sen. Marz Garcia, withdrew from the race.)
Campbell, who served as Senate minority leader for eight years, has vowed to improve the state's auditing procedures and whip up business development in California.
Sebastiani, one of a tribe of young, conservative post-Proposition 13 Republicans who pride themselves on refusing to compromise, has campaigned as a staunch fiscal conservative.
Left behind in the Republican race, according to several polls, is Stanford, who has found that it is easier to be a political watchdog than a political candidate. Stanford's campaign has been marred by accusations that he exaggerated his political and financial support to maintain his credibility.