Duties of the state's No. 2 office include the largely ceremonial and seldom-performed task of presiding over the state Senate; assuming duties of governor in event of the chief executive's impeachment, death, resignation, removal from office or absence from the state; chairing the Economic Development Commission, and sitting on about six boards and commissions, including the University of California Board of Regents, the State Board of Equalization and the State Lands Commission.
MAJOR PARTY CANDIDATES
GRAY DAVIS, Democrat
* Born: Dec. 26, 1942, New York City
* Residence: West Hollywood
* Current Position: State controller
* Education: Bachelor's degree, Stanford University; law degree, Columbia University
* Career highlights: Served as a captain in U.S. Army, earning Bronze Star for service in Vietnam, 1969; chief of staff to ex-Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., 1975-1981; member of the state Assembly, 1982-1986; state controller, 1987-present.
* Family: Married
* Background: A well-known figure in California politics, Davis is attempting to move up from the office of state controller. As controller, Davis says he's been forced to clean up messes made by other officials, such as the IOUs he issued in 1992 after Gov. Pete Wilson and the Legislature were embroiled in a protracted budget stalemate. Among achievements that Davis cites in his current job are his recent role in persuading Taco Bell Corp. to stay in California and publicizing a $2.7-billion accounting error that threatened to undermine Gov. Pete Wilson's budget. Davis also has earned points with environmentalists for fighting offshore oil drilling. And he reminds voters that he supports abortion rights. Davis first drew attention as an aggressive, visible chief of staff to former Gov. Jerry Brown. His detractors have criticized Davis, elected to the Assembly in 1982, as an ambitious career politician. Immediately after his election as controller in 1986, he was accused of having state employees do political work for him while on state time. No charges were brought, but Davis reimbursed the state for employees' time and telephone charges. Last year, Davis was drawn into the spotlight again when it was reported that he had named political cronies and personal friends to lucrative part-time posts as probate referees. In response, Davis announced steps to reform the appointment process. After weathering rough political seas for two decades, Davis, who lost a bitter 1992 U.S. Senate campaign, has emerged as the front-runner for lieutenant governor.
CATHIE WRIGHT, Republican
* Born: May 18, 1929, Old Forge, Pa.
* Residence: Simi Valley
* Current position: Member of the state Senate
* Education: Associate of arts degree in accounting from Lackawanna Jr. College, attended University of Scranton
* Family: Widowed; one child.
* Career highlights: Insurance underwriter, 1978-1980; elected to Simi Valley City Council, 1978; elected in 1980 to the state Assembly, where she served for 12 years before moving up to the state Senate in 1992.
* Background: If she wins, Wright would become the first woman to capture the post of lieutenant governor. Wright lost three races for the Simi Valley City Council before she finally took a seat on her fourth attempt. Two years later in 1980, Wright, a former Democrat, was elected to the Assembly as a strong supporter of property tax-cutting Proposition 13.
Among her top accomplishments, Wright cites legislation to establish a comprehensive program to provide mental health services to seriously emotionally disturbed children. But after 14 years in the Legislature, conservative Wright, an opponent of abortion rights, is best known for her combative style and squabbles with other Republican legislators. After she failed to join them in a 1988 move to oust Democratic Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, Wright's Assembly GOP colleagues unsuccessfully sought to dislodge her from a seat on the Rules Committee.
About the same time, Wright acknowledged that she had enlisted Brown's help when her daughter had run up a string of traffic tickets. A district attorney's investigation determined that Wright had tried to get police to void tickets issued to her or her daughter. However, the probe determined there were no clear-cut criminal violations that warranted prosecution.
MINOR PARTY CANDIDATES
* J. LUIS GOMEZ, Peace and Freedom, accountant and educator
* ROBERT W. LEWIS, American Independent, 42, water district director
* DANIEL MOSES, Green, 58, editor
* BOB NEW, Libertarian, 73, businessman