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ELECTION RECOMMENDATIONS

Picks for State Offices

October 16, 2002

This is an "off-year election" because there is no presidential contest. But it's a busy year for California voters, who will pick their governor and elect seven other statewide officials.

Among those running are three incumbents who have served ably and deserve reelection. They are Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer and Treasurer Phil Angelides.

In the four open offices, here are The Times' endorsements:

Secretary of State

Incumbent Bill Jones has been one of the best secretaries of state in modern times. He was termed out of office, however. As his successor, The Times endorses Kevin Shelley of San Francisco, who has been in the Assembly since 1996. Shelley, who was Assembly majority leader, has sponsored legislation to improve the state's voting system and was the author of a bond issue to help counties pay for new voting machines.

Shelley gets the nod over former Assemblyman Keith Olberg of Victorville, who has some good ideas about improving voter participation but had an undistinguished record during his six years in the Legislature.

Controller

Our choice is Steve Westly of Atherton, a dot-com executive who taught at Stanford's Graduate School of Business and led economic development for the city of San Jose. As do all candidates for this office, he promises to audit state functions to weed out waste. It will be even more important to work with the Legislature and the governor to get the state's fiscal house in order and to stabilize the state's credit rating.

State Sen. Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks was a bright and articulate member of the Assembly for 14 years and the Senate for the last two. McClintock promises to be a fiscal watchdog, but his zeal to oppose just about anything connected to spending money -- a reality of running any large organization -- would probably gum up the orderly workings of state government.

Insurance Commissioner

The candidates are John Garamendi of Mokelumne Hill and Gary Mendoza of Sierra Madre. Garamendi became the first elected state insurance commissioner in 1991 but left after that term to unsuccessfully run for governor. Later he was deputy secretary of the Interior in the Clinton administration. Garamendi has the experience to take firm control of this office as soon as he is sworn in. Voters should elect Garamendi to continue the job of straightening out the mess created by Chuck Quackenbush, forced to resign because of political scandal.

Mendoza, a budding star for the GOP, is a former state corporations commissioner with some fresh and interesting ideas and some achievements in dealing with health insurance and HMO issues as corporations chief. But Garamendi's experience tips the scale in his favor.

Supt. of Public Instruction

The Times endorsed state Sen. Jack O'Connell (D-San Luis Obispo) for this nonpartisan office before the March primary and restates that endorsement now.

A few words about the incumbents and their challengers:

Lieutenant Governor

State Sen. Bruce McPherson (R-Santa Cruz), a moderate, is the standout figure on the GOP ticket. It's too bad he isn't running for one of the less competitive statewide offices.

Cruz Bustamante has done a credible job in this office of little visibility or daily effect on government. And the former Assembly speaker is respected as one of the ranking Latinos in American politics. He's earned a second term.

Attorney General

Incumbent Bill Lockyer, former president pro tem of the state Senate, has been an activist as the state's chief law officer and top lawyer. He has prosecuted abusive nursing homes, reestablished the office's environmental law section and moved to shut down methamphetamine laboratories. He too deserves a second term.

Locker's foe, Sen. Dick Ackerman, from Irvine, is best known for his habit of voting no on almost every bill coming before the Senate, even those sponsored by his GOP colleagues. Such a negative approach is not what California needs in an attorney general.

Treasurer

Incumbent Phil Angelides of Sacramento is the Energizer Bunny of state government, helping to finance California's budget deficit one day and fighting corporate fraud the next. He has proposed creative and economically responsible ways to invest the state's money in California rather than in other states or countries.

Opponent Greg Conlon of Redwood City was on the state Public Utilities Commission when it was less responsive to consumer interests than it should have been. Angelides is the clear choice for another term.

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