State Treasurer Lags In Governor's Race But Still Hopes For Upset

Underdog Chiang Goes On The Attack Against Frontrunner Newsom

Doug Sovern
May 24, 2018 - 5:00 am

State Treasurer John Chiang says there's a reason he's always rooted for underdogs: it's because of the racism he encountered as one of the few Asian American children in his Chicago neighborhood. "They threw rocks at our windows, and spray-painted our garage," he remembers.

Decades later, he is himself an underdog, in the race for governor of California. Chiang was touted by some as a candidate to watch, a second-tier contender who could make a run at one of the top two spots in the June 5 primary, because voters have elected him to statewide office three times, and because he tapped into California's growing Asian American community to raise millions of dollars in campaign contributions. But it hasn't happened. Chiang has languished in the polls, unable to break out of single digits.

In the campaign's closing days, he's gone on the attack, mostly against the Democratic frontrunner, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. "He tweets and he talks, but we need people who actually come up with concrete plans," Chiang said of Newsom in the final debate of the campaign. Newsom is firing back, attacking Chiang in a new ad, but that's more to depress Chiang's support and boost Republican John Cox, than because Newsom sees Chiang as a real threat.

Chiang, a two-term State Controller before he was elected Treasurer in 2014, was born in New York City and raised in Chicago. He was student body vice president of his high school, where the president was Dave Jones, who, like Chiang, eventually moved to California and entered politics. Now Chiang's old buddy Jones is California Insurance Commissioner and running for Attorney General. Chiang, who began his career as a tax attorney, touts his experience in finance and government as his leading qualifications for governor. "I'm the progressive who can balance a checkbook," he likes to say. "I'm the progressive who can balance a budget." Now he hopes the votes add up for him on June 5, and he makes it into the November general election.