CA-SOS: Field Widens to Three Dems As Derek Cressman Joins Race

Secretary of State Turns Into a Competitive Primary

by Brian Leubitz

Of the statewide offices, incumbents will likely run for reelection as Governor, Lt. Gov, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction. That leaves three statewide positions open: Treasurer, Controller, and Secretary of State. John Chiang looks to be a strong front-runner for treasurer and Betty Yee the front-runner for Controller. Former Bank Bailout (TARP) administrator has also been rumored for one of those two positions, and would likely make for the most credible Republican challenger.

On the other hand, there is no clear front-runner for Secretary of State. Debra Bowen, the long-time progressive leader on the issue of voting machines, is termed out. Sens. Alex Padilla and Leland Yee both quickly announced their candidacies after the presidential elections wrapped up. Both will likely have strong fundraising numbers, and a fair bit of name recognition within their communities. Padilla tends toward the more business friendly moderate wing of the party, and Yee towards the labor-friendly progressive wing. But neither fits the traditional mold particularly well, as they each have strong friends, and some detractors, on the entire spectrum of the Democratic coalition.

On the Republican side, Pepperdine think tanker Pete Peterson is the only announced candidate. And all three are sounding similar themes: increasing voter registration, turnout and transparency.

And now, Derek Cressman, a good government advocate who has spent time with the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and more recently with Common Cause as the director of state operations, is jumping into the race. I should note here that Derek is a friend of mine, and I’ll be hosting a conversation with him at Netroots Nation tomorrow at 10:30. He’s well suited for the job, as he has experience in managing an office and the knowledge of best practices over politics.

But, with a wild three-way race on the Democratic side, who emerges is anybody’s guess. As long as there is only one viable Republican, the top-two nature of the race won’t be too much of a factor. If an additional Republican jumps in, and we get several more Democrats, we run the (admittedly small) risk of a Rep-on-Rep general election. However, while there is still a fair bit of time left, I haven’t heard much in the way of additional candidates from either party, with just one big name left in rumors.

Without any polling numbers available at this point, it is tough to do very much in the way of prediction. The candidates will likely be focusing on fund-raising for a while before spending money on increasing their name ID, so poll numbers will have a lot of “don’t knows” for a while yet anyway. However it goes, SoS might end up being the race to watch in what is generally a pretty chill election next June.

Photo credit: The Uptake. Derek Cressman at NetrootsNation 2010.