Fresno residents should be proud that Mayor Ashley Swearengin was the leading vote-getter as of Wednesday for state controller in Tuesday's primary election and made it into the November runoff.
Swearengin, a late entrant into the race, made a favorable impression on voters, Republican Party officials and newspaper editorial boards on several quick tours around California after filing to run March 4.
Certainly she was helped by landing the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times, the state's largest newspaper.
Unlike The Bee Editorial Board, which recommended both Swearengin and state Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a Democrat, to voters because of our state's top-two primary system, the Times endorsed only Swearengin.
"Swearengin has the clearer view of the controller's primary responsibility — fiscal accountability — and the better background to do the work," the Times said.
But Swearengin still has a tough road ahead. Democrats — far and away the dominant force in California politics — are notorious for not voting in primaries. If Swearengin faces Yee or former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez in the runoff — the race for second remains too close to call — winning will require convincing significant numbers of Democrats and independents that she is the superior candidate.
It helps that Swearengin is a moderate Republican who doesn't often get involved in hot-button social issues. However, you can be sure that activist Democrats will make a big point of the fact that Swearengin supported the Proposition 8 gay-marriage ban in 2008.
Swearengin's best chance for victory is making the case that her performance as Fresno mayor has prepared her well for state controller.
In many ways, Fresno's fiscal challenges during the Great Recession and subsequent slow recovery mirrored those of California's. Fresno was severely tested; indeed, it contemplated filing for bankruptcy, but Swearengin's prudent hand, in concert with the City Council, guided the city through its financial crisis.
As she continues her campaign, Swearengin must not take her eye off the ball in Fresno. She was elected as a full-time strong mayor and she is compensated accordingly. She must fulfill these duties first, even as she aims for statewide office.
However, it doesn't look like you'll have many days off from now to Nov. 4.
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