This election year, The Sacramento Bee and other McClatchy newspapers in California want to drive a discussion on the important issues facing our state. We’ve assembled a panel of 60 influential Californians who will offer their views throughout the year.

Meet them here and see how they responded to our initial question:

“What is the single biggest challenge our leaders must confront to secure a better future for California?”

Leaders

Barbara Boxer

Barbara Boxer

U.S. Senator, 1993-2017

California’s challenge is to continue leading the nation and much of the world by prioritizing an educated workforce capable of responding to future breakthrough technologies.

Gray Davis

Gray Davis

Governor of California, 1999-2003

The biggest challenge before Califonia is the need to revamp the entire education system, K through college, so that our children have the skill sets to cope with a constantly changing job market – because every dream begins with a job.

Ron George

Ron George

Former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court

A better future for California can be achieved only if our national and state leaders honor the U.S. and California Constitutions’ allocation of respective responsibilities between our national and state governments and among their executive, legislative and judicial branches, and uphold the individual freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

Antonia Hernandez

Antonia Hernandez

President and CEO of California Community Foundation

The growing income inequality needs to be addressed; our region is supposed to be the land opportunity for all, but across California income inequality has gotten worse in the last decade.

Rosalind Hudnell

Rosalind Hudnell

Former Vice President of Human Resources at Intel Corp and Former Chair & President of Intel Foundation

Implementing real action that will improve and widen educational outcomes and meaningful employment with an inclusive electorate that will drive full accountability.

Kristin  Olsen

Kristin Olsen

Former minority leader in the California Assembly, and Stanislaus County Supervisor

We must ensure access to a quality education for all California students in order to secure our long-term economic success and to provide opportunities for all Californians to pursue their dreams – educational excellence is key to our future.

John  Perez

John Pérez

Former Speaker of the California Assembly

The upcoming gubernatorial election comes at an important inflection point for the state of California; during the last administration so much of the focus was on righting issues that were threatening critical aspects of the state’s economic future.

Curt Pringle

Curt Pringle

Former Assembly Speaker, and Founder of Curt Pringle & Associates public relations

Understanding the disproportionality of and instability of our state revenues; now, while we have surplus state funds, is the time to address recalibrating our tax and revenue structure in order to address the state’s long-term fiscal survival.

Cassandra Pye

Cassandra Pye

President of California Women Lead, and Founder and CEO of 3.14 Communications

California’s leaders must set aside agendas of well-funded interests and aggressively address our poverty rate and income disparity – focusing first on education and vocational training, plus modern parameters around building and construction to address our significant housing needs.

Renata Simril

Renata Simril

President and CEO of LA84 Foundation

Our public education system is one of our greatest priorities; and our ability to educate our young people and provide them opportunity for higher learning is critical to our economic success and a brighter future for all of California.

Ashley Swearengin

Ashley Swearengin

President & CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation

Affordability is the single biggest challenge our state faces – whether it’s buying your first home, paying for a college education, running a small business or planning for the future, California has become unaffordable for the vast majority of our residents.

Pete Wilson

Pete Wilson

Governor of California, 1991-1999

Our state’s greatest needs are to restore the safeguards to public safety adopted in the 80s and 90s that are required to reverse our rising crime rate, to reform our public school system through expanding charter schools and similar opportunities for parental choice, and regain the discipline in borrowing and spending required to avoid further loss of investment and jobs.

Advocates

Linda  Ackerman

Linda Ackerman

President of Marian Bergeson Excellence in Public Service Series

California voters deserve concrete, truthful information to remedy the half truths promoted by their political leaders about the financial, political, environmental and educational situations that exist.

Eric  Bauman

Eric Bauman

Chair of the California Democratic Party

Our challenge is to create economic opportunity for those who have little or none, inclusion and justice for communities that feel left out, especially women and people of color, and to unleash California’s creative and progressive spirit to address chronic problems such as climate change, homelessness, our inadequate health care system and the extraordinary cost of higher education.

Bill Burton

Bill Burton

Managing Director of SKDKnickerbocker in Los Angeles

Until our schools truly reflect the incredible potential of the students who attend them, no elected California leader should be sleeping soundly at night.

Harmeet  Dhillon

Harmeet Dhillon

Republican National Committee, California, and Partner in Dhillon Law Group

The single biggest challenge facing California today is liberal, single-party dominance of policymaking and enforcement in Sacramento; power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, leaving many citizens feeling increasingly alienated from the ruling elites who are out of touch with the ordinary man and woman in California.

Jon  Fleischman

Jon Fleischman

Publisher of the FlashReport

Should we be focused on the American ideal of individual liberty and individual responsibility, or is the best path for Californians an ever increasing reliance on state government?

Laboni Hoq

Laboni Hoq

Litigation Director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice

Our leaders must embrace our demographic shifts and increased racial, ethnic and religious diversity, value it through both words and action, and firmly and consistently oppose competing forces that seek to push a white supremacist or nativist agenda.

Catherine Lew

Catherine Lew

Principal and Co-Founder of The Lew Edwards Group

Our collective conscience demands compassionate, meaningful solutions to homelessness. #takeaction

Mike Madrid

Mike Madrid

Principal of Grassroots Lab

The single biggest challenge facing our leaders is managing the extraordinary economic, social and racial changes transforming California.

Astrid  Ochoa

Astrid Ochoa

Election administration and voting advocate

If voter turnout is one measure of the strength of our democracy then California leaders must work to not only increase turnout but also to ensure that California’s electorate reflects its diversity to secure a better future for our state.

Roger  Salazar

Roger Salazar

President of Alza Strategies

California’s biggest challenge is lack of civic engagement from underrepresented communities; until we have an electorate that accurately reflects California, we cannot be assured of a better future for all Californians.

Rob Stutzman

Rob Stutzman

Founder & President of Stutzman Public Affairs

Pension costs are eating a hole in California’s future, and our elected leaders will need to show courage to deal with these mushrooming obligations that will consume local governments and eventually crush the middle class.

David Townsend

David Townsend

Founder of TCT Public Affairs

The greatest challenge to California’s leaders to secure a better future is how do they fairly restructure California government’s system of taxation and spending in order to pay for pension liabilities, housing, homelessness and other pressing issues without bankrupting the state.

Educators

Matt  Barreto

Matt Barreto

Professor of Chicano Studies at UCLA; Co-founder of Latino Decisions

The single biggest challenge facing California is that of inclusion and opportunity to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to be included in the California Dream, to have access to education, a fair wage and a chance to own their own home.

Tom Campbell

Tom Campbell

Professor of Law and Professor of Economics at Chapman University

Improve education at all levels so that Californians will be qualified for the jobs that will be available.

Erwin Chemerinsky

Erwin Chemerinsky

Dean and Professor of Law at University of California, Berkeley School of Law

Our leaders must confront the enormous wealth inequality in California, with the most disadvantaged dealing with homelessness, poor schools, food uncertainty and inadequate medical care.

Jessica  Levinson

Jessica Levinson

Professor of Law at Loyola Law School

California has the highest poverty rate in the country and most people don’t trust or honestly expect politicians to do anything about that.

Monica Lozano

Monica Lozano

President and CEO of College Futures Foundation

Our state’s civic and economic future is dependent on increasing college graduation rates among California’s diverse populations by creating an affordable, high-functioning postsecondary educational system that supports students and allows them to enter the workforce prepared to participate fully.

Janet Napolitano

Janet Napolitano

President of the University of California

Housing, diminished public investment in higher education, high taxes and crumbling infrastructure – the greatest challenge will be to sustain the California Dream in light of these, and other, existential threats.

Jim Newton

Jim Newton

Lecturer of Public Policy at University of California, Los Angeles

I believe the biggest problem confronting California in the next decade is its employee and retiree pension obligation.

Eloy Oakley

Eloy Oakley

Chancellor of California Community Colleges

Far too many working adults are stuck in low-wage jobs because they lack a college/technical credentials, thus, in order for us to maintain a middle-class and restore the luster of the Golden State, we must find ways to help these Californians earn an industry-valued credential quickly.

Manuel Pastor

Manuel Pastor

Director of Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California

California needs to create an economy that delivers on both prosperity and inclusion – and that will require a new social compact weaving together groups, generations, and geographies.

Mindy  Romero

Mindy Romero

Founder and Director of the California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis

Our leaders must aggressively address the disconnect that many people feel from their civic and electoral institutions; inclusive engagement and advocacy are critical to meeting the needs of all Californians.

Michele Siqueiros

Michele Siqueiros

President of Campaign for College Opportunity

Courage to tackle racial inequality in education for K-12 and higher education in order to finally close racial gaps and ensure that our diverse population of Californians is well prepared for the workforce of tomorrow.

Timothy White

Timothy White

Chancellor of the California State University

Our leaders must develop long-term solutions to California’s generational challenges of education, water, transportation, environment – bolstered by commensurate sustainable investments in support of those answers – despite the brevity of our political cycles.

Experts

Andrea Ambriz

Andrea Ambriz

Chief of Staff for Service Employees International Union Local 2015

California’s changing demographics and rising population presents an opportunity, more than just a challenge, for our leaders to transform our economic and political landscape to create a more equitable distribution of resources across all communities statewide.

Kim  Belshe

Kim Belshé

Executive Director of First 5 LA

Our leaders must prioritize the early learning, health and well-being of young children in policy and budget decisions, for this will shape the collective future of our state.

Bonnie Castillo

Bonnie Castillo

Executive Director of California Nurses Association

The deterioration of living standards: inadequate health care, housing, living wage jobs and environmental degradation for millions of working class people and families throughout the state.

Jon Coupal

Jon Coupal

President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

A hostile tax and regulatory environment that is driving California businesses and middle class out of state.

Cesar Diaz

Cesar Diaz

Legislative and Political Director of State Building and Construction Trades Council

California’s leaders must confront the challenge of climate change, lack of affordable housing and the impact of automation on worker displacement in the midst of epic levels of income inequality.

Chet Hewitt

Chet Hewitt

President and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation

California’s biggest challenge is economic inequality, particularly as it relates to the percentage of children living in poverty.

Donna Lucas

Donna Lucas

CEO and President of Lucas Public Affairs

I believe the biggest challenge for the next governor is growing a healthy and equitable economy for all Californians as it has an impact on a variety of issues ranging from housing and health care to higher education access and criminal justice.

Dorothy Rothrock

Dorothy Rothrock

President of California Manufacturers & Technology Association

Improve the business climate to drive new investments, innovation and middle-class job creation.

Angie Wei

Angie Wei

Chief of Staff of California Labor Federation

How do we create good jobs that improve the quality of life for working people?

Jim Wunderman

Jim Wunderman

President and CEO of Bay Area Council

Among many challenges, our next governor and the state Legislature must join in a redesign of California’s approach to housing production in order to address the issue that has become our state’s economic and social Achilles heel.

Allan Zaremberg

Allan Zaremberg

President and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce

Our highest priority must be maintaining a robust economy so California can provide its residents with a good quality of life and funding for education and health care.

Daniel Zingale

Daniel Zingale

Senior Vice President of The California Endowment

The biggest challenge is to earn the confidence of millions of Californians who are disillusioned, disadvantaged and deprived of power and the opportunity for health and well-being.

Motivators

Jim  Boren

Jim Boren

Executive Director of the Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust; Former Executive Editor of The Fresno Bee

We must engage all Californians in decision-making at every level so that all residents have a voice in basic services such as public safety, effective schools, affordable housing, accessible health care, safe drinking water, neighborhood parks.

Madeleine  Brand

Madeleine Brand

Radio host with KCRW Los Angeles

Our leaders must figure out how to address income inequality, which affects everything, including access to health care, good and affordable education, and decent housing.

Larisa Cespedes

Larisa Cespedes

Chair of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality; And Partner at Lang, Hansen, O’Malley & Miller

California’s leaders must work to improve the economic viability and upward mobility of poor and middle-class families.

Carl Guardino

Carl Guardino

President and CEO of Silicon Valley Leadership Group

The biggest challenge that we must address across the state is the impact of innovation on the future of work; we must seriously and soberly address the reality that many jobs performed today by hard-working Californians may disappear in the years ahead.

Aziza Hasan

Aziza Hasan

Executive Director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership For Change

As demographics shift to a non-white majority by 2043, and the political polarization gap expands, we need to recognize cultural and community trigger points and find ways to work toward common goals with people with whom we may initially or even perpetually disagree.

Adama Iwu

Adama Iwu

Vice President for State Government Relations & Community Outreach with Visa; Co-Founder of We Said Enough

We must figure out how to ensure that all Californians have lifelong, culturally competent education, from pre-K to workforce to ensure success in a changing world.

Jonathan Keller

Jonathan Keller

President of California Family Council

Recognizing our state’s incredible geographic, ethnic, cultural and religious diversity, leaders must reject “one-size-fits-all” policies and instead embrace subsidiarity.

Maria  Mejia

Maria Mejia

Los Angeles Director, Gen Next

Our leaders need to push beyond the politics of education reform, and work toward solutions that improve student performance across all demographics and empower them to be competitive in a new and changing marketplace.

Abby Porth

Abby Porth

Executive Director of Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco

We need ethical, future-focused leaders who understand the major changing dynamics across our globe and can envision how to maintain California’s status as a democratic, pluralistic, economic and social innovator for the world.

Sal Russo

Sal Russo

Co-founder of Tea Party Express

Our political leaders must recognize that many major issues, such as water, tax reform, homelessness, pension reform, low performing schools, criminal justice reform, can no longer be substantively ignored, if we want a brighter future for California, because of a failure to accommodate enough diverse opinions to fashion workable solutions.

Les Simmons

Les Simmons

Pastor at South Sacramento Christian Center

Equity for all: We must rethink systems rooted in bias and re-imagine our disadvantaged communities to unlock limitless opportunities that ensure California is a Golden State for all.

Kim Yamasaki

Kim Yamasaki

Executive Director of Center for Asians United for Self Empowerment

Our leaders must address the growing divide in income inequality; we have to figure out a way for California’s ever-growing and diverse population to have access to equal opportunities to success.

jump to Linda  Ackerman

Linda Ackerman

President of Marian Bergeson Excellence in Public Service Series
jump to Andrea Ambriz

Andrea Ambriz

Chief of Staff and Senior Strategist for Service Employees International Union in Los Angeles
jump to Matt  Barreto

Matt Barreto

Professor of Chicano Studies at UCLA; Co-founder of Latino Decisions
jump to Eric  Bauman

Eric Bauman

Chair of the California Democratic Party
jump to Kim  Belshe

Kim Belshé

Executive Director of First 5 LA
jump to Jim  Boren

Jim Boren

Executive Director of the Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust; Former Executive Editor of The Fresno Bee
jump to Barbara Boxer

Barbara Boxer

U.S. Senator, 1993-2017
jump to Madeleine  Brand

Madeleine Brand

Radio host with KCRW Los Angeles
jump to Bill Burton

Bill Burton

Managing Director of SKDKnickerbocker in Los Angeles
jump to Tom Campbell

Tom Campbell

Professor of Law and Professor of Economics at Chapman University
jump to Bonnie Castillo

Bonnie Castillo

Executive Director of California Nurses Association
jump to Larisa Cespedes

Larisa Cespedes

Chair of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality; And Partner at Lang, Hansen, O’Malley & Miller
jump to Erwin Chemerinsky

Erwin Chemerinsky

Dean and Professor of Law at University of California, Berkeley School of Law
jump to Jon Coupal

Jon Coupal

President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
jump to Gray Davis

Gray Davis

Governor of California, 1999-2003
jump to Harmeet  Dhillon

Harmeet Dhillon

Republican National Committee, California, and Partner in Dhillon Law Group
jump to Cesar Diaz

Cesar Diaz

Legislative and Political Director of State Building and Construction Trades Council
jump to Jon  Fleischman

Jon Fleischman

Publisher of the FlashReport
jump to Ron George

Ron George

Former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court
jump to Carl Guardino

Carl Guardino

President and CEO of Silicon Valley Leadership Group
jump to Aziza Hasan

Aziza Hasan

Executive Director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership For Change
jump to Antonia Hernandez

Antonia Hernandez

President and CEO of California Community Foundation
jump to Chet Hewitt

Chet Hewitt

President and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation
jump to Laboni Hoq

Laboni Hoq

Litigation Director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice
jump to Rosalind Hudnell

Rosalind Hudnell

Former Vice President of Human Resources at Intel Corp and Former Chair & President of Intel Foundation
jump to Adama Iwu

Adama Iwu

Vice President for State Government Relations & Community Outreach with Visa; Co-Founder of We Said Enough
jump to Jonathan Keller

Jonathan Keller

President of California Family Council
jump to Jessica  Levinson

Jessica Levinson

Professor of Law at Loyola Law School
jump to Catherine Lew

Catherine Lew

Principal and Co-Founder of The Lew Edwards Group
jump to Monica Lozano

Monica Lozano

President and CEO of College Futures Foundation
jump to Donna Lucas

Donna Lucas

CEO and President of Lucas Public Affairs
jump to Mike Madrid

Mike Madrid

Principal of Grassroots Lab
jump to Maria  Mejia

Maria Mejia

Los Angeles Director, Gen Next
jump to Janet Napolitano

Janet Napolitano

President of the University of California
jump to Jim Newton

Jim Newton

Lecturer of Public Policy at University of California, Los Angeles
jump to Eloy Oakley

Eloy Oakley

Chancellor of California Community Colleges
jump to Astrid  Ochoa

Astrid Ochoa

Election administration and voting advocate
jump to Kristin  Olsen

Kristin Olsen

Former minority leader in the California Assembly, and Stanislaus County Supervisor
jump to Manuel Pastor

Manuel Pastor

Director of Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California
jump to John  Perez

John Pérez

Former Speaker of the California Assembly
jump to Abby Porth

Abby Porth

Executive Director of Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco
jump to Curt Pringle

Curt Pringle

Former Assembly Speaker, and Founder of Curt Pringle & Associates public relations
jump to Cassandra Pye

Cassandra Pye

President of California Women Lead, and Founder and CEO of 3.14 Communications
jump to Mindy  Romero

Mindy Romero

Founder and Director of the California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis
jump to Dorothy Rothrock

Dorothy Rothrock

President of California Manufacturers & Technology Association
jump to Sal Russo

Sal Russo

Co-founder of Tea Party Express
jump to Roger  Salazar

Roger Salazar

President of Alza Strategies
jump to Les Simmons

Les Simmons

Pastor at South Sacramento Christian Center
jump to Renata Simril

Renata Simril

President and CEO of LA84 Foundation
jump to Michele Siqueiros

Michele Siqueiros

President of Campaign for College Opportunity
jump to Rob Stutzman

Rob Stutzman

Founder & President of Stutzman Public Affairs
jump to Ashley Swearengin

Ashley Swearengin

President & CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation
jump to David Townsend

David Townsend

Founder of TCT Public Affairs
jump to Angie Wei

Angie Wei

Chief of Staff of California Labor Federation
jump to Timothy White

Timothy White

Chancellor of the California State University
jump to Pete Wilson

Pete Wilson

Governor of California, 1991-1999
jump to Jim Wunderman

Jim Wunderman

President and CEO of Bay Area Council
jump to Kim Yamasaki

Kim Yamasaki

Executive Director of Center for Asians United for Self Empowerment
jump to Allan Zaremberg

Allan Zaremberg

President and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce
jump to Daniel Zingale

Daniel Zingale

Senior Vice President of The California Endowment