Political Notebook

The state’s next governor? A new Field Poll shows Ashley Swearengin in the running

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who leaves office at the start of 2017, finished third in a new Field Poll that looks at possible 2018 gubernatorial candidates. Swearengin, however, seems perfectly happy with the new job she’s already lined up.
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who leaves office at the start of 2017, finished third in a new Field Poll that looks at possible 2018 gubernatorial candidates. Swearengin, however, seems perfectly happy with the new job she’s already lined up.

It’s probably not too surprising that Gavin Newsom is the early favorite to become California’s next governor in 2018, according to a new Field Poll.

After all, he’s the state’s lieutenant governor and just finished pushing two successful ballot initiatives, one on gun control, the other to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Before that, he was San Francisco’s mayor.

It’s the third-place finisher in the poll that might catch people’s eye in the central San Joaquin Valley – outgoing Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

In fact, Swearengin finished ahead of several high-profile Democrats as political watchers start looking to the 2018 race to replace termed out Gov. Jerry Brown. Among those behind Swearengin are Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, former Controller Steve Westly and state Treasurer John Chiang.

The thought of running for governor is the furthest thing from my mind right now.

Outgoing Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin

The poll showed Newsom with 23 percent and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer with 16 percent. Faulconer is a Republican like Swearengin, who finished with 11 percent. Everyone else was in single digits.

Swearengin’s reaction to the poll wasn’t too surprising.

She already has a job lined up when she ends her second mayoral term the first week of January. She’ll become the new president/CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation, a local nonprofit clearinghouse for charitable contributions, grants and bequests from philanthropists. The nonprofit foundation serves as a steward of those funds, managing and investing the money to build up the endowments and award grants for charities and projects across the San Joaquin Valley.

“It’s flattering to be mentioned in the same breath with so many well-known names and I’m happy that our success in turning Fresno around has resonated around the state,” Swearengin said. “But frankly, since I still have a month and a half left in my term and I’m already making plans for my new job with the Central Valley Community Foundation, the thought of running for governor is the furthest thing from my mind right now.”

Swearengin’s Field Poll finish was no doubt helped by her 2014 state controller run, which ended in a loss to Democrat Betty Yee. In a losing effort, Swearengin improved her name identification statewide and established herself as a likable, telegenic, well-spoken moderate Republican not afraid to chart an independent path, even against some of her fellow GOP members.

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