Political Notebook

CEO added, Fresno reference dropped in Swearengin ballot designation

In the primary election, state controller hopeful Ashley Swearengin was known on ballots distributed across the state as “Mayor, City of Fresno.”

For the coming general election, she’ll be known to voters simply as “Mayor/CEO.” The new ballot designation better reflects Swearengin’s duties and skills, said her consultant, Tim Clark.

It’s also a significant upgrade, said Tony Quinn, a longtime political analyst in California and former Republican legislative aide.

“I was surprised to see Ashley with ‘City of Fresno,’” Quinn said “What does that have to do with controller of California? It’s much wiser to have something that sounds like you know how to manage money.”

Both mayor and CEO titles, Clark said, describe Swearengin’s current job, which is chief executive of Fresno under its “strong mayor” form of government. The Republican isn’t merely a mayor who cycles into and out of the position as a city council member. CEO, Clark said, is taken from language found right in Fresno’s City Charter.

Clark also feels the title contrasts with Swearengin’s Democratic Party opponent, state Board of Equalization member Betty Yee. The difference, Clark said, is that Swearengin has executive experience and Yee does not.

Whatever the case, Quinn said Yee’s ballot title — California State Board of Equalization Member — sounds like she knows how to handle money. That alone could win votes.

But Yee’s campaign sees something different — and it is something they say Fresno residents have also noticed. The designation no longer has a Fresno reference. Clark said Swearengin has no intention of hiding her Fresno roots.

“Everything we do, everything we say is about the city of Fresno,” Clark said. “Without Fresno, we have no Swearengin story to tell. We know that our success in this race hinges on our success in Fresno.”

There are limits on words in the ballot designation, and that’s why the specific Fresno reference is no longer there, Clark said.

For the record, changes in ballot designations are rare. The Secretary of State’s office must sign off on all ballot designations, and Clark pointed out that the Yee campaign never challenged the wording — which is its choice.