Election guide: Candidates for California state office


This year’s general election is once again being met with a slate of candidates, each one coming with different ideas, political and professional backgrounds — but all vying to be your representative in Sacramento.  

This year’s election will not only involve the governor’s race, with incumbent Gavin Newsom working to protect his second term in office at the helm of California, but a number of other positions, including governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, controller, secretary of state and treasurer.   

Here is your guide to the California state legislative offices.  


Brian Dahle, Republican state senator  

In its 2022 voter guide, CalMatters writes of Dahle that he is from the small town of Bieber with fewer than 300 residents. After building up his family agricultural business, Dahle entered politics and has spent roughly a decade in the state Legislature.  

“Dahle has tried to position himself as the savior who can rescue California from liberal elitism run amok under Newsom, whom he slammed as a ‘dictator’ and a ‘smooth-talking wine salesman’ during his campaign kickoff,” CalMatters writes. “Dahle has called for overturning Proposition 47, the voter-approved initiative that reduced penalties for some theft and drug crimes, and for requiring that homeless people get sober before the state will provide them with housing assistance.” 

Described as an “unapologetic conservative,” Dahle is said to be facing an uphill battle in unseating a sitting incumbent in a Democrat-dominant state.  

“On key issues — including his support for former President Donald Trump and his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 — Dahle is outside the mainstream of the California electorate,” said CalMatters. “He received a little less than 18% of the primary vote, compared to 56% for Newsom.” 

Gavin Newsom, Democrat, governor  

Before being elected governor in 2018, Newsom rose to prominence in 2004 when, as the mayor of San Francisco, he issued same-sex marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 

Since becoming governor, Newsom has become a national figurehead due to his ongoing public battles with former President Donald Trump and over his handling of the COVID-19 virus. In March 2020, he made headlines across the nation as he issued the United States’ first statewide stay-at-home order.  

In addition to his various COVID-19 policies, Newsom has appealed to Democratic supporters for a variety of stances including a halt to the death penalty and creating a diverse slate of appointments in high-level offices.  

“He also emerged as a prominent voice nationally again this spring, leading California’s charge to expand abortion access after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade,” CalMatters writes. “But the governor disappointed progressives by backing away from his commitment to establish a single-payer health care system in California, one of his major campaign priorities. There is also growing frustration among the public that his promises to turbocharge housing production and address pervasive homelessness have yet to yield noticeable results.” 

Lt. Governor 

Eleni Kounalakis, Democrat, Lieutenant Governor 

CalMatters writes of Kounalakis: 

“The first woman elected lieutenant governor of California (though the second to serve in the position), Eleni Kounalakis already has her eye on higher office. She has said she wants to ensure a female candidate wins the governorship in 2026 — and it could just be her. The light duties of her office, which mainly involve sitting on the governing boards of California’s public higher education systems and a state land use commission, have provided few opportunities to build her profile, however.”  

“Kounalakis received some attention in March, when she became the first woman to sign a bill into law in California, while Gov. Gavin Newsom was on spring break with his family, and last fall, when she stepped in to lead California’s delegation to the United Nations climate summit in Scotland after Newsom dropped out at the last minute. But otherwise, the spotlight has shined brightest on Kounalakis when she picked a date for last year’s gubernatorial recall election and back in 2019, when she solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, largely from labor unions, to renovate her state office.” 

Angela Underwood-Jacobs, Republican, bank manager 

CalMatters writes of Underwood-Jacobs: 

“Angela Underwood Jacobs is a major underdog, running against a well-funded incumbent in a state that has not elected a Republican to statewide office since 2006. She hopes that her experience in local government, as a member of the City Council in the Los Angeles County city of Lancaster, and her support for small businesses, during her decades-long career in community banking, will broaden her appeal among the California electorate.  

“Underwood Jacobs would use the office as a platform to advocate for lowering taxes, getting tough on crime and reducing homelessness, though it offers few opportunities to directly affect those issues.” 

Attorney General  

Rob Bonta, Democrat, attorney general  

CalMatters writes of Bonta:  

“Rob Bonta likes to say that a passion for social justice is hardcoded into his DNA. It’s a family story he’s repeated throughout his political career: His dad, a white man from California, marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. His mom protested the dictatorial Marcos regime in the Philippines before emigrating to the United States and fighting for civil rights and Filipino empowerment. For a spell, the entire family lived in a trailer in Keene organizing Central Valley farm workers alongside Cesar Chavez.”  

“Ambitious and brainy, Bonta went to Yale, Oxford and then back to Yale to get his law degree. But politics was never far from his legal career path. After a few years in private practice, he joined the San Francisco city attorney’s office, where he worked on the office’s complex litigation team. But on the side he found time to moonlight as a campaign manager for a local politico and building his brand within the Bay Area Democratic Party. Bonta’s star ascended quickly; he has never lost an election. But as an appointee to the top job at the Department of Justice, he hasn’t won this one either. He’d like to change that.” 

Nathan Hochman, Republican, general counsel  

CalMatters writes of Hochman:  

“If you’re looking for a candidate with a blue-chip lawyerly pedigree, you’ve found him. The son of Los Angeles’s ‘dean of tax litigators,’ Hochman (pronounced “Hock-man”) went from Stanford to a federal judge clerkship to the U.S. Justice Department to the White House. Now, after two decades in private practice, where he represented elected officials, celebrities and tax-avoiding millionaires, the uber-ambitious legal eagle is seeking his biggest gig yet.” 

“Hochman puts the public’s unease about violent crime and theft at the front and center of his campaign.” 

“One complicating factor: He’s a Republican in a state that hasn’t hired a member of that party for a statewide post since 2006. Hochman stresses that crime and safety are nonpartisan concerns and that his ideas are ‘common sense.’ As for that big question hanging over all Republican candidates in California — did he vote for President Trump? After the primary, he said that he didn’t vote for president in either 2016 or 2020.” 


Lanhee Chen, Republican, program director at Stanford University 

CalMatters writes of Chen:  

“He’s been dubbed by Politico as the Republican Party’s ‘most-courted ideas advisor’…. And while it’s an uphill battle for a Republican to win any statewide office in California (Chen says this should be a nonpartisan office), his pitch is that someone outside the dominant party will be a stronger and more independent watchdog over the state’s finances. He pledges to use the office to increase transparency and understanding, to spotlight problems and longer-term policy decisions and to restore public faith in state government.”  

“Chen took the ambiguous route during the lead-up to the primary on his support for former President Donald Trump and his stance on abortion. But after finishing first – and after pressure from Democrat Malia Cohen, who won second place – he told CalMatters he wrote in Mitt Romey for president in 2016, and left the question blank in 2020. He also clarified his stance on abortion, but not before criticizing Cohen for making it a central part of her campaign: “I support women’s reproductive freedoms. And that includes access to family planning services, to contraceptives and abortions, as allowed under California law.” 

Malia Cohen, Democrat, Board of Equalization chairwoman 

CalMatters writes of Cohen:  

“Cohen presided over the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for eight years representing the 10th District – a position previously held by Mayor London Breed. Cohen advocated for police reform, took on the tobacco and soda industries and created a program to address inequities in the cannabis industry. Cohen drew national attention in 2015 when her defense of San Francisco’s ‘sanctuary city’ policy toward undocumented immigrants prompted Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly to call for her arrest. 

“Cohen says she’s uniquely qualified for this position because of that hands-on experience with state finances, as an elected official and in local government – but also because of her life experience as a woman of color. She vows to be an inspiring example, to take a bigger policymaking role and also to make sure state money isn’t wasted so it gets to the neediest Californians. At the same time, she pledges to bring a more collaborative approach to the job, consulting with fellow Democratic leaders before issuing reports to the public.” 

Secretary of State  

Robert Bernosky, Republican, chief financial officer   

CalMatters writes of Bernosky: 

“Before Bernosky jumped in, the conservative frontrunner in the race seemed to be Rachel Hamm, a YouTube personality whose policy platform included a refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s presidency and an uncompromising opposition to witchcraft. Bernosky is not that kind of candidate: He describes himself a ‘practical conservative’ and emphasizes the “nonpartisan” nature of the position he’s seeking. Though he was a supporter of former President Donald Trump, he readily acknowledges the 2020 election was not stolen. Entering the race at the last minute, he edged Hamm aside, coming second in the June 7 primary with 19% of the vote, compared to the 59% for Democratic incumbent Shirley Weber.  

“During working hours, Bernosky works as a chief financial officer for hire and touts himself as a corporate turnaround artist. But on the side he’s long been a reliable, mostly behind-the-scenes party man, both in the state GOP and in his native San Benito County, where he’s been a regular presence on the local ballot.” 

Shirley Weber, Democrat, Secretary of State 

CalMatters writes of Weber:  

“Gov. Gavin Newsom certainly had Shirley Weber’s biography in mind when he appointed her Secretary of State. The daughter of Arkansas sharecroppers who fled Jim Crow violence for Los Angeles, Weber says voting was a core part of her family tradition. Now she’s the first Black person ever to hold the role of chief overseer of California’s elections. 

“Weber’s professional roots are in higher education. A founding faculty member of San Diego State University’s Africana Studies program, Weber taught for nearly four decades before jumping into politics. After a spell on the local school board, she joined the California Assembly, where she developed a reputation as a fierce advocate for racial justice and as a Democrat willing to occasionally lock horns with teachers’ unions.” 


Jack Guerrero, Republican, Cudahy City Council member 

CalMatters writes of Guerrero:  

“Despite a failed bid for treasurer in 2018, as well as for state Assembly in 2012 and state Senate in a special election in 2019, Jack Guerrero is gunning again to unseat incumbent Fiona Ma as treasurer. 

If he succeeds, Guerrero pledges to fix what he calls mismanagement — including of the state’s unfunded pension liability — and safeguard state assets. His platform includes lower taxes and smaller government. 

Prior to his political career, Guerrero worked with Fortune 500 companies as an auditor, consultant, and mergers and acquisitions advisor. He has been a certified public accountant since 2002.  

“Guerrero ran for City Council in 2013 and has held a seat since then, serving as mayor from April 2013 through April 2014. Guerrero describes his views as conservative, and doesn’t shy away from his support for former President Trump, or his opposition to abortion.” 

Fiona Ma, Democrat, state treasurer 

CalMatters writes of Ma:  

“Fiona Ma has served as California’s treasurer since 2018 — the first woman of color in the role.” 

“During her tenure, she led the sale of $20 billion in state debt, which financed many building projects that created thousands of construction jobs and saved taxpayers $1.8 billion. Ma has been outspoken in her support for increasing diversity on corporate boards, constructing high-speed rail to Las Vegas and divesting from fossil fuels.  

“In 2020, Ma’s office narrowly avoided losing nearly $457 million in state funds after a deal for N95 masks early in the COVID pandemic turned out to be fraudulent. It was only after two banks flagged the transaction that it was canceled. 

“Prior to her current role, Ma was a member of the state Board of Equalization, where she pushed for online retailers to collect sales taxes from third-party sellers to help brick-and-mortar retailers compete — which increased state revenues by between $431 million and $1.8 billion a year. She also advocated for taxing e-cigarettes and led efforts to regulate the cannabis industry.” 

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