APA Candidates in Statewide, Legislative Races

Gubernatorial candidate John Chiang greets union carpenters during a campaign event in San Francisco.

Several Asian Pacific American candidates are on the ballot in the June 5 California primary. They include the following:


A total of 27 candidates from five parties are competing for the top two spots in the battle to succeed termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown (D). Campaign strategists expect that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will finish in first place and advance to the November election, setting up a battle for second place between former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D), businessman John Cox (R) and Assemblymember Travis Allen (R). Two other Democrats, State Treasurer John Chiang and former Superintendent of Public Education Delaine Eastin, are considered top candidates.

Chiang was elected to a four-year term as state treasurer in 2014. He had previously served two terms as state controller (2007-2015). Prior to that, Chiang served two terms on the state Board of Equalization (1997-2007). Before launching his political career, Chiang worked as an attorney specializing in tax law with the office of the state controller and the Internal Revenue Service.

The son of immigrants from Taiwan, Chiang was born in New York City and grew up in Chicago. He earned a degree in finance from the University of South Florida and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. After moving to Los Angeles in 1987, he became involved with the Democratic Party. He worked as a tax law specialist for the IRS, an attorney for State Controller Gray Davis, and a staff member for U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

As a gubernatorial candidate, Chiang has touted a stand he took as controller. When then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered a cut in state workers’ pay to the federal minimum wage in 2008, Chiang refused to comply, touching off a lengthy court battle. The two clashed again over a mandate that state workers take two unpaid furlough days a month.

Republican candidates include Peter Yuan Liu, an immigrant, veteran, insurance agent and former candidate for Oakland mayor.

State Controller

Betty Yee

Betty Yee, the Democratic incumbent, is being challenged by Republican Konstantinos Roditis, an entrepreneur, and Mary Lou Finley of the Peace and Freedom Party, a retired educator. Yee was first elected to the office in 2014, replacing Chiang. Previously, she was elected to the Board of Equalization in 2006, representing 21 counties in Northern and Central California, and was re-elected in 2010. Yee received her MPA from Golden Gate University in San Francisco and her BA in sociology from UC Berkeley.

State Treasurer

Fiona Ma

Running to succeed Chiang are Democrat Fiona Ma, a member of the Board of Equalization; Democrat Vivek Viswanathan, an advisor in the Governor’s Office; Republican Greg Conlon, a businessman and CPA; Republican Jack Guerrero, a CPA, economist and Cudahy city councilman; and retired steam engineer Kevin Akin of the Peace and Freedom Party.

On the Board of Equalization, Ma represents District 2, which includes Alameda, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama, Trinity and Yolo counties. In the State Assembly, she represented District 12 from 2006 to 2012 and served as speaker pro tempore from 2010 to 2012. Prior to that, she was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 2006 to 2006. She has worked as a CPA.

Viswanathan received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 2009 and his Master of Philosophy from the University of Cambridge in 2010. He received his J.D. from Stanford Law School and his MBA from Stanford Business School. He served as special advisor in the office of Gov. Jerry Brown from 2017 to 2018 and as a policy advisor to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential campaign.

Insurance Commissioner

Running to succeed Democrat Dave Jones (who is running for attorney general) as insurance commissioner are State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D), Dr. Asif Mahmood (D), public school teacher Nathalie Hrizi (Peace and Freedom), and businessman/nonprofit director Steve Pizner (no party preference). After receiving his medical degree from one of Pakistan’s top medical schools, Mahmood came to the U.S. in 1991 and completed his medical residency at the University of Kentucky. In 2000, he moved with his family to California. He is a pulmonologist and doctor of internal medicine practicing at a number of hospitals in the Los Angeles area.

Board of Equalization