Chiang looks to stand out from gubernatorial candidates

California gubernatorial candidate John Chiang presented himself as a fighter Monday evening.

In his speech and Q & A during the Democratic Club of Claremont’s meeting at the Napier Center at Pilgrim Place, he told of fighting against then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and pledged to fight against President Donald Trump.

Mr. Chiang, who is currently the state’s treasurer, extolled his experience as a former member of the state’s board of equalization and eight years as the state controller in order to sell himself to the Claremont crowd of about 100 people, including Mayor Larry Schroeder and Councilmember Sam Pedroza.

“I’m very different from the others in this race,” he said. “I’m the only person in California history to have served in all three financial offices. I see things very differently. I know how to pay for California; I know how to finance California.”

The open primary is scheduled for June 2018, and Mr. Chiang is up against two prominent Democrats—current Lieutenant Governor and former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The top-two vote getters, regardless of party, will move on to the general election in November 2018.

If Mr. Chiang wins, he would be the first Asian-American governor in California’s history.

Mr. Chiang grew up around the country, from the Chicago area to the suburbs of New Jersey before settling in Torrance. As a first-generation son of Taiwanese immigrants, Mr. Chiang said he knows first-hand the discrimination many immigrants have felt in this country.

“When you’re a child who is very impressionable, it hurts to be treated as a second-class citizen, to be said you don’t have value, to be excluded, to be isolated,” he said.

Throughout the speech, Mr. Chiang focused on topics including healthcare reform, affordable housing and multiculturalism.

“This state is one-and-a-half million units short of housing. One of every five of us lives in poverty. Our income levels are the same as other Americans, but housing and transportation costs drives us into poverty,” he said. “So that’s why I am focused on building more housing.”

He also distanced himself from the other candidates on how he would deal with the current commander-in-chief.

“We tackle Donald Trump very differently,” he said. “I would argue that I am the most action-oriented gubernatorial candidate taking on Donald Trump.”

His willingness to fight comes from taking on Mr. Schwarzenegger when the former governor attempted to cut salaries for government employees during the budget crisis in 2009.

“He had all the power,” Mr. Chiang said. “I had movie producers ask me, ‘Why are you taking on Governor Schwarzenegger?’ He was connected to the media. I said he can’t do math.”

If Mr. Chiang wants to compete with Mr. Newsom and Mr. Villaraigosa, it’s going to be a tough battle. A Los Angeles Times/USC poll conducted between October 27 and November 9 showed Mr. Newsom in the lead with 31 percent, Mr. Villaraigosa with 21 percent, Republican candidate Travis Allen with 15 percent, Mr. Chiang with 12 percent, Republican candidate John Cox with 11 percent and Democratic candidate Delaine Eastin with four percent.

But a lot can change between now and June. When asked what separates himself from the rest of the candidates, Mr. Chiang responded with, “Integrity and getting the job done”

“In campaigns, you’ll hear a lot of promises. Right now people are saying, ‘We’re going to take on Donald Trump,’” he said. “Well, keep your promise. We are leading the charge on Donald Trump, whether it’s housing, whether it’s building airports, whether it’s providing healthcare.”

In regards to LA County’s high homeless population, Mr. Chiang notes that housing plays a vital part, and Mr. Trump’s plan to eliminate activity bonds is going to “destroy two-thirds of affordable housing” in California, he said. He told the COURIER he was coming up with “new tools” in regards to increasing affordable housing, and pledged to work with homeless groups across the state.

“You want to be as efficient as possible with the appropriate agencies and services and serve those who have mental health issues who are homeless to get the treatments they need to change the trajectory of their lives,” Mr. Chiang said.

Mr. Chiang also noted he would bring back redevelopment agencies, which were shuttered under Governor Jerry Brown.

Mr. Chiang noted he also put out a comprehensive plan to combat sexual harassment after a wave of revelations in accusations in entertainment and government.

He noted his support for single-payer healthcare, a break from the current governor. He liked the idea of SB 562, which was dropped earlier this year, but took issue with its plan of taxing private education. He said if the state were to tackle single-payer, they would have to be honest with the public about how much it’s going to cost and what’s going to be raised to cover it.

“My parents are from Taiwan, they have single payer,” he said. “It’s a great system, but we also have to be honest about how it’s going to work.”

He also broke from the current governor in terms of increasing international trade and wanted to be more aggressive about financing higher education.

Aeris Stewart, a 17-year-old Claremont High School student, asked Mr. Chiang what he would do to protect DREAMers as governor.

Mr. Chiang said the state is already on the forefront on the fight to protect the DREAM Act, and touched upon his own immigrant experience in recognizing talent, no matter where it comes from.

“We just want talented people in this state,” he said.

After the talk, Aeris noted she was impressed with Mr. Chiang’s response.

“I wanted to hear his opinion of immigration and finance,” she said. “I’m really glad I did.”

—Matthew Bramlett


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