Fresno mayor jumps into race for state controller

She has been courted for a long time by California Republicans to throw her hat into the statewide ring, but Ashley Swearengin has resisted... until now.

On Tuesday, the two-term mayor of Fresno filed the paperwork to run for California state controller, instantly becoming one of the most high-profile GOP candidates in a state where the party has seemed to suffer from an awfully short bench.

"She's dynamic," said her campaign consultant, Tim Clark, on Wednesday. "I think she's one of the strongest mayors in the state."

Swearengin, 41, now offers a noticeable shift in the campaign for the state's top fiscal officer. Incumbent John Chiang, a Democrat, is barred from running again due to term limits. Until now, political watchers largely saw this as a nasty intraparty fight between two well-known Democrats: Assembly Speaker John PĂ©rez, D-Los Angeles, and Board of Equalization member Betty Yee.

Fresno's mayor is serving her second term, and doesn't have to give up her seat should she not win; her second term began in 2012 and runs through 2016. In other words, it's a political 'free shot' to run for statewide office.

Swearengin has had some big statewide exposure this month and been quoted talking about bipartisanship -- with Gov. Jerry Brown's visit to Fresno in January and President Obama's visit to the area last month.

The job of controller has proved a fairly good launching point for those with higher political ambitions. Several past incumbents have used it as a launching pad for races for governor. It's also been one of the most high-profile statewide offices in recent years, as the controller serves as the state's paymaster and has been in the crosshairs over state worker paychecks, IOUs, and more.

Clark, Swearengin's consultant, says the Republican candidate intends to focus on the state's finances and her own record in helping balance Fresno's budget. "The state of California has to continue to get its budget on steady ground," he said.


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