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Ashley Swearengin adds CEO, drops Fresno from ballot designation

By on August 29, 2014

Ashley Swearengin, the Republican nominee for state controller, has tinkered with the job description that will appear beneath her name on the November ballot.

On Thursday, the California Secretary of State’s office released the certified list of state candidates along with their ballot designations for the November 4, 2014, General Election. Swearengin, who was listed as “Mayor, City of Fresno” in the June primary, has changed her ballot designation to “Mayor/CEO” for the general election.

The first part is simple: Swearengin takes home $130,000 per year in taxpayer-funded salary from her job as mayor of the state’s fifth largest city. But, as of August 28, the word “CEO” doesn’t appear a single time in her official biography on the City of Fresno’s website. (Her entire biography appears below.)

That raises a simple question: what’s Swearengin CEO of?

“The answer is plain and clear,” Tim Clark, Swearengin’s campaign consultant, wrote in an email to “Charter Section 400 provides that ‘The Mayor shall be the Chief Executive Officer of the City.'”

He added, “The Charter also points out that the City of Fresno is organized as a municipal corporation. That corporation has a $1 billion budget and 3,200 employees.”

Questionable interpretation of state law

That seems to be a questionable interpretation of state law, which spells out the specific requirements and limitations for ballot designations.

Under Section 13107 of the California Elections Code, candidates may use “words designating the elective city, county, district, state, or federal office which the candidate holds at the time of filing the nomination documents to which he or she was elected by vote of the people, or to which he or she was appointed, in the case of a superior court judge.”

The Secretary of State’s office also provides a helpful ballot designation worksheet to make the task easier. It instructs candidates to use “the full title of the public office you currently occupy and to which you were elected.”

Mayor is the official elective office – not chief executive officer.

CFO David Evans’ surprising primary performance

The move is a subtle acknowledgment of the successful campaign of David Evans, a long-shot Republican who finished fourth in the June primary. Evans netted nearly a quarter of the overall vote with a $100 campaign that relied almost exclusively on his ballot designation of “Chief Financial Officer.”

Candidate ballot designations usually remain the same in the primary and general elections. Swearengin’s opponent for state controller, Betty Yee, will continue to use the title, “California State Board of Equalization Member” in November.

According to state law, “The designation shall remain the same for all purposes of both primary and general elections, unless the candidate, at least 98 days prior to the general election, requests in writing a different designation which the candidate is entitled to use at the time of the request.”

Kashkari spotlight on Fresno’s homeless

It’s also notable that Swearengin dropped any specific reference to Fresno. In the primary, Swearengin proudly listed her job as “Mayor, City of Fresno.” Since that time, the city has faced increased scrutiny over its policies and treatment of the homeless.

In July, Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari spent a week living on the streets of Fresno in an effort to call attention to the quarter of the state living in poverty.

“I tried to sleep on park benches or in parking lots. Anywhere I wouldn’t be chased out,” Kashkari wrote in a Wall Street Journal column. “Night after night, however, I was woken up and told to move along by security guards or the police.”

During Swearengin’s tenure as mayor, the city has been particularly harsh in its treatment of homeless citizens within its boundaries.

Last August, according ABC 30 News, city crews destroyed “a large homeless encampment near the Poverello House in Fresno” with the full knowledge that the city didn’t have enough beds for the displaced residents.

“No we do not have the resources to house every single individual at this particular point,” Doreen Eley, Fresno Housing Authority Assistant Housing Manager, told ABC 30 News.

A local pastor described it as “criminalizing desperate people that are looking for a safe place to lay their head at night.”

Ashley Swearengin Official Biography, City of Fresno Website

Elected Mayor of Fresno in 2008, Ashley Swearengin is a dynamic leader who focuses on building coalitions of experienced and capable experts to solve problems in honest and thoughtful ways. She has dedicated nearly her entire professional career to improving Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley. She is Fresno’s 21st elected mayor since the city was incorporated in 1885.

Fresno is a “Strong Mayor” city, in which the Mayor serves as the top-level executive for the organization. She is responsible for hiring the City Manager, producing the City budget, proposing legislation to the City Council, and ensuring the public is kept informed of important issues within our community.

Mayor Swearengin took office at one of the most challenging times in the City’s history. She has shown true leadership in working to return the City of Fresno to financial health while at the same time focusing on long-term transformational efforts such as downtown and community revitalization, and adult education.

Under Mayor Swearengin’s direction, the City of Fresno has implemented substantial changes in the way services are delivered to the public, focusing city government’s efforts on core services while engaging the private and nonprofit sectors and Fresno residents in an unprecedented fashion. To address a dramatic decline in the City’s General Fund, Mayor Swearengin’s Administration reduced its workforce, privatized municipal services, and created partnerships with nonprofit organizations and volunteers to operate some aspects of the City’s Parks and Recreation program thereby reducing City expenses while preserving the services for the public.

In addition to her efforts to revitalize downtown Fresno and its surrounding neighborhoods, Mayor Swearengin has also launched a number of major initiatives:

Business Friendly Fresno Task Force – Promoting business growth and private investment in Fresno by conducting a thorough examination of existing interdepartmental development processes, improving customer outcomes, and benchmarking with other cities’ competitive operations and results. .

Fresno Food Expo– Supporting the expansion of the Fresno Food Industry and adding jobs to the local economy, the Swearengin Administration launched the Fresno Food Expo, a trade show that invites buyers from major retail chains around the world to Fresno to view the products sold by the 150+ food businesses located in Fresno.

Small Business Growth – Promoting small business growth through the adoption of a small business ordinance that provides additional city purchasing opportunities with locally owned, small businesses.

Fresno Presidents’ Council – The collaboration of chief executives of Fresno’s anchor institutions in health care, education, agriculture, and finance. These institutions have the opportunity, motivation, and responsibility to address serious, long-term challenges in Fresno. Their Declaration to the Community outlines a pledge to work together creatively to generate solutions.

Building Neighborhood Capacity Program – With support from Cross-Sector Partnership members, Fresno was one of only four cities in the nation to be selected to participate in the BNCP pilot program intended to catalyze community-driven change in neighborhoods that have historically faced barriers to revitalization.

Learn2Earn – Addressing the “skills gap” issue in Fresno by promoting basic education and job training among Fresno’s workforce to meet the needs of area employers.

Fresno First Steps Home – Addressing homelessness in Fresno by raising private funds to implement the City’s 10-year plan to prevent and end homelessness.

Serve Fresno – An initiative aimed at strengthening the City of Fresno through volunteerism and service. As part of the initiative, Mayor Swearengin called for city residents to participate in one million hours of service by April 2011, and Fresnans responded with almost 1.5 million hours in a 12-month period. Fresno continues to make strides in volunteerism.

Mayor Swearengin was named one of California’s top 10 mayors by Capitol Weekly, a Sacramento-based publication covering California government and politics and was identified by the Brookings Institution as a member of the “Pragmatic Caucus.” She is a board member of the California League of Cities, chair of the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, and at the national level, Mayor Swearengin serves on the leadership team of the U.S. Conference of Mayors as a member of its Executive Committee.

Before being elected to office, Mayor Swearengin led a number of economic development programs in the Fresno area, including the Central Valley Business Incubator, Fresno State’s Office of Community and Economic Development, the Regional Jobs Initiative and the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley.

Mayor Swearengin was born in Texas and raised in Arkansas. When she was in high school, her family relocated to Fresno – the city she has called home ever since. Mayor Swearengin holds a Bachelor of Science (magna cum laude) and a Master of Business Administration (summa cum laude) from California State University, Fresno. Her husband, Paul, and she have two children, Sydney and Samuel.



About John Hrabe

John Hrabe spends his time traveling the world as a freelance journalist. When he isn’t on an international flight, John writes about state and national politics for,, Huffington Post and the editorial pages of the Orange County Register. John’s most recent high-profile investigation uncovered the questionable labor practices of Goodwill Industries, the nonprofit organization famous for its secondhand clothing stores.


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