Lockyer Seen as California Kingmaker With Campaign CashJames Nash
California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who never realized his ambition of governing the most-populous state, may remain a powerbroker after leaving office with $2.5 million in campaign funds and four decades in politics.
Lockyer, a 72-year-old Democrat, said he’ll leave elective office rather than run for controller after serving the maximum two terms as the state’s banker. In addition to treasurer, he’s been undefeated as an assemblyman, senator and attorney general.
Lockyer is positioned to remain a force in California politics, particularly in next year’s campaigns for treasurer and controller, said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a University of Southern California political analyst.
“Particularly in an office where nobody may be well-known, i.e., state controller at this point, it may be helpful to have his endorsement,” Jeffe said by telephone. “The average voter probably doesn’t know him. Democrats do.”
Lockyer had $2.2 million in a campaign fund for the state controller’s election next year and $220,000 remaining in his 2010 account for state treasurer as of Dec. 31, according to secretary of state’s records. That puts him second only to Governor Jerry Brown among current statewide officeholders, with $7.3 million. Brown, a 75-year-old Democrat, hasn’t said whether he’ll seek another term.
Lockyer will be able to transfer funds from his accounts to other candidates before he leaves office, according to a fact sheet by California’s Fair Political Practices Commission. His term expires in 2015.
The treasurer helped his wife, Nadia Lockyer, win a seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 2010 by shifting $1.45 million to her campaign account. Nadia Lockyer, 42, resigned in April 2012 after saying she’d take a leave of absence to deal with substance-abuse issues following a dispute with Steven Chikhani, described by Bill Lockyer as an ex-boyfriend of his wife.
Bill Lockyer filed for divorce in July 2013. He subsequently told reporters that he was reconciling with his wife and withdrawing the divorce papers. The two have a 9-year-old son, Diego.
Last August, Nadia Lockyer pleaded not guilty in Orange County Superior Court to three counts of substance abuse and one count of child endangerment after police found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in a room she was sharing with Diego, according to court records. Nadia Lockyer pleaded not guilty and the case is pending, court records show.
Jeffe said the family tension, which was chronicled in California newspapers, probably played a role in Bill Lockyer’s decision not to run again.
In a telephone interview, Lockyer said family concerns are “always a factor. They’re not unique or different in these circumstances. Every campaign, there’s been a family aspect.”
“I want to do something new and different,” Lockyer said. “I’ve been in state government since 1973 as an elected official -- 18 legislative races, eight statewide campaigns, attorney general for eight years, treasurer for eight years. So I just need a new challenge.”
He said he hasn’t decided whether to back candidates for treasurer or controller.
The treasurer’s salary was $133,841 in 2011, according to information on state Controller John Chiang’s website. The California Public Employees Retirement System hasn’t calculated Lockyer’s pension, spokeswoman Amy Norris said. Under a standard formula for public employees, Lockyer would be paid more than $100,000 a year in retirement.
Lockyer was one of six people who filed to run for controller in 2014. He would have been the odds-on favorite to win said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California and a former spokesman for Republican candidates.
“Bill Lockyer is an example of public service at its best,” Schnur said in an interview. “He’s an example of a politician who is willing to work across party lines on a variety of issues. That is not something you see a lot of in state or national politics these days.”
As state treasurer, Lockyer has overseen the sale of about $49 billion of general-obligation bonds, according to a spokesman, Tom Dresslar.
Lockyer and Chiang deserve credit for being candid with bond investors as California weathered the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, said Michael E. Johnson, managing director of Gurtin Fixed Income Management LLC in Solana Beach, California. Other states, notably Illinois, were less forthcoming, Johnson said.
“There was a lot of transparency in California: what they were doing, what their plans were,” he said by telephone. “Lockyer and Chiang complemented each other very well.”
As attorney general, Lockyer had considered challenging then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 before deciding instead to seek his first term as treasurer. He said in a 2005 statement that he didn’t want to have to endure the politics and fundraising involved in a bid for governor of the most populous U.S. state.
In 2012, he expressed interest in serving as the chancellor of the California State University system, the nation’s largest, to oversee 23 campuses and almost 437,000 students. Timothy P. White was selected for the job.