What do various state and county officials actually do?


Supervisor Hilda L. Solis announces the opening of the new COVID-19 testing site at Cal State LA. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Courtesy of Cal State LA)

Xennia Hamilton, Community News Reporter

State controller. Insurance commissioner. County board of supervisors.

Voters’ eyes can glaze over at the number of different statewide and local elected officials representing various boards and offices.

What do they all do and why does it matter?

Studies have shown that the more informed voters are, and the earlier they learn about the political system, the more likely they are to be civically engaged later.

That’s why UT Community News has created a guide to understanding some key statewide and local elected positions.

Statewide elected officials


The governor of California oversees state laws, including signing or vetoing legislation, submitting the budget, ensuring state laws are enforced, acting as commander-in-chief of the state’s military, making annual “State of the State” speeches, and ensuring the state’s executive branch is doing its job.

That’s according to the state constitution.

The governor can also sign or veto legislation, based on what they feel is in the public interest.

For instance, after the Supreme Court effectively struck down Roe V. Wade this year,  Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation that would not allow other states to impose their anti-abortion laws on women who come to California for abortions, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Newsom is up for reelection this year on Nov. 8 and he is known for his leadership on climate change and protecting the state during the pandemic. His opponent is Republican Brian Dahle, a member of the California Senate since 2019 who serves a district in rural Northern California and is known for protecting farmers’ rights and supporting the business community, according to his website.

Lieutenant Governor

The lieutenant governor acts somewhat like a vice president in that they act as governor when the governor is out of the state and they become governor if there’s ever a vacancy in the office.

The lieutenant governor plays an important role in educational matters, so parents, guardians, students, teachers, and others — including employers — have a stake in who fills this job. The lieutenant governor is a voting member of the Board of Regents of the University of California, the Board of Trustees of the California State University system, and the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges system, according to the state’s website.

The lieutenant governor also sits on the Calbright College Board of Trustees. Lieutenant Governor Elani Kounalakis is the first woman to be elected to the position and she is up for re-election in November against Republican Angela Underwood Jacobs, who is a businesswoman and deputy mayor of Lancaster.

Secretary of State

The secretary of state’s job, among other things, includes overseeing elections as the chief elections officer, ensuring campaign and lobbying finance information is filed and maintained online, keeping business files for the state, safeguarding the state’s archives, and serving as a trustee of the California Museum, according to the state’s website. California Secretary of State Dr. Shirley N. Weber is running against Republican Rob Bernosky.

Attorney General

The attorney general acts as the state’s top lawyer and law enforcement official and oversees more than 4,500 lawyers, investigators, sworn peace officers, and other employees. They represent the people of California in trial courts, appellate courts, and the state and U.S. supreme courts when it comes to civil and criminal matters. They serve as legal counsel to state officers and to most state agencies, boards, and commissions and support district attorneys, local law enforcement, and federal and international criminal justice agencies in administering justice. The attorney general also does tasks such as coordinating statewide drug enforcement efforts, supporting criminal investigations, and providing forensic science services, according to the state’s website

Rob Bonta is the current attorney general and the first person of Filipino descent to hold the position. Bonta’s platform includes stopping gun violence, protecting health care and reproductive freedom, and taking on big polluters, according to his campaign website. Nathan Hochman, a Republican born in Los Angeles, is running against him and was a U.S. assistant attorney general in 2008. He worked in tax law and he supports, among other things, ending the opioid epidemic, tackling homelessness, and preventing violent crime, according to his website.

State Treasurer

The state treasurer focuses on money management in California.

“The treasurer provides financing for our schools, roads, housing, levees, public health facilities, and other crucial infrastructure projects that better the lives of all Californians,” according to the office’s website.

The state treasurer oversees the state’s Pooled Money Investment Account, which invests money on the state’s behalf and for other local governments to help them manage their fiscal affairs.

The Treasurer’s office also controls the state’s college tuition saving program, Plan 529, which allows parents to create specific savings accounts for their children for future college expenses, according to the website

The current treasurer, Fiona Ma, is also a Certified Public Accountant, who says she has helped middle-income families get over the hump of poverty and has assisted with a program for homebuyers called “California Forward.” She is running in November against Republican Jack Guerrero, a councilman in the city of Cudahy. Guerrero claims California’s monetary system is under mismanagement and wants to change that. is looking to fight the corruption that occurs in our state government.

State Controller

The California state controller acts as the state’s fiscal watchdog and administers two of the largest pension funds in the United States and serves on 78 state boards and commissions, according to the state’s website.

They offer financial guidance to local governments, uncover fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars, and serve as the state’s accountant and bookkeeper. In that role, they keep track of and control the disbursements of state funds, including stimulus checks.

State Controller Betty Yee is not running for re-election. Democratic Malia Cohen is running against Republican Lahnee Chen. 

Cohen said she wants to focus on programs that get money to Californians while Chen wants the state to be more transparent with residents about where funds are going, according to WHOM?

State Superintendent of Public Instruction

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the California Department of Education is responsible for enforcing laws and regulations related to education law, improving public elementary, secondary, and adult education programs, as well as some preschool and child care programs, according to the state’s website.

Tony Thurmond, the state superintendent, is running for re-election against Lance Christensen, an education policy executive.

Insurance Commissioner

The Insurance Commissioner’s job is to basically regulate insurance companies, coverage, and laws related to insurance in California. Democrat Ricardo Lara currently holds the office and is running against Republican Robert Howell, who owns an electronics firm in Silicon Valley.

Lara’s campaign touts how he holds the insurance industry accountable and champions excellent health care for all. He made history in 2018 by becoming the first openly gay person elected to statewide office in California.

Howell considers himself a leader in the fight for wildfire insurance, affordable healthcare, and tackling “abusively inflated premiums,” according to his website.

State Board of Equalization

The State Board of Equalization is responsible for valuations of property owned or used by railroads and privately-held public utilities, and for ensuring properties are assessed in various counties in a uniform way, according to its website.

There are five members on the board, including the state controller and four district representatives.

Incumbents representing districts 1, 3, and 4 are being challenged and two people are running for the second district seat.

Los Angeles County elected officials

There are also many key elected county positions that are up for election this fall.

Board of Supervisors

The board of supervisors governs the county, serving as the executive and legislative head of the county’s government. It creates ordinances, sets salaries, and oversees regulations to help run county departments and special districts, according to the county’s website. The five supervisors are elected by voters from their district for four-year terms.

District Attorney

The district attorney, among other things, prosecutes people charged with crimes and handles felony cases involving crimes related to drugs, gangs, sex, child abduction, and various types of fraud and abuse,  according to the county’s website.

District Attorney George Gascón will be up for re-election in 2024, after a failed recall attempt this year.

County Sheriff

The county sheriff’s office provides law enforcement services in 141 unincorporated areas of the county; 42 cities that don’t have their own law enforcement agency; nine community colleges; 216 facilities, hospitals, and clinics; and for the superior courts and Metro’s public transit system, according to the department’s website.

The office is also responsible for securing about 18,000 inmates daily in seven custody facilities, including providing food and medical treatment. 

The office is currently held by Alex Villanueva, who is being challenged in the November election by former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna.

County Assessor

The County Assessor’s job is to locate and identify ownership of all properties in Los Angeles, establish a taxable value for them, and produce parcel maps for the properties, according to the county’s website.

Jeffrey Prang is the county assessor and won re-election in the primary on June 7, 2022, after the general election was canceled.

School Board

The seven-member Los Angeles board of education is in charge of making decisions about schools in the city and in several surrounding communities. The board appoints a superintendent to run the Los Angeles Unified School District’s daily operations.

The Los Angeles Board of Education has many duties. These include approving the annual budget and superintendent’s salary; getting feedback on policies and making rules and regulations; establishing and overseeing county charter schools, juvenile court schools, and community schools; evaluating the effectiveness of these schools and programs; and when needed, working to obtain needed resources or facilities for educators and students.

State, county, and local elections help determine the policies and environment we live under, which means they impact our lives now and in the future.

Once voters are better informed about what each office and position does, they’re more likely to vote and try to make a difference.

A version of this story was cross-published on KCET and PBS SoCal’s websites.