Reporting from Sacramento -- As a high school kid in Illinois, John Chiang ran for student council on a populist platform: ridding the lunchroom jukebox of disco music.
"That was the major wedge issue," recalled a friend who was his campaign partner. Disco was fading. Punk and new wave were coming in. They won.
Chiang, now the Golden State's controller, became vice president of the student body -- a notable achievement for one of the school's few Asian kids and the target of name-calling and racial slurs. The friend was Dave Jones, who today is California's insurance commissioner.
This week, the boyish-looking, mild-mannered Chiang took another bold stand: In his capacity as the state's cashier, he made headlines by deciding to dock state lawmakers' pay. Their budget math "simply did not add up," he said, and he hit them with voter-approved sanctions for late spending plans.