“State controller? Really? Really: Quick quiz: Who is the current state controller? Time’s up. It’s Democrat Betty Yee, and she’s termed out. Now, the open seat is likely to draw national attention.
One reason this typically sleepy office will be on the map is because Republican Lanhee Chen is running for it — and has the backing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and is tapped into his fundraising network. Chen’s candidacy is a test to see whether an atypical Republican — as in comparatively moderate and non-white — can win statewide office in California in an era where Trump Republicans dominate the state GOP.
Chen, a Mountain View resident, was a policy adviser to Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio’s presidential campaigns and worked in George W. Bush’s administration. He teaches at Stanford and is known to political nerds for his frequent appearances on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and other national shows.
Oh said it is an opportunity for the GOP to build off of the successes of Steel and Kim, two other Asian-American candidates who won in 2020.
“It’s the first test of how a dynamic candidate like Lanhee can do statewide,” Oh said. “ It should be one of the top races in the state.”
He will be facing Malia Cohen, the former San Francisco supervisor, who chairs the state Board of Equalization. She, too, will draw national support as a Black woman seeking statewide office, said A’shanti Gholar, the president of Emerge, which recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office.
“It really is a testament to how people of color, and in the case of Malia, women of color, are really starting to hold political power in this country,” Gholar said. “I think it’s exciting.””