Longtime Republican policy advisor, Stanford Professor, and Hoover Institution Fellow Lanhee Chen announced that he would be running for state Controller on Tuesday after months of speculation.
Chen, who has also served in advisory roles for former President George W. Bush and Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), decried one-party rule in California in his announcement. Chen noted that there is no accountability when members of one party hold all the top offices, calling the situation in California “policy sclerosis.” In addition, Chen noted his desire to help solve other large Californian issues, such as homelessness, water-related issues, fraud within state departments, the high cost of living, and stopping government waste. He is also seeking to be the first Republican to be elected to a statewide office since 2006.
“I’m excited to announce my campaign for CA State Controller,” tweeted Chen on Tuesday. We need a fighter as Controller who will be a check on the one-party monopoly in Sacramento, expose fraud & waste in government, & ensure we can account for every penny our state spends.”
I’m excited to announce my campaign for CA State Controller. We need a fighter as Controller who will be a check on the one-party monopoly in Sacramento, expose fraud & waste in government, & ensure we can account for every penny our state spends. Join me! https://t.co/8MiPWSWL6I
— Lanhee J. Chen (@lanheechen) July 6, 2021
In a subsequent statement, Chen also noted that he wouldn’t be basing his run on party politics, but rather through competency. Specifically he said that this means being more transparent with citizens, auditing state departments and organizations more often, and solving larger issues, such as how the $31 billion in fraudulent Employment Development Department (EDD) claims had not been detected sooner last year.
“I don’t view this campaign through an ideological lens,” added Chen. “I view it through a lens of competency. Basic competency.”
“The controller has the power to independently initiate audits not just of the state government, but also local governments if state money is involved. I think people will see my background as somebody who spent a lot of time thinking about how to solve big problems and carried through on that. Voters want someone who will just be straight with them about what’s going on in this state.”
“If they had been more aggressive at regularly auditing, I really think we wouldn’t be in the position we find ourselves in today. Everybody’s political interests in Sacramento are aligned with one another, so there’s nobody there to hold anybody accountable. If you are a member of the one-party monopoly in Sacramento, your incentive is to make other Democrats happy and that creates a situation where you don’t dig any deeper.”
Chen hopes to take the place of Betty Yee, the current Controller who will be term-limited out of office next year. To date, only State Board of Equalization Member Malia Cohen, a Democrat, has been the only other major candidate to declare so far.
Chen enters the state Controller race
Political experts have noted that Chen represents the best chance the GOP has had in a regularly scheduled statewide race since Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was reelected as Governor in 2006.
“Chen really represents the future of the GOP in California,” explained California political consultant Ruby Thompson to the Globe on Tuesday. “There’s been a string of Republicans running for offices like Governor the last several times that came in with no previous experience or bona fides that appealed to middle of the road voters.”
“Chen has that. He he comes from a different background than many previous GOP members running for those offices, namely being a son of immigrants and being of a different racial and economic background. This isn’t another millionaire running. It’s someone who worked hard to achieve incredible success. That is incredibly attractive for voters in any candidate.”
“He’s also one of the GOP’s young guns. He’s 42, and although he hasn’t run for any office yet, he has helped advised on many and has more than enough experience to make up for any time missed not being in office. Being a Stanford professor can actually help sway some blue dog voters in California, and his experience as a TV commenter has already made him media ready. The man was even nominated by Barack Obama to a board position.”
“I’ve said it before too, but I’ve heard him be described as the ‘GOP’s answer to Walter Reuther‘ because of all that he has done, and I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment. He’s respected by both parties. But the difference is, the Democrats really feared him getting into a race. Well, I guess that happened today.”
Other major candidates may possibly enter the Controller race in the coming weeks. The state controller position is due to be one of several statewide positions up for election next year, with the election to be held on November 8, 2022.
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