Former State Controller Officially Announces Run for California Governor

Former State Controller Officially Announces Run for California Governor

California State Controller Betty Yee attends the Equality California 2018 Los Angeles Equality Awards in Los Angeles, Calif., on Sept. 29, 2018. (Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Equality California)

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

3/29/2024

Updated: 3/29/2024

A former state controller with decades of public service experience, Betty Yee formally launched her campaign for California Governor for the 2026 election on March 27.
Running on a platform of accountability and restoring affordability to California, she said her experience controlling the state’s finances will prove beneficial.
“The reason I’m running is to bring that experience and my own values and struggles as an immigrant family to just relate to what many Californians are experiencing right now,” Ms. Yee told The Epoch Times March 28. “I’m running to do the work; I have no other aspiration for office.”
She said that a high cost of living is hurting families across the Golden State and vowed to address the issue.
“Californians right now are really experiencing challenges with the affordability crisis,” Ms. Yee said. “I think my financial and fiscal background is really conducive to trying to tackle some of these challenges in the future.”
She highlighted her attention to detail and financial competence which started at the age of 8 while helping her Chinese immigrant parents manage the books of the family business—noting that the state could do more to benefit small businesses.
Members of small business owners take part in a “Save Small Business” protest in Los Angeles, Calif., on Dec. 12, 2020. (Ringo Chiu/AFP via Getty Images)

Members of small business owners take part in a “Save Small Business” protest in Los Angeles, Calif., on Dec. 12, 2020. (Ringo Chiu/AFP via Getty Images)

“We need to do better in terms of how we support our small businesses in California,” Ms. Yee said. “We need to think about how—when we talk about the livelihoods of Californians in the future—that we are looking proactively at some of the economic challenges that California will be facing.”
She once served as deputy budget director for former Gov. Gray Davis, was later elected to the State Board of Equalization, and then served as the state’s chief financial officer as controller between 2015 and 2023.
“I’ve seen what has worked well in terms of the economy in California and what has not worked so well,” Ms. Yee said. “More importantly, California’s response to what’s not working well and how to do better to help our communities throughout the state.”
Citing her experience, she suggested that her perspective will help the state rebound from its budget deficit—estimated at $73 billion, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.
“Sometimes we don’t challenge ourselves to do the best with our dollars when we have a lot of them,” Ms. Yee said. “And now that we have a budget deficit, it creates new opportunities to think about how we can do things differently in terms of delivering services ... and how to tackle affordability challenges.”
Reviewing past policies and priorities with an eye toward adapting spending to match current needs and revenues is essential, she said.
She previously signaled her intention to run last year but waited until this week to put her campaign in motion.
More than two years before the primary election takes place in June 2026, the field of candidates continues to swell, with Ms. Yee joining three others that have officially announced their campaigns.
The first to announce last year was Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis—a native Californian with Greek immigrant parents who attributes her family’s success to the opportunities provided by the Golden State.
Lt. Gov. of California Eleni Kounalakis speaks onstage during EMILYs List's 2023 Pre-Oscars Breakfast at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. on March 7, 2023. (Araya Doheny/Getty Images for EMILYs List)

Lt. Gov. of California Eleni Kounalakis speaks onstage during EMILYs List's 2023 Pre-Oscars Breakfast at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. on March 7, 2023. (Araya Doheny/Getty Images for EMILYs List)

“A proud mother, daughter, advocate, and leader, Eleni knows the struggles Californians face and has the experience and grit to bring meaningful change to her home state,” her campaign website reads. “She is a fierce fighter and strives to build a future where everyone—regardless of race, class, or immigration status—has the same opportunity for a better future that she has had.”
Tony Thurmond, superintendent of public instruction, followed in September with a video announcing his campaign. He described his path as one of hard work and dedication which saw him rise from poverty to lead public schools in the state.
“I didn’t come from money, power, or influence,” Mr. Thurmond posted on X while launching his campaign. “I’m running for Governor to be a voice for those who need one—because California may be working for millionaires and billionaires, but for the rest of California, we need real change.”
Former state Senate Leader Sen. Toni Atkins launched her campaign with a rally in San Diego in January.
“It has never been my ambition to be governor, but it is my intention to serve as governor,” Ms. Atkins said during the rally. “In this land of dreams, I found my passion working in the service of people, and that is what I’ve spent my life doing.”
Additionally, state Attorney General Rob Bonta has voiced his intention to run for governor but has yet to officially announce his campaign. Some political analysts suggest he could be a potential front-runner in the crowded field.
Other names floated as possible candidates include Rep. Katie Porter—whose failed bid in the March primary for the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat left her without a position.
While the candidates are years ahead of schedule, their timeline is significantly behind that taken by Gov. Gavin Newsom—who terms out in 2027—when he announced his run for governor in 2015 three months after his predecessor Jerry Brown was reelected.
If any of the candidates win, the election will prove historic, with several women looking to become the first such governor in state history, while Ms. Yee or Mr. Bonta would be the first Asian, and Mr. Thurmond would be the state’s first black governor.
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Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

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Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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