I first heard of Lanhee Chen when he had first worked for then Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney as a policy advisor, and I met him the first time when he was a Hoover Fellow at Stanford University discussing his observations on the Taiwanese elections in 2020, which was really interesting.
Chen is now currently running for California State Controller, a role most previously held by two other Asian Americans, John Chiang and Betty Yee. The biggest challenge, in my opinion, for Chen to get elected in heavily Democratic California is that he is a Republican. The state controller race, a statewide elected office, is not that well known among the general public. The last time a Republican in California was elected for a state wide race was when Arnold Schwarzenegger was re-elected as governor in 2006 (and he obviously had name recognition).
I most recently met Chen when former presidential candidate Andrew Yang had endorsed Chen for Controller earlier this year at an event. As you may know, Yang started a new “political party” last year and is looking to promote more centrist candidates, through the political mechanisms of open primaries and ranked choice voting (both of which I support).
To my surprise, I’ve heard on a few instances, some fairly liberal political friends of mine that they are considering voting for Chen. I say surprisingly, because the U.S. has gotten so partisan that I think it is hard to get beyond party labels. Most impressively, The Los Angeles Times has endorsed Chen for State Controller:
“The selection should boil down to this: Do you want the position to be held by someone who’s in tight with the officials who run state government? Or would you rather see it occupied by someone with the independence and skills to examine why state spending has not yielded better results?
We believe the latter is the better choice, which is why we endorsed Lanhee Chen in the June primary election and why we urge a vote for him on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Chen’s focus is on the controller’s power to audit government spending. He pledges to scrutinize the biggest categories of spending and rate programs based on their effectiveness. This is an urgently needed service in a state that has a record of poor performance despite its soaring $300-billion budget. During the last several years of strong revenue, California pumped billions more into education, healthcare and alleviating homelessness. Yet too few students can read at grade level, too many Medi-Cal patients can’t see a doctor and too many people sleep on the streets.
Cohen is positioned to work well with the Democrats who run the state. But we believe that California needs a controller who has more independence. That’s why Chen is the better choice in this race.”
California and the U.S. should not be a one party system, and there needs to be the rule of law and checks and balances. So it makes sense to have a rational non-Democrat to provide a check against one party rule in California when it comes to spending. This is Chen’s strongest argument and I think that will resonant with Californians, no matter their poitical affiliation, because Americans in general are increasingly becoming less confident in our government’s ability (at all levels in my opinion) at effectively governing.
Best of luck to Chen on trying to win statewide office!