Andrew Yang Thursday endorsed Lanhee Chen for state controller, with the candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination saying the Republican “has shown the ability to transcend left and right to get things done.”
“As we enter challenging economic times, it is more important than ever that Californians have an independent-minded controller who will keep watch over how their tax dollars are spent,” Yang said at a rally at the Industry Hills Expo Center in Industry. “Californians need a problem-solver, not a typical politician, as their next controller.”
Chen praised Yang as “a dynamic thinker and leader who is doing important work in addressing the failures of our overly partisan political system.”
“With his support, I look forward to bringing Californians of all political stripes together to win in November,” Chen said. “I believe that being an effective controller is not about left or right, but about putting taxpayers ahead of the Sacramento insiders.”
The endorsement came one day after Yang announced the merger of the Forward Party with the Serve America Movement and Renew America Movement. The merged organization will be known as Forward, with Yang serving as a co-chair, along with Christine Todd Whitman, a former Republican governor of New Jersey.
Yang announced the formation of the Forward Party on Oct. 5, 2021, one day after he announced he had changed his voter registration from Democrat to independent, writing in his blog that “breaking up with the Democratic Party feels like the right thing to do because I believe I can have a greater impact this way.”
The Serve America Movement was founded in 2017 by former George W. Bush staffers and was chaired by former Rep. David Jolly, R-Florida. It sought to “build a new political party for a new American majority,” and supported increasing spending on health care, education and infrastructure. It also supported ending mass incarceration and championed free markets, free trade and fiscal responsibility.
The Renew America Movement was formed in 2021 “to either reimagine a Republican Party dedicated to our founding ideals, or else hasten the creation of such an alternative.”
Chen announced his candidacy July 6, 2021, pledging to be “a fighter in the state controller’s office who will be a check on the one-party monopoly in Sacramento, expose fraud and waste in government, and ensure that we can account for every penny that our state spends.”
Chen finished first in the June primary with 37.2% of the vote. He was the lone Republican in a six-candidate field that also consisted of four Democrats and a Green Party candidate. Chen will face Board of Equalization Chair Malia M. Cohen in the November general election. The Democrat was second with 22.7%.
Incumbent Betty T. Yee is barred from seeking re-election because of term limits.
Chen is seeking to be the first Republican elected to statewide office in California since 2006, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was re-elected governor and Steve Poizner was elected insurance commissioner.
Chen is on leave as director of domestic policy studies of Stanford University’s Public Policy Program and a fellow in American public policy studies at the university’s Hoover Institution, its public policy think tank.
Chen was policy director for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, serving as Romney’s chief policy adviser, a senior strategist on the campaign and the person responsible for developing the campaign’s domestic and foreign policy, according to his Stanford University biography.
Chen was a senior appointee at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the George W. Bush Administration. He was appointed to the Social Security Advisory Board by then-President Barack Obama in 2013, serving until 2018.
Chen received bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and law degrees from Harvard University.
The controller is the state’s chief fiscal officer, responsible for accountability and disbursement of the state’s financial resources, independently audits government agencies that spend state funds, and administers the payroll system for state government employees and California State University employees.
The controller serves on 70 boards and commissions with authority ranging from state public land management to crime victim compensation, and is a member of numerous financing authorities, as well as fiscal and financial oversight entities including the Franchise Tax Board and Board of Equalization.
Yang finished sixth in the Iowa caucuses and suspended his campaign after an eighth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary. He finished fourth in the 2021 New York City Democratic mayoral primary.
According to Forward’s website, fwdtogether.org, “three overarching priorities will unite the broad coalition we are building”:
— Free People: Revitalize a culture that celebrates difference and individual choice, rejects hate and removes barriers so that each of us can rise to our full potential.
— Thriving Communities: Reinvigorate a fair, flourishing economy and open society where everyone can live a good life and is safe in the places where we learn, work and live.
— Vibrant Democracy: Reform our republic to give Americans more choices in elections, more confidence in a government that works and more say in our future.
Forward’s focus will be on electing mayors and city council and school board members.
“While we won’t shy away from big national races, our focus is on winning seats like these to change the course of our country,” according to the website. “This is not an effort to run a presidential candidate in 2024, and no one on the Forward team is currently planning to run for president. This is an effort to build a viable, credible and durable national political party.”