Betty Yee is officially entering the 2026 California governor’s race

California Controller Betty Yee, chair of the California Lands Commission, discusses the closure of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, in Sacramento, California.  Yee and other committee members considered forgoing an environmental review before renewing a contract with the plant's owners, PG&E, after an agreement was reached with environmental groups to close the Diablo Canyon facility by 2025, nine years earlier than previously planned.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

(Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Betty Yee is officially entering the 2026 California governor’s race

California Politics

Taryn Luna

March 27, 2024

Former state comptroller betty yee launched her campaign for


governor in 2026, joining a crowded field of Democratic candidates nearly a year after she initially said she planned to run for the job.

In a social media announcement video announcing her candidacy, Yee highlighted her humble upbringing and her fiscal leadership in state government.

“People are afraid that we don’t have power over our future, but I know we do,” Yee said. ‘That’s why I’m running for governor. We have the courage and the power to make California work for all of us again.”

Yee joins a group of Democrats with experience in state government

but a lack of brand awareness statewide

try to succeed Governor Gavin Newsom, who is serving his second and final term


Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis was the first to announce her campaign last spring. California Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond launched his bid in September. Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), former President Pro Tem of the House of Representatives, entered the race in January.

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis announces early bid for California’s 2026 gubernatorial race

State Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta said he is thinking about it but has not officially entered the race yet. Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine), whose bid for the U.S. Senate ended after she finished a distant third in the March 5 primary, is among a slew of other names being mentioned in political circles as potential candidates.

When announcing her campaign, Yee told a compelling story about her upbringing:


raised by her Chinese immigrant parents with her five siblings in a studio apartment behind the family’s dry cleaning business in San Francisco.

“Our parents didn’t speak English, so I managed the accounts and dealt with banks and suppliers to get things done,” Yee said, adding that she learned what numbers meant to the family. “If the income for the week was too low, we could get by with one less carton of milk or bread. I have learned that when things are out of balance, many communities are left behind and sometimes left behind.”

Yee’s campaign website notes that she began overseeing the company’s finances

when she was 8 years old at 8 years old

. A product of public schools, she studied sociology at UC Berkeley and attended Golden Gate University for her master’s degree in public administration.

Yee served as state budget director under the former governor. Gray Davis before winning a seat on the California State Board of Equalization in 2006 and again in 2010. She was elected state comptroller in 2014. The following year she was elected state comptroller.


that the Board of Equalization failed to properly handle the money it collected and failed to collect debts owed. She said her audits and investigations from the comptroller’s office have revealed more than $4 billion in misused funds. She won her re-election bid in 2018.

State Senate Majority Leader Toni Atkins enters 2026 race for California governor

Her budget experience could appeal to California voters as the state grapples with a historic deficit. Budget forecasts suggest the next governor could face a challenging fiscal environment if state revenues do not recover.

Competing for support from many of the same donors could also pose a challenge for Yee and the other Democrats. Kounalakis has raised nearly $4 million for her campaign. Atkins has raked in about $2.5 million, while Thurmond has less than $1 million.

A 2022 Times report detailed how Yee provided behind-the-scenes advice to a politically connected company seeking a $600 million no-bid government contract to supply COVID-19 masks and raised questions about her involvement. The deal with Blue Flame Medical LLC was flagged as possible fraud and the state was forced to claw back its $457 million advance to the company.

Times staff writer Melody Gutierrez contributed to this report.


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