California needs a controller with integrity and state government experience — someone who has demonstrated political independence, an ability to foster bipartisan cooperation and a willingness to speak truth to power.

Bay Area state Sen. Steve Glazer is the only candidate in the June 7 primary who meets those criteria. Californians who want a controller who will effectively manage the state office of more than 1,400 workers and ensure tax dollars are efficiently and effectively spent should vote for him.

As California’s chief fiscal officer, the controller pays state worker salaries and other government bills; sits on 78 boards and commissions, including those overseeing the state’s two largest pension systems; and serves as an independent watchdog uncovering fraud and abuse.

With incumbent Betty Yee required to step down at the end of this year after serving the allotted two four-year terms, the race has drawn six candidates, including Los Angeles’ city controller, a member of the state Board of Equalization, and a former policy advisor to Mitt Romney.

But it’s Glazer who brings the deepest experience, having served as a political and policy advisor to former Gov. Jerry Brown, as an Orinda councilman, as a member of the California State University Board of Trustees and, since 2015, as a state senator from the East Bay.


It’s in the Senate that Glazer, a Democrat, has demonstrated a tenacious streak of independence, a willingness to press on in the face of special-interest opposition, and a laser focus on data-driven oversight of government programs.

He successfully negotiated, over the objections of BART administration and unions, for creation of an independent inspector general at the transit agency. A Glazer bill led to creation of an education data system to track student performance and effectiveness of programs.

Glazer’s current pending bills would expand data collection on infectious-disease spread and broaden public disclosure of the information; track spending and outcomes in mental health programs; and close a loophole that has allowed school districts, unlike other local public agencies, to avoid reporting salaries to the state controller for public dissemination.

One of his biggest accomplishments was passage of 2016 legislation requiring California State University campuses to provide incentives for students to enroll full-time so they can graduate in four years. It helped boost the four-year graduation rate from 19% in 2015 to 31% in 2020.

The faster students complete their degrees, the less debt they assume, and the more quickly the university can free space to accommodate other students. The bill demonstrates the sort of eye on efficient use of public resources that would be an asset in the state Controller’s Office.

Glazer recognizes that, as controller, he won’t be able to legislate. But he’ll be able to use the office’s auditing function and bully pulpit to press lawmakers for smart changes in areas such as housing, schools and climate change to ensure tax money is spent more wisely.

As controller, he would also be a policymaker on scores of boards and commissions, including those for the California State Teachers Retirement System and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the nation’s largest pension plan.

The two retirement system boards are dominated by members beholden to the state and local public employee labor unions. Glazer would bring a refreshing independent voice and an understanding of the intricacies of retirement system accounting.

Other candidates

That contrasts with Malia Cohen, a former San Francisco supervisor who now sits on the state Board of Equalization and who, despite sitting on the board of the city’s public employee system, was unable to answer key questions about retirement funding. Cohen, a Democrat, sees herself and her role as controller as being a “social justice warrior.” That’s not the independent analyst state residents need to head the office.

While candidate Ron Galperin, the elected city controller of Los Angeles, has the same title as the state post he’s seeking, the duties are not nearly as broad at the city level. But Galperin, also a Democrat, does serve the auditor function there, and he well-understands the need for it to be independent. However, Galperin has been criticized for not being direct enough, something we saw in his audit of the city’s retirement system.

Lanhee Chen, the only Republican in the race, faces a steep uphill climb. No GOP candidate has won statewide office since 2006. That said, with Democrats likely to split the vote of their party members, Chen will probably make the runoff and will be worth watching.

Chen holds four degrees from Harvard — a bachelor’s degree in government, master’s and doctoral degrees in political science, and a law degree. He served in the George W. Bush administration and was chief policy adviser to Romney during the senator’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential bid.

Today, Chen is a public policy fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. He is quick to distance himself from those who have turned the GOP from what he calls a party of principles and ideals into a party of personalities. What he doesn’t have is much background in California government nor any elective office experience.

The other two candidates are Democrat Yvonne Yiu, who declined to answer our questions, and Laura Wells, a member of the Green Party who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010 and for controller in 2002, 2006 and 2014.

It’s a large field of candidates, but only one brings the combination of state experience, integrity, political courage and independence. That’s Glazer. Vote for him in the upcoming primary.