Former state Controller Betty Yee announces campaign for California governor

FILE - California Controller Betty Yee listens during a meeting on June 28, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. Former Controller Yee announced, Wednesday, March 27, 2024, that she'd be running for governor in 2026 to succeed outgoing Gov. Gavin Newsom. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s former Controller Betty Yee announced Wednesday she will run for governor in 2026, vying to succeed outgoing Gov. Gavin Newsom against other major Democratic contenders in what will be the first open race for the state's top office since 2018.

If elected, Yee would be the first woman to become California's governor. She is a San Francisco native born to Chinese immigrant parents.

Yee, who currently serves as vice chair of the California Democratic Party, says she wants to tackle affordability, bring transparency to Sacramento and address the climate crisis.

“Things in California just don’t add up anymore. Families are working harder than ever, but the cost of housing, food, college, childcare, elder care, and more is moving out of our reach,” Yee said in a statement. “Together we have the grit and the power to make California add up for all of us again.”

The race to replace Newsom, who terms out in 2027, will be a Democratic free-for-all sure to attract the party’s top talent for the chance to lead the nation’s most populous state and the world’s fifth largest economy.

Yee will have to compete in an extremely diverse pool of candidates for a post that has mostly been held by white men. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who is Black, and outgoing state Senate leader Toni Atkins, a lesbian lawmaker, have all announced their candidacies. Attorney General Rob Bonta, who is Filipino, has said he is seriously considering a run.

Yee served as the budget director for Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. She was then elected as a member of the California State Board of Equalization and then as state controller. California controller is responsible for disbursing state funds, auditing government agencies and serving on more than 70 boards and commissions.