How a lot does Yvonne Yiu wish to be California controller? Rely the money
Within the crowded major for California controller, Yvonne Yiu is betting that spending thousands and thousands of her personal cash is her ticket to the highest two. However the observe report of self-funding candidates in statewide races is blended.
In most California elections, the race for state controller doesn’t get a lot consideration.
However this 12 months, it’s one of many hottest races. And the political dynamics make it unpredictable, doubtlessly opening a path for a candidate who isn’t campaigning very a lot — however is spending thousands and thousands of her personal cash.
Some strategists imagine that Lanhee Chen, the only real Republican within the June 7 major, is more likely to nab one of many two spots on the November poll. That may pressure 4 Democrats to battle for the second slot.
There’s Malia Cohen, chairperson of the state Board of Equalization, who has the California Democratic Social gathering’s endorsement. There’s additionally Steve Glazer, a state senator from the Bay Space who’s pitching himself as an unbiased watchdog who will stand as much as celebration leaders.
There’s Ron Galperin, who serves as controller of the town of Los Angeles — the “golden poll designation,” he says, as a result of he’s the one candidate with “controller” subsequent to his identify. He additionally says he’s well-known in Los Angeles, and hopes to capitalize on excessive voter turnout for the high-profile mayoral race.
After which there’s Yvonne Yiu, a present metropolis council member and former mayor of Monterey Park (inhabitants 60,000) within the San Gabriel Valley. A longtime monetary advisor, she has already funneled about $5.7 million of her personal cash into her marketing campaign, together with a $1.2 million donation final Thursday.
That’s 95% of her whole fundraising of $6 million up to now. The opposite 4 main contenders have raised about $7 million — mixed.
The amount of money she’s prepared to spend on a down-ballot race has raised eyebrows — and makes her an outlier amongst all candidates working for state workplace within the major.
A stealth candidate?
On Could 5, three days after Politico’s scoop of a draft U.S. Supreme Court docket ruling to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade choice, Cohen referred to as on Chen to declare his stance on abortion rights as soon as and for all. Galperin and Glazer quickly adopted.
The controller doesn’t make state coverage, however as California prepares to develop into a sanctuary for these looking for abortions, it’s doable that state spending might fall below some restricted purview of the controller. Nonetheless, campaigning on abortion rights might enhance a candidate’s identify recognition. Democrats hope it helps them on the polls, trumping voter issues similar to crime, homelessness and inflation.
However whereas the opposite candidates sought out consideration, Yiu stayed out.
It’s becoming with the stealthier strategy she’s taken up to now. In her personal phrases, she’s probably the most unknown candidate — and in contrast to the opposite candidates, she’s not fascinated by utilizing the controller’s workplace as a steppingstone.
“I wish to do what I’m good at, which is finance,” she mentioned in an endorsement interview with the Sacramento Bee.
It’s not that she’s not campaigning in any respect. For her fiftieth birthday final October, Yiu threw a marketing campaign fundraiser. She additionally attended the state Democratic Social gathering conference in March and made her pitch for the celebration’s endorsement. She has been posting monetary literacy recommendations on her Instagram web page, touting her endorsements on her Fb web page and courting Asian-American voters by occasions, teams and focused media.
She declined to be interviewed for this story. Requested why she’s prepared to spend a lot of her personal cash to develop into controller, she responded by e-mail that as an immigrant and girl, she has been underestimated her complete profession and has all the time relied on herself.
“After I introduced my marketing campaign for State Controller, I used to be discounted once more – by political insiders, celebration elites and particular curiosity teams. I made a decision to do what I’ve all the time achieved after I needed one thing. I counted on myself to get the job achieved,” she informed CalMatters.
“The truth that I’ve put my very own cash into this race makes me unbiased, and the voters won’t ever should query whether or not I’ve their greatest pursuits at coronary heart.”
Not like the opposite main controller candidates, she additionally declined in-person, video interviews with CalMatters for its Voter Information, submitting written solutions as a substitute.
She additionally doesn’t converse in her marketing campaign advertisements — as a substitute letting a narrator introduce her to seemingly random voters and promote her marketing campaign slogan: “Yiu is for You.”
However Yiu says she doesn’t imagine lack of identify recognition statewide is an issue, saying that voters aren’t that acquainted with any of the candidates within the race. If media endorsements are any indication, the three-way break up among the many high candidates exhibits it’s anybody’s recreation.
“I’m not a standard candidate who has spent their profession in politics. The very fact is I’m not identified by the political insiders,” Yiu mentioned within the e-mail. “My energy, nevertheless, is my background, expertise, and abilities which I imagine is what voters are in search of in a state controller — somebody who understands finance, is aware of methods to handle investments and might save taxpayers cash.”
She’s not the primary statewide candidate to take a considerably “stealth” strategy to campaigning, relying totally on TV advertisements and mailers to win over voters. However that technique has its limits.
Matt Shupe, a political strategist for a number of Republican candidates and campaigns, mentioned the facility of TV advertisements solely goes up to now.
“Campaigns will all the time be restricted by a finite quantity of funds, and the way these sources are marshaled are a number of the most essential choices a marketing campaign makes. In case you’re shopping for all of your advertisements on TV, you’re lacking out on those that lower the wire and are on Hulu and Netflix,” Shupe mentioned.
“Equally, in the event you’re solely shopping for junk mail, it’s possible you’ll miss voters on social media. Having the broadest spectrum of communications is significant and that’s the place the facility of earned media is.”
Political strategist Kevin Spillane mentioned that whereas spending $4 million on TV advertisements will make an affect, there’s no assure that it is going to be sufficient.
In a down poll race similar to controller, poll designation and partisanship play key roles.
“Her opponents every have particular person areas and identify identification,” Spillane mentioned, citing Galperin’s “controller” title and the reputations that Glazer and Cohen have constructed within the Bay Space. “That’s value greater than a brand new face coming in and making an attempt to purchase an workplace in these areas.”
Classes in self-funding
Yiu got here to the U.S. from Hong Kong on the age of 16 following the dying of her father. She earned her undergraduate diploma in economics from UCLA, and her grasp’s diploma in finance from Loyola Marymount College.
She says she by no means forgot the difficulties her mom confronted elevating three daughters on her personal. It’s one thing she’s campaigning on — selling monetary literacy for girls and other people of coloration.
Yiu labored as a monetary advisor and asset supervisor for companies together with Merill Lynch, E*Commerce Monetary, Citicorp Funding Providers and Charles Schwab. She additionally based her personal funding and brokerage agency that she stories managed $500 million in belongings.
Whereas now retired from finance, she has labored part-time as an arbitrator and professional witness for the Monetary Trade Regulatory Authority, a non-public company that goals to self-regulate the finance business. (That authority as soon as censured and fined Yiu’s personal agency for improperly depositing investor funds in an actual property belief account owned by one of many fund’s managing members.)
Now, she’s utilizing a few of that wealth to spice up her marketing campaign.
So what’s the facility of self-funding?
In 2018, it boosted Republican John Cox into the highest two for governor, although he ultimately misplaced handily to Democrat Gavin Newsom.
Tim Rosales, who was Cox’s marketing campaign supervisor, mentioned a candidate’s personal cash gives the “luxurious” of having the ability to bypass the press and pay for direct communication to voters.
“It may be a big distinction maker, particularly while you’ve acquired a crowded area and candidates who’re unknown and donors who’re break up,” he mentioned. “With the ability to put money into your personal marketing campaign to an amazing diploma, it provides you raise.”
“Folks have to know that you just’ve acquired pores and skin within the recreation” in the event you don’t have a observe report in politics, Rosales added. “It exhibits confidence, and it exhibits that you just actually imagine you are able to do this.”
Additionally in 2018, Eleni Kounalakis, a political unknown and govt of one of many greatest land growth corporations in California, gained the election for lieutenant governor after spending $7.7 million of her personal cash, and getting assist from a $5 million unbiased expenditure effort funded by her father. This 12 months, Kounalakis is dealing with solely token opposition for reelection.
Cash isn’t the entire image, although. In California, it could take far more cash than what Yiu has invested for a statewide media marketing campaign, mentioned Galperin, one in all her Democratic rivals.
And, he informed CalMatters, “Californians normally, not all the time, don’t like individuals simply shopping for an election.”
Later Monday, in a fundraising e-mail, Cohen referred to as out Yiu’s spending and referred to as on her supporters to “let Californians know that the Controller’s workplace is not on the market.”
There’s additionally a protracted historical past of self-funded candidates not profitable: Republican Invoice Simon, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2002; Democrat Steve Westly, who misplaced within the gubernatorial major in 2006; and Republican Meg Whitman, who spent a report $140 million on her marketing campaign, securing the nomination, however dropping to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in 2010.
Rosales, the guide, additionally pointed to the instance of Al Checchi, who spent $40 million of his personal cash within the Democratic major for governor in 1998 and ended up dropping to Grey Davis, who had a powerful basis of assist among the many celebration from his lengthy profession.
“Cash places you within the dialog,” Rosales mentioned, “but it surely doesn’t essentially win elections.”
CalMatters reporter Alexei Koseff contributed to this story.