Malia Cohen (File Photo)



In the race for California state controller, Malia Cohen is the leading contender and could become the first African American woman to hold the position.

Making every effort to ensure that outcome, Cohen has mounted a strong campaign to be elected, traveling throughout the Golden State, speaking to groups – both urban and rural – and sharing her message of a “fair and equitable California.”

Cohen, who serves on the Board of Equalization (BOE), is not a novice to the political life. Now in her third year as the first African American woman on the BOE, she is also the president of the San Francisco Police Commission.

Her weighty assignments actually began more than 10 years ago – first during her tenure as chair of the San Francisco Employee Retirement Systems (SFERS) followed by two terms on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors where a total of eight years including a stint as president of the Board.

In addition to experience, Cohen has significant educational background.  She earned a Bachelor’s degree from Fisk University with an emphasis in finance and political science and received a Master’s degree in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Clearly, she has the credentials to be California’s top financial wiz, but what is really driving her desire to be state controller is her belief that every Californian deserves a fair share of the state’s budget pie. Cohen outlined her intention to achieve those goals if elected as controller.

“I want to make sure that there is economic equity and opportunity for all Californians. I want to pay particular attention to communities of color, working class Californians that have been overlooked and ensure that large corporations are paying their fair share, and that taxes are not regressive and over-burdensome,” she explained.

“San Francisco has been my home base and I’ve represented African American communities, LGBTQ community members and communities of color. One thing I’ve always been able to do is zero in on where and how money is being spent, making sure that these communities had their fair share.”

As part of her effort, Cohen intends to focus on educating citizens about the way the budget process works along with ensuring that people are not at a disadvantage when competing for budget dollars due to their ethnicity, gender or even geographical location.

“I want to make sure that monies – tax dollars – that the governor and legislature are allocating are benefitting everyone – not just people in rural counties or suburban counties, but making sure everyone can benefit from state programs,” she insisted.

Some of the state-funded programs that Cohen hopes to see a wide range of people take advantage of include job training, housing construction projects and affordable health care. She also aims to develop partnerships and strengthen existing ties with nonprofit groups to inform residents about the opportunities that government offers to communities.

Describing her philosophy as “investing in people and investing in California,” she said, “I want to make sure the tax code is fair, that people understand tax incentives are out there to benefit the working class. I want people to take advantage of state and federal dollars that will put money back in their pockets.”

Cohen’s passion for equipping people to live the best life possible has been evident throughout her career in public service.  Observers note that her professional journey has been characterized by her support of initiatives that promote public health, encourage economic development and advocate for good jobs.

Many agree that she will likely continue to emphasize comparable programs and policies as the state controller.  Her platform certainly impressed the California Democratic Party who endorsed Cohen during the recent CDP State Convention.

“I think what makes me the strongest candidate in this race is not only do I have the Democratic Party’s endorsement, but also being a woman, a mother, working, understand balancing child care in a professional life, coming from a community of color and understanding the frustration of people when they feel invisible or not heard,” said Cohen.

“I bring experiences and a fullness to the table that few of the other candidates have. Not only do I understand the nomenclatures – finances, taxes and fees – but also how to overcome adversity and help other people come along behind me.”

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