Position: Former California State Treasurer/Former Republican Candidate for U.S. Senate from California
Until leaving the post of California State Treasurer in 1997 to make a narrowly unsuccessful challenge for Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate Seat Matt Fong was arguably the second-highest-ranking Asian American elected official in the continental United States (just below Washington state governor Gary Locke). In that office Fong impressed the Republican establishment by cutting his agency’s operating costs by nearly $7 million. He was actively involved in strengthening California’s position as the leading financial center of the Pacific Rim, with nearly half of California’s $81.2 billion in exports traveling to Asia. As a member of the National Commission on Tax Reform and Economic Growth, he also voiced support for paring down the IRS tax code to a simpler, flatter standard.
Until the final weeks of the 1998 U.S. Senate race Fong was favored to beat Barbara Boxer but ended up losing by a 4% margin despite the endorsement of most major California newspapers based on his solid record as Treasurer and his centrist platform. The loss may have been attributable to the unpopularity in California of Republican efforts to impeach Bill Clinton over a sex scandal involving White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Following the loss he vowed to return to the political arena but has yet made no specific announcements concerning the future. He would be well-positioned to challenge Dianne Feinstein in 2002 as well as to make a run for the House of Representatives from one of the heavily Asian districts of the L.A. area.
Fong’s mother is former Secretary of State March Fong Eu, one of the nation’s most successful female politicians. Fong graduated the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1975 and currently holds the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Air Force Reserves. He continued in the military for five years before entering Southwestern Law School. He is licensed and rated as an FAA flight instructor and commercial pilot. He is also licensed to fly gliders. He and his wife, Paula, live in Hacienda Heights with their two children, Matthew II and Jade.