Public Comment

State Senate District 9 Candidate Statement: Wilma Chan

Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:44:00 AM

I am running for the state Senate seat being vacated by current Senator Don Perata. My priorities are education, environmental justice, access to healthcare and good jobs.  

Since leaving the Assembly two years ago, I’ve been teaching at Cal as well as working to expand access to healthcare for students at Berkeley City College and the other Peralta community colleges and serving on the state commission that sets reimbursement rates for hospitals serving low income Californians. 

Let me tell you a little about myself and the work I’ve done.  

I represented Oakland, Alameda and Piedmont in the state Assembly until the end of 2006. In the Assembly, I was the Assembly majority whip in my first year, going on to become the first woman in California history to serve as the Assembly majority leader, a top leadership position second only to the Assembly Speaker.  

During my tenure in the Assembly, I won passage of more than 55 new laws, including some of the toughest consumer-oriented healthcare and environmental bills in the nation. The prestigious California Journal named me “top of the class.”  

For two years I chaired the Assembly Health Committee and served on the Assembly Budget Committee, Subcommittee on Education Finance for five.  

The bulk of my legislative accomplishments are in education and healthcare, where I won approval of 35 laws.  

I am proud to have passed a law stopping hospitals from price gouging moderate and middle income families simply because they lack health coverage and a measure to hold health insurers accountable for denying policies to individuals. I passed new laws to help older adults by requiring the licensing of the dozens of complex prescription drug plans under Medicare. I won approval of a law that gives the most vulnerable—children, older adults and those with chronic illnesses the first priority when flu serum runs short.  

I introduced the first bill to provide health coverage to California’s 800,000 uninsured children and was a principal coauthor of Senator Sheila Kuehl’s legislation for universal healthcare—a bill I hope to carry forward in the Senate. 

In education, I secured $100 million to expand pre-school for young children to help them get a head start on their education. When the governor proposed cutting financial aid and turning away 10,000 qualified students who had already received acceptance letters to UC schools, I led the successful fight against it.  

My work on the environment has been recognized by the California League of Conservation Voters, the political arm of the environmental movement, and written up in The Nation magazine. I don’t back away from tough fights with the special interests when the cause is right. I battled chemical companies, passing the first law in the nation to ban toxic PBDEs in furniture. In another fight, I won legislation that protects children and pregnant women from lead in faucets and water pipes, again making California the first in the nation.  

Three years ago, long before the public was aware of the danger of BPA chemicals used in plastic products, I proposed a ban on its use in baby products. I’d like to reintroduce it if elected to the Senate. 

People talk about breaking the cycle of residents moving in and out of the criminal justice system, but I actually did something; enacting a pilot program in Alameda County to help non-violent offenders integrate back into the community and get the help they need to lead productive lives. If the pilot is successful, and early indications are that it is, I’d like to propose it statewide in the Senate. 

Before being elected to the California Assembly, I was elected to six years on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and four years on the Oakland School Board. I have a BA from Wellesley and a Masters Degree in Education Policy from Stanford.  

As you know, Loni Hancock and I are both running in the June 3 Democratic Primary. Some say that Ms. Hancock and I are alike. We’re both progressive Democrats, both women, hold similar voting records and each of us has six years in the Legislature. We co-authored many of the same bills like Single Payer Healthcare and the Greenhouse Gas bill. One difference is that I was an early endorser of Senator Barack Obama and campaigned actively for him. My opponent endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton. 

The real choice comes down to who can effectively represent this area. I have consistently and successfully taken on tough issues, passing important legislation while Loni Hancock’s record is much weaker.  

While Ms. Hancock often highlights her role in passing the landmark 2006 bill to reduce greenhouse gas, in truth all she actually did was to sign on to the Nunez/Pavley bill as a supporter just as I and more than 50 other legislators did. Although Ms. Hancock has chaired the Natural Resources Committee for over three years, she hasn’t passed a single law on greenhouse gas emissions or any breakthrough laws on the environment.  

In the next few weeks, there will be a lot of talk about who is progressive and who can best represent the residents of this district. In being progressive, I believe you have to fight for education, the environment, consumer protection, accessible and affordable healthcare and equal rights for all. You have to do it at all times, and in all contexts. But you have to do more than propose a bill or co-author someone else’s bill. We won’t win all the time, but it is imperative that the next senator be willing to have a vision of where we should be going and be willing to take on and win some of the big battles. When it comes to being progressive and effective, Ms. Hancock’s record comes up short. 

You can count on me to fight for a state budget that protects the poor and working families. I will be responsive to Berkeley and the needs of its neighborhoods and residents.  

My endorsements show my ability to bridge political differences. Among my local supporters are the East Bay Young Democrats, the Berkeley Democratic Club, Berkeley City Council members Betty Olds, Kriss Worthington and Dona Spring as well as former Councilwoman Maudelle Shirek. In addition, I have won the support of former Berkeley mayors Gus Newport and Shirley Dean. 

In backing my candidacy, the Oakland Tribune said, “she possesses the tenaciousness to battle the bureaucracy and get important bills passed.” 

I hope you will agree.  

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