STATE SENATE PRESIDENT pro Tem Don Perata, who has represented Senate District 9 for the last decade, has been a towering presence in Sacramento. Perata, D-Oakland, was instrumental in securing millions of dollars in transportation funds for Alameda and Contra Costa counties, he helped bolster support for added money for bridge tolls and was a key player in Bay Bridge negotiations.
But thanks to the failure of Proposition 93, Perata must vacate his seat.
Perata leaves huge shoes to fill and his departure means that the Bay Area is losing one of its most powerful advocates in Sacramento.
The two candidates vying to succeed Perata are well-qualified and have established records of public service. Choosing between the two is not easy.
Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, is serving her third term representing the 14th Assembly District, and because of term limits, cannot run again. Wilma Chan is a former Assemblywoman representing the 16th District who was forced to leave office after she termed out.
Both Hancock and Chan have raised a lot of money for the hotly contested race, and both have substantial war chests. In early April, Chan had $507,283 cash on hand while Hancock reported $406,107.
In our view, just as in the case between Democratic presidential candidates HIllary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, there is very little philosophical difference between Hancock and Chan — though both candidates have tried mightily to emphasize what sets them apart.
The 850,000 residents of the sprawling, diverse district, would be well-served by either candidate.
Chan is a former Alameda County supervisor and trustee for the Oakland school board who has made education and family issues one of her top priorities.
While in the Assembly, Chan helped author legislation that expanded health coverage to uninsured children. She also pushed through legislation that required more transparency in the way that hospitals bill uninsured patients for medical services. In 2002, she was elected Assembly Majority Leader, the first Asian American and first woman to hold that position. She was appointed by Perata to serve on the California Medical Assistance Commission through 2009.
Hancock is a former Berkeley mayor and currently chairs the Committee on Natural Resources in the Assembly. Hancock cites as her accomplishments her work co-authoring AB 32, which created caps on greenhouse gases, as well as her initiatives to create hands-on technical education in high schools to help prepare teens for employment. She also helped the West Contra Costa school board refinance its loan with the state, which saved more than $500,000.
Yet despite the positives for both candidates, we give a slight edge to Chan, mainly because we believe she possesses the tenaciousness to battle the bureaucracy and get important bills passed. With Perata's departure, it is crucial that the district send a strong advocate to Sacramento to replace him.