Legislation Update - 12/01/2008

Posted by Shane Goldmacher

Meet the new Democrats       Meet the new Republicans       Meet the Freshmen

Sac Bee: Meet the new Democrats

There are 14 Democrats brand new to the Legislature being sworn in today. That doesn't include former Sen. Tom Torlakson, who previously served eight years in the Senate and four years in the Assembly, or former Sen. Wes Chesbro, who served eight years in the Senate.

Capitol Alert offers a brief introduction to the Democratic freshman class:
AD 8 - Mariko Yamada, D-Davis
MarikoYamada Yolo County supervisor.
Replaces Lois Wolk, D-Davis
District: Parts of Solano and Yolo counties
Main cities: Benicia, Davis, Dixon, Fairfield, Rio Vista, Suisun City, Vacaville, West Sacramento, Winters, Woodland
Mariko Yamada is trained as a social worker, a profession known for reaching out to those in distress - and state government clearly needs help.

"We specialize in the toughest problems in society," she quipped recently. "So I'm looking forward to it."

Yamada is a former Yolo County supervisor whose campaign was bolstered in the June Democratic primary by big-bucks backing from a coalition of the California Teachers Association and various labor unions.

One of Yamada's first questions, at the Assembly freshmen orientation, was whether some of the Assembly's 57 standing or select committees should be merged to make the house more efficient.

She is keenly aware of the state's projected multibillion-dollar budget shortfall.

"Thank you -- I think," she joked when congratulated on winning her Assembly seat.
AD 10 - Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills
AlysonHuber Business attorney.
Replaces Alan Nakanishi, R-Lodi
District: Amador County, parts of El Dorado, Sacramento and San Joaquin counties
Main cities: El Dorado Hills, Elk Grove, Ione, Lodi, Rancho Cordova, Sacramento
Excuse Huber if you find her wandering the Capitol hallways today, looking for a bathroom or cafeteria.

She didn't attend the Assembly freshmen orientation -- wasn't invited.

Trailing the ballot count on Election Day and for more than three weeks afterward, Huber captured a stunning, last-minute victory over Republican Jack Sieglock only days before today's swearing-in.

Huber, a business attorney, never has held public office before but won with an inviting, promise-to-listen manner and by touting herself as a political outsider in a year of dismal legislative approval ratings.

Huber also brings a compelling "bootstrap" story to the Capitol, having grown up in poverty as a child, in Lodi, and working her way through college.

Her stunning Assembly victory prompted Capitol staffers to scurry last week to change the nameplate from Sieglock to Huber outside Room 5175 -- so hurriedly, in fact, that her first name was misspelled. The error has been fixed.
AD 13 - Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco
TomAmmiano San Francisco supervisor.
Replaces Mark Leno, D-San Francisco
District: Part of San Francisco County
Main cities: San Francisco
Tom Ammiano has been a fixture in San Francisco politics, serving on the board of supervisors since 1994, including a stint as president.

An unabashed liberal in an unabashedly liberal city, Ammiano faced only token Republican opposition in November after clearing the primary of any Democratic opponents.

Asked to explain his clear shot to the lower house in a city known for tough campaigns, he said months ago, "I am a known quantity. I do believe people think I fit."

Ammiano said health care reform would be among his top priorities in Sacramento, after working on San Francisco's universal health care law. A local priority, he said, is installing a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Politically, he is best known for the surprising strength of his write-in campaign for mayor, in which he challenged incumbent Mayor Willie Brown in 1999.

Ammiano could bring a lighter side to Assembly floor debates. A stand-up comedian since 1980, his nickname -- which he proudly touts on his Web site -- is "The Mother of Gay Comedy."
AD 14 - Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley
NancySkinner East Bay Regional Parks Board member. Replaces Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley
District: Parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties
Main cities: Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Kensington, Lafayette, Moraga, Oakland, Orinda, Pleasant Hill, Richmond, San Pablo
Nancy Skinner, the former U.S. director of the Climate Change Group, arrives in the Capitol with a pedigree as a global warming activist. A former Berkeley City Council member, Skinner is solidly in the liberal camp.

Her campaign Web site pledges she will fight for several new taxes, including an oil severance fee. She also wants "to close the loopholes that allow commercial property to avoid reassessment when it is transferred."

Skinner's new chief of staff is also well known -- at least to the Sacramento blogosphere. California Progress Report publisher Frank Russo is giving up his blogger hat to help Skinner navigate the murky waters under the dome.

Skinner thumped the opposition in a four-way Democratic primary -- pulling in nearly double the votes of her next closest opponent, Tony Thurmond of the Richmond City Council.
AD 15 - Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo
JoanBuchanan San Ramon Valley Unified School Board member.Replaces Guy Houston, R-San Ramon
District: Parts of Alameda, Contra Costa, Sacramento and San Joaquin counties
Main cities: Danville, Elk Grove, Galt, Livermore, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Stockton, Walnut Creek
Joan Buchanan's victory was sweet for the Democratic Party. Not only did her win over Republican Abram Wilson mean a new seat -- and vote -- for the Assembly Democrats, but it spelled the loss of the final GOP-held partisan seat in the Bay Area.

Buchanan can be expected to focus on education in Sacramento after serving for 18 years on the San Ramon Valley Unified School Board. And when she talks about the keys to academic achievement, she can bolster her case by pointing out that SVUSD students ranked sixth statewide in the Academic Performance Index in 2008.

She was backed heavily by education interests and says she'll arrive in Sacramento as a "common-sense problem solver."

"I'll never make a pledge, ever," she said during the campaign. "For someone to put themselves in a box when you haven't even taken a look at all the issues -- I think it's wrong."
AD 19 - Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo
JerryHill San Mateo County supervisor.Replaces Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco
District: Part of San Mateo County
Main cities: Burlingame, Daly City, Pacifica, San Bruno, San Mateo, South San Francisco
Jerry Hill survived one of the most brutal three-way primaries in the state, besting Gina Papan, the mayor of Millbrae and daughter of the late former Assemblyman Lou Papan, and Richard Holober, the executive director of the Consumer Federation of California.

Hill was a San Mateo County supervisor for a decade before ascending to the Assembly. He was also a Republican -- until he re-registered as a Democrat in 2003, citing the recall election, according to published reports.

Changing parties couldn't have hurt his political future, seeing that Republicans almost never win partisan office in the Bay Area.

But be wary of pre-judging former Bay Area Republicans turned Democrats. After all, incoming Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, now a solid Democratic vote, was once a Republican, too. DeSaulnier and Hill have one other thing in common: Both served as a member of the California Air Resources Board before joining the Assembly.
AD 22 - Paul Fong, D-Cupertino
PaulFong Foothill-De Anza Community College Board trustee.
Replaces Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View
District: Part of Santa Clara County
Main cities: Cupertino, Mountain View, San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale
Not many freshman Assembly members step into the halls of the Capitol already having earned the moniker of "Godfather."

But Paul Fong has -- at least in a profile in the San Jose Mercury News, which called him the "Godfather of Silicon Valley's Asian-American political community."

Fong coasted through the general election (with 76 percent of the vote) after a four-way primary, where he beat the business-backed candidacy of Dominic Caserta, a Santa Clara City Council member.

Once in Sacramento, don't expect Fong to stray far ideologically from his predecessor, liberal Democrat Sally Lieber.

"We should fully fund education. Proposition 98 should be a floor and not a ceiling," Fong told the San Jose Mercury News before his election. "We have a structural deficit that we've got to deal with," he said, adding that he prefers increasing revenues - read taxes - rather than "borrowing money and doing cuts."
AD 27 - Bill Monning, D-Carmel
BillMonning Professor, Monterey Institute of International Studies and Monterey College of Law.
Replaces John Laird, D-Santa Cruz
District: Parts of Monterey, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties
Main cities: Carmel by the Sea, Monterey, Morgan Hill, Santa Cruz
It only took Bill Monning 14 years to win this seat. He first ran in 1994. He was more successful this time around, besting Emily Reilly, a Santa Cruz City Council member, and Barbara Sprenger, a former trustee of the San Lorenzo Valley School Board.

Monning comes to Sacramento -- no kidding -- as an expert in conflict mediation. It's a skill he full expects to put to use.

"Coming in to Sacramento with a good idea gets you nowhere. You need to build consensus and coalitions, and that's where I believe I'm road-tested," he told the Santa Cruz Sentinel during the primary.

As a student at UC Berkeley during the 1960s, he went on to work as a lawyer for the United Farm Workers.
AD 40 - Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills
BobBlumenfield District director for Rep. Howard Berman.
Replaces Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys
District: Part of Los Angeles County
Main cities: Canoga Park, North Hills, Northridge, Reseda, Van Nuys, West Hills, Winnetka, Woodland Hills
Bob Blumenfield, the district director for Rep. Howard Berman, steamrolled his way through what was one of California's nastiest and most personal primaries this year.

His antagonist-in-chief was Stuart Waldman, the former chief of staff to Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, who endorsed Blumenfield over his own chief of staff. Levine was running for state Senate himself and -- some say in turn -- received the backing of Berman, a powerful figure in San Fernando Valley politics.

Blumenfield has said infrastructure improvements will be a top priority for him in Sacramento.

"Infrastructure investment is one of those things that has a great multiplier effect. Every dollar you invest in infrastructure, economists say, cycles itself back into the economy seven times. I'm going to look for things that have great multiplier effects," he told the San Fernando Sun.

Blumenfield also previously served as director of government affairs for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
AD 46 - John Pérez, D-Los Angeles
JohnPerez Former member, Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency.
Replaces Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles
District: Part of Los Angeles County
Main cities: Huntington Park, Los Angeles
John Pérez looked to be locked in a tough, three-way slugfest for the Assembly.

Then something happened. The other two candidates dropped out.

That cleared the field for Pérez, who is a cousin of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Some say the fix was in -- especially after one of those would-have-been challengers was named to a plum post on the L.A. planning commission by Villaraigosa.

Pérez, a former member of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, will join a new, smaller LGBT caucus when he arrives in Sacramento.

He also has ties to labor, as a political director for the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Capitol Weekly described him as "not known as the easiest boss to work for. He is smart but tough." And though he is just arriving in the Capitol, he's already been the subject of his fair share of speakership buzz.
AD 52 - Isadore Hall, D-Compton
IsadoreHall Compton City Council member.
Replaces Mervyn Dymally, D-Compton
District: Part of Los Angeles County
Main cities: Compton, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Paramount
Isadore Hall replaces Mervyn Dymally, one of the institutions of African-

American politics in California. He had Dymally's backing in his primary, where he finished far ahead of the competition in a four-way race that included Linda Harris-Forster, the daughter of South Central activist "Sweet" Alice Harris.

Business groups spent heavily in the primary for Hall, who pulled 56 percent of the vote, despite Harris' official backing from the California Democratic Party.

Hall describes himself as a "son of Compton," where he has served as a City Council member and president of the board of trustees of the Compton Unified School District. Hall has also held a seat on the Metropolitan Water Board.

During the campaign, Hall told the League of Women Voters that, if elected, his top priorities would be universal health care, economic development and affordable housing for low-income families and the elderly.
AD 54 - Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach
BonnieLowenthal Long Beach City Council member.
Replaces Betty Karnette, D-Long Beach
District: Part of Los Angeles County
Main cities: San Pedro, Long Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rolling Hills, Signal Hill, Rolling Hills Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Avalon
Lowenthals don't seem to lose in Long Beach.

Bonnie Lowenthal takes the seat previously held by her ex-husband, Sen. Alan Lowenthal, who chairs the Transportation Committee in the Senate. Her daughter-in-law Suja Lowenthal also sat on the Long Beach City Council with Bonnie.

Reducing air pollution from shipping into the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports is one of Lowenthal's top priorities in Sacramento.

She has a long political history, serving seven years on the city council, and seven years before that on the Long Beach school board. She also has been a member of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Lowenthal is expected to be a solid Democratic vote in the lower house. She told the Press-Telegram she supports lowering the threshold to pass a budget to a simple majority, but also supports keeping the requirement for a two-thirds supermajority if state spending grew at least by 5 percent.
AD 61 - Norma Torres, D-Pomona
NormaTorres Pomona mayor.
Replaces Nell Soto, D-Pomona
District: Parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties
Main cities: Chino, Montclair, Ontario, Pomona
This seat opened late in the election cycle, as it became clear that octogenarian Assemblywoman Nell Soto would be unable to run for another term due to deteriorating health.

Torres, the mayor of Pomona, stepped in for an easy ascent to the Assembly. She will be the first Guatemalan-born person ever to serve in the state Legislature.

"Norma Torres can now from the California State Assembly support legislation for the benefit of more than 4 million Central Americans," the Guatemala Times announced.

That may be a stretch. But Torres, a union member and 9-1-1 operator, has said transportation, health care and education will be her three top issues in the Assembly.

"I think looking at the community that I will be serving, those are the main situations that negatively impact both the growth and the quality of life for the residents," Torres told a local newspaper. "So that is what I intend to focus on during the month of December."
AD 78 - Marty Block, D-San Diego
MartyBlock San Diego Community College District Board president. Replaces Shirley Horton, R-San Diego
District: Part of San Diego County
Main cities: Chula Vista, Lemon Grove, San Diego, Spring Valley
Ever since the district was drawn, AD 78 has been a legislative battleground.

Marty Block edged his way through a four-way primary with support of the education establishment. Then he won decisively in the general election, with a 10-point margin of victory.

In doing so, Block brought the seat back into the Democratic fold after three terms served by Republican Assemblywoman Shirley Horton. The contest was one of four Democratic pick-ups in 2008, and the Democratic Party spent heavily to make it happen.

Block, who has served as president of the San Diego Community College Board of Trustees, promised in a recent interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune to try to protect education and health clinics from budget cuts.

"I'll be in a good place to try to help work out the budget so the pain is minimized for those who can least afford cuts," he said.

On the budget: "I will close tax loopholes," Block declared in a TV ad, before cryptically adding that, "The only taxes I've ever supported were approved by the voters."
AD 80 - Manuel Perez, D-Coachella
ManuelPerez Coachella Valley Unified School District Board member.
Replaces Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City
District: Imperial County, part of Riverside County
Main cities: Blythe, Brawley, Calexico, Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, El Centro, Indio, La Quinta, Palm Springs
How's this for a political narrative? The son of field workers, Manuel Perez was born and raised in Indio and Coachella, attended public schools and graduated from UC Riverside. From there, he went east to Harvard and received a master's in education before returning to Coachella.

He was elected to the school board in his home town, where his sons now attend the same schools dad did.

That narrative -- and a boatload of cash from the Democratic Party - helped switch this seat back to the Democrats.

Perez won a four-way Democratic primary with the major backing of labor unions, then beat Republican Gary Jeandron in the general election in this Democratic-plurality district.

Perez, 36, is also a director of the Borrego Health Foundation.

On the budget: "By no means will I work to increase taxes on the working- and middle-classes. In fact, we want to provide tax breaks for the middle-class so they can have more money," Perez told the Los Angeles Times.

Sac Bee: Meet the new Republicans

There are 10 Republicans brand new to the Legislature being sworn in today. That doesn't include former Sen. Jim Nielsen, who served as GOP leader of the upper house in the mid-1980s.

Capitol Alert offers a brief introduction to the GOP freshman class:
AD 3 - Dan Logue, R-Linda
DanLogue Yuba County supervisor.
Replaces Rick Keene, R-Chico
District: Lassen, Nevada, Plumas, Sierra and Yuba counties, parts of Butte and Placer counties
Main cities: Auburn, Chico, Grass Valley, Loyalton, Marysville, Oroville, Susanville, Truckee
Dan Logue comes to Sacramento via a gig as a Yuba County supervisor. He arrives with a mission not to expand the scope of state government, but to limit it.

In a recent commentary for the FlashReport, Logue argued for "decentralizing" state government.

"Local agencies and taxpayers are losing money to Sacramento bureaucracies, when instead they should have more money returned to them to fund vital services that meet unique local needs," he wrote.

In a questionnaire for the the California Association of Business, Property and Resource Owners, Logue wrote, "Government is not the solution -- it is the problem."

So Democrats probably ought not look to this freshman GOPer to support a Democratic budget plan. He also signed the no-new-taxes pledge on May 9, 2008 - a month before winning his primary against Sue Horne, a Nevada County supervisor.
AD 26 - Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres
BillBerryhill Farmer, former Ceres Unified School District Board member. Brother of Assemblyman Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, who represents AD 26.
Replaces Greg Aghazarian, R-Stockton
District: Parts of San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties
Main cities: Manteca, Modesto, Stockton, Turlock
Like father, like son. Like brother, like brother. William "Bill" Berryhill is following his brother into the Assembly, making for the first fraternal twosome to serve simultaneously in the same house of the Legislature in half a century.

Berryhill served on the Ceres Unified School Board before his election this fall.

Democrats tried hard to block the younger Berryhill's path, mounting a late push for Democrat John Eisenhut, who fell just short with 48.3 percent of the vote.

Both were farmers. In the end, grapes and walnuts (Berryhill) topped almonds (Eisenhut).

With the party's strong showing here, Democrats are expected to vie for this seat again in 2010.
AD 30 - Danny Gilmore, R-Hanford
DannyGilmore Retired California Highway Patrol assistant chief. Replaces Nicole Parra, D-Hanford
District: Kings County, parts of Fresno, Kern and Tulare counties
Main cities: Alpaugh, Bakersfield, Coalinga, Corcoran, Delano, Hanford, Kingsburg, Lemoore, Shafter, Wasco
The second time was the charm for Danny Gilmore, a former California Highway Patrol officer who narrowly lost a race for this seat in 2006 against then-Assemblywoman Nicole Parra.

This time a termed-out Parra backed Gilmore -- even appearing in his TV ads -- in a much talked-about episode in Sacramento.

Gilmore was the only 2008 GOP winner of a Democratic-held seat in California, helping offset three previously GOP-held seats won by Democrats.

The California Farm Bureau, a mover and shaker in Central Valley politics, backed Gilmore in a race where every vote counted as the GOPer won with a mere 50.6 percent of the vote.

In 2006, Gilmore signed the no-new-taxes pledge. His campaign site promises, "We can count on Danny Gilmore to vote against hiking our taxes."
AD 34 - Connie Conway, R-Tulare
ConnieConway Tulare County supervisor.
Replaces Bill Maze, R-Visalia
District: Inyo County, parts of Kern, San Bernardino and Tulare counties
Main cities: Barstow, Bishop, Porterville, Twentynine Palms, Visalia, Tulare, Needles
Connie Conway is one of the few freshman members to arrive with a previous relationship with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

She served as the president of the California State Associations of Counties in 2006, and Schwarzenegger appointed her as chair of the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley.

A Tulare County supervisor (like her father before her), Conway bested the wife of Assemblyman Bill Maze in the primary, as well as Bob Smith, a retired sheriff's deputy.

Her old colleagues in Tulare wish her luck up in Sacramento: "Unfortunately, you're going to be going from the frying pan and into the bonfire," Supervisor Steve Worthley said at her departure.

Her top priority according to her campaign site: "Cutting taxes and balancing the state's budget by ending wasteful spending."
AD 36 - Steve Knight, R-Palmdale
SteveKnight Palmdale City Council member, police officer.
Replaces Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster
District: Parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties
Main cities: Adelanto, Lancaster, Palmdale, Victorville
Steve Knight may be a freshman, but he isn't the first in his family to represent this district. His father, the late Sen. William "Pete" Knight, is best known as the author of Proposition 22, the anti-gay marriage ballot measure and precursor to this year's Proposition 8.

The younger Knight campaigned as a conservative Republican, signing the no-new-taxes pledge in 2007.

He also faced an unexpectedly stiff challenge in the general election, as Democrat Linda Jones received 48.3 percent of the vote in a district that had been considered safe GOP territory. Jones' candidacy had been all but ignored by Democratic strategists until only weeks before the election, when it became clear Sen. Barack Obama was headed for a landslide win in California.

Knight (like incoming freshman Nathan Fletcher) bring a military background to the lower house, after serving in the U.S. Army. After the Army, he served 16 years as a Los Angeles police officer before serving as a member of the Palmdale City Council.
AD 60 - Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills
CurtHagman Chino Hills mayor.
Replaces Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar
District: Parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties
Main cities: Chino Hills, Diamond Bar, La Habra Heights, La Mirada, Villa Park, Walnut, Anaheim, Industry, La Habra, Orange, Rowland Heights, San Dimas, Whittier, Yorba Linda
Curt Hagman will be the newest representative of one of California's most oddly shaped districts, which takes in conservative parts of three counties: Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino.

Not surprisingly, a district like that elected a conservative Republican. Hagman, who owns a bail bonds business, was backed heavily by the law enforcement community in the GOP primary, where law-and-order groups independently spent more than $100,000 on his behalf.

Hagman, who served as mayor of Chino Hills, signed the no-new-taxes pledge during his Assembly campaign. His primary campaign mailers touted that, "Curt has never raised a tax during his tenure on the City Council and he never will in the State Assembly."

Hagman on the budget: "I want to be able to get more service out of the finances they have, because the budget is going to be the main thing we're going to talk about for a while."
AD 65 - Brian Nestande, R-Palm Desert
BrianNestande Businessman.
Replaces John Benoit, R-Palm Desert
District: Part of Riverside County
Main cities: Canyon Lake, Indian Wells, Lake Elsinore, Moreno Valley, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Riverside, Temecula
The all-in-the-family lawmaking continues. Brian Nestande is the son of former Assemblyman Bruce Nestande, with a long history himself of working for GOP members of Congress, from Michael Huffington to Sonny Bono to Mary Bono Mack.

Before jumping into the Assembly campaign, he and his brother, Barry, ran a PR and government affairs firm.

Nestande has signed the no-new-taxes pledge and recently shared his thoughts on the budget in a speech in his district.

"We know what the Democrats want to do -- they want to raise taxes. They've stated that; that's why they've called us back, to raise taxes," he said, according to the Desert Sun.

"We can grow the economy," he said. "We can get more wealth and more jobs created. Republicans have to lead the way."
AD 71 - Jeff Miller, R-Corona
JeffMiller Corona mayor.
Replaces Todd Spitzer, R-Orange
District: Parts of Orange and Riverside counties
Main cities: Corona, Mission Viejo, Norco, Rancho Santa Margarita, and parts of Orange, Santa Ana, Tustin and Anaheim
Jeff Miller, the mayor of Corona, ran as a strong conservative in the GOP primary against Neil Blais, the mayor of Rancho Santa Margarita.

He inherits the district of outspoken Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, who leaves due to term limits. With a degree in criminal justice, perhaps he'll follow in Spitzer's footsteps in pursuing law-and-order issues in Sacramento.

Here's a fun fact about Miller: He's already been assigned the tiniest office in the Capitol, better known as the "doghouse."

A less fun fact for Democrats: He's yet another Republican freshman to sign the no-new-taxes pledge.

"We're in a very unique circumstance," Corona told The Bee during his first post-election swing through Sacramento, "where raising taxes would actually make things worse in helping turn this economy around."
AD 73 - Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point
DianeHarkey Dana Point City Council member, former Dana Point mayor.
Replaces Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel
District: Parts of Orange and San Diego counties
Main cities: Laguna Niguel, Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente, Laguna Hills, Aliso Viejo, Oceanside
Diane Harkey ran for state Senate in 2006 against Republican then-Assemblyman Tom Harman and lost. But her strong showing (she lost by less than 300 votes) helped clear the way for her 2008 campaign.

The mayor of Dana Point, Harkey has spent 30 years in the banking industry. She is one of two freshman GOP women lawmakers (the other is Connie Conway in AD 34.).

Harkey is another signer of the no-new-taxes pledge. Her Web site outlines her approach to the budget, including a spending cap, zero-based budgeting, a "rainy day" fund and protecting the two-thirds vote.

On the budget: "The Republican minority has a seat at the budget table and has insisted that they will not support new taxes," she told Red County San Diego in August. "So it is up to the Democrats, who control the agenda, to put forth a budget that Republicans can accept."
AD 75 - Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego
NathanFletcher Businessman, Iraq veteran.
Replaces George Plescia, R-La Jolla
District: Part of San Diego County
Main cities: Escondido, La Jolla, Poway, San Diego
It takes a certain something to appear in your first political TV ad in skin-tight biker shorts.

But that is exactly what Nathan Fletcher did. An avid triathlete and decorated former Marine who served in Iraq and Africa, Fletcher has a sterling resume for a young GOP officeholder.

He can also bend the ear of his wife -- Mindy Tucker Fletcher, a former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- any time he's looking for political advice. Mindy also served on President Bush's two presidential campaigns.

Nathan is yet another GOP signer of the no-new-taxes pledge.

"We need to create a true spending cap and rainy day fund to ensure budget stability and the full and recurring funding of our most vital services and programs," he says on his campaign site.

Meet the Freshmen: An introduction to Sacramento's rookie class of 2008*

By Capitol Weekly Staff (published Wednesday, November 26, 2008)

This year's crop of legislative newbies - 11 Republicans and 17 Democrats in all - comes from a wide range of backgrounds.

We have one sitting state Senator, one former Assemblyman and one former Senate Republican Leader. We have real estate brokers and business people, teachers and city council members. There is the Godfather of Asian politics, and a mother of five from San Ramon.

We have provided a brief introduction to the newly-electeds as they head to Sacramento to be sworn in on Dec. 1. While we did not include profiles of the two lawmakers who have served most recently - Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, and Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata - we included a profile of Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, the former Senate Republican Leader who is returning to the Assembly after 18 years out of legislative office.
Assembly District 2 - Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber
Jim Nielsen is one of three members of this year's freshman class coming to the Assembly after serving in the state Senate. So, technically, Nielsen does not meet our definition of a "true legislative freshman." But since his legislative career ended before incoming Assemblymen Wes Chesbro or Tom Torlakson's legislative careers even began, we figured he was worthy of some reintroduction.

Nielsen ran touting himself as an "advocate for farmers, property owners, crime victims and taxpayers," but denounced the partisanship that marks today's Sacramento. He was elected to the state Senate as a Prop. 13 baby in 1978, and ascended to the job of Republican Leader in 1983 at the age to 34 - the youngest to ever hold the position.

But his career was not without controversy. He was dogged by residency questions, and by controversial statements he made implying AIDS "may be God's way" of punishing gay people. He lost his seat to Democrat Mike Thompson in 1990 in one of that year's closest election battles.

There was no such drama this time, as Nielsen coasted to victory both in the primary, and the general election Now, as Nielsen returns to the Capitol to replace outgoing Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, he will be tasked with helping guide the state out of an impressive budget hole. Since leaving the Capitol, Nielsen has served on the board of Parole and Prison Terms, and was part of the eminent domain fight as head of the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights.
Assembly District 3 - Dan Logue, R-Linda
Anyone who things Yuba County Supervisor Dan Logue may be a vote for raising taxes in Sacramento probably wasn't paying very close attention this election cycle. Logue said during the campaign that "he'd rather have gridlock than vote for a new tax," according to one local paper. Logue is a loyal conservative who made cracking down on immigration the focal point of his Assembly campaign.

Logue, who is a realtor, survived one of this spring's closest primary contests, besting Nevada County Supervisor Sue Horne, in a battle of well-funded conservative candidates. Logue benefited from independent expenditure money from medical groups, including the California Dental Association, California Medical Association and PhRMA.

The race also served as a proxy preview of the 2010 Senate race. Outgoing Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico, backed Logue in the primary, while Doug LaMalfa, R-TK, backed Horne.
Assembly District 8 - Mariko Yamada, D-Davis
The race for the 8th Assembly District was one of the most expensive Assembly primaries in California history. The victory of Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada over West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon was a victory for organized labor, who carried Yamada over the finish line in a tough, million-dollar campaign.

In the end, the million dollar race may have been decided by a couple of parking tickets that Cabaldon received during the campaign that had not been paid. That seemed to be the opening labor needed to seize upon Cabaldon as out of touch with his district.

Yamada, who was originally appointed to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors in 2003 by Gov. Gray Davis, is trained as a social worker. She has bounced around state and national government, working for a Los Angeles County Supervisor and for more than a decade in Washington D.C. with the U.S. Commerce Department.

Yamada cites "improvements to in-home supportive services, emergency medical care, housing, transportation, and integrated services for adults, the elderly, and persons with disabilities," as her top legislative priorities - all groups that could face future budget cuts under new proposals under consideration by the Legislature.
Assembly District 10 - Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills
Until Tuesday evening Democrat Alyson Huber trailed former San Joaquin Supervisor Jack Sieglock in this race by less than 1,000 votes. But when the final provisional and absentee ballots were counted, Huber eked out a narrow victory - about 500 votes - and gave Democrats their 51st seat in the new Assembly.

This may be one race where Barack Obama's strong California showing did tip the balance. But the race also became the top priority for Assembly Speaker Karen Bass in the closing days of the campaign. Democrats were confident that if they were ever going to pick up this seat, this was the right year and Huber was the right candidate. She has been an advocate for foster children, an issue close to Bass's heart.

Huber's political narrative is a good one. She has roots in the district, born in Lodi, and overcame what she has called "family hardships as a child," (growing up in a trailer park, on food stamps) began attending classes at a local community college at night, as she worked in a local mall. Eventually, she graduated from Cornell and Hastings Law School.

She may also bethe answer to a criticism we sometimes hear of our Assemblymembers, especially a few of the ones who speak on the floor often-that they could best a high school debater in an argument. Huber high school and college debate was Huber's ticket out of poverty, winning her scholarships. She parlayed this into a career as a corporate attorney. Despite the Sieglock campaign's attempts to paint her as a "San Francisco trial lawyer," most of her work involved businesses suing each other for breach of contract.
Assembly District 13 - Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco
Not many legislative freshmen will arrive next week fresh from playing themselves in a cameo in a major Hollywood movie. Of course, Tom Ammiano has been in show business for years, starting a career as a stand-up comedian in 1980; he's sometimes called "The Mother of Gay Comedy." He'll also be one of the older freshmen to hit the legislature in awhile, with his 67th birthday a few days after swearing in. Which gets back to the film, "Milk," about the pioneering gay politician Harvey Milk, who Ammiano knew in the political scene around San Francisco in the late 1970s.

Ammiano, a former teacher himself, actually founded the No on 6 committee, the successful effort to defeat the Briggs Initiative to bar gay people from teaching in public schools, back in 1977.

Milk became famous as the public face of No on 6. Meanwhile, after Milk was assassinated in 1978, Ammiano was launched into what has proved to be a far longer political career. His first run at political office came in 1980, but he didn't manage to get elected until 1990, when he got a spot on the SF Board of Education. He joined the board of supervisors in 1994, and has served there ever since. But his most famous accomplishment may be forcing powerful incumbent mayor into a runoff in 1999 via a write-in campaign. Ammiano lost the runoff, but sparked a rise of liberal candidates of the SF Board of Supes that is only now on the wane.

In terms of his position, Ammiano is likely to vote much like his predecessor, Mark Leno.

His main issue is likely to be healthcare; he authored a landmark Health Care Security law in San Francisco in 2006. He also authored the city's first domestic partnership ordinance, and is likely to be a strong voice on transit and affordable housing.
Assembly District 14 - Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley
It is perhaps a sign of the times that in many Sacramento circles, Nancy Skinner's chief of staff is better known than she is. Skinner announced that Frank Russo, who runs the liberal blog The California Progress Report, would head up the incoming Assemblywoman's legislative operations.

Berkeley has a reputation for electing reliably liberal members to the Legislature, and Skinner should be no different. She served on the Berkeley council with two people who have held the Assembly seat before - outgoing Assemblywoman Loni Hancock and her husband, former Assemblyman Tom Bates - both of whom backed Skinner in her four-way primary battle.

Skinner's legislative focus is likely to be on environmental issues. She is a member of the East Bay Regional Park District board, and is the director of The Climate Group, an environmental organized aimed at curbing global warming.
Assembly District 15 - Joan Buchanan, D-San Ramon
No seat was more hotly contested this year than the seat being vacated by Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-San Ramon. But with Joan Buchanan's victory over Abram Wilson, the Republican Party lost its last seat that included any part of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Buchanan, a member of the San Ramon Unified School District, received support from the California Teachers Association and other education groups.

Buchanan also touted her ability to reach across party lines, securing the nomination of Stockton Mayor Ed Chavez, a Republican, and featuring Chavez's backing prominently in her campaign.

Buchanan raised more than $3.6 million for her race, much of that money coming from the state' Democratic Party. But she also invested more than $150,000 of her own money in the race.

Abram Wilson, the San Ramon Mayor who lost to Buchanan, has already announced that he will run again for the seat in 2010.
Assembly District 19 - Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo
The race to replace Gene Mullin was one of the most closely-watched Democratic primaries of the year. The three-way battle featured Gina Papan, daughter of the late Assemblyman Lou Papan; consumer advocate Richard Holober and San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill.

The race got nasty at times, with Hill's opponents trying to tar the supervisor for his defense of the county sheriff, after the sheriff was caught in a raid of a Las Vegas brothel. In the end, Hill held on with 37 percent of the vote, with just 3,000 votes separated the third-place finisher from the winner.

Hill was also hit for being a former Republican - a nearly unforgivable sin in this liberal San Mateo County district. But Hill insists is was only so he could vote for anti-war Republican Pete McCloskey in his presidential challenge to Richard Nixon.

But in the end, it was Hill's strong backing from environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters, that helped distinguish his campaign. Hill joins newly elected Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Contra Costa, as former member of the California Air Resources Board now sitting in the Legislature.

Worth noting - Hill was also backed early by potential Speaker candidate Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco.
Assembly District 22 - Paul Fong, D-Sunnyvale
Community College Trustee Paul Fong's election underscores the growing size and clout of the Legislature's Asian/Pacific Islander caucus. Fong won a contested, four-way primary this spring, with his strongest challenge coming from 32-year-old Santa Clara City Councilmember Dominic Caserta.

In his district, Fong, 55, is known as the Godfather of Silicon Valley Asian politics. A recent profile in the San Jose Mercury News cited Fong's mentorship of dozens of successful Asian candidates, helping them gain election to local school boards and city councils. He is the founder of the Silicon Valley Asian Pacific American Democratic Club, which Fong has likened to a special forces unit of the armed forces. Like commandos, Fong says the club descends into political fights on behalf of Asian candidates "to help out, or even rescue those" that seem to be failing."

Fong has voiced skepticism about Santa Clara's plan to build a new stadium for the 49ers, which may endear him to San Francisco lawmakers.
Assembly District 26 - Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres
Democrats put this race on their target list this year, holding out hope that a sweeping Barack Obama victory in the state could help boost their Assembly majority. But in the end, this was one of the races where the party came up just short.

Bill Berryhill now follows in the footsteps of his brother, Tom Berryhill, as the latest of several pairs of brothers to serve in the Legislature simultaneously. (Ralph and Clayton Dills served together in the Assembly in the 1940s, and John and Robert McCarthy served together in the Senate in the 1950s.). The younger Berryhill was a member of the Ceres School Board, and runs his family's grape and almond farm in the Central Valley.

Berryhill received an unexpectedly strong challenge from moderate Democrat and fellow almond rancher John Eisenhut. Democrats promoted Eisenhut's biography, his Bronze Star in Vietnam and his Valley roots, and made a late financial push to knock off Berryhill. While Democrats have closed the registration gap in this San Joaquin/Stanislaus-area district, Republicans were able to hold on, and will be looking to solidify Berryhill for 2010.
Assembly District 27 - Bill Monning, D-Santa Cruz
For Santa Cruz Freshman Bill Monning, the Legislature may be the perfect place to put his professional training to use. Since 1993, has bee a Professor of International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Those skills may come in handy when dealing with the divisiveness that often marks legislative politics - whether it is inter-party or intra-party tensions.

Monning is finally on his way to Sacramento more than ten years after first sought the job. Monning ran for the Assembly in 1994 against moderate Republican Bruce McPherson.

Monning, a former attorney for the United Farm Workers, bested Democrat Emily Reilly, owner of a beloved local Santa Cruz bakery who had a host of support from progressive leaders. But Monning's strong support from SEIU, the UFW and the California Teachers Association helped him win a comfortable victory on Election Day.

Monning has said he wants to change campaign finance laws, and change the state budget rules by reducing the two-thirds majority vote required to pass a budget to a 55 percent vote.
Assembly District 30 - Danny Gilmore, R-Hanford
Many in Sacramento are eager to meet the man who got Nicloe Parra all but kicked out of the Democratic Party. Gilmore was the beneficiary in Sacramento's longest-running Democratic soap opera involving the Parra family and the Florez family.

Parra, a Hanford Democrat, irked her party by backing Gilmore - who had narrowly beaten Parra for the seat two years ago. Perhaps it was Gimore's political views that swayed Parra. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the fact that Gilmore was running against Fran Florez, the Shafter mayor and mother of Parra's arch nemesis, Dean Florez.

Despite Democratic gains around the state, this was the one seat Republicans took back, as Gilmore won a decisive victory over Florez. Dean Florez tried to leverage his political clout, placing himself in much of the campaign main on his mother's behalf, but it was not enough to keep Gilmore from finally taking the seat back into the Republican column.

Gilmore is a former Assistant Police Chief in Fresno, and is likely to be a strong law and order vote in the Assembly. But it will be interesting to see how, if at all, he moves to solidify his base as he contemplates reelection in two years.
Assembly District 34 - Connie Conway, R-Tulare
Judging from her list of stated legislative priorities, conservatives have found an apt replacement for Assemblyman Bill Maze in Connie Conway.

But Conway had to overcome Maze and his family in the primary. Maze's wife, Becky, ran for her husband's seat, but finished a distant third behind Conway and former sheriff deputy Bob Smith.

The Tulare County supervisor has espoused much of the spending cuts and tough-on-crime rhetoric familiar to voters in this part of the Central Valley, who sent Conway to Sacramento with nearly two-thirds of the vote on Election Day.

Conway is a former president of the California State Association of Counties, which has given her a background in Sacramento politics. She was also appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley.

Her father, John Conway, was also a Tulare County Supervisor.
Assembly District 36 - Steve Knight, R-Palmdale
The high desert has long been considered safe Republican territory. So many Capitol watchers were surprised on Election Night to see Democrat Linda Jones within six percentage points of Republican Steve Knight, the scion of a Palmdale political family who most expected to coast to an easy election victory.

Knight's unexpectedly close race had something to do with John McCain's weak showing at the top of the Republican ticket. But it also underscores a new political reality that the freshman Assemblyman must be cognizant of as he takes office. The high desert above Log Angeles is changing. And if demographic trends continue over the next few years, Steve Knight may be facing a series of tough election challenges during his time here in Sacramento.

Knight is the son of the late Sen. Pete Knight. The elder Knight was perhaps best known for his opposition to gay marriage, and his backing of Proposition 22, known as the Knight Initiative, which banned gay marriage in California back in 2000.

The younger Knight is a former Los Angeles Police Officer and member of the Palmdale City Council, who received strong backing from the state's conservative establishment, including an independent expenditure campaign from the conservative California Republican Assembly.
Assembly District 40 - Bob Blumenfield, D-Van Nuys
If powerful friends are the key to success in California, than incoming Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield is a rookie to watch. Blumenfield entered the race with the backing of his former boss, longtime San Fernando Valley Congressman Howard Berman, D-Los Angeles, and an impressive coalition of elected officials that might symbolize the political change under way in the San Fernando Valley.

Among those backing Blumenfield were Valley legislators Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, and Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar. The alliance is significant for what it may portend during the next round of Congressional gerrymandering. Berman's Congressional district has been changing rapidly over the last decade, and Latinos are eager to carve out a Congressional seat in the San Fernando Valley. Both Fuentes and Padilla are prime candidates to run for that seat, should one exist.

That would mean collapsing Berman's Valley district with Brad Sherman's Westside district, setting up some serious tensions between a pair of sitting Congressmen. And with the Legislature still in control of drawing those districts, is will be interesting to watch Blumenfield's maneuvering as the new maps are redrawn.

But his experience with Berman, as well as his background on the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, also means Blumenfield comes to Sacramento with a high-class political pedigree that could make him a standout among the large freshman class.
Assembly District 46 - John Perez, D-Los Angeles
Like so many political candidates in today's Sacramento, John Perez's election was marked first and foremost as a proxy war among Los Angeles political titans. Perez, the political director of the United Food and Commerical Workers Local in Los Angeles and no stranger to Sacramento politics, is also the cousin of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. And just before the filing deadline, the race to replace outgoing Assemblyman Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, looked like it was going to pit three Democratic leaders against each other.

Both Ricardo Lara, a staffer for Núñez, and Arturo Chavez, who works for state Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, were planning to run for the seat. But Villaraigosa called in Maria-Elena Durazo, head of the the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, to help muscle Lara and Chavez out of the race.

Perez is a well-known force in Los Angeles politics, and is not known as the easiest boss to work for. He is smart, but tough, and it will be interesting to see how he makes the transition from behind the scenes power broker to elected official.

We're already hearing rumblings that there may be more fallout from the deal that helped ease Perez's path to victory. Cedillo himself, who has two years of Assembly eligibility left, is said to be contemplating a run against Perez in 2010.
Assembly District 52 - Isadore Hall, D-Compton
This was another one of the nastier primary races, but in the end it wasn't close. Compton councilman Isadore Hall easily bested his Democratic rivals and went on to an easy victory in November. Hall, a former member of the Metropolitan Water District Board, is also a former Compton school board member.

In his spare time, he became a reserve officer for the L.A. County Sheriff's department, calling the achievement "a life-long dream."

Hall opted to run for Assembly after strongly considering a run for the Congressional seat left open by the death of Juanita Millender-McDonald.

Hall touts his experience in real estate as a foundation for his pro-business political philosophy, helping to lure businesses such as Best Buy into the city of Compton. That may explain the $235,000 independent expenditure a coalition of business groups made on Hall's behalf in the primary against Linda Harris-Forster, who had the backing of organized labor and many other political luminaries.
Assembly District 54 - Bonnie Lowenthal D-Long Beach
Related legislators have become a bit of a Capitol obsession in the term limits era, with multiple members of the Calderon, Strickland, Burton, and (almost) Florez clans gracing the halls at or almost at the same time. Now, for the next two years, Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, will grace the building along with his ex-wife.

Both Lowenthals did stints on the Long Beach City Council (where their daughter-in-law Suja Lowenthal, now also serves). None of the Lowenthals appear to make any bones about where they stand as straightforward LA-area liberal Democrats. Bonnie Lowenthal made several well-photographed appearances at rallies promoting same-sex marriage during the campaign. She has endorsed a single-payer healthcare system, though she also said there were problems around cost-containment with the main recent proposal to make that happen, SB 840 from termed-out Sen. Sheila Kuehl.

Lowenthal's big issues in the Assembly are likely to be healthcare, education and transportation. She worked in family counseling and as a mental health coordinator for 30 years, and may try to push for increased mental health care coverage by the state, something likely to bring her to blows with Republicans. She has also been a school board member in Long Beach, and has also been a member of both the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and chaired the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority.
Assembly District 60 - Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills
It's not often an Assembly freshman has to worry about being overshadowed by the guy he beat in the primary. But Curt Hagman's first round-opponent, Larry Dick, made perhaps the least-fortunate comment of primary season-the infamous comment that: "It's a little challenging for me that Tommy Two Trees can open a casino, and Tommy Houllihan can't." This opened the door for Hagman, a former Chino Hills city councilman and mayor who already led in fundraising and endorsements, to crush Dick by 20 points, then take a gerrymandered general.

Law enforcement backgrounds are common among Republican members, but Hagman brings a slightly different version-he's a bail bondsman and former private investigator. As CEO of Apex Bail Bonds in Pomona, he oversees a staff of 22 spread across five locations. It's not surprising that a lot of his early support came from law enforcement-he made a "clean sweep" of law enforcement endorsements by the beginning of May, including the police chiefs and prison guards-and is expected to do lots of law enforcement legislation in Sacramento. He even raised some eyebrows in recent months for showing up to City Council meetings with a pair of large men who were apparently a security detail.
Assembly District 61 - Norma Torres, D-Pomona
Lots of Democrats claim to represent unions, but Norma Torres actually belongs to one. Working as a bilingual Spanish/English 911 operator for years, she was a member of AFSCME 3090. She eventually worked her way up from a AFSCME shop steward to become a city councilwoman and mayor of Pomona, this last job being the one she gave up to join the Assembly.

Torres has said that one of the formative experiences leading her into politics came years ago while manning the phones at the 911 dispatch center. Due to a lack of Spanish-speaking operators, a young girl waited on hold for 20 minutes while her angry uncle roamed the house with a gun. Torres finished her other calls and got on the phone just in time to hear her be shot to death by the uncle. The incident pushed the Guatemalan immigrant to push her own union to call for more Spanish-speaking operators, which in turn pushed her into politics. She successfully fired a grievance against an attempt to reduce bonus pay for Spanish-speaking operators, won a fight to force $350,000 in repairs to her 911 call center, and more recently helped organize the Pomona Valley Hospital nurses into a union.

In other words, she's exactly the kind of labor rabble rouser sure to drive partisan Republicans nuts. But she's also been involved in anti-gang legislation, pushing for afterschool activities and even got a skate park built. She also has some recent showbiz cred, having appeared "Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares USA" on behalf of her family's restaurant, Lela's.
Assembly District 64 - Brian Nestande, R-Riverside
Brian Nestande was one of those guys where we kept asking ourselves, "Is he elected yet?" He started out with huge advantages, such as an early endorsement from Congresswoman Mary Bono. We also have to remember we once put Chris Cabaldon in the same category, but that's where the resemblances end. Nestande is a pro-business GOP politician through and through, with the connections to prove it.

His career began after college in 1992 working as a deputy campaign manager for Congressman Michael Huffington. This led to his managing Sonny Bono's successful 1994 campaign for Congress. He went on to serve as chief of staff to Bono, and then to Mary Bono when she took over her late husband's seat after his death in 1997. In 2000, he left to run Nestande and Associates, a PR and government relations firm based on Palm Desert, largely representing alternative energy clients. He is not a registered lobbyist.

Nestande has staked out fairly standard Republican positions on illegal immigration, state spending (he signed the No Tax Pledge), and smiling family photos on his campaign website (he and his wife have seven children, including some from previous marriages). He has also said he would push to protect transportation money and cited several road projects he wants to get done. But he also may be a more receptive voice on environmental issues than some in the GOP caucus-something which has led a few in the party to label him as not conservative enough.
Assembly District 71 - Jeff Miller, R-Corona
If you expected the new representative of the 71st Assembly District to be a conservative Republican, you were right: Corona Mayor Jeff Miller, a small businessman and heir to Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, who was termed out, Miller brings to the table the classic conservative credentials: His campaign endorsements all involve law enforcement officials in two counties - in Orange County, where much of the 71st is located, and in Riverside County, which includes the city of Corona. Anti-tax activists, led by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and anti-illegal immigration interests also supported him.

Miller, who made his first try for public office in 2000 and was elected to the Corona City Council, is a respected force in transportation issues. He led the 91 Advisory Committee and has pushed aggressively for the extension of the Foothill South (241) Toll Road.

By profession, Miller, 44, is an insurance agent. He is a member of the Corona Norco YMCA, the Corona Heritage Foundation and is a Riverside County transportation commissioner. He is a past chairman of the Riverside County Republican Party. He also has a special interest in Mitochondrial diseases.

Miller, who has a degree in criminal justice from Cal State Fullerton, lives in Corona with his wife, Debora, and their two daughters.
Assembly District 73 - Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point
Two years ago, Dana Point City Councilwoman Diane Harkey made a try for the state Senate when she faced Tom Harman in the race to replace John Campbell, who had left for Congress. She lost, but she kept her sights on Sacramento.

This year, she had an easier ride, despite confronting a fruitless recall movement over an alleged open-meeting-law violation involving the council. She defeated her GOP rival in the June primary by a 3-to-1 margin, and in the general she handily beat Democrat Judy Jones by more than 20,000 votes after spending about a half-million dollars. As in 2006, she ran an aggressive campaign and won endorsements from most of Orange County's GOP political establishment.

Harkey, a real estate banker by profession who lives on the coast with her husband Dan, knows money and is politically savvy - two qualities that likely will prove useful to the Assembly Republican Caucus. She's also dogged and thorough: When she ran for the Senate two years ago she spent much of her time introducing herself to the larger area outside Dana Point, and she solidified many of those contacts as she ran for the Assembly seat this year.

Democrats rule the Assembly, so the chances for Harkey, a first-termer in the minority party, to shine are negligible. Harkey replaces Mimi Walters who was termed out.
Assembly District 75 - Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego
For coastal San Diego County, Nathan Fletcher is a solid mix. A political conservative with a military background that includes service in Iraq and a stint as an intelligence analyst, this decorated former U.S. Marine Corps reservist seems a good fit in this GOP stronghold. Fletcher, who served eight months in Iraq in 2004, is a graduate of the US Army Airborne Course and Marine Corps' Mountain Warfare Training Center.

There's more: He's an ironman triathlete, a world-class surfer and mountain climber and a mountain biker.

But mixed with the military is the political: He served the Republican Party in senior positions, and worked for the International Republican Institute in Asia and the Balkans.

He's also on the short list of the GOP's emerging stars, and he can count on some good career counseling: His wife, Mindy Fletcher, was a deputy campaign manager for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and, before that, served in President Bush's campaign staff and in his administration at the Department of Justice. The couple, members of the Community Bible Church, has one son, Zack.

About two-thirds of the 75th District is in San Diego County, and the remainder is in southern Riverside County-Republican bastions that include some of the most heavily conservative districts in the state. Fletcher replaces George Plescia, a former Assembly GOP leader, who was termed out.
Assembly District 78 - Marty Block, D-San Diego
The 78th has been a battleground for years. Democrats have a 10-point margin in registration, and on paper this looks like easy prey for Democrats - but that's been an illusion. Republican Shirley Horton has represented the 78th District for six years, narrowly defeating former Gray Davis aide Vince Hall in 2002 in a race that saw million-dollar spending on both sides. Horton is termed out this year.

This year, it was a different story in the district that runs south and east of San Diego proper as Democrats put the seat high on their hit list.

Democrat Marty Block, a retired San Diego State professor and president of the San Diego Community College trustees, handily defeated GOP rival John McCann, a member of the Chula Vista City Council. Already a closely divided district, the uptick in voter registrations among the young and Latinos was enough to easily propel Block over the top with a decisive, 11-point win - about 19,000 votes - over McCann.

Block has been visible in the district for years, and a quick look at his resume shows why: He seems to have joined everything: Port Commission, Commission on Children, Anti-Drug Abuse Task Force, founding chairman, Latino-Jewish Coalition; judge pro tem, San Diego Multiple Sclerosis Society, and more.

Block holds an undergraduate degree in political science from Indiana University, and a law degree from DePaul.
Assembly District 80 - Manuel Perez, D-Indio
Nowhere was the voters' apparent desire for change reflected more dramatically this election than in the 80th Assembly District, a sprawling desert seat that borders Mexico on the south, Arizona on the east, all of Imperial County and the eastern edge of Riverside County. Despite the Democrats' 44-36 percent registration edge over Republicans, the seat generally has been a safe haven for the GOP.

For the last six years it has been in the hands of Bonnie Garcia, a flamboyant and voluble Republican known more for her off-the-cuff comments - "I wouldn't kick him out of bed," she once told high school students, referring to the Gov. Schwarzenegger -- than for any legislative achievements.

But now comes Manuel Perez, 36, born in Indio, a teacher and member of the Coachella Valley School Board whose parents met working in the fields. A product of UC Riverside, Perez has a master's from Harvard. He's a community organizer - does that sound familiar? - he's a director of the Borrego Health Foundation. He has been especially active in women's health issues and, his supporters say, he brought the first ethnic studies curriculum to the Coachella Valley.

All in all, he's quite a package for a district that with some exceptions is accustomed to legislative back-benchers, and he has dramatically energized Latino voters. Latinos make up some 60 percent of 80th's population and give the Democrats' their hefty registration edge. Getting them to vote hasn't always been easy, but Perez pulled it off: He beat Republican Gary Jeandron by a solid 5.8 percent - 46,000 votes to 41,000 - by focusing on jobs and health care.

He and his wife, Gladis, have two boys and they live in Coachella.
*Updates and corrects to show that other brothers served in the Legislature at the same time, including Ralph and Clayton Dills and John and Robert McCarthy.

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