The word “bipartisan” is heard ad nauseum in California and American politics, but there is little action to show for it. I want to take a moment to discuss what that word means to me, and how I have and will incorporate it into my legislation if elected to Congress.
I’m proud to be a member of the Democratic Party, the party that established Social Security and Medicare, that passed the Voting Rights Act, and is the de-facto big tent party in American politics. That being said, owning your positions and not being afraid to take a position does not mean you are partisan, it means you are principled; and, principled, reasonable people can work together.
Throughout my legislative career, I have always stood up for policy, not party -- I’m all about getting things done. Republicans have supported a number of my bills, including the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission which took redistricting out of the hands of party bosses and back into the hands of the people.
In 2001, several of my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, met to discuss how we could create an atmosphere where we would not have to deal with labels and really just share ideas amongst ourselves about how we could work together.
It was at an early meeting that we decided to legitimize our coalition and call ourselves the Bipartisan Caucus of the California State Assembly. Rarely is there an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to come together and talk about important issues, but we did it together. We paved the way for bipartisan legislation and proved to the legislature and the State that it was, indeed, possible for Democrats and Republicans to work together to solve problems.
Within the Bipartisan Caucus, I took the lead in authoring the legislation needed to create a new redistricting process which was more representative of the needs of the people, not the political self-interest of the politicians.
After passing the bill in the Senate with a two-thirds vote, the Assembly refused to take the bill up; so, I joined Governor Schwarzenegger, California Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the citizens of California to put it on the ballot as a voter initiative.
In November 2008, the initiative was passed by the voters of California, and the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission was established. Now, the redistricting process is the responsibility of citizens -- 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 3 Independents -- in an open-door setting.
Throughout those years of trying to pass this legislation (2002 to 2006), I learned that being bipartisan does not require being a Democrat, a Republican, or anything in between; it demands reconciling political differences, finding common ground through compromise, and enduring shared sacrifice for the greater good.
Yes, I have a “D” after my name, but it doesn’t take a party affiliation to have a good idea. I have the experience of participating in the creation of a bipartisan caucus and drafting bills with overwhelming bipartisan support -- something which distinguishes me from my Republican opponent.
When I get to Congress I’m going to do exactly what I did in California by joining a bipartisan caucus.
Over the past 13 years, I have authored more than 120 pieces of legislation -- a majority of them receiving overwhelming bipartisan support.
I will not go to Congress to be a vote for the Democratic Party, I will be a vote for solving problems and compromised solutions; I will not go to Congress to make a statement, I will go to work with as many people as possible to help fix our community and our country.
This is what I’ve done, and that’s what I will continue to do.