Who am I?
I served until recently as Vice President of State Operations for Common Cause, a non-partisan government watchdog organization. I previously held the positions of Western States Regional Director and Assistant Director for Election Reform. I have worked professionally as a good government advocate since 1995 when I directed the Democracy Program for the Public Interest Research Groups. I have worked to pass and implement California’s Independent Redistricting Commission, enact California’s on-line voter registration system, and file a successful complaint at the Fair Political Practices Commission that led to an investigation of $11 million that was secretly spent on California elections in 2012.
I have testified before the U.S. Senate, California Assembly and Senate, served as an expert in federal litigation, and authored numerous reports as well as the book, The Recall’s Broken Promise—How Big Money Still Runs California Politics.
In 2001, I served as an international observer for elections in northern Somalia.
I graduated with honors from Williams College with a degree in political science in 1990.
I live in Sacramento with my wife and two children.
Why am I running?
I am determined to make every eligible vote count in California because when everyone participates, we make wiser decisions for our state and our country.
With a growing concentration of wealth and political power in the hands of an elite few, it too often feels as if our government has been conquered by an army of lobbyists, special interests, and career politicians who no longer act on our behalf. Big corporations and banks get hand-outs and bailouts while mom and pop businesses struggle with government bureaucracy.
It is all too easy to respond with cynicism, but the stakes are simply too high to give up.
According to a recent report by the U.S. Census, California ranks 48th in voter participation. We can do better. Texas, which ranked last, has intentionally erected barriers to voting for partisan purposes. But in California our problems stem from outdated voter registration systems, red tape, and a lack of dependable and clear voter information. We can’t give up. We really can improve our democracy in California. We just need the leadership to make it happen.
As Secretary of State, I will modernize our voter registration and small business registration systems to reduce bureaucratic barriers to voting and enterprise. I will upgrade our voter guide to offer Californians better information on candidates and ballot measures, getting beyond mud-slinging TV ads.
With Citizen’s United, five ideological Justices on our Supreme Court declared that unlimited campaign spending is the same thing as free speech. But if money is speech, then speech is no longer free. It’s expensive, and that’s too high a price to pay for democracy. Adding insult to injury, the same Justices have decided that corporations are people, and that they deserve the same constitutional rights that we do even though they don’t swear allegiance to our flag, fight in wars defending our country, send children to college, or breathe the air that they pollute.
We can take our democracy back. As Secretary of State, I will stand up to big money in politics and a Supreme Court that has put personal ideology over sound constitutional law. We can improve disclosure of campaign spending and give grassroots candidates a way to get their message out without relying on special interests and big donors.
For the past 18 years, I have worked as a good government advocate with organizations like Common Cause and the Public Interest Research Groups. I am not a career politician and won't use this office as a political stepping stone. I’ve recently led ballot measures campaigns in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Montana and Colorado that instructed Congress to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling. Voters approved these measures by margins greater than 3-1. As Secretary of State, I’ll hold hearings in every congressional district in California to examine what each member of Congress has done to comply with their constituents’ wishes.
My top three priorities are to:
• Get big money out of politics and establish that corporations don’t have the same rights as real people. I was the architect behind ballot measures in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Richmond that instructed Congress to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling. As Secretary of State, I will hold hearings in every congressional district to let Californians know how their elected officials have complied with the wishes of their constituents.
• Modernize California’s voter registration and business registration systems. After years of delays, our next Secretary of State must implement a new voter registration database and an on-line business filing system. Getting it done right will save money, improve the accuracy of our voter rolls to protect the integrity of our elections, and ensure that every eligible citizen can make their vote count in our elections. We need to implement laws that are already on the books for same day voter registration and pre-registration of high school students.
• Improve voter information. Californians need better information about ballot measures and candidates than we currently get from 30-second TV ads and junk mailers. By updating the newsprint Voters Guide currently produced by the Secretary of State to a multi-platform digital version that includes video footage, debate archives and campaign finance data, we can give voters the tools to make sound choices.
My DFA Values
I am committed toward an inclusive democracy and a transparent government that doesn't hide behind secrecy or spying upon it's citizens.
By leveling the playing field in money in politics, we can work toward a more just and productive economy and reverse recent trends in extreme concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few.
I have worked with Democracy for America to uncloak the Koch Brothers and let the world know about their efforts to put profits and ideology above our common interests in the environment, safe workplaces, and a rebuilt middle class.
My Campaign is People Powered!
Although I've just launched, I've already spoken at a number of activist groups, including the Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains and several democratic clubs.
As an organizer by trade, I'm committed to running a grassroots campaign that will not only win but will build the movement. That's why, for instance, I launched my campaign around the Netroots Conference in San Jose.