There couldn't be a better example of why legislative term limits are a good thing than the quality of the candidates competing to replace termed-out state Sen. Jerry Hill in the 13th Senate District. When an incumbent isn't in a race, good people step up to run.
Five of the seven candidates, all Democrats, have the experience, understanding of the issues and support to represent the Peninsula (from South San Francisco to Sunnyvale) and make an immediate impact in the legislature, each in his or her own unique way.
In California's open primary system, these five plus the lone Republican and Libertarian will appear on every ballot. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will face off in the November general election. We hope the top two will be Democrats, just as occurred four years ago when Marc Berman and Vicki Veenker faced off in the fall for the open Assembly seat after running against each other in the primary. This will allow for a competitive campaign rather than an election destined to go to the Democrat given the overwhelming Democratic voter registration advantage.
Among the five Democrats, we think the three strongest candidates are Mike Brownrigg, Josh Becker and Shelly Masur. But they only slightly edge out Sally Lieber and Annie Oliva. Every voter will have to weigh what issues are important to them and the views, personal qualities and varying backgrounds each of these five bring. The "candidates on the issues" grid that can be found here should help.
We believe our district is best represented in the State Senate by an independent-minded person with bold ideas who will not be influenced by the donations of large contributors and special interests and who will resist the pressure to march in lock-step with Gov. Gavin Newsom and party leaders. The super-majority held by Democrats means the party, and organized labor in particular, can push through almost anything they want. That approach is not in our state's or district's best interest.
The big problems facing California, including housing supply and affordability, homelessness, climate change, income inequity, the costs of higher education and the education achievement gap require more innovation and bipartisanship and less political muscling and horse trading.
We think Mike Brownrigg, 58, comes the closest to meeting this criteria. On the Burlingame City Council for almost 10 years and eight years prior to that on the Planning Commission, Brownrigg has shown himself to be a strong, effective and collaborative leader. Unlike Becker and Masur, he has taken no large campaign contributions from organizations, labor groups or large donors (with the exception of his mother, who without his knowledge set up an independent campaign committee and funded it with about $460,000). He has largely self-funded his campaign and focused on meeting voters instead of fundraising.
Brownrigg was raised in Los Altos Hills and attended Gunn High School. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service after college and was posted to multiple embassies around the world. He later became a partner in ChinaVest, a venture capital firm that focuses on early-stage Chinese life science and information technology companies and was a founding partner in Total Impact Capital, a social impact fund that provides capital to projects seeking to "make the planet a better place." He has devoted his career to finding solutions to difficult problems.
Brownrigg doesn't hedge on controversial issues; he has been a clear-spoken promoter of creative solutions to problems facing the state. He strongly opposed SB 50, the local zoning pre-emption bill to force cities to develop high density housing around transportation hubs. Instead, he advocates financial incentives, including state subsidies and tax breaks, for the preservation and creation of affordable housing. For example, he has proposed the state subsidize the purchase, by nonprofits, of existing multi-family housing units to prevent their sale to companies that would increase rents, and to reward the seller with capital gains tax reductions as an incentive. He's also proposed state funding for infrastructure when a city approves high-density zoning for housing. He wants to see California become carbon-free in 10 years, supports a carbon tax, more aggressive conversion to all-electric appliances, and the state purchase of PG&E.
Becker, a Menlo Park resident, and Brownrigg share a venture capital background and a commitment to social impact investing. They have similar priorities and views on the big issues, but we are concerned that the endorsements of Becker by Newsom and Hill, as well as a $500,000 donation from LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman to an independent committee supporting him, will lessen his independence.
Masur, a Redwood City councilwoman and former school board member, has made education a centerpiece of her campaign and drawn major financial support of the teachers' unions, as well as many other labor unions. She supported the latest iteration of SB 50, the only candidate in the race to do so.
In this impressive group of candidates, we give the nod to Brownrigg and look forward to a vigorous fall campaign between him and either Becker or Masur.
Read our profiles of each candidate, alongside videotaped interviews with six of the seven contenders, on our multimedia.paloaltoonline.com.