Why I’m Supporting Delaine Eastin

Every month it would arrive in our mailbox. I would read it from cover to cover. It was colorful. It was full of characters. It was insightful. It taught me a lot. It was the California Journal, a monthly analysis of state government and politics that was published until the early aughts. I’m pretty sure that I was only student at Aptos High School with his or her own subscription. Through the pages of the Journal, I got to know many of our state’s leaders. One leader that always stood out to me was Delaine Eastin, a member of the Assembly from 1986 to 1994 and State Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1995 to 2003.

Superintendent Eastin announced her candidacy for Governor of California last year. To be honest, I was surprised to find that she was running. I was curious to hear what she had to say, so I started to scour the web. I watched everything that I could on YouTube and read everything I could on various news sites. I was immediately attracted to her message. Typically, that has been enough for me to make a decision about whom to support in an election. But these aren’t ordinary times.

If the disaster that has befallen our country has taught me anything, it has taught me that values, experience, expertise, and ethics all really matter in the process of electing an executive. I knew Delaine had a good reputation, but I didn’t really remember a lot about her time in Sacramento. I was curious. I wanted insights into her leadership. So, I revisited my high school sweetheart, the California Journal. No, I do not have all of the back copies. My mom made me throw them out before I moved out of my parents’ home. Thanks to Lexis Nexis, was able to re-read all of Delaine’s coverage that was available digitally.

What did I learn about her time in Sacramento that helped me to make my decision to support her?

She advocated for high ethical and behavioral standards for legislators (Block, 1991). She continues this fight in her campaign as evidenced by her call for “an independent entity [to] investigate claims of sexual assault [in the state legislature] and provide the recommendations for institutional change to prevent it in the future” (Resnik, 2017).

She fought tirelessly for equity in access to — and the quality of — public resources whether they be roads (Vrana, 1991) or schools (her work to defeat two school voucher initiatives is a good example of this). This desire to create a more fair and just state animates her campaign for Governor.

Before “big data” was a buzzword, she advocated for investments in information technology that would lead to data-driven analysis and policy-making (Kugelmass & McVicar, 1991). In this campaign, she rightfully points out how deficient our state government is in using technology to make its work more accessible and transparent to its people.

She advocated for reform when and where it was necessary (Budget Reform, 1995, Reading Policy Reform Lurches to Consensus, 1996). Reform is a theme that runs through many of the policy ideas that she has discussed in the campaign so far. She is one of the few politicians who wants to reform Proposition 13 for the benefit of all Californians.

Most importantly, she has always put the children of California first. This was very clear when she was Superintendent of Public Instruction. Former State Senator Dede Alpert said it best when she said, “Her constituency is the children, not the educational establishment” (Delaine Eastin, 1998). As Superintendent, her agenda included increased high school graduation requirements, lengthening the school year, K-3 class-size reduction, assistance for low-performing schools, enhanced support for beginning teachers and additional funding for technology. As a candidate for Governor, she is focused on increasing per pupil spending, universal preschool, full-day kindergarten, and tuition-free college.

My favorite story about her time in Sacramento is entitled: “Delaine Eastin Joins the Regents” (January, 1995). It recounts her first meeting as a U.C. Regent. She made her mark by just showing up. Delaine was the first Superintendent of Public Instruction to attend a Regents meeting in nearly a decade. But she didn’t sit quietly by while the Board (largely Wilson and Deukmejian appointees) debated a student fee hike. She advocated for students and took the Regents to task for not lobbying Sacramento for the funding U.C. needed to prevent a fee hike in the first place. She isn’t afraid to show up and fight for what is right.

These aren’t the only reasons I’m excited about Delaine, her campaign and her vision for California. Here are a few others:

  • She thinks big. She believes — like I believe — that there isn’t anything that we can’t do in California.
  • She is not a career politician. She is not running because it is her turn, because she’s termed out of her current position or because she aspires to the presidency of the United States. She’s running because she rightly believes she has something unique to offer.
  • She is the only candidate for governor who has local government experience, who has served in the legislature and who has run a major state agency.
  • She has traveled to — and spent time in — all 58 counties. Why does this matter to me? As someone whose family hails from the Central Valley, I want to see the prosperity we enjoy on the coast and in our cities extend across the entire state. I want a Governor who knows the issues in Trinity County and knows who to call in Kings County.
  • She has spent time in corporate America. Why does this matter to me? Because she knows the value of long-term planning. We used to be really good at planning in this state. We don’t do it the way we used to. We need to start again.

Finally, I’m supporting Delaine because I want my daughter to know what the daughters of Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and 24 other states know: that she can grow up to be the chief executive of her state. It is time.


Postscript: After I wrote this and shared it with friends on Facebook, I received a lot of feedback from family and friends. I addressed this feedback in a follow-up post here.

REFERENCES

Block, A. G. (1991, March). Ethics training — The Assembly and Senate take different approaches to “teaching ethics”. California Journal.

Budget Reform. (1995, December). California Journal.

Delaine Eastin. (1998, March). California Journal.

Delaine Eastin Joins the Regents. (1995, January). California Journal.

Kugelmass, J., & McVicar, G. (1991, October). State computers take a byte out of privacy. California Journal.

Reading Policy Reform Lurches to Consensus. (1996, June). California Journal.

Resnik, M. (2017, October 28). Gubernatorial candidate reacts to sexual assault allegations at Capitol. Retrieved November 07, 2017, from http://www.kcra.com/article/gubernatorial-candidate-reacts-to-sexual-assault-allegations-at-capitol/13113156

Vrana, D. (1991, August). A not-so-freeway future? For whom the road tolls. California Journal.