Rep. Doris Matsui (D)
California 5th District
Sacramento, capital of the nation’s largest state, is the focus of California’s third-largest media market, is home to a national sports franchise (the NBA’s Sacramento Kings), and has an 18-mile light-rail system. It is no longer just a small city with a lot of civil servants and a vegetable-packing economy. It is a vibrant metropolis, with some of the nation’s highest job growth. Sacramento started as a river port on the sluggish waters of the Sacramento and American rivers. It was the destination of many overland migrants, the site of Sutter’s Fort, where John Augustus Sutter found the gold that set off the Gold Rush of 1848, and the western terminus of the Pony Express in 1860. This was the natural choice at the time to be California’s capital, halfway between the San Francisco Bay and the Mother Lode Country in the foothills of the Sierras, and in the middle of California’s vast valley. Agriculture continues to be important today in Sacratomato, as some call it. It has the world’s largest almond processing plant. A growing local concern is the city’s location in a floodplain, inadequately protected by levees, which has occasionally resulted in heavy flooding.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
In the old days, government was not a big business. Just a few lobbyists hung out in saloons on K or J streets, the governor’s mansion was a musty antique, and the summers of 100-plus degrees emptied out what there was of the city. But air conditioning has replaced awnings, and freeways and shopping malls have followed the city’s growth east and north toward the Sierra foothills. Today, Sacramento is one of America’s higher-income metropolitan areas. In the 1980s, metropolitan Sacramento grew by 35% and in the 1990s by 22%, so that it now has 2 million people, about the same as metro Cincinnati or Orlando. Some high-tech firms have moved east from Silicon Valley, with Intel and Hewlett-Packard maintaining large campuses. Bay Area refugees have welcomed less expensive and more comfortable living standards. The increase has continued in recent years, but at a slower pace due to housing shortages and the nationwide recession.
Government expanded, too; platoons of lobbyists, lawyers and consultants have set up permanent shop, and new hotels have been built to serve them. Today, 1,000 registered lobbyists prowl the halls of the capitol. As Sacramento has grown, this once-Democratic, working-class bastion has become closer to an upscale Sun Belt boomtown. In 1966, Sacramento was just about the only part of California beyond the Bay Area that stuck with Pat Brown over challenger Ronald Reagan. But when John Kerry carried California 54%-44% in 2004, he carried Sacramento County by only 49.6%-49.3%. In the 2003 recall election, 60% of county voters voted to remove Gray Davis, and Schwarzenegger won 52% of the vote on the replacement ballot. In 2008, Barack Obama won the county 58%-39%.
The 5th Congressional District of California consists of all of the city of Sacramento and some of its close-in suburbs. It contains affluent neighborhoods and scattered low-income black and Latino neighborhoods, plus new condominiums north of the American River and middle-class subdivisions south of downtown. This is a true majority-minority district. In 2007, 66% of the population was Hispanic, Asian, African-American, or “some other race.” According to the Public Policy Institute of California, Sacramento’s neighborhoods are more ethnically diverse than those of any other big city in California. They are home to, among others, recent Hmong refugees from Laos, Vietnamese, and since the late 1980s, Russians and Ukrainians. This is the solidly Democratic part of metro Sacramento, and the 5th is the most Democratic district in the great valley from Bakersfield north to Oregon.
Rep. Doris Matsui (D)
Elected: March 2005, 2nd full term.
Born: Sept. 25, 1944, Poston, AZ .
Education: U. of CA, B.A. 1966.
Religion: United Methodist.
Family: Widowed; 1 child.
Professional Career: Transition team, President-elect Bill Clinton, 1992-93; Dep. asst. to the pres., dep. dir. of public liaison, White House, 1993-98; Lobbyist, 1998-2005.
The congresswoman from the 5th District is Doris Matsui, who won a special election in March 2005 to replace her late husband, Democrat Robert Matsui. She was born in an Arizona internment camp and was a well-known political figure during her husband’s career in Congress. She grew up in Dinuba in Fresno County and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. In Sacramento, she chaired the board of the local public television station and participated in many civic organizations. After working on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, she joined his transition team and then served as deputy director of public liaison, where she worked on economic and budget issues. When she left the White House in 1998, she became a senior adviser at a Washington law firm. Robert Matsui died of complications from a rare blood disorder in January 2005, after serving 13 terms. He was a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and a confidant to then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. He and his family were among the Japanese-Americans forced into internment camps in 1942, when he was an infant; he was one of the lead sponsors of the 1988 Japanese-American redress law that apologized for the internment policy and provided monetary compensation for every survivor of the camps and for so-called “voluntary evacuees.”
|Doris Matsui (D)||164,242||(74%)||($889,113)|
|Paul Smith (R)||46,002||(21%)||($3,605)|
|L. R. Roberts (PF)||10,731||(5%)|
|Doris Matsui (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (71%)
A few days after the Washington and Sacramento memorial services for her husband, Doris Matsui announced that she would run in the special election. “People lose their spouses every day and make decisions about what they’ll do next. I’m no different than anyone else,” she said. With her strong support from Pelosi, other prominent Sacramento Democrats decided not to run. None of Matsui’s 10 opponents in the nonpartisan contest had significant political experience or name recognition. Matsui emphasized her support for local water projects and her opposition to President Bush’s proposal for personal retirement accounts in Social Security. She also opposed the war in Iraq. Her investment in a partnership with a longtime friend who was a Sacramento land developer sparked a brief flurry of criticism, but she emphasized that her husband had nothing to do with the deal while he was in office, and that there was no conflict of interest. Some called the contest a “coronation,” but the lack of competition surely reflected the respect the Matsuis had won over the years. She won the all-party primary with 68% of the vote to 9% for the runner-up.
In the House, she has a reliably liberal voting record. From her seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, she tended to the many highway and water-resource needs of her district. Working with former Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., she expedited funding for flood control in flood-prone Sacramento, an issue with increased urgency following the devastation that Hurricane Katrina caused in New Orleans in 2005. In 2007, she got House approval of a plan to improve the flood-protection plan of the Folsom Dam. She opposed a renewed push for the Auburn Dam as “not a politically viable option.”
Matsui has taken on leadership assignments and fought for party priorities such as federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research, reduced prescription drug prices, and opposition to the Central American Free Trade deal. She cited her family’s experience in internment camps to warn of potential civil-liberties abuses in the USA PATRIOT Act and with detainees at Guantanamo. In 2008, she became the sixth California Democrat to get a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Matsui has been re-elected easily. In 2008, she chaired the Asian-American voter outreach campaign for Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.