Rep. Jackie Speier (D)
California 12th District
The city of San Francisco sits at the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula on the California coast. This is geologically interesting, and active, country. The San Andreas Fault runs just east of the Coast Range, underneath the reservoirs that store San Francisco’s water supply. To the west are green mountains running down to the ocean. To the east is a zone of flat land between mountain and bay, an unbroken chain of suburbs and urban settlement, with light industry and salt flats along the bay front, and some residential neighborhoods and commercial strips. Daly City and Pacifica on the ocean are a kind of extension of San Francisco’s old working-class districts, with boxy houses on streets looking out on the ocean or the freeway. Today, these neighborhoods are home to many of the Bay Area’s Asian immigrants. Pacific Islanders are prominent, too. The nation’s biggest concentration of Samoans is in Daly City, and the biggest concentration of Tongans is in San Bruno. On the Bay side is South San Francisco, where Herb Boyer and Bob Swanson sketched on a napkin their plans for the first biotechnology company, Genentech. They bought space in an old warehouse on the waterfront near a Bethlehem Steel plant. In March 2009, Genentech was purchased by the Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche and had a market capitalization exceeding $100 billion, though the recession set back its growth. The area is one large biotech campus overlooking the Bay, with lawns, parkways, and earth-toned office complexes, the center of the industry. YouTube, the 2005 start-up that today is second to corporate parent Google as an Internet search provider, is headquartered in San Bruno, a few miles from the San Francisco airport. Farther south, between the Bayshore Freeway and Interstate 280, are middle-class suburbs that grew up to be cities with office complexes—Millbrae, Burlingame, San Mateo, and San Carlos.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 12th Congressional District of California consists of these northern peninsula suburbs plus the southwest quadrant of the city of San Francisco, the middle-income Sunset district, with older houses on curving hills that were once sand dunes. It is an ethnically and racially diverse, economically productive part of America; 33% of its residents are Asian, one of the highest ratios among congressional districts, and another 16% are Hispanic. The economic orientation here was historically toward San Francisco, then later south toward the Silicon Valley, but now the district has its own burgeoning biotech industry. Income levels are among the highest in the state, very far above average. Politically, the peninsula was long a bastion of progressive Republicanism, a lively force in California from the election of Gov. Hiram Johnson in 1910 until the liberal Democratic breakthrough in 1958. But that tradition is only a memory now. In national and state elections, the 12th District votes overwhelmingly Democratic.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D)
Elected: April 2008, 1st full term.
Born: May 14, 1950, San Francisco .
Education: U. of CA-Davis, B.A., 1972, U of CA-Hastings Col. of Law, J.D., 1976..
Family: Married (Barry Dennis); 2 children.
Elected office: San Mateo Cnty. Bd. of Supervisors, 1980-86, CA Assembly, 1986-96, CA Senate, 1998-2006.
Professional Career: Staff aide, Rep. Leo Ryan, 1973-78, Dir. government affairs, Community Gatepath, 1996-98, Dir. government affairs, Electronic Arts, 1996-98, attorney, 2007-08.
The congresswoman from the 12th is Jackie Speier (SPEER), a Democrat who won a special election in April 2008 to succeed Tom Lantos, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who died during his 14th term in office. Born in San Francisco’s Sunset district, she graduated from the University of California at Davis and got her law degree at U.C.’s Hastings College of Law. While an undergraduate, she interned in Sacramento for Democratic Assemblyman Leo Ryan and later joined his staff after he was elected to Congress. In November 1978, Speier accompanied third-term Rep. Ryan on a trip to Jonestown, Guyana, to investigate claims that some of Ryan’s constituents, who were members of a church called the Peoples Temple, were being held against their will by the Rev. Jim Jones of San Francisco. Some defectors from the church joined Ryan’s entourage for the journey home, but the group made it only as far as the airport. Four assassins sent by Jones opened fire on the defenseless group. Ryan and four others, including two journalists, were killed. Speier was shot five times and left for dead on the airstrip, where she waited 15 hours before the Guyana police rescued her. In the meantime, Jones, back at his jungle camp, set in motion events that shocked the world. He forced his cult followers to commit “revolutionary suicide” by drinking poison-laced punch, which resulted in the deaths of more than 900 followers, some of them babies and children.
|Jackie Speier (D)||200,442||(75%)||($893,615)|
|Greg Conlon (R)||49,258||(18%)||($103,889)|
|Nathalie Hrizi (PF)||5,793||(2%)|
|Barry Hermanson (Green)||5,776||(2%)||($26,378)|
|Kevin Peterson (Lib)||5,584||(2%)|
|Jackie Speier (D)||60,393||(90%)|
|Michelle McMurry (D)||3,827||(6%)|
|Jackie Speier (D)||66,279||(77%)|
|Greg Conlon (R)||7,990||(9%)|
|Michelle McMurry (D)||4,546||(5%)|
|Mike Moloney (R)||4,517||(5%)|
Once back in California, Speier underwent 10 surgeries, including skin grafts. Despite her injuries, she ran in the special election to succeed Ryan, but she got only 15% of the total vote and finished third among Democrats in the primary. She returned to the Bay Area and built her political career, starting on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and then serving 18 years in the Legislature. Her pinnacle achievement was legislation protecting consumers’ privacy from invasive practices by banks and insurance companies. In 2006, she unsuccessfully sought the nomination for lieutenant governor.
Before Lantos died, Speier explored running for his House seat in 2008, when Lantos would turn 80 years old. But Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, announced his retirement in early January, endorsed Speier as his successor, and died in February of complications from cancer of the esophagus. Speier immediately became the front-runner to succeed him. Stanford University law professor Larry Lessig, who has crusaded against the influence of money in politics, briefly considered a challenge, but decided not to run and candidly conceded that he would probably have lost to Speier. She won the all-party election with 75% of the vote against four little-known opponents.
In the House, Speier quickly established her mark as an ardent and sometimes outspoken liberal. Immediately after she took her oath of office, she caused an unusual ruckus when she launched a sharp partisan attack on President George W. Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq. “History will not judge us kindly if we sacrifice four generations of Americans because of the folly of one,” she declared. Her remarks triggered a volley of boos among Republican members on the House floor and prompted Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California to walk out of the chamber. “Her conduct was inappropriate and violated House rules,” Issa later said. Speier responded that she had been “forthright,” and she called the Republicans’ reaction “childlike and inappropriate in their treatment of a new member.”
In September 2008, Speier got a bill passed renaming the San Mateo post office in honor of Leo Ryan. In other highlights of her first term, she called for a national speed limit of 60 miles per hour on freeways in urban areas to reduce gasoline consumption. As a member of the Financial Services Committee, she sponsored proposals to regulate credit agencies and to raise federal housing-loan limits in high-cost areas. Her opposition scuttled a bipartisan 2008 proposal to create an office of insurance information in the Treasury Department. She objected that the measure could pre-empt state laws that limit rate increases. In February 2009, Speier joined 20 mostly moderate House Democrats who voted against the omnibus spending bill. In particular, she criticized the approval of a slew of earmarks for individual lawmakers’ districts “without spending enough time to fully examine where the money is going.” She created her own citizens’ panel to review congressional earmarks and chose Lessig to chair it.