Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D)
Elected: 1994, 8th term.
Born: Dec. 21, 1947, San Mateo .
Home: San Jose.
Education: Stanford U., B.A. 1970, U. of Santa Clara Law Schl., J.D. 1975.
Family: Married (John Collins); 2 children.
Elected office: Santa Clara Bd. of Supervisors, 1980–94.
Professional Career: Staff Asst., U.S. Rep. Don Edwards, 1970–78; Practicing atty., 1978–80; Prof., U. of Santa Clara Law Schl., 1981–94.
The congresswoman from the 16th District is Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat first elected in 1994. Lofgren grew up in the Bay Area, where her father was a Teamsters truck driver and her mother worked for the Machinists Union. She graduated from Stanford University, and then moved to Washington to work for Democratic Rep. Don Edwards while he was a leader on the Judiciary Committee that voted to impeach President Richard Nixon. She stayed on for eight years as an aide to Edwards. She met her husband, a lawyer, one Election Night. Lofgren returned to California to get a law degree, and then specialized in immigration law. In 1980, she was elected to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. When Edwards retired, Lofgren ran for his House seat. Her chief Democratic opponent, former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery, was better known. But Lofgren raised almost twice as much money, with support from national women’s organizations and women in the California delegation. She gained considerable recognition after she insisted on listing herself as a county supervisor/mother on the ballot. Election officials refused, and the national press covered the ensuing controversy. Lofgren won the primary 45%-42%, and easily won the general election.
|Zoe Lofgren (D)||146,481||(71%)||($592,974)|
|Charel Winston (R)||49,399||(24%)|
|Steven Wells (Lib)||9,447||(5%)|
|Zoe Lofgren (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (73%), 2004 (71%), 2002 (67%), 2000 (72%), 1998 (73%), 1996 (66%), 1994 (65%)
Her predecessor never spent a day in the minority during his 32 years in the House, but that’s where Lofgren found herself for 12 years. Still, she had some impact, and her voting record, while mostly liberal, includes bipartisan free-market positions responsive to local businesses. Working with Republican David Dreier, a fellow Californian, she won expanded allotments of visas for high-tech workers. She pushed for looser controls on encryption exports, securities litigation limitations, and relaxation of trade restraints on supercomputers, all big Silicon Valley causes. When the House split 210-210 on a proposal to restrict government access to library records, Lofgren was the only House member to vote “present.” She said that the amendment went too far in preventing legitimate law enforcement searches.
When Democrats won the majority in 2006, Lofgren, a trusted lieutenant of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s, did not lack for good committee assignments. She became chairwoman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, which deals with issues familiar to her. She hopes to see a major overhaul of immigration policy enacted in 2009, something that has eluded Congress for several years as lawmakers became mired in deep differences in approach: tougher border security versus allowing illegal immigrants already working in the country to attain legal status.
Lofgren also chaired the Election Subcommittee of the House Administration Committee, where she investigated problems with electronic voting machines and reviewed proposals for redistricting reform. In January 2009, Pelosi picked her to chair the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, informally known as the Ethics Committee. She took over as a politically sensitive inquiry was under way involving House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and questions were being raised about other senior Democrats’ connections to lobbyists. Lofgren’s skills as a former staffer and law professor were sure to be tested by these politically combustible cases. In February 2009, Lofgren announced she was returning $7,000 in campaign contributions that she had received from the PMA lobbying firm, which figures in some of the pending cases.
Lofgren usually is a reliable liberal vote in the House Democratic Caucus, although that does not prevent her from pursuing bipartisan compromises. In 2001, the Republicans’ energy plan included her proposal to accelerate the development of fusion as an energy source, but she voted against the final bill. When Republicans brought up a measure to make it a separate offense to injure or kill a fetus while committing a crime against a pregnant woman, she offered an alternative to add stiffer penalties for an attack on a pregnant woman without conferring rights to the fetus. But it lost 229-196.
After the 2002 election, she tried to get a foothold in leadership by running for vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus. But Pelosi, who is also from the Bay Area, had already been elected minority leader, and the Congressional Black Caucus pressed to have one of its members in the leadership. Lofgren got 53 votes to 95 for James Clyburn, an African-American from South Carolina, who won the post. As head of the California Democratic delegation, she led efforts to oppose the recall in 2003 of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.
Lofgren has had no trouble winning re-election every two years.