California Assemblyman Jared Huffman, a Democrat, will replace liberal Democratic Rep. Lynn Woolsey in the newly redrawn 2nd District. Huffman ran for the seat with the support of Woolsey, who is retiring after two decades in Congress.
Huffman was born in former President Truman’s hometown of Independence, Mo. In an interview, Huffman says he embraces his Midwestern values of “sensibility,” “frankness,” and a “sense of independence, no pun intended.” Huffman attended the University of California (Santa Barbara) on a volleyball scholarship, later becoming a three-time NCAA All-American. He was also a backup player on the U.S. volleyball team in 1987.
Three years later, Huffman earned his law degree and went to work on antitrust litigation at a San Francisco-based firm before opening his own practice. Huffman’s interest in student athletics led him to involvement in a variety of Title IX cases, including a landmark case with the National Organization for Women in 1992. After the California State University, Fullerton women’s volleyball team successfully sued the institution for ending its volleyball program, NOW filed suit against the 20-school CSU system. The settlement established that CSU would guarantee gender equity in its men’s and women’s programs by 1998-99.
In 1994, Huffman ran for elective office for the first time and won a position on the board of the Marin Municipal Water District. This experience led him to a job with the Natural Resources Defense Council. In 2006, Huffman launched a campaign for the California Assembly, with a focus on environmental policy. Huffman beat Democratic front-runner Cynthia Murray, a 14-year Marin County supervisor, in the primary. He won in November by a landslide, with 65 percent of the vote. During his three terms, he helped block ongoing efforts by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to construct a $356 million death-row complex at San Quentin.
In California’s new jungle primary system, the top two vote-getters in the primary, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election. Huffman’s toughest general-election opponent would have been Democrat Norman Solomon, an antiwar activist and media critic. But there were eight Democrats in the race, which split the progressive vote. Solomon narrowly lost the second spot to Republican Daniel Roberts, virtually guaranteeing Huffman victory in the fall in the Democratic district.
Huffman had the support of Woolsey and Rep. Mike Thompson of the neighboring 1st District, and a celebrity endorsement from Mickey Hart, former drummer for the Grateful Dead. At a fundraiser in Petaluma, Huffman performed Steven Van Zandt’s “I Am a Patriot” with Hart.
The newly drawn 2nd District spans 300 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border. Huffman acknowledged that representing the district will be both physically and politically demanding, given its large size and diverse population. While Marin County has the lowest unemployment rate of any county in California at 6.6 percent, Del Norte and Trinity counties are at the higher end with rates of 13.4 percent and 15.7 percent, respectively.
Huffman’s hobby is winemaking, and his collection features his own “Homemade Hooch” wine.
Lauren Dickinson contributed to this article.