She’s spent 18 years in the state Legislature, ran for lieutenant governor and was shot five times as her mentor was assassinated.
But despite all her experiences, Democrat Jackie Speier said she lives and legislates just like her constituents would.
The heavy favorite to win the congressional seat of the late Rep. Tom Lantos said she has been a single mother, comes from a blue-collar family and was the first in her family to attend college.
Because of that history, she said, the 300 bills she has helped pass in California were relevant to the people she represented, including consumer protection, child safety and health care laws.
“I’m just like the people I represent,” Speier said. “I’ve had the life experiences that most of my constituents have had.”
Speier’s résumé is filled with political accomplishments. She spent six years on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, 10 years in the California state Assembly and eight years in the state Senate. None of her four opponents has been elected to public office.
The 57-year-old lawyer has virtually every key endorsement in the race and has raised more than $870,000. None of her opponents has raised more than $40,000.
But life has not always been so rosy for Speier. As a legal counsel for U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan, D-South San Francisco, they traveled to Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978 to investigate the People’s Temple. Ryan was killed and Speier was shot.
Sixteen years later, her first husband was killed in a car accident after his life insurance lapsed.
John Garamendi defeated Speier in the June 2006 Democratic primary for the lieutenant governor’s race.
“I’m a big believer that success is never final and failure is never fatal,” she said.
In terms of issues, Speier’s top priority is to pull troops out of Iraq immediately. That would help one of her other concerns, which is to stimulate the economy, she said. She also wants to provide universal health care.
Speier said she is ready to take on a national seat. She did admit, however, that filling Lantos’ shoes would be intimidating.
“I’m not naïve in thinking that I’m going to be able to go to the House floor and get bills passed immediately,” she said. “There’s a tradition and a senioritysystem in Congress that I’m going to have to respect.”
Elected offices held: San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, California state Assembly and Senate
Compares herself to: Former U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan, D-South San Francisco
Three biggest issues: Bring home troops from Iraq, stimulate economy, improve health care
Would run for seat again? Yes
Web site: www.jackieforcongress.com