Three veteran lawmakers — Mike Nevin, Lou Papan and Leland Yee — are vying to replace Jackie Speier in the state Senate seat for District 8, which comprises the western half of San Francisco and most of San Mateo County.
While all three men are experienced, savvy politicians, Nevin’s proven ability to craft consensus on major issues makes him the best choice to represent the district in Sacramento.
A former San Francisco police officer and longtime San Mateo County supervisor, Nevin has been at the center of most major regional transportation efforts over the last decade. He immerses himself in big, important issues and sticks with them — for example, the extension of BART to San Francisco International Airport, for which he was a champion.
The 63-year-old is a roll-up-the-sleeves politician who knows how to shepherd crucial projects while making sure his constituents get what they need. His years of regional policymaking, along with his long service in county government, would serve him well in Sacramento, where the ability to work with friends and foes alike to ensure local transit, health care and education services are funded is paramount.
Lou Papan, 77, was variously known as “The Dean of the Assembly” and “The Enforcer” during his two decades as a state assemblyman for his institutional knowledge and ability to keep fragile coalitions in line. Some observers attribute Papan’s return from retirement to a personal feud between him and Nevin, but Papan denies personal motives for his candidacy, saying his moderate politics and practical experience are what the district needs.
Though he includes few concrete details in his proposals, Papan says he favors extending the school year, keeping debt down and building housing near train stations to reduce congestion. We question whether Papan has enough fresh, innovative ideas to represent a district with such complex and varied needs.
Yee, a former San Francisco supervisor and current state assemblyman, points to his work on children’s issues, education and health care. One of his signature bills would make it a crime to sell violent video games to minors. Yee, 58, has also fought to preserve jet-fuel tax funds for San Francisco and San Mateo counties following efforts by airlines to funnel those funds to other counties.
While he deserves credit for those efforts, he has not shown that he can lead the charge on major regional issues in the crucial areas of transportation and traffic congestion — problems that threaten to choke the life out of the Bay Area economy as their effects reach into almost every area of public policy.
District 8 needs a forceful advocate in Sacramento who knows the issues and knows how to get things done. Mike Nevin is that candidate.