EDITORIAL The Sept. 1 special election to replace Ellen Tauscher (who has taken a post with the Obama administration) in the East Bay's Congressional District 10 includes a large field with several great candidates. In fact, any of the top half-dozen or so Democratic Party candidates would be an improvement on Tauscher, a member of the Blue Dog Coalition who supported the Iraq War.
All these top candidates are good on the issues, including requiring a strong public option in health care reform (most go even further and support single-payer), ending the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, withdrawing troops from Iraq and developing an exit strategy for Afghanistan, achieving marriage equality, limiting federal drug and immigration raids, reforming Wall Street, and developing a sustainable energy policy that addresses climate change.
But it's a tougher decision to choose between the experienced politicians in the race and a couple of attractive newcomers, who argue that fresh faces and new ideas are what's most needed now in Congress, where the Democratic Party's huge new majorities have so far produced disappointing results.
The most impressive of these new candidates is Anthony Woods, a smart, charismatic young person of color who has a remarkable personal story. From growing up poor in Fairfield with a single mom and without health insurance, Woods got into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and then went to Harvard, where he earned a master's degree in public policy from the prestigious Kennedy School of Government.
Then, after doing two tours of duty in the Iraq War and earning the Bronze Star, Woods informed his commanding officer that he is gay. He was honorably discharged from the military and forced to repay the federal government for his college tuition, in the process becoming a cause célèbre in the LGBT community, which has strongly backed his candidacy.
Adriel Hampton, a former San Francisco Examiner political reporter who now works for the San Francisco City Attorney's Office, also brings to the race a fresh perspective and intriguing ideas about using technology to engage more citizens with their government. We're glad they're running, but they could each use some more political experience before assuming such an important office at this critical point in history.
Fortunately, there are three Democratic Party office-holders in the race. Joan Buchanan is a member of the California Assembly who is running a strong race, while State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier has a more extensive political background, a long list of endorsers (including Tauscher and Sen. Mark Leno), and a strong voice calling for fundamental reforms of the political system, including being an early proponent for calling a constitutional convention in California.
DeSaulnier was the clear frontrunner and would have made an excellent member of Congress but then Lt. Gov. John Garamendi dropped his plans to run for governor again and got into the race. It was a game changer. Garamendi has been in public service since he was elected to the Legislature in 1974; he later served as deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior under President Bill Clinton and as California's first and best insurance commissioner, where he learned to play hardball with health insurance companies.
Garamendi has a forceful presence, progressive values, long relationships with key power brokers and knowledgeable advocates, and an unmatched history of intensive work on the most pernicious problems that Congress is now wrestling with, including health care reform and resource issues. From day one, he would be a leader who would help President Barack Obama move his agenda.
"I have the experience and knowledge we need right now in Congress," Garamendi told the Guardian's editorial board. He's right, and he has earned our endorsement. *