Stand up for the little guy


OPINION Last week, my partner and I journeyed early one morning to Sacramento to sign documents at the Secretary of State. We did this to take the very personal step of opening my campaign for State Assembly to fill Tom Ammiano's seat after he is termed out in 2014.

The next day, as I rode a Muni bus with a large group of youth from 24th and Mission down to City Hall to make my candidacy official, I realized why it's so personal. These children fought in the battle to get free Muni after their school buses were cut. For them, politics isn't about an "issue" or a "campaign." It's about getting to school.

It's a good lesson to remember. Politics isn't really that complicated. It boils down to a simple, clear dictum: stand up for the men, women and children who need help the most. Stand up for the "little guy."

For me, that starts with quality public schools — the key to opportunity for California youth. I know, because I immigrated to California as a 14 year-old who didn't speak English, graduated from public high school and earned scholarships to Stanford University and Harvard Law.

In San Francisco, I've fought to prevent teacher layoffs, helped win a $30 million Promise Neighborhoods grant for district schools, and battled to secure that free Muni pass for low-income kids. In Sacramento, I will scrape together every penny we can for public schools — to restore the cuts students and teachers have endured, and to prevent tuition hikes that put public universities out of reach and students deep into debt.

Another priority will be fiscal and economic equity. I stood with neighbors to prevent foreclosures. Fought wage theft. And opposed the controversial Twitter Tax Break as economic favoritism for a billionaires' industry. Instead, I pushed for equal tax breaks for the small businesses that also create jobs. I will approach the California budget the same way — making sure our fiscal policies help the taco stand owner, not just the big enchiladas.

Health care has been and will remain one of my biggest concerns. Here, I helped negotiate the CPMC agreement that kept St Luke's open, treated nurses fairly, and won real community benefits. I worked with Planned Parenthood to protect women from being harassed at an abortion clinic. And, I stood up against restaurant owners who were pocketing customer health care surcharges instead of providing employee health care.

Now some of these same business owners are using ObamaCare as an excuse to abandon their employees once again. I am opposing their efforts. In Sacramento, implementing the Affordable Care Act in a way that realizes its full potential and minimizes its failings will be one of my top priorities.

As we in the LGBT community enjoy the victory of same-sex marriage, I'm also thinking about the need for strong LGBT representation in Sacramento as the right wing fights back. This district elected Carole Migden, Mark Leno, and Tom Ammiano, and I would be proud to continue the LGBT tradition started in 1996. I would also be proud to be the first Latino ever elected to the State Assembly from San Francisco.

But I would be proudest of all to keep standing up for the little guy.

Also from this author