Speier swings through Chico

MRS. ED <br>State Sen. Jackie Speier (left), running for lieutenant governor, discusses higher education with 22-year-old Jillian Lopez outside Peet’s Coffee &amp; Tea in downtown Chico. Speier said affordable higher education will be one of her priorities if elected.

MRS. ED
State Sen. Jackie Speier (left), running for lieutenant governor, discusses higher education with 22-year-old Jillian Lopez outside Peet’s Coffee & Tea in downtown Chico. Speier said affordable higher education will be one of her priorities if elected.

Photo By Mark Lore

The woman who many political pundits believe has the best chance of eventually becoming California’s first female governor visited Chico Tuesday afternoon (May 16) as part of a swing through the Northstate. She’s state Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo), and she’s running in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, a position that traditionally is seen as a launching pad for the governorship.

In an interview with CN&R, Speier deftly acknowledged the obvious: “You can’t run for lieutenant governor and not be prepared to be governor.” She noted that the last time it happened was in 1953, when President Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren to the U.S. Supreme Court and Goodwin Knight stepped in.

“If down the road [the governorship] becomes available, I’ll look at it,” she continued. “But these days you have to be a multi-multi-millionaire to run, and I’m not.”

Speier added that she has high ambitions for the lieutenant governor position, which is infamous for asking little of its occupiers. She wants to be a guardian of higher education and to restore California’s universities and colleges to the position of strength they once enjoyed. “When I was a student at UC,” she said, “it received 50 percent of its funding from the state. Today it’s 27 percent.”

The lieutenant governor sits on the UC Board of Regents, and Speier is now sponsoring a bill that would put him or her on the community colleges’ board, as well.

The state absolutely must invest in higher education and research if it is to continue to offer a high standard of living to its residents, she said.

Speier has a reputation for taking on powerful interests in the pursuit of reform. She created the first strong consumer privacy law in the nation, wrote the law that made California the first state to do bulk purchasing of prescription drugs for Medicare patients, and has led the fight to cut waste and corruption in the state’s prison system. Of the five large daily newspapers that have made endorsements in the race, including the Fresno Bee and the San Francisco Chronicle, all have endorsed her.

Her opponents in the primary are state Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi and state Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Sunol).