DAVIS, California -- Former California Superintendent of Public Instruction Schools Delaine Eastin acknowledges that being the only declared female candidate is the least of her challenges in her quest to become the next state’s governor.
There’s raising money, establishing name recognition, and overcoming the fact that she’s been out of public office for more than a decade. The former State Assemblywoman, 69, has been viewed as so much of a dark horse that, to date, she still hasn’t been included in any of the major polls on the race.
But at a campaign kickoff event at a supporter’s home in Davis Tuesday, Eastin told a packed crowd of enthusiastic backers that she has what no other candidate in the race does: a singular focus on education, an issue she says will shape California for generations to come.
She told the crowd of about 50 backers at the gathering, which took place a stone's throw from UC Davis, that “I wanted to start here because this is where I live, and this is the school that change my life forever. ... I'm a machinist's daughter and my mother was a dress clerk. And I want that for every single kid in California. ... And I’m excited to raise the issue of education, because everyone’s been kicking it under the rug.”
But Eastin, who has served on local school boards, city councils and as a State Assemblywoman, said that she is not a one-issue candidate.
“I’ll put my whole career up against anybody,’’ she said. “I did the work in transportation, in environment, in government efficiency. I know tons about garbage,’’ she laughed. “I served on the solid waste advisory board in the county. And I actually wrote a whole series of bills about cleaning up the environment.”
“I’m not a one-note samba,’’ she told POLITICO.
Eastin’s backers in the crowd, many of them educators and elected officials, echoed that sentiment.
“She’s the real deal,’’ said Daisy Gonzalez, the associate director for policy analysis for education at Stanford University. “But it makes me upset when people think she’s only about education. ... Education is the epicenter of everything; it’s about social development, it’s about health care, it’s about climate change and science."
With her appearance Tuesday, Eastin has now jumped into the most high profile race in the nation’s most populous state, one already already shaping up to be an expensive contest crowded by Democrats.
“There’s no greater advocate for the state, or the state’s kids,’’ said Lucas Frerichs, a Davis city councilmember, who noted she was the first and only woman to oversee the state’s school system. “And besides - it’s time for a woman to be governor of California.”
Asked how her leadership, as a Democrat, would differ from that of Governor Jerry Brown, Eastin said: “I’d emphasize education much more,’’ and noted that she supports mandatory kindergarten and universal preschool, while Brown does not.
“I believe we are under-invested in higher ed,’’ she added. “In 1985 in this state, 15 percent of the budget went to higher ed and 3 percent went to prisons. Now over 9 percent goes to prisons, and under 12 percent goes to higher ed.”
“Budgets are statements about values,’’ she said.
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