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Mitchell makes early declaration of Senate aspirations

Going after Curren Price’s 26th District seat

Cynthia E. Griffin | 7/4/2013, midnight
Although Gov. Jerry Brown has just called for a Sept. 17 special election to fill the senate seat vacated by ...
Holly Mitchell

Although Gov. Jerry Brown has just called for a Sept. 17 special election to fill the senate seat vacated by Curren Price, who is now a member of the Los Angeles City Council, Assemblymember Holly J. Mitchell in late May announced that she plans to run for the vacant slot. The deadline to register to vote is Sept. 2.

Mitchell, who was first elected to the state Assembly in 2010, if elected, would be the third Black woman to be hold a senate seat.

She quickly announced her candidacy for the District 26 and even has a website supporting her bid for the seat.

Those women who have already served in the state’s highest legislative office include Teresa Hughes, who started in the Assembly and then won election to the 25th Senate District in 1978. Her last election win was in 1996.

Diane Watson, a former congresswoman, was first elected to the state Senate in 1978 in the 30th District. She served three four-year terms before redistricting moved her into the 28th District. She won election to represent that region in 1990. Then won re-election again when the area became District 26 in 1994.

Mitchell said that she intends to run on a platform of supporting working families and children.

Mitchell comes from leadership in California’s nonprofit sector where she championed statewide family-focused policymaking for seven years prior to taking public office. As the CEO of Crystal Stairs, one of the largest childcare agencies in California, she worked to assure access to quality, affordable services for 25,000 children and their families, while fundraising and meeting a monthly payroll for hundreds of employees.

Previously, Mitchell worked in the Los Angeles district office of State Sen. Diane Watson, where she provided community and constituent services.

As a policy analyst for the California Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, she sought fiscally sound ways to expand healthcare and other vital services. She also helped develop the groundbreaking Healthy Families program as the legislative advocate of the Western Center for Law and Poverty. Later, she served as executive director of the Black Women’s Health Project in Los Angeles where she fought to further improve access to affordable care.

During her time in the Assembly, Mitchell cites some of her key accomplishments since being elected:

• As chair of the Assembly’s Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, Mitchell is part of the legislative team which delivered the state’s first surplus budget in nearly a decade this year, while restoring funding for education and healthcare.

• Successfully pushed, in AB 85, to increase basic CalWORKs grants by 5 percent, reversing a trend of annual cuts in aid to California’s neediest families since 2007 which was pushing too many children into deep poverty. Part of the “Mitchell Plan” sought improved welfare-to-work and homeless assistance services, childcare subsidies and vehicle allowances.

• Mitchell’s AB 27, pending in the Senate, would lift the cap on aid for CalWORKs families that have more children. “The cap makes poverty worse by forcing families to spread meager resources even thinner.” In the 15 years since the family cap became state policy, there is still no evidence that it has worked to disincentivize welfare abuse or to slow the birth rates of affected families. Yet, one of six Californians lived in poverty as of 2011, including nearly one out of four of the children in the state. Passed on a vote of 44 to 16, the bill is pending in the Senate.

• Introduced AB 1323 to halt hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”—the infusion, under high pressure, of chemicals, sand and water underground to release oil or natural gas—until state regulations specify conditions for its safe use. Representatives of several environmental organizations testified in support of the bill. The measure, previously approved in the Natural Resources Committee, was one of only two of the bills introduced in 2013 that made it to a full vote on the floor of the Assembly.

• Introduced AB 1432 “Caylee’s Law” requiring that missing children be reported promptly to authorities.

• Introduced AB 2348, a bill that expanded women’s access to birth control by allowing nurse dispensation.

• Introduced AB 2530, which stopped the practice of shackling pregnant women who are incarcerated.

Mitchell is the only member from her Democratic class to never have one of her bills vetoed. She is also part of a small group of women and the only Black female legislator to attain this accomplishment.

• Every summer, Mitchell hosts Christmas-in-July in L.A.’s Hahn Park, during which local youths from underserved areas receive major prizes (e.g., bicycles, e-readers) for improved scholarship.