Mountain View's Sally Lieber, former mayor and state Assembly member, has launched her 2012 state Senate campaign within a newly proposed district that will take her precinct walks north up the Peninsula rather than south toward San Jose.
The draft Senate district map released June 10 includes Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Palo Alto and all of San Mateo County except Daly City and Colma. Lieber said she was pleased because Mountain View had more in common with Peninsula cities than South Bay cities, fulfilling the goal of the state's first independent Redistricting Commission, which was to group cities by common housing types, ethnicities, economics, school districts and social organizations.
"I love campaigning and precinct walking and now we can really start," Lieber said. "It's been kind of crazy because I have a lot of volunteers but I haven't been able to tell them which direction to go."
Lieber was set to make a run for the old Senate district seat, which stretches from Mountain View to San Jose, as term limits force San Jose-based Elaine Alquist out of office in 2012. But under the draft map, Mountain View would be part of state Senator Joe Simitian's district -- who also happens to be terming out in 2012.
"Mountain View is going to be more politically linked to the Peninsula, I think that's a positive thing," Lieber said. "When we are more grouped with South Bay cities we are really overshadowed by the city of San Jose."
Lieber believes that the map will likely stay the same when the Redistricting Commission approves it following public hearings this month.
In the 2012 Senate race, Lieber may be running against San Mateo businessman and Democrat Jerry Hill, who may pursue the state Senate after four years in the state Assembly.
Lieber isn't familiar with San Mateo County, but the former wallpaper hanger from Detroit has made surprise wins in the past, and she is determined to do it again.
"I think you can do almost anything with determination," Lieber said. "That's what I'm hoping to bring to this campaign. San Mateo County is a very large piece of this district. But I think I am more known in San Mateo County than Jerry Hill would be here. I'm definitely going to be working hard to get the votes. I'm definitely not going to be taking it for granted."
Lieber is anxious to continue the sort of work she did in the state Assembly, where she was instrumental in raising the state's minimum wage, her proudest achievement. She was known for taking on issues other legislators wouldn't touch, such as the conditions for pregnant women in prison.
A tough issue Lieber will grapple with on the Peninsula is high-speed rail, which is vehemently opposed in cities north of Mountain View. The state Senate has the ability to hold hearings about the California High-Speed Rail Authority's actions and the financial viability of the project, Lieber said. She said she wants to make sure the project is "something we can live with," especially in Mountain View, a major stop on the Caltrain line.
"I think we have to honor the voters' wishes for high-speed rail and also present people with all of the information about what the impacts will be like," Lieber said. "I would not be surprised to see that come back on the ballot."
In the state Senate, Lieber says she wants to bolster consumer protection in the lending industry. She introduced a bill to regulate the mortgage industry before the housing market collapsed, but it floundered when other legislators didn't see a problem that needed to be fixed until after the collapse, she said. The bill was also lobbied against heavily, she said.
Lieber also wants to tackle the state's "bloated prison system" which has "really stripped so much money out of our state budget away from things like education. I'm ready to get back up there and dig into these kinds of issues."
Lieber has spent the last two years out of elected office, but has continued to take on the case work she did as an Assembly member. She helped one Mountain View family deal with a bank to get a rare loan modification so they could afford to keep their home. Last year, she said she helped a mentally ill Mountain View man who was homeless for 19 years get subsidized housing.
"One thing I've figured out, as far as being a woman in politics, is that I think a constituent is more likely to tell you what is bothering them," Lieber said. "Only 20 percent of the legislators in Sacramento are women. It really is an advantage at times. If you are working on a really tough bill, it is easier to get it through as a woman. Maybe they are a bit more open to hearing my ideas as one of the few women in leadership. Disadvantages can produce advantages, too."