By Roz Rogoff
Interview with Ellen CorbettUploaded: May 27, 2014
Last year I wrote a blog expressing disappointment with our new Congressman Eric Swalwell. Swalwell won an upset victory over 80 year old Congressman Pete Stark in the redistricted 15th Congressional District. Stark, who held the office for 40 years, was reported to have said he would spend a great deal of money supporting Swalwell's opponent in the 2014 election.
California State Senate Majority Leader, Ellen Corbett, is Swalwell's Democrat opponent for Congress in the June 3rd Primary. I wanted to know more about Ellen Corbett. My growing dissatisfaction with Eric Swalwell's performance in Congress encouraged me to take a closer look at his competition. I emailed Senator Corbett a link to my blog on "All's not swell with Swalwell," and I was put on the mailing list for her press releases.
Senator Corbett called me last week to arrange for an interview. She would be walking precincts in Livermore on Sunday, May 25th and agreed to meet me at Peet's in the Whole Foods shopping center at 4 pm that afternoon.
I asked her why she is running for Congress. "I'm interested in continuing my work in public service," she said. She will be termed out of the State Senate this year. I asked why not run for a higher state office. "I want to continue to legislate," she answered, "which is what legislators do." By "legislate," she means authoring or sponsoring Bills to create or modify laws. Both she and Swalwell have law degrees.
Corbett has a lot of experience in local and state government. She was first elected to the San Leandro City Council in 1990. She was elected Mayor of San Leandro in 1994. In 1999 she joined the State Assembly and was elected to the State Senate in 2006. She became Senate Majority Leader in 2010. She has had 158 Bills signed into law.
But she added, "It's not all about legislating. Sometimes you need to step in and fight." She fought to save the hospital in San Leandro from closing. That would have meant loss of the Emergency Room and Doctors on staff would move their offices out of the city. She put together a committee and kept the hospital open.
She brought up how Congress is talking about cutting unemployment insurance and how hard that is on families. "There's so much more we can do to help our constituents. If they are about to lose their homes, we will intercede to find help. It's an important quality to step in and help personally. People expect us to help them."
Then she said something about Swalwell that surprised me. "He doesn't have any empathy." I hadn't thought of Swalwell as lacking empathy, but I questioned his consideration for constituents in my blog on a Town-Hall Call that never happened.
Corbett has empathy. After a senior residential care facility in Castro Valley was shut down, 19 elderly residents were left without care or services. Corbett told me she met with a husband and wife who were residents of Valley Springs Manor. When it was shut down they were taken to a hospital in an ambulance.
They did not need an ambulance or hospitalization, but that was the only way they could leave and the only place they could go. They were later billed thousands of dollars for these unnecessary medical expenses. Corbett's Bill SB894 would provide for appropriate relocation of residents if a facility is shut down.
"We do more than give speeches," she added, taking a swipe at Representative Swalwell's speech-making around in the 15th Congressional District over the last two years. Swalwell proudly boasts on his Congressional website of traveling 350,000 miles and attending 1100 events and meetings.
So is Stark bankrolling Corbett's campaign to make Swalwell a one-term Congressman? Corbett says the amount of Stark's contributions to her campaign has been greatly exaggerated.
Will she be another ultra-liberal Congressperson like Stark? She has been critical of Swalwell for being the "Least progressive Bay Area Democrat in Congress." I told her that's why he won against Stark.
She said she's aware of the need to cut government waste and spending. "We need to cut down on fraud and abuse, and cut back on the (Federal) deficit. It doesn't make sense to spend money on interest. Spend on programs people really need."