Background: School board member since 1990; former director Commercial Operations Delta Dental; California Teachers Association State Gold Award; Alamo Rotary Club Citizen of the Year; soccer coach
Priorities if elected: Education; healthcare; environment (the Delta)
Key endorsements: California Teachers Association; California Professional Firefighter; Police Officers Research Association of California
Alamo resident Joan Buchanan, a native of San Francisco, was a rising star with Delta Dental where she worked as an underwriter and eventually became a department director. When she withdrew from the workplace to raise her five children, she began to focus her energies on education and was elected to the board of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District in 1990.
She thinks work needs to be done in Sacramento to help education, including training teachers and effective principals, and closing the achievement gap among students.
"I would be a change agent in Sacramento," she said. "In every job in my life I have affected positive change… . I am good at staying focused on the job at hand. I couldn't care less if I get credit. I'm willing to work with all people to try to understand the issues."
During her 18 years, she has helped the district move through a financial crisis, negotiate labor contracts with teachers and employees and develop budgets. She also wrote the contract with developers to assure good standards were met in their construction of schools to educate the new population in Dougherty Valley.
Buchanan says she wants to use her skills honed at Delta Dental and on the school board to work in Sacramento. She said she believes in building relationships, and understanding people's needs. In her tenure as school trustee, she worked with California superintendent of Schools Delaine Easton who encouraged her to run for state office.
"When you can talk from experience, people listen," said Buchanan. "I've reached across party lines to get the job done. I do my homework; I can compromise on points without compromising my values."
Abram Wilson, Republican
Background; Mayor of San Ramon; chairman of the Contra Costa County Mayors Conference; San Ramon Arts Council; San Ramon Parks and Community Services Commission; Vice President of Wells Fargo Bank; U.S. Army veteran
Priorities if elected: Economy; transportation; education
Key endorsements: Assemblyman Guy Houston; California Taxpayer Protection Committee; Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson is campaigning as a fiscal conservative who wants to use less spending not higher taxes to solve California's budgetary problems. He notes that as mayor he balanced San Ramon's city budget every year and created a reserve.
Wilson says his time on San Ramon commissions and the council have taught him that communication is key in working together with others, and he was able to practice diplomacy when facing a dysfunctional City Council in 2002.
"I hope to bring the skills I have to Sacramento to connect the dots," he said. "I look forward to crossing the aisle."
He pointed out that his background in banking would help him solve the state's budget problems, noting that San Ramon's credit rating has improved with him at the helm. He thinks it is important to change the tax structure in California to bring in more businesses and retain those that are here.
He is proud of the unified front he and the other four Tri-Valley mayors presented in Washington, D.C., and said they were the envy of the others at the Mayors Conference.
Wilson said education is one of his priorities and he is committed to bringing music to the schools. "Music makes us civilized," said Wilson, who was an opera singer. "Those who participate in arts have better academic scores."
He thinks California should keep the two-thirds needed to pass the State budget but would like to see a two-year cycle. "That would give a year to breathe and to analyze properly," he said.
He also said he is "not afraid to touch the third rail."
"If you need a helping hand, grab your own wrist," said Wilson.