Sharon Runner (1954-2016)

Senator Sharon Runner

Senator Runner

According to an article in the Sacramento Bee, Senator Sharon Runner has died. Runner, the 99th woman to serve in the California State Legislature, served in the Assembly from 2002-2008 and in the State Senate from 2011-2012 and 2015-2016. Sharon Runner held an interesting spot in California history, being the first person elected to the State Senate twice in Special Elections and only the 5th Republican woman to serve in both houses.

One of the most enduring memories that I will carry of Senator Runner was the closeness of her office. Many legislative offices are close (at least on Legislative Bowling Night) but few have the sustained strong connection that I saw with her staff. Few things communicated this more than a note included in her final newsletter from her 2011-12 term in Senate;

“I have been honored to be served by my wonderful staff. They truly are more like family, they have given their hard work ethic, values and loyalty to the Runner Team for many, many years. It will be difficult for me to not see them regularly. They have done an outstanding job for the constituents throughout the district.”

The best way to sum up Senator Runner is to paraphrase the epitaph of 1950s Assemblyman Edwin S. Bulen;

“She Loved People”

Those we lost in 2015

In 2015, we said good-bye to a number of notable elected officials, including Don Edwards, whose work preserving the San Francisco Bay coast is easily visible today and Dick Mountjoy, a central figure in the Assembly speakership battle of 1995.

2015 also saw the demise of the Americans Elect political party, which lived for four years and only had one candidate appear on the ballot; Lieutenant Governor candidate Alan Reynolds who appeared on the 2014 Primary ballot. Americans Elect was born as a fascinating democratic experiment, but never lived up to the promise.

So long, friends…

FEBRUARY
Don H. Clausen – County Supervisor (1955-1962), Member of Congress (1963-1983)
Americans Elect – Ballot-Qualified Political Party (2011-2015)

MARCH
William P. “Bill” Campbell – Assemblyman (1967-1976), State Senator (1976-1992)

MAY
Dick Mountjoy – State Assemblyman (1978-1995), State Senator (1995-2000)

JULY
Hugo Fisher – State Senator (1959-1962), Superior Court Judge (1966-1983)

OCTOBER
Don Edwards – Member of Congress (1963-1994)

NOVEMBER
Larry Chimbole – Mayor, State Assemblyman (1974-1978)

NEW CHART: Legislators by Freshman Class

After getting introductions to two new databases for biographical research (one of which is Moose Roots, a great collection of Census records as well as birth/death records), I started a refresh of the information in JoinCalifornia.com. The refresh included, among other things, updating the list of living and deceased former California legislators.

During this update, former Assemblyman Larry Chimbole (Assembly Class of 1975) died on November 10th. I had the privilege to meet Larry during his last visit to the State Capitol several years ago, and his passing was a good reminder of why I enjoy this work. It’s a good reminder that the California Legislature is bigger (for better or worse) than the current crop of legislators who currently hold office; it includes more than 4,400 people who have had some amazing life stories. I digress…

Living Legislators by Freshman Class (1947-2015) (as of 11/2015). Blue columns represent the number of new (never served before) legislators in each class, red columns represent the number still living today.

Living Legislators by Freshman Class (1947-2015)

According to the latest available data (which is always subject to change), there are a little under 600 people alive today who are current or former members of the California State Legislature. The youngest is current Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (born 1987 and elected in December 2013) and the oldest is former Assemblyman Willard M. Huyck (born 1917 and elected in 1946).

The chart above depicts [in BLUE] the number of new legislators (who have never served before) in each incoming class and [in RED] the number from each class who are still alive. For example, no members of the classes of 2007-2015 have died yet while the class of 2005-06 has lost two members (Gordon and Ruskin) and the class of 1999-2000 has lost four (Soto, Cox, Wiggins, and Firebaugh).

Of note is former Assemblyman Huyck (the last living legislator from the 1940s), the Class of 1985 (the smallest freshman class in state history), and the high turnover in 1990-Present that has resulted from term limits. Cool, right?

Serving Legislators by Freshman Class (1947-2015)

Serving Legislators by Freshman Class (1947-2015)

The second chart depicts [in BLUE] (same as in Chart 1) the number of new legislators in each incoming class and [in RED] the number from each class who are still serving in the Legislature. Of note is Senator Jim Nielsen (the sole remaining member of the Class of 1979), Senator Bob Huff (the sole remaining member of the Class of 2005), and the members of the class of 2013 who were not reelected in 2014. You can also see the how few legislators there are from before 2011. That’s why, on the first day of the 2015-16 legislative session, the total combined legislative experience of the full California Legislature was only 398 years (which was the lowest total in nearly a century).

It’ll be interesting to see how the 2016 election changes this chart; former Assemblymembers Michael D. Antonovich (1973) and Steven Bradford (2009) are running for State Senate, while Anna Caballero (2007) is running to return for a final term in the Assembly.