California Lawmaker Now Available

Now available on Amazon.com is California Lawmaker by Alex Vassar, editor of the One Voter Project. Alex has spent years studying the California’s Legislature and is quoted regularly by journalists around the state.

California’s Legislature and the people who have served in it have an amazingly rich history. Some have held positions of national importance like Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger or US Supreme Court Justices Joseph McKenna and Stephen J. Field (all of whom served in the Assembly).

Henry G. Worthington, an Assemblyman elected in 1862, would later serve as a pallbearer at the funeral of Abraham Lincoln. Not all these stories end well. California legislators have also been fatally wounded in a bar brawl or died in a drunken canoeing accident.

Current through the start of the 92nd Session (2017-18), this is the story of the 4,424 men and women who have served in the California Legislature. In addition to the current session, this book explores the history of the legislature since 1849.

 

About the Author

Arriving at the State Capitol as a Senate Fellow in 2007, Alex Vassar has more than a decade of experience in California public policy. Alex has worked in both houses of the California Legislature, as a Senior Policy Advisor for a member of the San Jose City Council and an appointee at the State Board of Equalization. His love of California political history led him to create the One Voter Project [onevoter.org], an effort to examine trends and explore the remarkable history behind the golden state that we know today. Through his research, Alex has become a trusted reference on legislative history and you can find his quotes in the pages of the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee. Alex can occasionally be found at the Capitol during his lunch breaks, catching up on the latest news or leading tours for school groups.

Those we lost in 2016

We lost some good ones this year. There’s just not a lot more that I can say. Marian Bergeson was the 21st woman to serve in the California legislature and Sharon Runner was the 99th. George House and John Benoit both had long careers as Highway Patrol officers before joining the legislature. Greg Schmidt played a critical role in guiding the Senate through the term limits era. Each left a mark on the state that will not soon fade.

JANUARY
John A. Busterud – Assemblymember (1955-1962)

MARCH
Nancy Reagan – First Lady of California (1967-1975), First Lady of the United States (1981-1989)

JULY
Sharon Runner – State Assemblymember (2002-2008), State Senator (2011-2012, 2015-2016)
George R. House Jr. – State Assemblymember (1994-2000)

AUGUST
Marian C. Bergeson – State Assemblymember (1978-1984), State Senator (1984-1995)
Gregory P. Schmidt – Secretary of the Senate (1996-2014)

OCTOBER
Tom Hayden – Assemblyman (1982-1992), State Senator (1992-2000)

DECEMBER
Ed Reinecke – Member of Congress (1965-1969), Lieutenant Governor (1969-1974)
John J. Benoit – State Assemblymember (2002-2008), State Senator (2008-2009)

John J. Benoit (1951-2016)

Former State Senator John J. Benoit died Monday at his home in Riverside County. He had been diagnosed with cancer in November. Benoit, a longtime officer with the California Highway Patrol, had a great sense of humor and a lifetime of stories from his career in law enforcement. In his office at the Capitol, he kept a small book filled with traffic tickets that he had written. One ticket, signed by a well-known young socialite and hotel heiress, confirmed that Benoit pulled her over for speeding at more than 100 mph. “It’s my only celebrity autograph” Benoit would joke.

Benoit was also a private pilot who flew regularly between his home and Sacramento. He made his first flight to Sacramento as a legislator in December 2002 to be sworn into office. During the flight, Benoit realized that his route would take him close to airspace that had been closed for the landing of the Space Shuttle Endeavour (finishing up STS-113). According to his telling of the story, he decided to circle just outside the restricted area in the hopes of seeing the landing shuttle. The shuttle came in much faster and at a steeper angle than he had expected and Benoit ended up being much closer to the flightpath than he had any desire to be.

Benoit resigned from the Senate in 2009 after being appointed to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, ending a stay in Sacramento that was far too short. He will be missed by many friends.

Senator John J. Benoit

Senator John J. Benoit