Voters have rare chance to elect a smart, independent leader with an unmatched fighting spirit for what’s right
By: Mercury News Editorial Board
Ann Ravel provides voters in Senate District 15 a rare opportunity to elect a representative who has made a career of championing ethics and transparency in politics.
She was a fierce consumer advocate during her two decades as the top attorney for Santa Clara County. When Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Ravel chairwoman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission, she successfully went after the Koch brothers’ secretive network of campaign donations. And when President Barack Obama nominated her to the Federal Election Commission, she continued to enforce campaign finance and ethics laws with focused determination.
It’s seldom that voters have an opportunity to elect someone with such a proven record of integrity. Her long years of public service show she is fearless in speaking truth to power. Her fights for women, the disadvantaged, fair elections and campaign finance reform prove her willingness to bring people to account in an era when separating fact from fiction has never been more important.
She and her six opponents are seeking the seat that Sen. Jim Beall has held since 2006 and must now vacate because of term limits. The top two finishers in the March 3 primary will advance to the general election in November.
Three of the six others — former Assemblywoman Nora Campos, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese and San Jose City Councilman Johnny Khamis — are serious contenders.
Ravel doesn’t have Cortese’s name recognition or campaign war chest. Nor does she have Campos’ experience in the Legislature or Khamis’ strict adherence to conservative financial values.
What Ravel does have is a mainstream Democratic mindset with an unmatched fighting spirit for what’s right.
Ravel served as Santa Clara County counsel from 1998-2009. Her biggest accomplishment was filing the original suit that resulted in a $400 million judgment against companies that promoted sales of lead paint while knowing their products damaged children’s brains. She also joined in the 1996 lawsuit against tobacco companies in which Santa Clara County reaped $12 million from the final settlement.
Appointed in 2011 to head the FPPC, she went after the Koch brothers network that had poured $11 million into California to defeat the governor’s tax measure, Proposition 30, and to pass Proposition 32, which would have limited the political power of labor unions. Ravel filed a lawsuit that eventually resulted in a $1 million civil settlement, the largest campaign fine in state history. Her work in California prompted President Barack Obama to nominate her to the Federal Election Commission in 2013.
As for her opponents, Cortese is a hard-working and effective office-holder, having served as an East Side Union High School District trustee, San Jose City Councilman and Santa Clara County supervisor. He has a strong background on housing and transportation issues and an impressive list of endorsements, but he is also beholden to labor. The Legislature already has any number of pro-labor deal-makers with his skillset.
Campos lost a 2016 bid to replace Beall in the state Senate. She proudly touts her strong work on women’s issues and at one time was speaker pro tem of the Assembly. But then-Speaker Toni Atkins, who is now the Senate pro tem, reorganized the Assembly leadership in 2015 and left Campos without any leadership post or committee chairmanship.
Campos cites her League of Conservation voting record, but her campaign continues to be bankrolled by the Restore California’s Middle Class Coalition, a Big Oil PAC that has contributed more than $500,000 already this year in independent expenditures supporting Campos. These folks don’t give money without some sort of return on investment.
Khamis is a respected San Jose city councilman running as an independent, but his campaign is built around traditional Republican values. It’s hard to see him getting any traction on his issues in a Legislature that has a Democratic super-majority.
The other three candidates, paratransit operator Tim Gildersleeve and Republicans Ken Del Valle and Robert Howell, do not have the financial backing or experience in office to successfully compete.
Of the seven candidates, Ravel is the one with the strength of character and respect to make a difference on the most important issues facing Californians. We strongly recommend her to District 15 voters.