THREE DEMOCRATS PURSUE 22ND DISTRICT ASSEMBLY SEAT
An open seat in the 22nd Assembly District has enticed three
candidates to the Democratic primary, all of whom are city council
members seeking state office for the first time.
Rod Diridon Jr. is serving his sixth year on the city council
in Santa Clara; Sally Lieber is serving her fourth year in Mountain
View; Rosemary Stasek is serving her sixth year in Mountain View.
The primary winner should emerge a strong favorite in this traditionally
Democratic district. The Republican opponent in the general election
is businessman Stan Kawczynski of Sunnyvale, who has run and lost
in two previous Assembly elections.
Education is one of the common themes highlighted by the candidates,
but each has a different perspective.
A substitute teacher for one year, Diridon likes to say that
he has encountered public education at its most unglamorous level.
He points to his stewardship of a school bond campaign in 1997
that raised $145 million for Santa Clara schools. Diridon wants
to find more ways to help local governments develop housing for
teachers and refine statewide student tests.
Lieber attended several Bay Area community colleges before taking
some classes at Stanford University in her mid-30s. She left school
to enter politics. Lieber says she would focus on improving remedial
education and GED resources. She would also give communities more
flexibility in how they spend money on education.
Stasek has taught networking and systems engineering courses
at De Anza College for six years, and she's also taken mid-career
classes there. Community colleges are an oft-neglected part of
the state's educational system, Stasek says, and they should play
a greater role in job training.
Stasek and Diridon have sought to distinguish themselves based
on their experience, particularly in high tech.
The 22nd District includes all of Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino,
most of Santa Clara and a northwestern part of San Jose, including
a slice of the Berryessa neighborhood. Residents of the 22nd District
claim it is the heart of Silicon Valley; some of the biggest tech
firms are headquartered here, including Intel, Yahoo and 3Com.
As a contractor, Stasek has worked as a systems engineer for
a dozen years at a who's who list of Silicon Valley companies,
including Oracle, Cisco and Netscape. That employment history
has given her a breadth of insight into the area's tech economy,
Combined with her work on the city council and at De Anza, Stasek
says she has the firsthand experience to understand a range of
issues in the Assembly. It's ''an incredible opportunity for me
to take all of these things and be able to import all of them
into one job.''
Diridon spent several years in community relations at 3Com, coordinating
some of the company's philanthropic efforts in education. Having
worked with local governments on behalf of 3Com, he says that
he knows how to make the most of public-private partnerships.
Lieber, who worked for many years hanging wallpaper and restoring
Victorian homes, has been an active volunteer. She worked to help
new citizens register to vote and also chaired a committee that
merged two school districts in Mountain View.
As the region struggles to produce additional housing and ease
traffic jams, all three candidates talk about ''smart growth''
and building affordable housing along transportation corridors.
Diridon supports building high-density housing at light-rail
stations and extending BART to the South Bay, as well as constructing
a high-speed rail linking Southern California to the Bay Area
and Sacramento; Lieber would give incentives to local governments
that produce good land-use planning and withhold transportation
funds from communities that don't complete housing plans; Stasek
wants to see developers build more townhomes and condos in the
area as a way to increase home ownership.
For Diridon, this campaign is a chance to work with his father,
a former Santa Clara County supervisor. He says he refused to
use his father's considerable connections in his first election,
for Santa Clara city council, to prove he could do it on his own.
But this time around, Diridon is proudly showcasing his father's
involvement, even listing his dad's name first on the campaign
''I come from a family of real strong public service. It's only
natural that I followed,'' Diridon says.
Lieber has tried to cast Diridon as the establishment candidate
and position herself as a woman for the working class. Lieber
and Diridon have battled each other to land endorsements from
civic groups and local politicians, and both have raised much
more money than Stasek.
Lieber's husband, an engineer, has lent the campaign about $200,000
-- out of the more than $320,000 she has raised so far. Without
the loan, Lieber says, ''a candidate like me wouldn't be able
to compete in this race.''
Diridon has raised nearly $400,000, which he says comes from
a range of supporters, from labor unions to individual citizens.
Stasek has raised about $55,000 and has not focused on gathering
Diridon, 32, says he can emphasize his dedication to the community
where he grew up, attended high school and worked briefly before
The top reason Lieber, 40, is running for Assembly is to make
California a ''state of the art'' place for children, she says.
It includes a push for affordable child care and more support
for foster families.
Stasek, 38, is a staunch defender of letting women choose on
the issue of abortion. A co-founder of California Catholics for
Free Choice, Stasek says that as an Assembly member she will put
pressure on Catholic hospitals that take over public hospitals
to continue providing reproductive services, often in areas where
alternative medical help is far away.