Carole Migden

Putting it mildly, Carole Migden loves politics. She’s not up for re- election until November of 2008 — Assemblyman Mark Leno (D–S.F.) will oppose her in the primary — but already she’s garnered endorsements from U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D–Calif.) and four of five Marin County supervisors (Charles McGlashan is the holdout). Her previous political office includes stints as chairperson of the California Board of Equalization, state assembly person for three terms, and a San Francisco county supervisor from 1991 to 1996.

Politics, politics, and more politics.

Carole Migden also chaired the San Francisco Democratic Party for eight years, is currently chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, and hasn’t missed a Democratic National Convention since heading the California delegation for Walter Mondale in 1984. As for awards, she’s been named “Rookie of the Year” by California Journal and “Legislator of the Year” by the California School Employees Association, and she received the “Lesbian Leadership Award” from the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

In 2004, Migden married Cristina Arguedas, a criminal defense attorney and her partner of 20 years (the marriage was later annulled by the California Supreme Court), and the two reside in San Francisco’s South of Market area. Senator Migden’s 3rd District includes much of San Francisco (downtown, the Financial District, Pacific Heights, and the Marina), all of Marin County, and portions of Sonoma County (Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park). In all, the district has almost 850,000 people and 521,883 registered voters, 54 percent of them living in San Francisco, 28 percent in Marin, and 18 percent in Sonoma County. “But the critical figure is percentage of voter turnout,” Migden remarks. “And in that category, Marin County is far ahead.”

You and Assemblyman Leno will battle it out in the June 2008 Democratic primary. You have almost identical voting records, you’re both gay, and both of you live in San Francisco. Why should a Marin County Democrat vote for you?
I think it’s up to him to articulate why I should be thrown out of office.

Okay, you’re halfway through your first term and planning to run for a second; so far, what have you done for Marin County? Last year we helped solve a legal issue regarding ownership that had plagued residents of 150 houseboats moored on Richardson Bay. It involved the State Land Use Commission, County of Marin, and the marina’s owners since 1868 and we resolved it. Also, I lobbied hard to get $82 million from the California Transportation Commission for the Novato Narrows improvements and $20 million for adding a second lane to the Highway 101–580 interchange. Another thing: I work with Marin teenagers and the Marin Cancer Project on a bill that requires cosmetic manufacturers to disclose [the presence of] carcinogens in personal care products.

Have you accomplished anything on a broader, maybe national scale that benefits Marin residents? Some may differ, but I think so. I recently authored an Iraq resolution that was the first of its kind in the nation. For the majority of Marin residents who oppose the war and its escalation, this sends their voices to the U.S. Congress. Also, I’m sponsoring SB 37, the National Popular Vote for President bill, which is working [its way] through the state legislature. According to the U.S. Constitution, states can give their electoral votes to whomever they wish. Before each national election, the National Popular Vote bill would have states that wind up constituting an Electoral College majority enter into a binding agreement to award the electoral votes to whomever wins the popular vote.

This would assure the winner of the popular vote winning the Electoral College vote every time. The Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and the Chicago Sun-Times have endorsed the measure; polls show popular support consistently around 70 percent. Similar legislation is pending in 45 states; at best, I think it’ll take effect in 2012.

Regarding that last item, does the National Popular Vote for President movement favor one political party over another? Not really; look at recent history. In 2000, Gore won the popular vote by 500,000, yet lost to Bush in the Electoral College vote. Then in 2004, a shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio would have given Kerry an Electoral College win despite Bush’s popular vote advantage. It works both ways. The problem now is the presidency is being decided in a few battlegrounds known as swing states. This bill offers the tools for changing that.

Would you comment on affordable housing and San Quentin? Regarding workforce housing, Marin County has to figure out what it’s going to do about the fact it employs a lot of people who can’t afford to live here. The idea of smart growth has to do with the principle that people should live near where they work. In Marin, this may call for a different kind of density. Environmental safeguards are important; at the same time, we mustn’t turn our backs on our vital workforce by requiring they drive dozens and dozens of miles before coming to work for us.

As for San Quentin, I wasn’t in the legislature when the death row cell block issue was decided. The fact is the state constitution calls for an execution chamber and death row to be here, at San Quentin. Do I think a death row cell block will be built? Yes, I do. The governor is determined because they’re frightened as heck a federal receivership will be imposed due to the court order we’re under because of health problems and overcrowding. Personally, I think violent people should go behind bars and people who use drugs should go free—in California we have 170,000 people incarcerated; 40 percent of them should go out the door—but that’s a different matter. Anyway, yes, I believe the $348 million San Quentin death row cell block will be built.

Final question: what is your presidential dream ticket for 2008? I’ve been a Democratic National Committeewoman every year since 1984 and I’m very excited about the caliber of candidates on the Democratic side. It’s an exciting and deliciously enticing time. However, I also think it’s too early to forecast.