The Race to Take Democratic Congressmember Jackie Speier's Seat

Political Heavyweight Kevin Mullin—He’s Running for Retiring California Powerhouse Jackie Speier’s Congressional Seat November 28, 2021


For years, the “conventional wisdom” has been that it’s better to have an “outsider” or someone with no experience in politics or government. “Outsiders” can supposedly handle being our governors. They can easily represent us in the House, Senate, or even the White House better than anyone with a political background. Republicans are especially obsessed with this belief. Well, how did that turn out with that GOP real estate grifter #45 in the White House? And now, by contrast, how is it turning out with POTUS #46, Democrat Joe Biden? Biden was a two-year member of New Castle County, Delaware’s City Council, a U.S. Senator for 36 years, and President Barack Obama’s two-term Vice President (Cohen & Cook 2022 Almanac of American Politics). Biden has way more domestic and foreign policy experience than most residents who ever sat in the Oval Office and it shows. IMHO, GOPers and many media pundits who push non-experienced outsiders to run our hardball political system, have it all wrong. “Politics ain’t beanbag,” as 19th Century writer Finley Peter Dunne declared (politicaldictionary.com). It is an extremely serious business up there with medicine and law. How many of those GOPers and media analysts would trust a doctor with no experience to diagnose their ailments or operate on them? How many of this same group would trust a lawyer who had just been admitted to his/her state Bar to defend him/her on criminal charges or successfully handle a crucial business negotiation for them? I don’t believe there would be many, if any, takers. Let’s get serious about the need to have top notch politicians representing us as well. Now, let’s turn to CA, and look at the latest political doings in the Golden State.


On 11/16/2021, Democratic CA Congressmember Jackie Speier (SPEAR) stated that she would not be running for a ninth-term in her Northern CA 14th Congressional District (CD) (latimes.com, Haberkorn & Mehta, 11/16/21). Cong. Speier (71) who has represented San Mateo County and part of the San Francisco Bay area since 2008, stated that it’s “time for me to come home.” Rep. Speier, a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), added that it was, “time for me to be more than a weekend wife, mother, and friend (latimes.com, 11/16/21).”


Cong. Speier is well-known in the CA 14th for taking care of her district, what 75% of Congressmembers do, according to SF Bay area Democratic consultant Katie Merrill. For decades, Speier connected veterans with benefits, tracked down lost Social Security checks for seniors, and helped people get passports renewed (latimes.com, 11/16/21, Haberkorn & Mehta). In the House, influential Cong. Speier was best known for dealing with military and intelligence issues. She is an outspoken advocate for gender equality and has taken a special interest in accountability for rapes and sexual assaults within the military and society in general. She led a successful resolution to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) for posting an animated video depicting the killing of Cong. Alexandria Ocassio-Cortez (D-NY) and attacking President Biden. Speier has a strong liberal record. She has 93%-100% ratings from the ADA (Americans for Democratic Action), labor’s AFL-CIO, and the League of Conservation Voters. In 2019-2020, the Cohen and Cook Political Almanac gave her 100% ratings on the economy and social issues (Cohen & Cook 2022 Almanac, latimes.com, 11/16/21).


Speier is resilient with a capital “R” and a survivor of extreme trauma. Forty-three years ago, in 11/1978, Speier, then an intern for third-term Dem. Cong. Leo Ryan, accompanied him to Jonestown, Guyana. They wanted to investigate claims that some of Ryan’s constituents who were members of a church called the People’s Temple were being held against their will there by SF’s “Reverend” Jim Jones. Assassins sent by Jones opened fire on Speier’s group. Cong. Ryan was killed and Speier was shot five times and left for dead on the airstrip where she was rescued after 15 hours. Jones and his group of 900 followers, including babies and children, committed mass-suicide by drinking poisoned-laced punch. While lying injured on the airport tarmac, Speier vowed that “if I survived, I would dedicate my life to public service.” After going through 10 surgeries, she survived and fulfilled her vow (Cohen & Cook 2022, latimes.com, Haberkorn et al, 11/16/21). In 1/2008, Dem. Cong. and Jewish Holocaust survivor Tom Lantos, who was dying of cancer, announced his retirement. He endorsed Speier as his successor. Speier easily won the 2008 special election and has been handily re-elected ever since (Cohen & Cook 2022). Immediately after her election, she strongly criticized “W” Bush’s handling of the Iraq War. In 2017, Speier attacked controversial Cong. Devin Nunes (R-CA) for sharing sensitive information with the Trump White House. Speier cited her work on military sexual assault as among her proudest accomplishments. She worked on legislation that would remove such cases from the normal chain of command. In 9/2021, the Defense Department said that such incidents would be handled by a new special prosecution office by 2027. According to consultant Merrill, Speier, a mother of two children, has been “so outspoken and so brave in talking about her own personal experience in having an abortion and how important it is for women to have the right to make their own medical decisions.” When the funding for Planned Parenthood was being attacked, Speier discussed these matters in a speech she gave on the House floor (latimes.com, Haberkorn et al, 11/16/21). She was very active in the “Me Too” movement and was a key member who helped force the resignation of three staffers who had harassed female Congressmembers. Speier herself had been a victim of sexual harassment in the House (Cohen & Cook 2022). Speier was able to get an agreement in 12/2018 to force sexual harassers to be personally liable for financial settlements (Cohen & Cook 2022 Almanac).


The current 14th CA CD consists of the northern SF peninsula suburbs including Millbrae, Burlingame, San Mateo, and San Carlos. Daly City and Pacifica and San Bruno are in the CA 14th. The southwest corner of SF also lies in the 14th. The southwest corner of SF has less than 20% of the 14th’s population. The 14th takes in about 80% of affluent San Mateo County. The city of SF and Silicon Valley are the 14th’s economic pillars The 14th is also developing its own strong biotech industry. Ethnically, the present 14th has a 36% Asian population and a 23% Hispanic one. The 14th now has one of the highest income levels in the nation. The 14th is one of the highest Democratic districts in the country with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+28. In 2020, the Golden State 14th voted for Joe Biden by a “y uu ge” 58% margin, 78%-20% (Cohen & Cook Almanac, 2022).

In 2010, Californians passed a ballot proposition that gives power to a non-partisan 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission that has been in effect since 2012 (Cohen & Cook 2022). In late 12/2021, the CA 14th CD will be changed. The coastal area of Half Moon Bay in the section east of Woodside will be part of the new 18th District, represented by Cong. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto). Cong. Eshoo will also get a portion for Redwood City and East Palo Alto. The SF portion in the 14th CD will shift. The western SF neighborhoods of Sunset and Parkside will move to the Ingleside and Excelsior neighborhoods in the south and southeastern sections of SF (rwcpulse.com, Sheyner, 11/18/21). Although people running to replace Speier don’t have to live in the new 14th House District, many voters may negatively view such candidates as outsiders and hold it against them (Sheyner, 11/18/21). However, in any event, despite these redistricting changes, Speier’s successor will almost certainly remain in the “Team Blue” column. The draft maps drawn during the week of 11/09/2021 by the independent redistricting committee boost the number of Democratic voters in the new 14th. The post-Speier 14th CD would touch portions of at least six existing state legislative districts and would offer opportunities for elected officials to seek a rare open House seat in the U.S. Congress (latimes.com, Haberkorn & Mehta, 11/16/21).


Already, three candidates are jockeying to win the CA Democratic primary in 6/2022. Others may yet enter this contest. The top two contenders in that race will face each other in the 11/2022 general Congressional election regardless of party (rwcpulse.com, Sheyner, 11/18/21). Right now, Burlingame Councilmember Emily Beach, San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, and Assemblymember Kevin Mullin have thrown their proverbial “hats into the ring.” State Senator Josh Becker may also run for this rare vacancy. Small businessman Gus Mattammal, a Republican, who lives near Half Moon Bay, has also launched a campaign for this open congressional seat (Deruy, mercurynews.com, 11/24/21).


Kevin Mullin (51) is viewed as one of the leading candidates regardless of who else decides to run. He knows politics from the ground up. Former San Jose State University Professor Larry Gerston called Mullin “the frontrunner right now.” Gerston thinks “there’s a possibility that he (Mullin) could get Speier’s endorsement (mercurynews.com, Deruy, 11/24/21).” Mullin graduated from Catholic Junipero Serra High School. He received his undergraduate and Master’s degrees from San Francisco State University and completed an executive leadership program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government (“Biography—Assemblymember Kevin Mullin, 3/14/16, mercurynews.com, Deruy, 11/24/21). In college, Mullin worked as a DJ under the name “Cutmaster Kevvy Kev.” Before getting elected to public office, Mullin was a local business owner. He created KM2 Communications, a multimedia production business in South San Francisco. Mullin produced public affairs programming and hosted various programs seen on Peninsula-TV Channel 26 (wiki). Mullin previously served as a district director for then-State Senator, now Cong. Jackie Speier. Mullin was also political director for his late father, former State Assemblymember Gene Mullin (mercurynews.com, Deruy, 11/24/21).


South San Francisco resident Mullin was elected to the South San Francisco City Council in 2007. In 2007, he served as Mayor there. He represented the cities of San Mateo County on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (Mullin “Biography”). Mullin won election to the CA Assembly in 2012 and is now a five-term incumbent in that body. He represents the northern portion of San Mateo County, and won 75% of the votes in his most recent 2020 re-election effort. Mullin currently serves as Speaker pro Tempore. In that position, Mullin presides regularly over Assembly floor sessions and is part of CA Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s leadership team. He has served on the Budget, Revenue and Taxation, Elections and Redistricting, and Housing and Community Development Committees (wiki). In the Assembly, Mullin pushed for mail voting in San Mateo County way before the COVID-19 pandemic made that the statewide norm. He spearheaded legislation to make campaign finances more transparent. His wife is a longtime San Mateo County employee and they are the parents of two young twin boys (mercurynews.com, Deruy, 11/24/21, rwcpulse.com, Sheyner, 11/18/21).


In announcing his run for Speier’s open seat, Mullin stated he was running for Speier’s House seat to represent her constituents in Congress. He wants “to fight for the future of our democracy and our planet (mercurynews.com, 11/24/21).” Mullin hopes to copy Speier’s strong environmental record. And even though Trump is currently not sitting in the White House, far too many of his die-hard supporters still follow his anti-democracy beliefs, which must be thwarted. Should he get elected to Congress, Mullin specifically wants to address climate change and the astronomical costs of housing in his district (mercurynews.com, 11/24/21, Deruy).


Mullin has already secured the endorsements of more than thirty officials, including CA Attorney General Rob Bonta. Mullin has aptly called Speier “an icon and a legendary figure in San Mateo County and California legislative and political history.” As Speier’s district director, Mullin “was awed by her ability to stand up to powerful interests regardless of potential political consequences (rwcpulse.com, Sheyner, 11/18/21).” Mullin’s winning the Democratic primary and general election, however, is no “done deal.” Should State Senator Josh Becker enter this race, he could be a strong challenger, according to former professor Larry Gerston and others. Becker also represented much of the area covered by Speier’s congressional seat (rwcpulse.com, Sheyner, 11/18/21). In any event, even though Democrats have an advantage in the CA 14th, no results are inevitable. Mullin or any fellow “Team Blue” member must take Speier’s seat. Democrats in the CA 14th and throughout the country must come out in droves plus to keep the House and Senate to enable President Biden to pass his progressive agenda.