As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Shining Solis In The Distance

Just because I don't want to give the impression that I'm unhappy about the Solis pick, though I think her skills would've been put to great use in the California governor's race and maybe saved the state, here's a great appreciation by Harold Meyerson, who has followed Solis' career for some time.

In 1996, when she was a back-bencher (and the first Latina) in the California State Senate, Hilda Solis did something that no other political figure I known of had done before, or has done since: She took money out of her own political account to fund a social justice campaign. Under California law, the state minimum wage is set by the gubernatorially-appointed Industrial Welfare Commission, and California’s governors for the preceding 14 years, Republicans George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson, hadn’t exactly appointed members inclined to raise that wage. So Solis dipped into her own campaign treasury and came up with the money to fund the signature-gatherers to put a minimum wage hike initiative on the California ballot. The signature gatherers gathered the signatures, the measure was placed on the ballot, it passed handily in the next election, and California’s low-wage janitors and gardeners and fry and taco cooks, and millions like them, got a significant raise.

While in the legislature, Solis also became the chief proponent in state government for the environmental justice movement that was bubbling up in various working-class communities around the state, steering to passage bills that reduced airborne carcinogens in industrial areas and that created parkland alongside the rivers that run through some of Los Angeles’ poorest neighborhoods. She took a leading role in promoting domestic violence awareness in the state’s communities of color.

And in 2000, she did something liberals always talk about doing and almost never do: she challenged an incumbent Democratic congressman with a piss-poor record in that Spring’s Democratic primary, and defeated him soundly. Marty Martinez, a 9-term incumbent seeking his 10th, had voted for NAFTA, opposed gun controls and abortion rights, and backed the extension of a freeway into a residential area -- managing to estrange labor, enviros, feminists and liberals of all descriptions. Still, Democrats virtually never run against incumbents, from the left or from anyplace. But Solis, with the encouragement of L.A. County AFL-CIO chieftain Miguel Contreras, did just that. She not only won, but defeated Matinez by a whopping 69 percent to 31 percent margin.

These are all the reasons I've found her California's most compelling politician. And there's also her unyielding advocacy for green jobs, a bill which she authored and passed (though it still hasn't been funded). She understands that the new economy will include the participation of a broad working class in good union jobs working for a new energy economy. What's not to like?

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