Assemblywoman Alyson Huber recently reflected on the highs and lows of four whirlwind years in state politics that ends on Dec. 6.
A mix of liberal and conservative supporters turned out on Oct. 1 for a farewell reception hosted by Tony Mansour, Kevin Nagle, The Parker Development Company and the El Dorado Hills Chamber of Commerce.
The reception was held in Town Center at the California Welcome Center, which attracts thousands of cash-carrying tourists to El Dorado Hills annually. Huber was instrumental in bringing it to El Dorado Hills.
The story, as recounted by Huber and Chamber President and CEO Debbie Manning, goes like this: Manning asked for Huber’s help getting a small sign on Highway 50 promoting a planned visitors center. The Department of Transportation wouldn’t budge, but along the way Huber’s staff learned that such signage is only allowed for official California Visitor Centers, “and they have really large signs,” said Huber.
A project was born. “And we stand here today because we talked about it and worked through it together,” said Huber. “These are the things I’m going to miss.”
Huber and her husband Tim became familiar faces in El Dorado Hills during her first term, but separated in January 2011. Messy divorce proceedings followed, accompanied by default on a million dollar mortgage and enough public finger pointing to mar any potential campaign. The couple has two children enrolled in local elementary schools.
Huber’s sprawling, gerrymandered and right-leaning District 10 spans portions of five counties, including the cities of Lodi, Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Stockton and Jackson.
The newly empowered California Citizens Redistricting Commission essentially disbanded it in August 2011, reforming it in Marin County, leaving El Dorado Hills in the new, less sprawling but farther right-leaning Assembly District 6, alongside fellow suburbs Folsom, Cameron Park, Granite Bay, Lincoln, Fair Oaks and, tellingly for Huber, Roseville, the home of Republican Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, who promptly announced her intention to seek the District 6 seat.
In November 2011, Huber announced tentative plans to move to a more moderate district and seek her third and final term.
The Sacramento Bee subsequently reported on Huber’s marital and real estate problems, and in early December she threw in the towel, explaining that the decision was “best for my children, my health and my district.”
The fresh-faced, 40-year-old Democrat with the once-promising political future said she’d finish her final year, 2012, but wouldn’t run for reelection in November.
Last Thursday night she was all smiles. She greeted local supporters and dished out more hugs than a teddy bear convention.
Mansour led off a series of impromptu commemorations that clearly touched soon-to-be citizen Huber, commending her for being a fiscal conservative.
Other speakers included master or ceremonies Manning, Bass Lake Action Committee Secretary Fran Thomson, Latrobe School District Superintendent and Principal Jean Pinotti, Village Life Reporter Mike Roberts and Community Services District Directors Guy Gertsch and Billy Vandegrift.
El Dorado Hills uber-wonk Paul Raveling, a self-described “data hound,” reported that voting records indicate that only one assembly member had more votes cast outside party lines than Huber. He suggested that dysfunctionally partisan California legislature Sacramento could use more politicians with Huber’s courage and conviction.
Huber explained why she ran for office in 2008. She’d followed politics to the point of fixation in recent years, she said. “I was the type that had to know how many dangling chads they found that day.”
The politicians she saw on TV were disappointing. She found herself asking, “Is this really the best candidate they can come up with?”
“You can only complain so much before you have to look in the mirror,” she said. “Then you have to get in there and get your hands dirty.”
The hand dirtying began by challenging hard-line former San Joaquin County Supervisor and Lodi city Councilman Jack Sieglock, a loyal foot soldier who state Republicans saw as an ideal replacement for the seat’s former occupant, Alan Nakanishi, a moderate Republican who termed out in 2008.
Huber was behind for a full three weeks after the election. She got crushed in El Dorado Hills by a two to one margin, but eventually prevailed by a mere 474 votes, thanks largely to moderate portions of east Sacramento that were also in District 10, and a guy named Obama at the top of the ballot.
Getting her hands dirty also meant “being OK with the fact that they’re going to write about your personal life as if it’s news, and put bad things about you on mail pieces that go to 400,000 people,” she said.
“But that’s OK,” she concluded. “It’s part of what we do to live in a democracy.”
Huber continued in a clear, evangelistic voice. “We try to pick the fights that need pickin’, win the fights that need winnin’ and work our butts off to make change in our community.”
Pausing to reflect, she continued, “I’m going to miss the problem solving … I’ll miss writing the letter in support of the grant, and then seeing the project complete.”
The “funnest” part of her time in the Assembly was early in her first term, she said. “No one thought I’d be back, so I had nothing to lose.”
“I could see an obvious problem like the [makeup of the] county Transportation Commission here and pick a fight with Placerville,” she said, a reference to her bill to reform the Placerville-weighted commission board with more west-county representation.
She nodded a side-apology to a pair of high-placed county managers who were present and clearly enjoying the show.
Huber is actively looking for work, and said she hopes to combine the lessons learned in state politics with her skills as an attorney at her next job.