State Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico brought his campaign for California attorney general to Pleasanton earlier this month, greeting scores of well-heeled supporters who gathered for the $250-a-ticket fundraiser on the colonnade behind Joe Johal's multi-million-dollar home high in the hills in the Grey Eagle estates.
His campaign stop followed earlier Pleasanton rallies for Meg Whitman, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor in California's June 8 primary next year, and by Carly Fiorina, who wants the nomination for U.S. Senate in her bid to unseat Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat who will be up for re-election.
Torrico has represented the 20th Assembly District, which includes about a third of Pleasanton east and south of downtown since 2004. Being termed out next year after completing three terms in office, Torrico, who has strong Democratic Party support, chose to seek the attorney general's office after Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown indicated he might run for governor in 2010. At this time, Brown appears to be the only serious contender for the nomination in the June 8 Democratic primary next year and would be likely to back Torrico for his current job.
Not many politicians spend much time in Pleasanton. Until recently, it was largely a Republican stronghold although that has changed this decade and Democrats now lead in voter registration.
Because of political gerrymandering over the years, the city also is broken into three Assembly districts, with Democrats Mary Hayashi (18th) and Joan Buchanan (15th) representing the other sections of the city. Democrat Ellen Corbett represents Pleasanton as the 10th District state senator, and Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) was re-elected last year with strong Democratic Party support from Pleasanton.
So for Democrats like Torrico, Pleasanton with its hundreds of affluent party supporters and contributors is becoming a major stop on the road to Sacramento and Washington.
There was no report on how much the Torrico campaign raised at Johal's home, but the invitation list handled by the majority leader's campaign office representative in Sacramento, Angela Gianulias, suggested $2,500 for those who wanted to be designated sponsors, $1,000 for "hosts," $500 for co-hosts and $250 just to attend. Several hundred came early and stayed long into the evening with off-duty firefighters directing traffic and helping with parking on the hilly, winding Golden Eagle Way. Other volunteers brought food and Johal provided an open bar that, like the food, appeared to have bottomless resources.
Torrico's long-time supporters from the Tri-City area and his hometown of Newark were at the fundraiser along with many from Pleasanton, including Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and Torrico's close friend and campaign coordinator Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio, who introduced the assemblyman. She said it was her pleasure to be among those hosting the fundraiser, adding that Torrico believes deeply in justice for all Californians and would make an outstanding attorney general.
"I have known Alberto for quite some time and know him to be a man who cares about the people of this state," she said.
She said that Torrico has been a great representative for Pleasanton and a leader in his support of education, which she said is vitally important in California where the state's budget deficit has steadily reduced state aid to public schools. Cook-Kallio understands the financial problems facing schools. She who teaches history and civics at Irvington High in Fremont, where Torrico went to high school.
Cook-Kallio and other speakers at the fundraiser said they believe Torrico has earned a reputation for hard work in Sacramento, where he has gained the respect of both Democrats and Republicans for his commitment to improving the quality of life for Californians and his passion for getting bills passed that have dealt with education, water issues, prison reform, energy efficiency and toxic chemicals.
In addition to being chosen majority leader of the Assembly last year, Torrico also served as chair of the Governmental Organization Committee, director of Majority Affairs, and chair of the Assembly Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security (PERSS).
Torrico's ability to build successful coalitions has led to the passage of the 38 legislative measures he's authored, with 27 of them being signed into law by the state's Republican governor. These include requiring 60-day notice for no-fault evictions of renters; removing barriers to the development of affordable housing for working families; maintaining health care benefits for foster children; protecting the assets of public, community hospitals; preserving $50 to $100 million in funding for local transportation projects, and restricting the use of pesticides in day care centers.
At the fundraiser, Torrico told his supporters that he became the first member of his family to graduate from college when he earned his bachelor's degree at Santa Clara University and later his law degree from Hastings College. Growing up poor--his mother, a Japanese immigrant, and his father, a Central American immigrant—he saw them work various jobs to support their family, including jobs as janitors. Torrico, too, worked as a janitor during his days off from school.
He recalled that when he was sworn in as the State Assemblyman from the 20th District in 2004, he thought of those days and hardships when he joined others in the Assembly reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and especially its closing words, "with liberty and justice for all." He said that applied to his situation--the son of janitors and a janitor himself, now sitting in the Assembly of the state of California.
He promised that those words and that commitment will be the driving force for serving Californians if he is elected attorney general.