Miller announced Monday that he decided to retire from office after serving 40 years in Congress. By early afternoon, DeSaulnier, 61, announced he'll run for Miller's 11th district congressional seat, which is up for election next year.
In announcing the election bid, DeSaulnier promised to continue the work done by the man he hopes to replace, whom he said he'd worked with at various levels of government for 20 years. DeSaulnier called Miller one of California's "strongest champions of working people and the middle class."
"I've always greatly admired Rep. Miller's tireless work ethic, his dedication to the residents of his district, along with his deep devotion and perseverance in fighting for the progressive values and issues that matter most to Californians," DeSaulnier said. "Rep. Miller will be missed, but his legacy of working to create good jobs, increase access to healthcare, improve our schools, and help California flourish in a global economy, will live on forever."
DeSaulnier received his first significant public endorsement Tuesday afternoon, with a vote of support from California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
"Mark knows this district intimately, and will bring to the job more than 20 years of experience working on local and state issues ranging from education to job creation, healthcare access to energy production, infrastructure improvements to protecting working people and much more," Torlakson said. "He has my full support."
DeSaulnier's state senate district covers about 70% of Miller's, so he has some name recognition as he begins his campaign.
This is DeSaulnier's second bid for Congress, having lost in the 2009 special Democratic primary for the old District 10 seat -- prior to redistricting.
He said he's ready to hit the ground running, with some specific issues already on his agenda.
"I'm running for Congress to help bring an end to the brinkmanship and gridlock in Washington," DeSaulnier said, "so that we can move forward with President Obama's agenda of creating more good paying jobs, growing our middle class, investing in our infrastructure, increasing access to healthcare, advancing the use of renewable and homegrown energy, enhancing our education systems, and making the United States a leader in innovation around the globe."
Before serving in the State Senate's 7th district, DeSaulnier represented California's 11th State Assembly district. He also served as a Contra Costa County supervisor and member of Concord City Council.
Miller, 68, was elected to the House of Representatives in 1974 at age 29 during the Watergate era. He was one of the most powerful Democrats on Capitol Hill and his departure is expected to be a hit to the party.
"Liberals are going to lose a real advocate," San Jose State University political science professor Larry Gerston said. "He was probably the West Coast version of Ted Kennedy in terms of his support for children's issues, health care, employment benefits and minimum wage. So many of the things that Kennedy fought for were also on Miller's agenda."
Miller was born in Richmond and graduated from Diablo Valley Community College and San Francisco State University. He earned his law degree from the University of California at Davis Law School.
This term he has represented California's recently redrawn 11th District, which encompasses most of Contra Costa County, as far south as Danville.
He serves on the House Education and Workforce Committee, which he chaired from 2007 to 2010, and said he plans to continue pushing for improvements in education after his retirement.
Miller has also chaired the House Natural Resources Committee and the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families, and has long acted as an adviser to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco).
In a statement released earlier this week, President Barack Obama thanked Miller for his service and called him "an indispensable partner in developing and passing the Affordable Care Act."
"Because of his tireless efforts, our air and water are cleaner, our workers' rights are better protected, more young people can afford to go to college, and more working families can make ends meet," Obama said.
Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) called Miller a close friend and noted his willingness to work with those on the opposite end of the political spectrum.
"This is the biggest public service loss to California in my lifetime," Thompson said in a statement. "George leaving Congress will have a greater impact on our state than any past retirement from public office."
"I'm proud of what I have been able to accomplish on behalf of children, working people and the environment, in my district and for our country, especially passage of national health care reform," Miller said in a statement.
"Now, I look forward to one last year in Congress fighting the good fight and then working in new venues on the issues that have inspired me."