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Assemblywoman Shirley Weber Talks Priorities As California Secretary Of State

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Dr. Shirley Weber talks about her nomination as California Secretary of State and hopes for her successor.

Speaker 1: 00:00 She's known for creating legislation around social justice, police reform and education across California assembly woman, Shirley Weber, who's represented the 79th assembly district. Since 2012 has been nominated by governor Gavin Newsome to succeed Alex Padilla as California secretary of state. She'll be the first African-American to serve in the position. Joining me is assembly woman, Shirley Weber, assembly, woman Weber. Welcome and congratulations to you.

Speaker 2: 00:27 Well, thank you. Thank you for having me on the program.

Speaker 1: 00:30 Your reaction when governor Newsome announced you as his choice for California secretary of state, it was certainly a surprise to many California politicians.

Speaker 2: 00:38 Well, yes, it was. I mean, I, um, um, I had learned about it a little before the announcement was made, but I knew that they were considering several individuals and, you know, never had on my radar as a, as in terms of personal goals and objectives to be the secretary of state. I mean, I I've always worked with them and respected the work they do. And, and I've always been an advocate for voting rights and those kinds of things, and, and have authored a number of bills to fight for that, for those who, at least I'm at least able to fight for it themselves. And so I was, I was honored. I was, uh, you know, I knew it was coming so I wasn't surprised, but I, but I was honored that even I was in the consideration for those, because there were, I understand so many others, I don't know who they were, but, uh, who were in consideration for this particular position. So that was really on it that he thought that the work I had done and the life that I had lived in terms of, uh, my values and those kinds of things were in line with, uh, what California needs at this time.

Speaker 1: 01:35 And what do you plan on prioritizing as California's secretary of state?

Speaker 2: 01:39 Well, you know, I think it's always important that we prioritize the, the concept of voting and the integrity of our voting system. You know, this has been a really unusual season for us in terms of voting and having such a tax on our voting system. I mean, in all of my life, I have never seen a such anxiety around voting and the fact that people were attacking whether or not our voting system had some sense of integrity and fairness, uh, I've traveled around the world and I've been in places where they had, um, a voting taking place. And I, I, and I can understand the anxiety of the other countries that they have, but I'd never seen that in this country. And I didn't think in my lifetime I ever would. And so I think number one has to be that we continue to do the kind of transparent work to make sure people feel comfortable with voting.

Speaker 2: 02:26 That we're, that we, uh, that we expand out the rights of individuals who vote and we protect people's right to vote, who have, who, whoever registered to vote and making it accessible, uh, for people to do. We saw record turnouts and voting business this year across the nation. And, uh, and it's because people finally believing in the system. So I think we have to continue to push that issue because it's so very important. Uh, in the past, we've had kind of a ho-hum attitude when election day comes and we, it's almost like we hoping someone will show up to vote and, um, the enthusiasm voting the commitment that people may to make a plan to vote, to being willing to stand in lines across the country, uh, is just, uh, it's heartwarming to me when I see that, because we've not seen that before. And that is so very important, uh, in terms of our democracy,

Speaker 1: 03:14 I wanted to ask, how does the role of secretary of state touch on the work you were doing to pass legislation around police reform education and even reparations?

Speaker 2: 03:25 Well, you know, it's interesting because when I first went to the legislature, the first bills I did actually were around voting and, um, were around, uh, making sure that, uh, those who were, who were uninformed, we got, uh, got a chance to vote. Uh, those who have committed felonies that they had, they knew they had a right to vote. And so my early bills were really grappling with those particular issues because those issues become fundamental, uh, to the, the rights individuals have the ability to express themselves and to make decisions about what they want. And, uh, one of the things I've learned as an elected official is that when you have the public engaged in and fighting for their rights, it makes it a whole lot easier to pass legislations that produce a fairness and equality and justice for everyone. So I've always seen voting as a voting and education, really those two things or things that my parents pushed upon us very clearly that, you know, you get an education cause no one can take it from you and it's yours to hold and it opens doors.

Speaker 2: 04:21 But also my parents were, were voters and, and we had voting in our homes. We had a voting poll at our house, uh, because they felt like no matter what you get in this life, if you can't express your right to hold onto it, and those who make laws about your life, then you can lose it just as quickly as you gained it. And so my father, my parents knew that from voting. So when I look at voting, it becomes like education of bedrock for everything that we want to do. So if I'm talking reparations, it has to be an educated population. It has to be a group of people who have the right to vote, to vote for, for the benefits that people think that should come from reparations. If it's talking about police reform and, and people in the streets complaining about, we need greater police reform and we need to get rid of some of the abuses there, it is really the voters that keep us there. You know, I do this, this legislation, uh, around, uh, social justice issues. And it's really my constituents who kept me in office because if they didn't believe in what I was doing and not, and, and, and weren't willing to go to the polls, reelect me, then I'm going to say, I would have been a sitting duck for a law enforcement and all other agencies. And so, so it becomes important that we recognize that, that voting that power to vote really determines who represents us. It determines the issues that we raised

Speaker 1: 05:33 Given all of the ongoing work that you've started in the 79th assembly district and the state of California. What are your hopes for who fills that seat next?

Speaker 2: 05:43 Well, my hope is that they will, they will understand, and, and this much conversation about it. And of course my daughter's throwing her hat in the ring to understand that this is essential work, that no one person can do it all. And I think that's what some folks say, Oh my God, she's leaving us. Uh, I won't leave you. I'm still there. I'm just across the street from the Capitol, but, but, but it's work that we, that we begin and we will continue to do. And it, and it's constant work. It's not that one person who has, you know, a maximum of 12 years could actually change all of California. But what I try to do in my time that was there was to open the, the, the light of opportunity so that people could say SoCo so many years, Oh, you can never do anything.

Speaker 2: 06:22 You can't change law enforcement. You can't get this bill pass. You can't do this. You can't do that. And I wanted people to know that with hard work and perseverance and working with community groups, you can make a difference. And so what I'm seeing now in the conversation of those who talk about the 79, they're like, okay, who's going to continue. Shirley's work. Who's going to fill those big shoes. Who's going to be our voice for us. And that's what I want people to understand, because when you get accustomed to not having representation, that gives you a voice that opens doors. It stands tall. That fights for you. When you, when you get accustomed to that, you, you have low expectations. I wanted to give people high expectations. And I think we did it in, in, in, in my so far eight years in the legislature that I gave him high expectations. I didn't believe that there was a mountain we could not take. And if we took the mountain and weren't successful, we at least open up additional opportunities that people could see to do it. And so what I'm hearing now on the floor of, with my colleagues is that many of them now are taking up the new challenge.

Speaker 1: 07:19 As you mentioned, your daughter, Dr. Akilah Weber has decided to throw her hat in the ring. What are your thoughts?

Speaker 2: 07:26 Well, you know, as a parent, you become proud when you think that your children think of enough of the work you've done, uh, to want to be involved in it. And I told someone, I, I initially that I thought, wow, she's been close enough to the fire. Didn't know that it burns sometimes, but, um, but she has always had a passion for, uh, for, um, for trying to make a difference. And even in her practice and medicine and the things that she sees, she, when she sees injustices and she sees inequalities, she wants to, she wants to address them. And, and I could be the, you know, I, I almost can't say anything because, uh, I can't say, Oh, don't do that. You know, it's too costly because why mom did it? You know? And, um, and so I'm very proud of the fact that she has taken the challenge in Lamesa as a city council person. And now wants to take the challenge in Sacramento, uh, to kind of carry on the legacy, but also to develop her own legacy.

Speaker 1: 08:13 I've been speaking with assembly woman, Shirley Weber, governor Newsome's pick for secretary of state assembly, woman Weber. Thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 2: 08:21 Thank you for the invitation. And you'll all be safe. Be safe as the new year comes.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.