Jackie Speier - Biography
Karen Lorraine Jacqueline "Jackie" Speier (born May 14, 1950) is the U.S. Representative for , serving since 2008. She is a member of the Democratic Party. The district includes the northern two-thirds of San Mateo County (formerly part of the district represented by her political mentor, Leo Ryan) and the southwest quarter of San Francisco.
She is also a former member of the California State Senate who represented parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties. On April 8, 2008, she won the special election for the vacated United States House of Representatives seat of late Congressman Tom Lantos.
Speier was born in 1950 in San Francisco and grew up in an apolitical, working-class family. Her mother, Nancy (née Kanchelian), was Armenian American, and her father, Fred Speier, was the son of a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. Speier took Jacqueline as her confirmation name after Jackie Kennedy. She is a graduate of Mercy High School in Burlingame, which is where her daughter attended as a freshman in the 2008–2009 school year. She earned a B.A. from the University of California, Davis, and a J.D. from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1976.
Speier's first husband, Dr. Steve Sierra, died in a car accident in 1994 at the age of 53.<REF NAME="SFC2003"/> At the time, she was two months pregnant with their second child, a daughter named Stephanie. They also had a son, Jackson Kent, to whom Speier gave birth in 1988 while she was serving as a member of the California State Assembly, the first woman in that legislature to do so.<REF NAME="SFC2003"/> Speier then supported her children as a widowed single mother before marrying Barry Dennis, an investment consultant, in 2001.
Speier served as a congressional staffer for Congressman Leo Ryan. Speier was part of the November 1978 fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by the Reverend Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple followers, almost all of whom were American citizens who had moved to Jonestown with Jones in 1977 and 1978. Speier was one of only two members of the mission who were concerned enough about potential violence to make out a will before traveling to Jonestown. Several Peoples Temple members ambushed the investigative team and others boarding the plane to leave Jonestown on November 18. Five people died, including Congressman Ryan. While attempting to shield herself from rifle and shotgun fire behind small airplane wheels with the other members of the team, Speier was shot five times and waited 22 hours before help arrived. The murder of Congressman Ryan was the only assassination of a Congressman in the line of duty in the history of the United States. That same day, over 900 of the remaining members of the Peoples Temple died in Jonestown and Georgetown.
San Mateo County
Speier's political career began with an unsuccessful run to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Congressman Ryan (the seat she holds now). She lost the Democratic primary to another former Ryan staffer, G.W. "Joe" Holsinger, who went on to lose to the Republican candidate, San Mateo County Supervisor Bill Royer.
Speier won her first election in 1980, when she ran for the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and defeated a 20-year incumbent. At the time, she was the youngest person ever elected to the board. She was reelected in 1984, and was later selected as chairwoman.
California State Assembly
In 1986, midway through her second term on the Board of Supervisors, she ran for the California State Assembly from a district in northern San Mateo County. She won by a few hundred votes. She was reelected five more times, the last as the nominee of both the Democratic and Republican parties
California State Senate
California state term limits forced Speier to give up her Assembly seat in 1996, but in 1998 she was elected to the California State Senate. In 2002, she was elected to a second term with 78.2% of the vote. As a state senator, Speier was instrumental in securing $127 million funding for major service improvements to Caltrain, for which the commuter rail agency named a new locomotive (no. 925) for her. Speier also focused on representing consumer rights. Senator Speier was termed out of the California State Senate in 2006. Speier served as assistant president pro tempore of the California State Senate during her last term.
Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of California
In 2006, Speier ran in the Democratic primary for Lieutenant governor of California against insurance commissioner John Garamendi and state senator Liz Figueroa. At the June 6, 2006, elections, Speier was defeated by Garamendi in a close race. Garamendi received 42.9%, Speier received 39.3%, and Figueroa received the remaining 17.8% of the vote.
2008 presidential campaign
Speier endorsed Hillary Clinton's bid for president.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
On January 13, 2008, Speier announced she was running for the House seat being vacated by 14-term representative Tom Lantos, who announced on January 2, 2008, that he was not seeking re-election. Speier had spent much of 2007 building support to challenge Lantos in the Democratic primary.
On January 17, 2008, Lantos endorsed Speier as his successor. She also picked up endorsements from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Congressman Mike Thompson and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Lantos died February 11, 2008. Speier won a special primary election on April 8, 2008, to fill the remainder of his term, which ended in January 2009. She won an outright majority, avoiding a runoff that would have been held on June 3, coinciding with the regular primary election. Speier easily won the Democratic primary on June 3. The 12th is so heavily Democratic that this virtually assured her of a full term. She was elected to a full term in November with 75 percent of the vote.
On July 11, 2008, Speier introduced her first bill, the Gasoline Savings and Speed Limit Reduction Act, which would set a national speed limit of 60 mph in urban areas and 65 mph on less-populated stretches of highway.
Speier supports legal abortion. When she took the National Political Awareness Test in 2002, she answered, “Abortions should always be legally available.” The organization NARAL Pro-Choice America rated Jackie Speier as 100% on interest group ratings because she supported the choice of abortion in her voting for legislation. Also, in 2008 the Planned Parenthood Organization gave Speier a 100% on her actions regarding abortion. In a speech on the House floor on February 17, 2011, Speier said that she herself had undergone an emergency D&E procedure when complications developed in a wanted pregnancy.
Speier believes in a stricter view of gun control. According to her answers on the NPAT (National Political Awareness Test) she would like to require safety locks on all guns, and background checks on prospective buyers. As well as, ban certain guns except for use in hunting and strengthen state restrictions on buying and owning guns. To show that her legislation currently follows what she answered on the NPAT when the Gun Owners of America graded Jackie Speier they gave her an ‘F’ and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Jack Berman Advocacy Center gave her a 100%. Other organizations that gave Speier a low grade on loosening the restrictions on gun use include: the National Rifle Association, and Gun Owners of California.
Environment and energy
Speier is concerned for the protection of the environment and wants to preserve the health of this planet. She lists as evidence the decline of salmon on the West Coast as proof of global warming. Speier believes global warming poses a growing danger and negatively affects the environment. When she spoke to the House on the subject of global warming and the environment, she expressed a desire “to craft a bipartisan and commonsense energy plan that makes polluters pay, provides for middle class energy tax credits, and creates a new industry and lots of good, clean, green jobs.” Jackie Speier is working to improve energy legislation with the Clean Air Rebate Act of 2009, the Home Star Act and the American Clean Energy and Security Act.
Congressional committee assignments
- Committee on Homeland Security
- Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence (Ranking Member)
- Subcommittee on Transportation Security
- Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
- Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending
- Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs
- Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (Associate Member)
- This Is Not the Life I Ordered: 50 Ways to Keep Your Head Above Water When Life Keeps Dragging You Down, by Deborah Collins Stephens, Michealene Cristini Risley, Jackie Speier, and Jan Yanehiro, 2007, ISBN 978-1-57324-305-6
- Armenian American Political Action Committee
- Armenian National Committee of America
- List of Armenian-Americans
- Jackie Speier and Deborah Stephens Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders seminar mp3.
- Media, press
- Speier seeks national speed limit to save gas, July 11, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle
- Jackie Speier– moving on, moving up: Survivor of Jonestown ambush plans run for lieutenant governor, November 16, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle
- Reforming California's Prisons: An Interview With Jackie Speier, Mother Jones (magazine), July 7, 2005
- Commencement Speaker, San Francisco State University, 2006
- Senator Jackie Speier one of honored guests at banquet, Armenian National Committee of America Western Region, October 2006.
- This Is Not The Life I Ordered, preview of book, promotional video with Jackie Speier