State Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) is seeking re-election and has thrown her name into contention to succeed Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Leon when he terms out as Senate Pro Tempore next November.
IECN sat down with Sen. Leyva to ask about her reasons for seeking the Senate Pro Tem position and her aspirations for improving the Inland region.
What motivated you to seek the Senate Pro Tempore position?
Leyva: To be very honest, I was approached by a couple of my colleagues in my first year as Senator. Candidly, working under Senator Kevin De Leon, I’ve learned a lot from him. I think it’s something I can do. I think it’s time for a woman–a working mom who knows the struggles and challenges that knows the struggles of balancing work and life.
Is it true that there has never been a Senate Pro Tempore from the Inland region before?
Leyva: Yes. There has never been a woman pro tem in the senate or anyone from the Inland Empire. If I get the position, it would be landmark.
What does a Pro Tempore exactly do in the State Senate?
Leyva: It can be an intimidating job. You’re responsible for keeping the caucus together–27 democratic senators–and making sure we’re working together as a team. We also have to make sure we protect those seats. It’s your job to protect the members and keep them elected, and try to pick up seats as well.
What kind of experience would you bring to this seat?
Leyva: What makes me a unique person for the job is that I am the first woman to have ever run UFCW local 1428 and the first woman to have run the California Labor Federation as their president. I think those jobs gave me a lot of skills and leaderships. I learned the importance of making sure everyone’s voices are heard and that I’m working with everyone.
You’ve mentioned that this state needs courageous leadership. Have there been instances where you have made bold decisions?
Leyva: I think the boldest decision I made was last year when I decided to support Eloise Reyes for the Assembly. I was the only legislator in either house to support her. For me it’s about the right person. She’s someone who is committed. She has the same values that I share and she works hard in the community like I do. I thought it was critically important to have a good partner if I’m going to be in the legislature. I took a lot of [criticism] for that. I was told that a lot of things would happen if I continued to support her. I continued to support her, and she won by 10 points. You know what wins races? Good, solid field work.
Do you have the support of the state leadership? Has Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon endorsed you?
Leyva: Kevin hasn’t endorsed anyone to take over for him. To be clear and upfront, this is all on his time. He is Pro Tem until Dec. 31, 2018. I’m not looking to unseat him any earlier. I’d just like a shot when his time is over.
If you were to be elected Senate Pro Tempore by your colleagues, how do you think your influence will be able to improve the Inland region?
Leyva: If I am lucky enough to be elected as the next Pro Tem by my colleagues, my job would be to help them represent their districts too. But I think there would be more of a spotlight on the Inland Empire. I would have a bigger platform to talk about some of our issues. Leadership matters, being courageous matters. Prior to my election and prior to Eloise’s election, others didn’t care as much about the issues. The Inland Empire now has two champions that care about the environment, good jobs, traffic, and warehouses. Unfortunately, the frustrating thing about my job is that things don’t change overnight. But things are changing in the Inland Empire. We have leadership that is willing to stand up and say, “No, we need our fair share here.”