OP-ED: Leadership in the Assembly by Sue Lempert SMDJ

CA State Assemblyman Kevin Mullin

CA State Assemblyman Kevin Mullin

San Mateo Daily Journal has a very informative & interesting Op-Ed in today’s paper  regarding State Assemblymember Kevin Mullin written by Sue Lempert. It was so good we are sharing her perspective here.

Kevin Mullin, San Mateo County’s brand new assemblyman, is a lucky man. He was the only Democrat not to face an opponent in the primary. Anyone who thought of challenging him thought better of it and ended up supporting him. He arrived in Sacramento just as voters approved a change in term limits. Instead of a limit of six years in the Assembly, he could now serve 16 if he decided to forgo a race for the state Senate. And he immediately was tapped for a leadership position, third in line to the Speaker.

But it isn’t just luck. As the Yale football coach once said, a good team makes its breaks. Mullin arrived in Sacramento as probably the most seasoned freshman, wise to the ways of the state Capitol. He is the son of former assemblyman Gene Mullin and managed his father’s campaigns. Mullin also worked for former assemblyman Johann Klehs and former assemblywoman Jackie Speier, now congresswoman. Mullin was not overwhelmed as a newcomer. He had a pretty good idea of what to expect.

As assistant speaker pro tem, Mullin gets to preside over the Assembly if Speaker John Perez is absent or if Speaker pro tem Nora Campos, D-San Jose, is unavailable. But he’s also part of the leadership team. He has important committee assignments including budget, local government, revenue and taxation. He is already a major player since he first took office in December.


Is there any chance Mullin could end up as speaker? Since Willie Brown held the post from December 1980-June 1995, most of the speakers of the Assembly have been Latino men from Southern California. They included Cruz Bustamante (’96-’98); Antonio Villaraigosa (’98-2000); Fabian Nunez (2004-07); John Perez (2010-present.) Meanwhile, the presidents pro tem of the state Senate have been white men from Northern California — Bill Lockyer (East Bay), John Burton (San Francisco), Don Perata (East Bay) and Darrell Steinberg (Sacramento). Historically, the odds aren’t good. But things could change now that new term limits have allowed officials to stay in one legislative house longer. Whatever happens, Mullin will certainly be in the running. The key is who will be the new speaker when John Perez is termed out and who will follow Steinberg in the state Senate (The new limits only apply to the newly elected members of the Legislature).


As a former mayor and councilman in South San Francisco, Mullin is aware of how the loss of redevelopment funds is hurting cities. He hopes to do something to ease the pain. He’s introduced a bill to lower taxes for in-state manufacturing and to allow about-to-become-18-year-olds to vote in the primary. But not everything is a bed of roses. He is getting pushback on his bill to make public pension systems more competitive when they’re buying and selling real estate. Opponents object to limiting public disclosure. There will be other legislation he will champion. But right now, Mullin’s main focus is on leadership.

His district office at 1528 El Camino Real in San Mateo is the former office of both Jerry Hill and dad Gene Mullin when they were in the Assembly. Now state Sen. Jerry Hill is just down the hall. Mullin has found an apartment in Sacramento across the street from the Capitol. He spends Monday-Wednesday nights there and then comes home to wife Jessica who has her own busy career as Peninsula director of the League of California Cities.


While the county is pursuing a whistleblower program, Burlingame Councilwoman Terry Nagel is following up on concerns about local government embezzlement presented at a Council of Cities meeting she organized in October. Panelists Joan Cassman of Hansen Bridgett, San Mateo County Controller Bob Adler and San Mateo County Treasurer/Tax Collector Sandie Arnott have complied a list of financial safeguard questions for board members and councilmembers to ask. These include: Do any employees handle cash, stamps or checks? How many employees have credit cards? What protections are in place to protect against their misuse? What background checks are required before people are hired to supervise or manage finances or investments? Are all employees required to get anti-fraud training? Are budgets compared on a regular basis to actual results to detect significant variances? The days of pilfering library fines, using credit cards for personal pleasure or falsifying contracts may be dwindling. Embezzlers, beware!


A special report in a recent edition of Time magazine, “Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us” is a must read. The fact-packed article may surprise you. Medicare is not the problem, but perhaps the cure. And nonprofit hospitals are nonprofit in name only.

Sue Lempert is the former mayor of San Mateo. Her column runs every Monday. She can be reached at sue@smdailyjournal.com.


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Peggy Deras
Peggy Deras
8 years ago

Provocative. Lempert really knows Mullin. I think his ambitions lie beyond the CA Assembly myself. He’s a man in a hurry. Time will tell.