By Roger Marxen
CSEA Retirees, Inc. president
When Gov.-elect Jerry Brown told me at a recent fundraiser that he intended to defend the defined benefit pension system, I was reassured that CSEA Retirees had made the right decision to support Brown in the November election.
It has been 27 years since he last sat in the governor’s seat, and he will take the helm again in January when he is sworn in.
I am hopeful that the depth of experience he has gained away from the Capitol -- as attorney general and mayor of Oakland -- will make his third term as governor his best.
I was gratified with an answer he gave during a campaign debate with opponent Meg Whitman. Asked whether he would again run for other offices while holding the governor’s position, he answered simply, “I’m too old.”
As the audience chuckled at his trademark frankness, Brown assured the crowd that he has his hands full in California. He is married now to Anne Gust, who is also a close advisor, and he says he’s committed to helping us turn around this state, which faces double-digit unemployment and double-digit budget deficits in the coming year.
At 72 – the oldest California governor to be elected – I trust he knows the importance of a secure pension. He receives a state pension like we do, so that’s a good starting point for a future conversation.
In my congratulatory letter to him, I welcomed the opportunity to meet with him again soon to discuss pensions, health care and other priorities for our 31,000 members.
MOST RETIREE-ENDORSED CANDIDATES WIN
State retirees also played key parts in many of the legislative and statewide races that CSEA Retirees participated in.
Dick Mesa, chair of the CSEA Retirees Political Action Committee, went so far as to orchestrate the mailing of letters from me in areas where tight races involved candidates we endorsed in the state Senate and Assembly.
Mesa steered the strategies and logistics of our campaign involvement, sometimes working against the clock to get out postcards and literature before voters received their absentee ballots arrived in the mail.
Four of the five statewide officers we endorsed, including Brown, won their races.
Fourteen of the 15 candidates CSEA Retirees endorsed in Senate races emerged victorious.
In the Assembly, 54 of the 57 candidates we endorsed succeeded.
In elections for Board of Equalization seats, two of three candidates endorsed by CSEA Retirees prevailed.
Retirees took positions on four ballot measures and two of them garnered results matching our recommendations.
Getting our name out there, meeting the candidates and the many people involved in their campaigns are some of the most effective ways to increase our visibility and political clout.
Several retiree members who hadn’t been politically involved before learned how easy and gratifying it can be to participate in campaigns they believe in. Minor mistakes were made here and there, but they only showed us how to improve our political operations in the next election.
Now, we need to reacquaint ourselves with those candidates we endorsed and who won. But we also need to introduce ourselves to the winners in the races that we didn’t endorse or where we took no position.
Unless we tell them who we are and what we stand for, they may not understand how to vote on crucial issues of importance to us.
Even with our proud election victories, retirees need to understand that the political work ahead of us remains daunting.
Our critics are still out there thinking up new ways to diminish the pensions we have earned and deserve.
That’s why our political involvement must continue between statewide elections and ballot propositions. We also have an important election coming up on the CalPERS Board of Administration and we will soon be reaching out to retirees to send in their mail ballots.
To take even more pride in our future victories, make sure that you belong to our CSEA Retirees Political Action Committee (PAC). We all need to do our part to support those who support us. Call (888) 808-7197.