Editorial: Vicki Veenker for District 24 Assembly seat


As one might expect for an open legislative seat, the race to replace termed-out state Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, has attracted a large field -- eight candidates, including Menlo Park City Councilman Peter Ohtaki.

In California's open primary system for state legislative offices, the names of all eight will appear on all ballots, and the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation will face off in the general election in November.

While the eight candidates would each bring unique qualities and experience to the job, we believe three Democratic attorneys -- Mike Kasperzak, Marc Berman and Vicki Veenker -- are the clear standouts.

Measured only by the depth and breadth of political and governmental experience, 14-year Mountain View City Council veteran Mike Kasperzak, 62, would be the hands-down choice. He has been a dedicated and hard-working council member and is respected at both the regional and state level. An attorney who specialized in mediation, his orientation is toward problem-solving and building consensus, and he has devoted most of his adult life to public service. While we haven't always agreed with him on local issues, such as his position favoring the VTA's express lane proposal for El Camino Real, his values and priorities have been sound.

Marc Berman, 36, finishing up his first four-year term on the Palo Alto City Council, has been active in politics since college and has built strong connections with the local Democratic party. Uninspired by corporate law practice, he shifted gears two years ago and has been the development director for the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, a resource and advocacy group seeking innovation in public education, especially in STEM fields.

Vicki Veenker, 53, is a respected Silicon Valley intellectual property attorney, mediator and Palo Alto resident who has never held public office. She has chosen to focus her public service on advocating for the legal rights of low-income and other vulnerable local residents through the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, where she has served on the board of directors for 13 years and as board president for one term. She also helped start the first professional women's soccer league, reflecting her commitment to expanding opportunities for women.

All three have similar traditional Democratic political views, although the nuances of their positions on policy issues will likely come into greater focus when only two are vying in the fall.

With the exception of high-speed rail, which Kasperzak still supports but Berman and Veenker do not, all three identify increases in education funding at all levels, universal preschool, transportation infrastructure spending, climate change, affordable housing and transportation as priorities. They each support the legalization of recreational marijuana use (assuming appropriate state regulations) and increased state funding of affordable housing through tax incentives and bond measures.

Kasperzak and Berman are classic local elected officials seeking higher office. There are many Bermans and Kasperzaks in Sacramento, appropriately so.

But we believe Veenker is the rare candidate whose lack of experience as an elected official is outweighed by a unique combination of a strong legal background in a highly technical field, well-oiled advocacy and negotiating skills and a passion for public policy and social justice.

Without the visibility or limelight of elective office she has devoted much time and energy to the Law Foundation, a legislative-reform advocacy group that provides pro bono legal services to individuals facing housing and other forms of discrimination, and obstacles to obtaining access to health care and mental health services.

We also strongly believe in the importance of electing more women to state and federal offices. Women currently make up just one-quarter of the state Legislature in California, barely above the national average and much lower than in Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Arizona. That's shameful in a state like California.

We look forward to the campaign narrowing to two candidates and a sharpened debate on the issues in the fall, and we recommend Vicki Veenker as a uniquely qualified candidate who would bring a fresh and important perspective to Sacramento.

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Like this comment
Posted by interested reader
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2016 at 1:05 pm

Goodness sakes alive!!!!! I kept reading and reading and I couldn't an endorsement for a Republican candidate. There must be some mistake?????

2 people like this
Posted by Why support the Cra-Cra?
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on May 17, 2016 at 1:30 pm

"I couldn't an (sic) endorsement for a Republican candidate"

Of course. Republicans are out of the mainstream in California. None have been elected to Congress in the Bay Area, nor will they in the foreseeable future. Similar landscapes occur for lesser offices.

Why would we vote for someone that would ultimately support the insane far right policies of Republican leaders like a Donald Trump or a Ted Cruz? Those guys are crazy -- example: a mere 6 weeks ago, Trump said he wants to jail women that had an abortion Web Link and Cruz refuses to allow abortion in case of rape, incest or the life of the mother Web Link How about assault weapons? Voting Rights? Marriage Equality? The list goes on and on.

Seriously, explain why I should vote for a local candidate that would offer support to crazy, far right national GOP policies. It starts here, on the ground, locally. Please do not insult us by claiming differently ("oh, this is JUST a local election, honey, nothing to concern your little pretty little head about!")

Now, if one of local Republican politicians were to flatly denounce the far right insanity, I would absolutely reconsider.

Goodness sakes alive! Do not support the far right cra-cra in any of it's forms - local or national!

Like this comment
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 17, 2016 at 2:13 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Has the editor been smoking the funny stuff??? I had a good laugh, but as longs as the Republican party has their heads in the toilette, more interested in what women can and can not do with their bodies, and vote no on everything, well I say NO and no way in hell will I vote for one.

Like this comment
Posted by Say what?
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2016 at 7:09 pm

I guess "Steve" (above) is saying he is only interested in women's bodies and would not vote for one. Unless "Steve" is a woman or political operative trying to trick us, he would appear to be an example of why we should elect more women to office.

2 people like this
Posted by simple
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 18, 2016 at 11:41 am

Veenker is a Democrat

4 people like this
Posted by Ohtaki Fan
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 19, 2016 at 12:42 pm

I am voting for Peter Ohtaki. He's a man of the people. He's smart, a consensus builder, examines all sides of an issue before making a decision, fiscally responsible, and has received the most votes in every Menlo Park City Council race he has ever run in.

[part removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by uphill road
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 20, 2016 at 12:48 am

Unfortunately, local Republicans are not making big contributions to Peter, and Republican bullet voting won't help him in this race. Getting the most votes may have other factors. In 2010, Peter was the only candidate to produce a hit piece, and leading up to 2014, the Chair of the Democratic Central Committee was promoting Peter on Twitter (Web Link).

Like this comment
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 22, 2016 at 12:27 pm


I completely agree with your selection of the 3 standouts. My vote goes to Mike Kasperzak since he's a high-speed rail supporter.

2 people like this
Posted by Hit Piece Historian
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 22, 2016 at 2:19 pm

I remember the 2010 MPCC race. I don't remember Peter Ohtaki putting out any hit pieces. I do remember that the odd Couple (Dave Bohannon and Gail Slocum) putting out numerous hit pieces on Chuck Bernstein- perhaps the most fiscally responsible person to ever run for MPCC.

2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 22, 2016 at 6:07 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Mike Kasperzak for HSR? Big NO vote from me.

Like this comment
Posted by Are you high?
a resident of another community
on May 22, 2016 at 11:18 pm

One would need to be high or have a vested financial interest to support a $200 billion high speed rail line that would race non-stop from SJ to SF and could easily be derailed by a single terrorist.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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