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Menlo Park's Josh Becker announces 2020 state Senate run

 

As voters start to receive their ballots for the November election, one Menlo Park man is looking two years ahead to a state Senate bid.

Formerly a venture capitalist and CEO of Lex Machina, philanthropist Josh Becker announced recently via Facebook that he plans to run for the California Senate in 2020.

Pre-empting what could be a rush to fill California's District 13 seat when current state Sen. Jerry Hill terms out, Becker acknowledged, "This is obviously very early."

But, he noted, 2020 will be California's first year with an earlier primary, set in March, so he expects the next election cycle to start sooner than people expect.

District 13 runs from South San Francisco to Sunnyvale, and also includes the Coastside.

Like many people who run for office, Becker starts his explanation for why he plans to run by saying, "I believe I can make a difference."

He said his priorities are to improve transportation infrastructure, build more housing, expand early childhood education opportunities, and provide health insurance to everyone. Criminal justice reform and immigration are key topics for him too, but he noted he intends to roll out more specific plans and policy proposals.

In his Facebook announcement, Becker presents himself as a Democrat with a strong anti-Trump tone: "As Californians, we will repudiate and turn back the Trump agenda. We do so by defending the coast, reducing global warming, protecting immigrants who power our economy, and defending courageous women who come forward to assert their dignity," he wrote.

He started what he calls the "Resistance Fund" to raise money for nonprofits and candidates whose work counters "Donald Trump and his agenda."

Paraphrasing a President Bill Clinton quote, he said he believes, "There's nothing wrong with California that can't be fixed with what's right in California."

Becker has run for public office before: In 2010, he ran for state Assembly, losing to Rich Gordon. In 2016, he launched a campaign to run for state Assembly again, but withdrew from the race due to a family medical emergency. He has yet to serve an elective office.

In his 2010 campaign, he received a number of campaign contributions from tech and venture capital companies. Before he withdrew from the race in 2016, he attended a forum where he expressed skepticism of high-speed rail and said he didn't believe its existing business model is viable.

On the transportation front, he said he supports a better-integrated transit fare system, and strongly supports early plans to revitalize the Dumbarton rail corridor. The traffic that plagues the Dumbarton Bridge and the fact that the cars release emissions into the community of East Palo Alto, he said, is a "fundamental equity question as well as a Bay Area competitiveness issue."

He says he's passionate about the same issues that spurred him to run for the state Assembly, but that his state Senate bid partly has to do with where the open seat is. He's running for a state office, according to his post, because "I've long thought the California Legislature is a crucial leverage point to create meaningful and transformative social change. It's clear now that the CA Legislature is essential for our country to lead on climate, immigration policy, gun control, and education."

While his background may appear eclectic, he said that the thread that ties his professional and civic histories together is a commitment to innovation in public policy.

He has worked as press secretary for a congresswoman and founded the Full Circle Fund 18 years ago. He describes that fund as a "convener, connector and catalyst" to improve the Bay Area. More specifically, he said, it provides nonprofits that work in education, economic opportunity, health and the environment with grants and help for staff to make them more effective. He's now back working at the fund.

In the public sector, Becker helped launch the University of California at Merced as a founding trustee, and is currently on the university foundation's board of trustees. Demographically speaking, he said, the university is now more reflective of the future of California than others in the UC system, with 53 percent of the university's students identified as Latino.

Becker is also a member of Gov. Jerry Brown's California Workforce Development Board, and a member of the San Mateo County Childcare Partnership Council.

One idea he would pursue if elected, he said, is for the state to dedicate 5 percent of its budget to initiatives for children younger than 5. (Right now that funding is at about 2.5 percent, he said.)

In the private sector, he worked as CEO of Lex Machina and as a venture capitalist at a "social impact fund" that supported projects in education and in energy. Lex Machina was spun out of a public interest project with Stanford Law School, he said. He holds a bachelor's degree from Williams College, an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a law degree from Stanford Law School, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He reports that some of his early endorsements include: San Mateo County supervisors Warren Slocum and Dave Canepa, Congressman Ro Khanna, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Anne Campbell, East Palo Alto Councilman Larry Moody, former Sunnyvale Mayor Julia Miller, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District board member and former Palo Alto mayor Yoriko Kishimoto, Menlo Park Councilman Ray Mueller, Santa Clara Valley Water District board member Gary Kremen, and Ravenswood City School District board President Ana Maria Pulido.

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