Capitol Alert

Q&A: Richard Pan talks about Senate race, affirmative action

Assemblyman Richard Pan is facing fellow Sacramento Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson this fall in the state Senate race to replace Senate leader Darrell Steinberg. With the legislative session in its final days and the Nov. 4 election looming, Pan sat down Monday with The Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Bureau.

You launched your campaign on Saturday?

Yes. We’re very thrilled to have Mayor Kevin Johnson there. We had over 100 volunteers. It was very exciting. People are going out; we’re very excited about the broad base of support and the diversity of people who are supporting me.

With a top-two primary, you are one of two Democrats running for this Senate seat. If I’m a Republican in your district, how do you convince me that you’re the best choice?

It’s not about party. It’s about the work we have done and the work we will do in the future. We talked about employment and creating jobs. I’m a small business owner; I know what it’s like to have to create jobs and meet payroll twice a month. I’m proud to be with the mayor in trying to figure out how we foster economic development – not just the arena, but the opportunity to grow our downtown core here in Sacramento and in other parts of the district as well.

Do you support extending Affordable Care Act coverage to people who are undocumented?

Yes. I supported (Sen.) Ricardo Lara’s bill. I believe that it’s really to the benefit of all of us when everyone can get access to health care. Because even … before the Affordable Care Act, every person who was insured was basically paying about $1,000 in health care premiums to subsidize care for the people who don’t have health insurance. Also, if we talk about communicable diseases – we want to be sure that someone who has a communicable disease is able to get care, that they’re not delaying care so that other people do not get infected.

Affirmative action turned out to be a pretty divisive issue this year. Some Asian American constituents felt that trying to reinstate that policy, there was a backlash. Some Asian American lawmakers felt they were targeted for opposing the effort to overturn it. How did that issue turn out the way it did? Was it mismanaged?

I think you see the events unfolding in Ferguson. You look at the data. People talk about this post-racial era, but race is still a major issue in our society, and we need to have conversations about race. Even in the API (Asian-Pacific Islander) community, when you look at race, some people would point and say certain API groups seem to do really well. But you still do see disparities that occur.

So if the Latino Caucus brings forward in the Senate a bill to reinstate affirmative action, how would you vote?

I’ve always been in favor of affirmative action. So I would support affirmative action, yes.

We’ve just had last week the fourth senator run into some pretty serious trouble with the law. One of those four senators is Rod Wright, who was prosecuted and found guilty for some questions about his domicile, similar to the questions you faced although you were not prosecuted. Does California need to change its laws around domicile and residency for legislative candidates?

First of all, people have looked into my situation, and there is no “there” there.

Can you say who did? Did the DA’s office, the secretary of state?

The DA and secretary of state, I believe.

Did they contact you?

They did not contact me directly.

Did they contact your campaign?

They didn’t contact me directly.

Staff members, did they contact staff members?

They didn’t contact me, so I think there is no “there” there. They’ve looked at it, there is no “there” there.

So are California’s laws appropriate and clear on this issue, or do you think there needs to be a change?

I think there is probably some lack of clarity that perhaps is there. I think some people have commented on that.

And your opinion?

Let’s put it this way. In terms of my circumstances, we talked to legal counsel and before and that’s why when people looked at the situation, there was no “there” there.