All posts by John Garamendi

The Most Important Vote I Have Ever Cast

I have had one of those weeks that you remember for the rest of your life. On Tuesday, I won a congressional election. On Thursday, I was sworn in by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and got to cast the first vote of my congressional career: a resolution honoring female veterans and military personnel. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to cast the most important vote of my 34 years in public service.

The health care reform bill that cleared the House yesterday, if approved by the Senate, will transform this country’s health care delivery system. Denial of treatment for pre-existing conditions will be a thing of the past. None of us will have to worry that if we fail to report the chicken pox, we’ll be denied treatment from our insurers for cancer. Out-of-pocket expenses will be capped and subsidies and tax breaks will be made available to consumers and small businesses. This combined with the reduction in administrative overhead costs, the savings associated with an emphasis on preventative medicine, and other measures will provide us as individual consumers and as a nation with substantial long term cost savings. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the health care reform bill will cut the deficit by over $30 billion over the next decade and will continue to create a surplus over the next 20 years.

Yesterday’s plan also includes a public option that, while not as expansive I would have liked, is still very worthy of support. And as most of you are well aware, we had an unfortunate setback for women’s health in yesterday’s voting. But on the whole, this is change we can believe in.

When I was California’s Insurance Commissioner, my staff fielded thousands of calls from California residents who fell victim to the insurance industry shenanigans. When large fires hit San Diego, Oakland, and elsewhere, hundreds of consumers were victimized a second time by their insurance companies. My capable staff was successful at coming to a consumer-friendly resolution for almost all cases, but at times, I had to personally ring up high ranking industry executives to use all forms of persuasion available to my office to make sure my constituents were treated fairly.

When one’s business model depends on collecting monthly payments from people in the hope that you’ll never have to provide them with the services they are paying you for, it’s disappointing but not shocking that the insurance industry looks for loopholes to maximize its profits.

More over the flip…

It is from this motivation that we get babies denied health insurance because they’re “too fat” and women kicked off their insurance after requesting payment for emergency gallbladder surgery because their husbands failed to report high cholesterol. That’s why government intervention is sometimes necessary, to make sure the invisible hand of the market doesn’t become a closed fist.

In my run for Congress, I told anyone who asked that I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to return to Washington, DC to cast one of my first votes for comprehensive health care reform that includes the public option.

This week, I’m traveling to Livermore for my first town hall as a Congressman, and I will have four more through the month of December (at least one will be virtual, stay tuned). Given the rise in the unemployed and uninsured in my district, I expect many grateful supporters, but I also expect some naysayers. I am prepared to defend my vote, because I know it is best for my constituents and will help save lives. I also know most of my constituents have my back. After all, most of us know a friend or family member who has been on the wrong end of insurance industry malfeasance. Listen to my floor speech here to hear about what one friend of mine is going through.  

We still have a big fight ahead of us in the Senate, and I encourage all of you to call your Senators and demand they pass a good comprehensive health care reform bill that includes the public option. With helpful endorsements from the AARP and American Medical Association, and with two different congressional districts affirming their support for comprehensive health care reform in elections last week, momentum is on our side.

So thanks again for all you’ve done to make this bill a reality; believe me, it’s noticed. After the health care debate, we will move on to other big issues facing the nation: transportation, job creation, No Child Left Behind, troop placements, and the list goes on. If we pass comprehensive health care reform this year, it will mark the end of an important chapter in our nation’s history: the 40+ years between the passage of Medicare and the subsequent years we failed to live up to our country’s promise, letting millions of Americans live and die without adequate coverage. It will also mark the beginning of a new chapter: the years it will take us to lower the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 0. I’m hopeful we can beat four decades.

Congressman John Garamendi represents Northern California’s 10th Congressional District, which includes portions of Contra Costa, Solano, Alameda, and Sacramento counties. Prior to his election to Congress on November 3rd, 2009, Garamendi served as California’s Lieutenant Governor, where he fought to keep college affordable for students, developed innovative strategies to create green jobs, and kept California’s coastline pristine by preventing oil companies from drilling off California’s coast. With more than three decades of public service experience, Garamendi has been an Insurance Commissioner, Senate Majority Leader, Deputy Interior Secretary under President Bill Clinton, University of California Regent, California State University Trustee, and Peace Corps volunteer. To learn more, please follow Garamendi on Facebook and Twitter.

CA-10: Sworn in and Looking forward to Voting on Health Care Reform

(I meant to promote this yesterday, but still, go get ’em Congressman! – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

On Tuesday, communities across America voted in hundreds of local and state elections. In Northern California’s 10th Congressional District, voters saw fit to send me to Congress. To all my supporters who voted, volunteered, donated, and spread the good word about our campaign, you have my sincere gratitude.

Today I was sworn in by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to represent the people of the 10th Congressional District (video here, about 1:35:00 in). It is an honor to serve my constituents and my country at such an important moment in U.S. history.

When we started our campaign for Congress this spring, we knew we would run a forward-thinking campaign with unwavering support for comprehensive health care reform that includes the public option. With a team of hundreds of volunteers and the support of more than 66,000 voters, we won our special election with a double digit lead. I look forward to voting for a House health care bill worthy of support as early as this Saturday – a bill that includes a robust public option, ends the denial of coverage for so-called pre-existing conditions, creates cost-savings, and protects Medicare for our seniors.

More over the flip…

It was a pleasant surprise to browse the stories about Tuesday’s elections and find so many pieces written about my health care position and record. A sample includes:

Keith Olbermann and Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC’s Countdown

Olbermann: “The Democratic candidate is John Garamendi. … He supports the public option, also single payer, he’s Medicare for All from the start, he supports an exit strategy in Afghanistan right now. In the last polling, he was up by 10. Two questions: if he wins by anywhere near ten, is that not a national story? And why hasn’t this race already been a national story if New York 23 has been one?”

O’Donnell: “You have kind of a super overqualified candidate for a first time Congressional race. But yes, he did not just look to the particulars of that district the way Tauscher did, the woman that just left that seat. He went in there and just said, ‘I’m going to run basically as a loyalist of Nancy Pelosi’ who is nearby in San Francisco, but this is suburban, this is different from San Francisco. And so he just went in there and said ‘I’m going to run.’ It reminded me very much of the way Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to run up state, used to run up in the 23rd district. He would go up there as a New York City liberal, be honest about it, and he would get their vote not because of agreement, but because they thought, ‘This guy has the experience and the integrity.’ And that’s how John Garamendi is going to win this.”

Get This Guy a Committee Assignment by Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic

“Most of you know John Garamendi (if you know him at all) as the former California state official who won a special election for Ellen Tauscher’s old seat in Congress. But those of us in the business of health wonkery know him as one of our own. In the early 1990s, he developed the “Garamendi plan” for California, which later became a model for the Clinton health care plan of 1993-94.”

Tale of Two Special Elections: One Shifts Right, The Other Left by John Nichols at The Nation

“An old-school progressive with an activist bent, Garamendi has been portrayed by some as being too liberal for the suburban district. But Garamendi has not pulled his punches; he has based his populist campaign on his enthusiasm for health care reform and promised to fight for a robust public option in any federal reform measure. And the former California insurance commissioner says he wants to go to Washington to take on the big banks and insurers.”

Congress gets another voice on health-care reform by Ezra Klein at The Washington Post

“Garamendi has a long history in health-care reform. In the early ’90s, he was serving as California’s Insurance Commissioner. Working alongside Walter Zelman and, later, Paul Starr, he developed the framework that would later become Clinton’s health-care plan – a triumph of health-care policy, if not politics. … In other words, Pelosi got more than another health-care vote out of Tuesday’s election. She got another health-care wonk.”

Health Care and the Elections by Matthew Yglesias at Think Progress

“The governor of New Jersey doesn’t have a vote on health care or energy or financial regulation or the budget or anything else. The Representative from the 10th District of California does, and so does the Representative from the 23rd District of New York. One can debate the larger meaning of it all as much as one cares to, but the situation is what it is.”

Garamendi puts his brand on politics by Dave Newhouse in The Contra Costa Times

“Meet your new 10th Congressional District representative – Democrat, cowboy, outdoorsman, environmentalist, health care advocate, insurance industry jouster, Peace Corps volunteer, and former UC Berkeley football and wrestling standout. Garamendi, 64, is a man of the land and a man of the people – the two main characteristics of his 35 years of public service.”

Yesterday’s Overwhelming Historic Republican Victory Makes Democratic Health Care Reform Just A Bit Easier by Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo

“That creates some simple arithmetic. Yesterday, Democrats had 256 voting members in the House. By week’s end, they’ll have 258. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could afford to lose no more than 38 Democratic votes on a landmark health care reform bill. Next week, after Owens and Garamendi are sworn in, she can lose up to 40. For legislation this historic and far-reaching, she’ll need every vote she can get–and both seem likely to support reform.”

New congressman John Garamendi joins health care debate by Kitty Felde at 89.3 KPCC

“Garamendi will likely be sworn in on Thursday – just in time to cast his first vote in the House on health care. Democrats need every vote they can get to pass the measure. … Garamendi knows something about both insurance and negotiating with other lawmakers – he served two terms as California’s first elected insurance commissioner and 16 years in the state legislature.”

Congratulations, Congressman Garamendi! by Anthony Wright at Health Access California

“Garamendi, Lt. Governor for one more day until he takes his seat, is a advocate for consumers and a verified health policy wonk, as a former Insurance Commissioner who was very active and influential in the health reform debates in the early 1990s. Last year, he helped us launch the Health Care for America Now campaign in Los Angeles in July 2008, and became then the first elected politician nationally to sign the HCAN Statement of Principles. It is totally appropriate that his first act in Congress will likely to be to vote for the historic health reform package.”

The Impact on Health Care by Steven Benen at Washington Monthly’s Political Animal

“In fact, by winning both of yesterday’s congressional elections, Democrats have not only managed to expand their House majority, they’ve also moved the caucus ever so slightly to the left. Bill Owens is a moderate, but he’s more liberal than the Republican he’s replacing, John McHugh, and he’s endorsed a progressive approach to health care reform. Likewise, Garamendi is more liberal than Tauscher was, and he, too, favors a progressive approach to health care reform. In this environment, every vote counts, and Democrats just picked up two more that are likely to prove helpful.”

California Wins House Seat, Adds Another Vote for Health Care Reform at California Healthline

“During his campaign, Garamendi said he will vote with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on health care reform legislation. He also told supporters that he plans to fly to Washington, D.C., this week for his swearing-in ceremony (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/4). Garamendi said, “I may very well be there this weekend to provide a critical vote on health care. I would be very happy to make that ‘yes’ vote my first vote in Congress” (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/4).”

How the State Elections Could Strengthen Health Care Reform by Max Fisher at The Atlantic Wire

“With Harry Reid predicting that reform is unlikely to receive a final vote until next year, new Democratic Reps Bill Owens and John Garamendi will be present to vote on health care. They may not be the deciding factors on reform, but could their votes help Democrats pass a more ambitious bill?”

2 More Votes For a Public Option In the House by Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left

“That’s two more votes for a public option. That’s the biggest story of the night.”

I’ve seen our side lose too many high stakes health care battles over the years, and with President Obama in the White House supportive of real health care reform, we cannot let this opportunity slip through our fingers.

I’m prepared to do what is necessary to pass health care reform, and I am ecstatic that I am able to enter Congress perhaps only two days before my colleagues and I put into place the most significant improvement in health care delivery since Medicare.

If we succeed, tens of millions of Americans will soon no longer be one broken leg or infection away from bankruptcy or worse. What was once hope for care can become health care, with leadership from President Obama and members of Congress.

It’s a new day in America. I look forward to working with you to solve the many problems we’ve inherited, to progress our nation forward and to make our beloved country and my beloved district and state places where quality health care is available to all. Now let’s get to work.

Congressman John Garamendi represents Northern California’s 10th Congressional District, which includes portions of Contra Costa, Solano, Alameda, and Sacramento counties. Prior to his election to Congress on November 3rd, 2009, Garamendi served as California’s Lieutenant Governor, where he fought to keep college affordable for students, developed innovative strategies to create green jobs, and kept California’s coastline pristine by preventing oil companies from drilling off California’s coast. With more than three decades of public service experience, Garamendi has been an Insurance Commissioner, Senate Majority Leader, Deputy Interior Secretary under President Bill Clinton, University of California Regent, California State University Trustee, and Peace Corps volunteer. To learn more, please follow Garamendi on Facebook and Twitter.

CA-10: Taking Nothing for Granted

(Good Luck to Mr. Garamendi. While it’s not a huge election day on Tuesday, there are still some interesting items. You can find my SF election guide here and Dante’s Election News Roundup here. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

I have a request to our friends in the netroots: remind anyone you know who lives in the 10th Congressional District, a Northern California district that includes portions of Contra Costa, Solano, Alameda, and Sacramento counties, to vote on Tuesday, November 3rd.

In the last 5 days of this campaign, our aggressive phone banking and door knocking campaign will ramp up, but we need more volunteers this weekend and on Election Day. Please check out our Get Out the Vote page to see how you can help. Also, please consider devoting a few hours to remote phone banking.

Our conservative Republican opponent’s Tea Party base is hungry for an upset.

The stakes are over the flip…

But the Contra Costa Times, the largest circulation newspaper within the 10th Congressional District, made the stakes in this election very clear:

Voters will easily be able to discern the differences between Garamendi and Harmer, who disagree considerably on the major issues facing the nation and district.

Garamendi supports single-payer health insurance. Harmer does not.

Harmer opposed the federal stimulus package. Garamendi supported it.

Garamendi wants a strong cap-and-trade system to help cut greenhouse gas emissions. Harmer calls it an onerous burden on consumers.

Garamendi supports the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to legally marry. Harmer has not taken strong positions on either.

We take nothing for granted in this race and we need your help in the final days of the campaign. In a special election with hard to predict turnout, we must mobilize our supporters and with your help, we can do just that.

Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi is the Democratic nominee for Congress in Northern California’s 10th Congressional District. A public servant for more than three decades, Garamendi has served as a Peace Corps volunteer, state legislator, State Insurance Commissioner, and Deputy Interior Secretary under President Bill Clinton. You can follow Garamendi on Facebook, Twitter, and at

CA-10: President Obama: “Everybody has got to go out there and work for John”

I’ve had many incredible experiences during my 34 years in public service, but never have I been blessed to receive the support of two presidents in just over a week – until now. On Thursday, at a Bay Area event, I received President Barack Obama’s support for the November 3rd 10th Congressional District special election. This followed our great endorsement rally with President Bill Clinton last week.

At President Obama’s San Francisco event last night, the President introduced Garamendi, saying: “Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, who is running for the California 10 [in the] upcoming election – everybody has got to go out there and work for John.”

The President went on to say “The reason you’re here tonight, the reason I’m here tonight is because we know that our work isn’t done. We still have enormous challenges in this country. There are far too many people out there who are really going through a tough time – out of work, seeing their hours trimmed, their wages cut. Americans who are subject to the whims of health insurance companies or who can’t afford quality health insurance in the first place. Too many Americans who are seeing the American Dream slip further and further and further out of reach. … Now is the time to secure our future.”

More over the flip…

I am deeply honored to have the support of President Barack Obama. I share the President’s positive, progressive vision for our nation and look forward to the opportunity to actively represent the people of the 10th Congressional District in Congress.

President Obama has pledged to change our country for the better, but he needs strong allies in Congress who are ready, willing and able to fight for our shared values. As I told President Obama – Mr. President, you can count on me from day one to stand with you in the battles that lie ahead to heal our nation.  

But while I’m prepared to be a reliable vote for our shared progressive values, I face a Republican opponent who has a fundamentally different vision for America. Many pundits have already begun framing our race as a referendum on the policies and values of President Obama and Congressional Democrats. They want to create a narrative that says our special election will reveal where the voting public stands on the jobs-creating federal stimulus package, full funding for public education, and comprehensive health care reform with a robust public option. As you may know, I am unapologetically in favor of all three. My opponent takes an opposing point of view, supporting the Tea Party agenda instead.

I say let the prognosticators make our election about the critical issues that face our nation, because I know that with the support of President Obama, President Clinton, and committed progressive activists like you, we’re going to win this election.

Election Day is less three than weeks away, and thousands of vote-by-mail ballots are being cast weekly. If we make sure every voter in the district hears our message and knows where we stand on the critical issues, we win. If we become complacent, if we let national Republicans shape the dialogue in our election, if we permit the politics of fear to dominate the politics of hope, we risk facing the unthinkable on Election Day.

Please visit to see where I stand on the issues that matter to you. If you like what you see, I’d love to have your support. Call 925-979-1050, and we can set you up for remote phone banking. Most importantly, if you live in CA-10, if you have friends or family in CA-10, please make sure they understand how critically important it is to vote in this election. Presidents Obama and Clinton are powerful allies, but nothing is as powerful as the personal contact our supporters have with their neighbors.

California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi was a two term State Insurance Commissioner and a former State Senate Majority Leader. His legislation expanded clinic access to millions of Californians, created quality green collar jobs through alternative energy tax credits, and brought billions of dollars to transportation, infrastructure, and university research. A special general election will be held on November 3rd.

CA-10: President Clinton Tells Bay Area Crowd: “Send Garamendi to Congress”

Last Tuesday, I had one of those days we treasure for life. I had the honor of receiving a public endorsement from President Bill Clinton at a rally with hundreds of enthusiastic Bay Area supporters at the Basque Cultural Center in South San Francisco.

The crowd was enthusiastic attentive, and the issues discussed far ranging – from solving the healthcare crisis to stabilizing our economy to slowing the ravages of climate change to creating high quality, middle-class jobs.

It’s impossible to upstage the former President, and I won’t try. Below are excerpts of his wonderful speech. CBS 5 has partial video.  


“I was thinking today as I was driving down here of so many things of the extent to which my life has been intertwined for the last 18 years with the Garamendi family.

“You heard John say that he and Patti served with great distinction. He was the Deputy Secretary of the Interior where he worked on everything from climate change to resolving water disputes in California, and he did a superb job of everything. And Patti at the Peace Corps, where we began what has now been an unbroken strain of bringing back the Peace Corps. Bringing more people back into it, going into more countries. …

“This world has been pretty good to us. But on the other hand, California has the 4th highest unemployment rate in the country; Compton was ground zero of the earthquake of home mortgage foreclosures even before the failure of Lehman Brothers and the financial collapse. On September 15th, 2008, the day that Lehman Brothers collapsed, before that happened, already two-thirds of the American people were actually worse off than the day I left office. Little known fact. The median income after inflation was $2000 lower on September 15, 2008, than the day I left the presidency. And health costs after inflation had doubled. College costs after inflation have gone up 75 percent. … We can’t go on for eight more years where nobody gets a raise.” …

More over the flip…

“I’m here because I love John …  I’m here for him because I think he’s good on the issues that will determine the future of California and the future of America. …

“If I didn’t know John Garamendi, but I know what I knew about America. And I was living up here thinking about how to bring Northern California back, and bring the state back, and bring the country back, and what we’re supposed to do for our world, I’d be at this rally to support him. And I’m glad you’re here, and you need to talk about it. …

“We’re not coming back until we make up our mind that we’re going to stop spotting our competitors. John alluded to this. You go look at the numbers. If we’re right now at about 17 percent of gross domestic product on health care, and ranked 36th in health outcomes – Columbia is 22nd. They spend five percent of their income on health care. So we’re spending 17 percent on health care, give or take. No one is else is more than 11.5 percent … Every other wealthy country. …

“We are spotting every American competitor $900 billion a year. That is, we are spending $900 billion a year on health care we would not be spending if we had any other system. … We cannot afford to spot our competitors $900 billion a year, when we don’t even insure everybody. We can’t tell the people who do have insurance their situation is secure. And we’re not delivering better results. …

“It’s almost as if a lot of these people who went to the town hall meetings and berated our Congressmen are saying, “Here’s what we want you to do. We want you to impose on all of us a $900 billion tax. And then we would like you – when we pay – we want you to convert it all to cash, and wheelbarrow it out to the mall on Washington DC, and show it to all of us on national television, so we can see what $900 billion looks like. Then put kerosene on it and burn it, because we ain’t getting nothin’ for it.” …

“I don’t understand how people can say the worst thing we can do is something and the best thing we can do is nothing. This is killing our country, folks. I know something about economics. I hope I have a little bit of economic credibility with you. So never mind if your heart doesn’t ache for the people who don’t have insurance. Never mind if you’re not worried sick that your neighbor’s whole family could lose their insurance next week. Never mind all that. Just be cold blooded about it. This is the dumbest economic policy the United State could pursue, and if you want to change it, send John Garamendi to Congress,” President Bill Clinton said.

# # #

Once again, I would like to thank President Clinton for his heartfelt endorsement. I am proud to call the former President a friend and mentor. Thank you also to all the volunteers and staff who helped put on this amazing event. Our campaign will be successful because supporters like you took nothing for granted. Our field operation is in full swing, and with voters already receiving their vote-by-mail ballots, we are in a critical moment of our campaign. Thousands of your friends and neighbors will soon cast ballots – some already have. If you’d be interested in volunteering (remote phone banking is available), please visit our volunteer page for more information.

California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi has spent more than three decades of public service fighting for green jobs and affordable health care as a state legislator and State insurance Commissioner. Featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, and NPR, he has been a passionate advocate for the public option in federal health care reform. Vote by mail has already begun for our November 3rd election, and the stakes are high. Please visit for more information on Garamendi for Congress.

The Health Insurance Sharks are Circling

(They certainly are circling. I’m quite confident that John Garamendi, if elected before the health care vote, will stand up for Americans, not the insurance companies. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Did you catch the Ed Show yesterday on MSNBC?

I was asked to come on to talk about my past experience  with the health insurance sharks who are long on making a profit and short on consumer protection. I said what needs to be said about health care reform: it is irresponsible to force people to pay for insurance if we cannot control the cost of their premiums. As I explained to the Los Angeles Times in a story printed today, this is akin to forcing millions of Americans into an insurance market with sharks circling. They have sharp teeth, and they smell blood. It brings a new perspective on who the “consumers” are in health insurance.

Without effective protections – most importantly a robust public option allowing competition – we will continue to allow administrative and advertising overhead to skyrocket. Otherwise, the insurance companies will be able to charge a captive audience whatever they want for insurance.

Some in Washington are seriously considering penalizing Americans for being unable to afford care in a marketplace that doesn’t control costs. If voters in the 10th Congressional District choose me to be their representative in Congress, let me be clear. I will not vote for any bill that includes the individual mandate unless I am confident that bill offers generous subsidies for Americans struggling to make ends meet and unless that bill includes the public option to provide real competition in the health care marketplace. I regulated the insurance companies for eight years as California’s State insurance Commissioner, and I know those companies well enough to know that we can trust them to put profits before people. They aren’t friends to consumers.

More over the flip…

In California in the first half of this year, according to data provided by the insurance companies to state regulators, PacifiCare denied 39.6 percent of all claims, Cigna 33 percent, Anthem Blue Cross 28 percent and Kaiser 28 percent. 45,000 people died last year in the United States because of a lack of health care coverage. These are not statistics you see in the rest of the industrialized world. Profits ahead of people, greed ahead of the general good is no way to run a health care system.

The proposals outlined by President Obama and most Congressional Democrats are good starting points for health care delivery that I can support. They would make significant strides in lowering costs for individuals and small businesses while providing a consumer-friendly path to universal coverage. However, if the language in the Senate Finance Committee bill comes to my desk for a vote, a bill without a public option that fines people for not being able to afford private insurance, I will vote “No” without hesitation.

Some will read this and say to me, “But John, don’t you think we need to compromise?” I am open to compromise, and that is why I am not demanding Medicare for All, the best solution for our health care woes. I recognize the political realities and want to see real improvement in health care delivery. What I don’t want to do is penalize poor and middle class Americans to guarantee insurance companies have greater profits. We know the public option is likely popular in almost two-thirds of all Congressional districts, including almost all Democratic districts. In CA-10, which I hope to soon represent, it is estimated that 64 percent of the population supports a public option.

Others will ask me, “But John, don’t you want a bipartisan health care bill?” My response to that is this: there are plenty of kind-hearted Republicans in this country who sincerely want health care reform that works. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, elected Republicans in Washington are more interested in stopping health care reform to appease their insurance company benefactors and embarrass President Obama than they are interested in working with the President and Congressional Democrats to make life better for the American people.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson fought tooth and nail to pass Medicare in 1965, the most important improvement in health care delivery in U.S. history, did you know he had the support of 13 Senate and 70 House Republicans? We must come to terms that we now live in a different political climate. Even with the watered down Senate Finance Committee bill, I would be shocked if we managed to find five Republican votes. In this polarized political climate, I am more interested in pursuing the best policies. In the health care debate, that means a comprehensive health care reform package that removes administrative excess, controls prescription drug costs, and ends the shameful practices of denying coverage for those who have preexisting conditions and finding technical reasons to kick people off their insurance when they become sick. That also means making sure the insurance companies know that if they continue profiteering off our suffering, the public will have another option – the public option.

Some pundits and prognosticators will tell you the public option is lost, that we need to accept the tenets of the Senate Finance Committee bill if we want to see health care reform passed this year. Don’t believe them. As I explained at the Democratic Unity Brunch last week in Concord, health care is in the hands of the Democratic activist base, including the many men and women that make up the netroots. You have stood strong on the public option and helped shape the national narrative. Continue contacting your representatives in Congress and tell them no public option is not an option you will support.

I’m convinced we’re winning this fight. Let’s keep up the pressure, and when we get a comprehensive health care bill with a public option on the President’s desk, remember, you helped make it happen.

Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi served two terms as California’s State Insurance Commissioner. As a California State Senator, he served as chair of the Senate Health Committee. For more information, please visit

CA-10: Yesterday’s Victory and Tomorrow’s Challenges

What a night! As you may have seen, last night I was the highest vote-getter in the 10th Congressional District special primary election and will now face Republican David Harmer in the November 3rd general election.

I want to thank our incredible team of hard working volunteers. They spent countless hours knocking on doors, making phone calls, and making their presence known at community events throughout the district. Our success would not have been possible without them, and they have my deepest gratitude. Because of their efforts, we won all four counties in the district.

I also want to take a moment to acknowledge my competitors in this election:

To David Harmer: Congratulations on your victory among Republicans. I look forward to two months of dialogue focused on the issues and solutions that matter to the people of the 10th Congressional District. I intend to make it clear that a radical right wing agenda that seeks to stop health care reform, starve the education of our children, fails to finance the transportation and infrastructure systems we need, and advocates more tax breaks for the most wealthy is not in the interests of the people of the 10th Congressional District, California, or America.

To Senator Mark DeSaulnier: Your health care town halls helped establish an important dialogue in the campaign about the need for comprehensive health care reform. You are an institution in Contra Costa County, and you have many admirers. You deserve special acknowledgement for your work seeking a constitutional convention. The two-thirds majority requirement has worsened California’s problems and I look forward to working with you to bring a working democracy and majority rule back to California.

More over the flip…

To Assemblymember Joan Buchanan: Thank you for highlighting the concerns of small businesses in your campaign. I look forward to having a conversation with you about innovative ways we can promote job growth in the region. As a former school board member, you also helped focus the debate on education policy, and I thank you for that. I think you’d agree that in the long term, a sound investment in education is the most important economic stimulus of all.

To Anthony Woods: I’m not the first person to say this and I won’t be the last: you have a bright future in politics should you choose to pursue a political career. I first joined the state legislature around your age, and I quickly fell in love with public policy. You have an intelligence, grace, and resume that is worthy of elected office. Thank you for your service to our nation; and thank you for helping to make the issues facing LGBT people a focus in this campaign. You deserve the freedom to openly serve our country, and I pledge that one of my first acts in Congress will be to co-sponsor legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

To Adriel Hampton: Thank you for highlighting the importance of online outreach. We followed your use of social networking and Web 2.0 tools, and I look forward to chatting with you about the ways we can use the Internet to better reach out to our constituents. You were an accessible and upfront candidate and have my sincere respect.

It’s been a hard fought campaign, and now that the primary is over, we Democrats must unite. We will not allow radical, regressive right-wingers, with their block-progress-at-all-costs agenda, to get a toehold here is the 10th Congressional District – this is a forward-looking, forward-thinking, progressive Democratic district and I intend to fight for every vote to keep it that way!

I look forward to working with President Obama and the Democrats in Congress to protect Social Security, fix our broken health care system, create jobs, broaden educational opportunity, protect the environment, and bring needed federal money back to the district. This election was truly a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to get to Washington, DC to represent the people of the 10th and begin to tackle the many challenges facing our nation!

Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi is the Democratic nominee for California’s 10th Congressional District. He is a University of California regent, California State University trustee, chair of the California Commission for Economic Development, and chair of the California State Lands Commission. He was a twice elected State Insurance Commissioner, Deputy Interior Secretary under President Bill Clinton, and a Peace Corps volunteer. A special election will be held on November 3rd. For more information, please visit

CA-10: Polls Still Show us on Top, Public Option Remains a Top Agenda Item

Last night Survey USA and KPIX CBS 5 released a new poll showing that our campaign for Congress remains largely unchanged. With 25 percent of the vote, I still lead the pack, with Senator Mark DeSaulnier at 16 percent, Assemblymember Joan Buchanan at 12 percent, Anthony Woods at 9 percent, and undecided voters at 5 percent. This largely mirrors every publicly released poll since I entered the election.

Among Democrats, my lead is even starker: 37 percent favor me, 23 percent favor DeSaulnier, 18 percent favor Buchanan, 13 percent favor Woods, and only 2 percent are undecided. Most importantly, our great team of volunteers is effectively converting the support identified in the Survey USA and other polls into actual votes cast. Among those who have already voted, our considerable lead holds: 27 percent voted for me, 18 percent for DeSaulnier, 13 percent for Buchanan, and 10 percent for Woods.

Our lead holds among all demographic groups, including Obama voters, men, women, all age groups, all races, all levels of educational achievement, and all income levels. Our support is broad based and diverse. As the only candidate who has represented all corners of the 10th Congressional District, the voters know where I stand. As CBS 5 explained, “DeSaulnier and Buchanan have failed to make inroads since CBS 5’s last poll 16 days ago.”

Clearly, with Election Day fast approaching this Tuesday, we like where we stand.

The poll explains the what, but it fails to explain the why. I’m proud of the campaign we’ve run. We’re convinced the polls are a reflection of voter support for a positive issues-based campaign that has emphasized solid Democratic principles and experience that can deliver results.

Health care over the flip…

We’ve made it clear that the 10th Congressional District will be represented by a proven Democrat unafraid to stand up to the insurance companies, unwavering in the need for a public option in health care reform, and undeniably committed to advancing single-payer Medicare for All health care as the long term solution to our broken health care system. Today our campaign released a new podcast on health care policy, and I’d encourage you to take a listen. You can also visit our health care issue page for a more thorough rundown of where I stand on the key issues surrounding health care.

I have the endorsement of the California Nurses Association, and the largest progressive weekly in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, called me “California’s first and best insurance commissioner” for a reason. I took on the insurance companies and turned the agency into the best consumer protection agency in America. I was also a persistent advocate for universal health care and many of the principles I laid out in my first term in office became the health care blueprint Bill Clinton used in his 1992 presidential campaign. During the 1992 Democratic convention, I had the honor of being invited by President Clinton to be the primary speaker on health care policy, and in this campaign, I am proud to have received endorsements from President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and the region’s major newspapers.

On September 1st, voters in California’s 10th Congressional District will elect their new representative. For those whose passion is health care reform, it must be noted that my experience battling the insurance companies is not only unique among my competitors in this election, but it is unique among other members of Congress. We think the polls are a good reflection of where this election stands, and if so, our side in the health care fight will have a new effective advocate in Washington soon.

Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, a candidate for California’s 10th Congressional District, is the chair of the California Commission for Economic Development and a twice elected State Insurance Commissioner. He stands with Dr. Howard Dean in demanding a robust public option. For more information, please visit

Senator Ted Kennedy’s Health Care Legacy

Last night, our country lost one of the most important public servants in U.S. history, Senator Ted Kennedy. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Vickie, his children, First Lady Maria Shriver, the Governor and the entire Kennedy family. The nation and the world have lost a leader with unparalleled passion for social justice and equality, and his legacy will live on in the many lives and hearts he touched. They will carry the flame of justice and service forward.

Senator Kennedy fought for health care access for every American. In the 1990s, he was one of the lead architects of S-CHIP, which has provided millions of low-income children with the health care they deserve, and he tirelessly promoted universal coverage throughout his career. As Kennedy said during his riveting address at the Democratic National Convention in Denver last year:

“This is the cause of my life – new hope, that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American – north, south, east, west, young, old – will have decent quality health care as a fundamental right and not as a privilege.”

More over the flip…

To honor Senator Kennedy, Senator Robert Byrd has proposed naming the health care reform package after Kennedy. As we mourn the loss of a great man, we must continue the work that is required to make sure his lifelong cause is accomplished. Senator Kennedy’s passing gives renewed focus to the need to pass meaningful health care reform that includes the public option. If he were still with us today, he would agree that there is no more fitting a tribute to his legacy. As Dr. Howard Dean said today, “When President Obama signs a healthcare reform bill late this year, Ted Kennedy may not be standing there next to him, but his presence will be deeply apparent in the Oval Office as the President’s pen moves across the page.”

John Garamendi is the Lieutenant Governor of California. He was California’s first elected State Insurance Commissioner.

CA-10: We Can’t Let the Insurance Companies Win this Time

Thousands of people are lined up in front of a sports arena waiting to receive the health care they desperately need from a nonprofit that specializes in treating patients from the developing world. Some of their grateful patients stand outside hours past sunset waiting to be treated. Basic dental work for working mothers, glasses for young children, infections left to linger, procedures delayed because the cost of treatment is too great.  

No, I’m not recalling an incident from the years I volunteered for the Peace Corps in rural Ethiopia treating small pox. I’m talking about the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corp’s weeklong clinic in Inglewood, a community near Los Angeles. For the first time in their 25 year history, they are offering their worthy service in a major metropolitan U.S. city. Where did we go wrong?

More over the flip…

17 years ago, Bill Clinton ran for president on a pledge to fix our broken health care system. The model he proposed – including universal access, an end to denial of treatment for pre-existing conditions, cost controls for prescription drugs, reductions in administrative overhead, and assistance for small businesses – was largely based on principles I drafted as California’s first elected State Insurance Commissioner. President Clinton and Congressional Democrats worked hard to pass health care reform, but we all know how it ultimately turned out. The insurance companies and their well-financed lobbyists scared the public and threw millions of dollars into the coffers of elected officials and organizations willing to spread lies about the important health care improvements proposed. Under President Barack Obama, with Democrats in charge of both houses of Congress, we can’t let the insurance companies win again.

I support universal single-payer health care, but I also recognize that is a long term fight. This year, we must stand for a robust public option. The insurance companies are up to their old tricks again, spreading lies and distortions. I know how the insurance industry operates. I regulated them for eight years, creating the most powerful consumer protection agency in the country. Congress needs a leader who understands the complexities of insurance policy, someone ready and able to fight back against the lies.

It’s time we stopped incentivizing denial of treatment and started incentivizing quality of treatment. Working families should not have to rely on remote clinics designed for the developing world. I’ve been involved in this fight for decades. I know the insurance industry, and believe me, they know me. In the debates over health care, my voice will be heard. Together, we can make the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corp’s U.S. presence a remote memory.

John Garamendi is California’s Lieutenant Governor and a Democratic candidate for California’s 10th Congressional District. He was a twice elected State Insurance Commissioner and served as President Bill Clinton’s Deputy Interior Secretary. For more information, please visit