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June 7, 2016 — California Primary Election
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California State AssemblyCandidate for District 14

Photo of Mae Torlakson

Mae Torlakson

Democratic
Educator/Park Director
34,535 votes (32.3%)Winning
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Fight for affordable and accessible high quality pre-school, K-12 and higher education
  • Protect and preserve California's natural resources and provide recreational access for all
  • Promote job growth and expand economic opportunities for all Californians

Experience

Experience

Profession:Educator/Park Director
Manager, Resource Development & Marketing, MESA-Diversity & Inclusion, University of California Office of the President (2011–current)
Board Director/Board Member, Ambrose Recreation and Park District — Elected position (2006–current)
Corporate Partnerships Liaison-Education Partnerships, University of California Office of the President (2014–2015)
Program Coordinator, MESA Statewide Office, University of California Office of the President (2007–2011)

Education

University of the Philippines Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Tourism (1981)

Community Activities

Founder & Chair, Friends of the Delta Trail (2007–current)
President/Co-Founder, Bay Point Garden Club (2006–current)
Member, Filipina Women's Network (2010–current)
Member, Fil-Am Club of the Most Holy Rosary Parish Church, Antioch (2000–current)
Block Captain, Neighborhood Watch, Bay Point (2006–2009)

Biography

My passion for providing young people with educational opportunities by building partnerships with business reflects the progressive and pragmatic leadership I will bring to the issues of college affordability, environmental protection and economic opportunity.

Born in the Philippines, I sang and recorded professionally, using my earnings to pay my tuition at the University of the Philippines, where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree. I immigrated to the US in 1988 and became a full-fledged citizen in 1994.

In 2000 I joined the University of California’s Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement Program (MESA). As a manager of this program, I helped educationally disadvantaged students pursue careers in the sciences and technology industries. I have served several roles at MESA since joining the University of California staff, including Program Coordinator and Manager of Marketing and Resource Development.

As a longtime advocate for community parks and open space, I am currently serving my third elected term on the board of the Ambrose Recreation and Park District, which provides recreation services to 28,000 residents of Bay Point and the Oak Hills community of Pittsburg.

I also serve as Chair of the Friends of the Delta Trail, and led advocacy efforts that secured $4.5 million for the Great California Delta Trail, which seeks to create a continuous trail network through five Delta counties while protecting sensitive habitat. I also serve as President of the Bay Point Garden Club and have been a Neighborhood Watch block captain.

I have long been active in Asian and Pacific Islander community organizations, including the Filipina Women’s Network. As the first Filipina elected to state or local government office in Contra Costa County, I was named one of the 100 most influential Filipinas in the U.S. 

I share her passion for public service with my husband, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who represented the region in the State Assembly and Senate before winning statewide office in 2010. We live in the Contra Costa County community of Pittsburg and have two beautiful children, who have both now graduated from the University of California, Berkeley.

Questions & Answers

Questions from The League of Women Voters of California Education Fund and California Counts, a public media collaboration. (6)

Climate changes and the continuing drought worry many in California. What new strategies do you believe would ensure that California is able to both satisfy its water needs and protect the environment? Please be specific. 
Answer from Mae Torlakson:

As the Chairwoman of both the Friends of the Delta Trail and a Board Member of the Ambrose Recreation and Parks District, I have spent much of my life fighting for the preservation and protection of California’s environment. Now, especially with the troubles our state is facing with this endless drought, we Californians must band together and pass comprehensive, long-lasting solutions to ensure that future generations of Californians will be able to enjoy the same access to natural resources that we have today.

We have a serious water shortage, and I believe we need to take big steps to ensure the future of our water supplies and the quality of our drinking water across California. California’s drought is related to climate change, but not entirely. Large portions of our water supply and water quality problems fundamentally come from policy decisions. We need to cut back water usage on all fronts from personal conservation efforts, to agricultural innovation that reduces water usage, to increases in efficiency. We need a balanced approach between agricultural and municipal water conservation to meet our state’s water needs. We also need to increase groundwater management, water recycling, rainwater capture, and implementation of greywater solutions.

Many Californians are concerned about the influence of money in politics. What can the state legislature do to ensure that decision-making by elected officials is not swayed by moneyed interests at the expense of constituents?
Answer from Mae Torlakson:

The influence of money in politics, which has only grown worse since the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision, has proven to be an extremely corrupting influence on all levels of politics. Rather than keeping politicians responsive to the people, the current structure allows politicians to only listen and respond to the needs of small, wealthy interest groups instead of addressing the needs of all California residents. I firmly believe we must take steps to ensure that politicians are responsive to their constituents, not vested interests. Thus, I will fully support legislative actions to overturn Citizens United. I will not be swayed by special interests; that's why Walmart, the oil industry, and payday lenders have spent over 400,000 dollars to defeat me. It’s time we increase transparency and accountability and help put power back into the hands of the people.

 

There are a variety of proposals to raise California's minimum wage. Many of these proposals face opposition from business groups who are concerned that they would kill jobs. Do you support increasing the minimum wage in California?  In your answer please explain your position on the relationship between wages and jobs with specific reference to the situation in your district. 
Answer from Mae Torlakson:

I most definitely support increasing California’s minimum wage, and am very pleased to see our Governor sign a bill that will incrementally raise California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next few years. I firmly believe that if someone works full time and earns minimum wage, they should not have to live in poverty. This change will help provide economic opportunities to hard working men and women and create a pathway to the middle class for thousands of families. The extended timeline for the wage increase will give businesses the time they need to adjust to the new policy. Moreover, increasing the minimum wage also addresses the inequality gap between men and women because a majority of people earning minimum wage are women.

What are your top three fiscal priorities, recognizing the need to balance the state’s income with its spending?
Answer from Mae Torlakson:

I understand the importance of stimulating economic growth and creating good paying jobs for Californians. A healthy job market will help expand economic prosperity to our local communities and enable families to lift themselves out of poverty. That being said, we need to cut waste and ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used wisely. This means restoring funding to vital public programs and services that were cut during the 2008 financial crisis. Primarily, we must increase funding for our public education, healthcare, and safety systems as well as allocate additional finds for water conservation efforts and preserving parks and open space.

If elected, my top three fiscal priorities will be making sure that businesses and the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, ensuring that our state can further maintain a budget surplus, and making sure that our state has enough money saved in case of a future economic downturn. While dealing with fiscal matters is always a contentious affair, it is absolutely essential for our state to work out long-term fiscal solutions to better ensure the integrity and solvency of our state, so that any future economic downturns do not cause fiscal disasters like we all experienced in 2008.

If elected, what solutions do you propose to deal with the high cost of living in the Bay Area?
Answer from Mae Torlakson:

As the cost of living in the Bay Area continues to skyrocket, many hardworking Californians are finding themselves unable to find a home to rent, let alone buy. Owning a house represents one of the fundamental parts of the American Dream, and I fully believe that all Californians should have a realistic chance at being able to afford a home of their own. Thus, we must take immediate action to expand affordable housing, increase funding for programs that offer permanent supportive housing, offer additional rent subsidies to those who are at risk of becoming homeless, and protect social security for our seniors so that they can receive increased benefits.

What steps are needed to improve region-wide transportation planning and the growing traffic congestion?
Answer from Mae Torlakson:

California must have a modern and well -funded transportation system. California’s transportation needs are enormous. How many millions of hours are wasted while stuck in traffic congestion? What is the true price tag for having one of the very worst highway systems out of 50 states in terms of the conditions on the roads themselves?

Traffic and congestion cost our state’s residents over $30 billion per year. For the poor conditions of our roads, the cost alone for front end alignments and tire wear is over $500 per driver per year –way over what the average is among other states. The backlog of needed improvements and the maintenance to fix our highways and roads is over $100 billion.

There are no easy answers to getting the revenue needed. But somehow we must find ways to invest. I believe we should go to the voters and see if they are willing to invest in measures where they had a chance to vote on their priorities and where strong oversight committees are created to guarantee the money is spent well.

Voter approved Measure C and Measure J in Contra Costa County helped greatly - widening 680, SR 4, extending BART and finishing the fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel. Major projects and major improvements were constructed in a responsible and well managed way. The Contra Costa County Transportation Authority is currently working on another ½ cent plan to bring to the voters to generate another $2 to $3 billion in improvements.

Solano County cities and the Board of Supervisors are planning a measure for their voters to consider this June. Funds would be under local control and would be targeted to invest in local road needs.

I say we should look first at all efficiencies and money saving ideas we can generate through improved use of current transportation dollars.

After achieving the maximum efficiency, we should then give voters the choice to decide whether to invest in additional revenue streams that will get us to work on time, and home faster, and to have safer roads and improvements in our transit systems.

I see the gigantic needs and believe we must do more. I am supportive of the idea of exploring new or expanded revenue sources if the plans and priorities are brought to the voters to decide, and include strong independent oversight and third-party audits.

Who gave money to this candidate?

Contributions

Total money raised: $918,332

Top contributors that gave money to support the candidate, by organization:

1
Employees of University of California
$27,550
2
ThinkTank Learning and employees
$21,000
3
SEIU Local 1021 and employees
$17,100
4
AFSCME California
$17,000
4
California Federation of Teachers
$17,000
4
California Nurses Association
$17,000
4
California Professional Firefighters
$17,000
4
California School Employees Association
$17,000
4
Professional Engineers in California Government
$17,000
4
SEIU California
$17,000
4
SEIU Local 2015
$17,000

More information about contributions

By State:

California 97.86%
New York 0.74%
Arizona 0.67%
District of Columbia 0.50%
Other 0.23%
97.86%

By Size:

Large contributions (98.22%)
Small contributions (1.78%)
98.22%

By Type:

From organizations (67.57%)
From individuals (32.43%)
67.57%32.43%
Source: MapLight analysis of data from the California Secretary of State.

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

Mae Torlakson: Education, Opportunity and A Strong Economy

For the past 10 years, I have worked at the University of California Office of the President. I have worked to expand the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) program to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Along with expanding college opportunities, I believe we must invest more in vocational education and job training programs in high school.

My passion for providing educational opportunities to young people by building partnerships with business reflects the leadership I will bring to the table as a member of the State Assembly.

I believe education is the key to opportunity for our students and is key to a strong economy. I have a plan to create more jobs in Contra Costa and Solano Counties. As part of my advocacy, I am pushing for a 4-year Cal State University at the Concord Naval Weapons Station to serve Contra Costa and Solano Counties with a comprehensive set of programs with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. I will also work to establish incubator business space in the Concord Naval Weapons Station.

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