Riding a wave of anti-incumbency sentiment, candidate for U.S. Senate Elizabeth Emken of Danville brought her campaign – complete with an empty chair for Democrat Dianne Feinstein – to the north state Monday, Oct. 1, with back-to-back appearances in Corning, Red Bluff and Redding.
California State Assemblyman and fellow Republican Jim Nielsen introduced Emken, 49, at a 6 p.m. gathering of Redding Tea Party Patriots and the curious at Destiny Fellowship Church on South Bonnyview Road.
“It’s time for a change and Elizabeth Emken is riding a wave of change in this country,” Nielsen said as Emken approached the podium to accept a microphone Nielsen offered.
Alongside the red, white and blue bedecked podium stood a solitary wooden chair empty except for a prominent placard labeled “Dianne Feinstein.”
“California is known as the worst state in the nation in which to do business,” Emken began boldly, blaming much of that malaise on the policies promoted by Dianne Feinstein, a career politician, Emken continued, who “has occupied a seat in the Senate dining room for more than 20 years and we are going to shake her out of it.”
Emken’s verbal attack drew applause from a majority of the nearly 100 people in attendance, a clear sign that this fiscal conservative was preaching to the choir.
Citing a weekly poll from the Pepperdine Policy Institute that shows Feinstein with an approval rating of less than 50 percent, Emken noted, “In California, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s approval ratings are at the lowest of her career. She is polling at the worst numbers in her nearly 50 years in politics. Seventy-three percent of Californians realize now that we are on the wrong track, but only about 30 percent of the people know who I am.”
Emken admits that since the Nov. 6 General election is less than 40 days away and the deadline to register voters is Oct. 22, both time and campaign finances are short.
“It’s a hard hill to climb, but we in America do not give up,” said Emken, who some 20 years ago gave birth to the oldest of her three children, son Alex, who has autism spectrum disorder.
According to the polls, Emken noted, fully 20 percent of California’s voters remained undecided in July and there is a spread of just 12 percent to 15 percent separating the two runoff candidates.
“Dianne Feinstein is not popular. She is just well known. And nothing says entrenched incumbent like a sitting Senator who won’t agree to debate her challenger,” Emken said, shaking her raised right fist for emphasis.
Repeatedly throughout her nearly 40-minute soliloquy, Emken referred to a series of seven position papers posted on her Web site and Facebook page that spell out specifics solutions she has for topics as diverse as health care, job creation, government regulations, national debt, water distribution and storage, energy policies and tax reform.
“We would be here all night if I went through all of the talking points in each one of these policy papers,” said Emken, who graduated from the University of California in Los Angeles in 1984 with degrees in economics as well as political science. While in college, she completed course work on political and economic issues in China and the Middle East while studying at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.
After graduation, Emken worked in the corporate world at IBM where she served in the areas of management, financial analysis, eliminating waste and streamlining operations. More recently, she served as Vice President for Government Relations for Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest science and advocacy organization devoted to public health as it relates to the emergence of autism.
Late in the 1990s, while working closely with Rick Santorum, Emken wrote the Advancement in Pediatric Autism Research Act, which ultimately became the lead title of the Children’s Health Act of 2000 that authorized nearly $200 million in programs during the next five years at the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Health and Resources and Services Administration.
The Combating Autism Act of 2006, passed in December of that year, authorized another $1 billion over another five-year period to combat autism through research, screening, early detection and early intervention.
Since joining Autism Speaks in March 2007, Emken launched a campaign to secure insurance coverage for autism-related services and has spearheaded autism insurance reform laws in 29 states.
California adopted legislation ending marketplace discrimination against individuals with autism on Oct. 9, 2011, due in part to the lobbying efforts of Emken on behalf of Autism Speaks.
Emken has been married for 27 years to Craig Swartz, a global enterprise solutions architect at Dell Inc. They are raising two teen-age daughters in addition to their son Alex, 20.