Torie Osborn has racked up considerable credentials in the social-justice world over the past 45 years. For eight of them, she served as executive director of the esteemed Liberty Hill Foundation. She was also executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and head of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.
Osborn has amassed some political experience as well. She was Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's senior policy adviser on homelessness, poverty and economic development; and launched the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships, which unites efforts between government and philanthropy.
Now, Osborn is running for political office for the first time. She hopes to represent , which will include Pacific Palisades.
Osborn recently spoke with Patch about what she would do if she wins the seat, her views on her chief rival in the race, and why California is in "an emergency situation."
Santa Monica Patch: Why are you in the race for California's 50th Assembly District?
Torie Osborn: I made this decision two and a half years ago. I have a big Rolodex and sat down with people who have been wanting me to run for State Assembly for a very long time: [former Santa Monica Mayor] Denny Zane, [Santa Monica College Trustee] Nancy Greenstein, [former Santa Monica Mayor] Judy Abdo, [activist] Tom Hayden, [U.S. Congresswoman] Karen Bass.
[Former Assemblywoman] Sheila [Kuehl] announced at a party that she was thrilled I would run for her former seat. Actually, Richard [Bloom] was there; we sat down and talked, and he told me he was also thinking of running.
Patch: Why haven't you run for public office before?
Osborn: [This Assembly race is] about leadership. I know that it's the right time.
I love California. I moved here in my late 20s. I believe in the California dream, the beautiful environment, a shot at a good life and the spirit of independence. You cannot have the California dream when you have Republican hard-right-wingers holding up the budget and bleeding our public-education system.
We are in an emergency situation. We have 12 percent unemployment. We need an economic renewal. We need to figure out how to point the state budget and leadership and assets in the direction of jobs and rebuilding the economy. We need health-care reform.
My life's work has been to build vision, to put coalitions together and to solve problems. I'm innovative. I'm collaborative, [as I proved] when I was a leader in the early AIDS epidemic in California and brought gay rights to a broader audience in the '80s and '90s, and when I worked with the Liberty Hill Foundation to help with innovative solutions on poverty.
I have an MBA [from the University of California, Los Angeles] and will represent small-business interests. We'll create a fair tax system and fair budget. We need to join every other oil-producing state in the U.S. and levy an oil-severance tax on oil companies. There needs to be an overall incentive to the economy that benefits small businesses at the same time as we [penalize] the bad corporate actors who don't pay their fare share [of taxes].
We need a balanced approach to large commercial-property owners such as Disneyland, who pay extremely low property-tax rates that have never been reassessed. You have some corporate properties that are changing hands because they can transfer stock without transferring ownership. JPMorgan Chase merged with Washington Mutual, but [its tax rates weren't] reassessed.
I was talking with a Wells Fargo executive at one of my fundraisers, and he was saying the real issue for corporations in California is not the tax system but the education system. They can't find educated talent. So with cuts to education, it's not just the kids and teachers who get hurt. It's the businesses too.
Patch: You've been called "ultra-liberal." Are you comfortable with that label?
Osborn: I am a proud progressive. But I'm a pragmatic progressive. I'm not an ideologue.
Patch: Were you surprised to see Betsy Butler, who currently represents the 53rd Assembly District, enter the race for the newly created 50th?
Osborn: The eyes should be on the prize of two-thirds majority for Democrats. If the Democrats don't get AD 66, where Betsy would be the incumbent, it's very hard to get to two-thirds.
For her to move into a district she has no roots in, a Democratic district, against two candidates who would be strong Assembly people, is in my view a disservice to the people of California. I think it's a sorry comment on Ms. Butler's priorities.
I've lived in Santa Monica for 26 years and have strong roots all across this district. This is a highly educated, highly civically engaged, fiercely independent district. You can't just move into this district and fool the voters.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Check back for Patch's interview with Betsy Butler.
This article first appeared on Santa Monica Patch.