Alyson Huber last month claimed a surprise victory over former Lodi mayor and supervisor Jack Sieglock to represent the 10th Assembly District, which includes Lodi. Her victory came by only 505 votes - .03 percent of the vote, and only after weeks of vote tallying.
Huber, 36, was raised in Lodi and now lives in El Dorado Hills with her husband, Tim. They have four children. Prior to joining the Assembly, she was a lawyer specializing in business litigation. She was interviewed Friday by News-Sentinel editor Rich Hanner.
Q: Tell me about a high and a low in what had to be a roller-coaster campaign and election.
A: A high point? Well, that was going to Disneyland and Legoland and the San Diego Zoo just after the election. The result wasn't final yet, the votes were still being counted, so I had the time to spend with family and sort of get away from it all. The highlight was probably seeing all the amazing Lego cities: New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New Orleans.
And a low point. That was probably after the first forum with my opponent. I thought it had been positive, constructive. And the next day his campaign put out a press release saying, in effect, "Huber loses debate - peppered by questions from angry voters." It included issues that had not even come up … 95 percent of the stuff never even came up in that forum. So that was a low point, and it lasted all of maybe two-and-a-half hours, and then I realized, this is politics. And if they resort to that kind of stuff, they must be very, very worried.
Q: After you were declared the winner, questions were raised by Mr. Sieglock about provisional ballots, with the implication that a fair number had been cast by non-citizens. Your take on that? (Provisionals are typically paper ballots used in cases where there is some question about the voters' legal registration.)
A: I can understand why he wasn't happy with the result. That said, he had his representatives watching the count. The fact is that provisionals are closely checked. They go through extra verification steps that regular ballots do not. So I don't understand why someone would think they are somehow defective.
Q: What's been the biggest surprise about being at the Capitol?
A: That I'm there, maybe? (Laughing.)
Well, this was very close, but I can't say I was shocked to win. We were keeping a close eye on the uncounted votes. The majority were from Sacramento County, where I was doing quite well. At the end, the other counties were done, and we figured there were still 16,000 votes from Sacramento County that were uncounted.
It turned out to be 25,000 - and that's what made the difference.
Q: So how will you balance the demands of Assembly, spouse, mother? Exercise? Eating right?
A: I use the stairs instead of the elevators. I watch what I eat. But I have always been this way. I like to juggle a lot of things. I am a workaholic.
I don't know any different. I've been a working mom for quite a while. I have been asked the question, 'Do you even know how to relax?'
Q: You are a political novice. How will you learn what you need to learn to be an effective legislator?
A: The way I usually do, by jumping in with both feet. I am used to hitting the ground running. I am already looking at potential legislation, and I see very clearly that our financial crisis will affect the legislative agenda … and I am asking about state funding. I wonder, for instance, about state commissioners who make $100,000 a year. Is that justified? We need to question spending now, because the magnitude of the crisis is huge.
Q: OK, a related question, maybe a tough one: You accepted hundreds of thousands in donations from labor unions. They represent a substantial part of the state workforce, and the state workforce reflects a huge part of state spending. Will you be able and willing to take a hard look at state employee pay and benefits?
A: First of all, much of that money came in the form of independent expenditures. I didn't know about it, I didn't approve it. I know some people felt bombarded by mailers. I understand that. I could not turn that off. I wanted to. It became excessive. On the other hand, that is the way the system works … I can understand why people choose to put money into a race (through independent expenditures.)
Q: OK, but are you prepared to step up and take a hard look at state staffing and compensation?
A: Yes, we have to. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a pushover. In terms of the independent expenditures, I'd say this: I may not have been the best choice for organized labor; I just may have been a better choice than my opponent.
Q: What are the issues unique to the district?
A: There are issues that are shared by different communities. Land use. Amador wants a satellite college campus. So does Lodi. So many of these issues are going to be tied to resources, and the state's fiscal crisis is huge. We may not be talking about building a satellite campus for Delta in Lodi, but just keeping the main campus in Stockton open.
As I have said, my No. 1 priority is education. … So if there is a choice between a new prison and keeping a college open, I will work to keep the college open and providing opportunities for people.
Q: The 10th Assembly is such a crazy quilt, stretching from Sacramento to Amador and El Dorado counties and down through Lodi and north Stockton. That's got to be tough to represent. But we're a local paper, so we care most about the Lodi area. How are you going to make sure you adequately represent Lodi?
A: I plan to keep a district office open here. It may not be in the same location, because that lease is going to be up. But I will have a district office in Lodi.
Plus, I'm here a lot. I was here for Thanksgiving. I was here my first week in office and my second week in office. I consider Lodi my hometown.