A lot has changed in California politics over the last ten years. We have gone from a novice celebrity governor to a seasoned hand to our first Gen X executive. We’ve seen record budget deficits and record surpluses. We have transitioned to a plurality Latino state and have seen the gap between haves and have-nots grow larger than ever before.
During that time, Capitol Weekly has changed, too. We’ve gone from ‘that print rag that publishes everyone’s salary’ to ‘that Web site that publishes the list.’
Ahh, the list.
Sure, the names in the halls of power have changed, but the list abides. The definition of housing crisis has morphed from mortgage foreclosure to record homelessness, but the list abides. We’ve seen Brannan’s become Chops, then the Diplomat (for a bit longer at least), but through it all, the list abides.
And so does Capitol Weekly. Amid the ever changing media landscape in our once provincial state Capitol, Capitol Weekly has navigated a journey of its own. When we started this enterprise, tweeting was the providence of the aviary set. Now, everyone and their grandmother is doing it.
As for the list, it’s 10 years old and counting, and it may well outlive is all. When we first started it, we wanted a nice round number, but consciously never said what the list itself was. 100 what exactly? We couldn’t say. But others filled in the gaps with assumptions of their own. And while the list has come under its share of criticism over the years — some of it justified — we have made tweaks and modifications.
But the spirit of the thing lives on.
This year’s edition has lots of new names and faces that come with a new administration. We know we will be blasted for omissions and misrankings. But you may learn a name or two you didn’t know before. And surely the list as a talk piece — even as something to rail against — is half the fun of the thing. As to whether your name or your selection belongs on this list of 100, I would ask you, 100 what exactly? Who’s to say who belongs and who does not?
But that’s what these lists do — they offer a mirror of our little world, filled with that intriguing stew of public service, ideological force and narcissistic drive. That is what makes our political community the frustrating and exhilarating amalgamation that it is.
So raise a glass to the list, imperfections be damned. Let’s celebrate and illuminate the thing itself and reaffirm, once again, that right, wrong or otherwise, The List abides.
–Anthony York, former editor, Capitol Weekly
More notes on this year’s Top 100:
This list sets a record: We’ve never bothered so many people on their vacations in our hunt for information – from the Plumas National Forest to the Russian River to Stinson Beach to Guerneville to Hollywood to Oregon – we got ‘em all. That’ll teach them not to carry their cell phones.
A decade has passed since we did our first list in 2009 and a lot has changed — including the list. It started out as a lark but is no longer, and that’s too bad: If there’s anything we need putting this list together, it’s fun.
The biggest change, of course, was the arrival of a new administration, complete with a clutch of new staff members in positions at the executive levels close to the governor. Keeping track of them is a full-time chore in itself.
There are more positions than before: There appears to be redundancy and the fancy titles often don’t match the function – a problem not only in government but in the private sector, too. “Deputies” appear to be sprouting like mushrooms in the dark.
This is all reflected in this unusual roster, but it posed challenges for an outsider trying to track down information about the inner workings of the newly staffed Horseshoe.
The list has old names, new names and returning names. It also has a person whose name is very familiar to readers of this list but who has never been on it before. This is called a riddle, and we’ll let you figure it out.
Generally, we’re happy with our little compendium. It has a little better balance of gender and ethnicity than last time around, and a number of people who should have been on earlier finally got on.
We are certainly grateful to those people who sat down with us over the past four months at various coffee shops to chat and offer advice. Okay, so we ignored most of that advice, but it was nice of them, anyway.
The list isn’t anything other than subjective, although we solicit diverse opinions. We’ve had – and still have – board members on our list, but many were on the list before we ever had a board. All conversations involving this list are confidential, we discourage emails and we don’t leak it. (We understand one person may have, and he knows who he is; we’ll fix him). We don’t have a hidden agenda to promote certain people over others.
But in the end, it was a labor of love and we hope you enjoy it. For a more artful look at the list, don’t miss the note above from former editor Anthony York, who was there at its birth.
Enough prologue. On with the list…
–John Howard, editor, Capitol Weekly
(Click on a name to view the individual profile, including illustration)
1. Ann O’Leary
Ann O’Leary is Gov. Gavin Newsom’s chief of staff, so she wears two hats. First, she is the top player in the governor’s inner sanctum in the Capitol. That means she manages – with a lot of help – the executive staff that manages myriad other staffs throughout the state bureaucracy. And the staff inside the Horseshoe is growing like Topsy – more population density than the Gaza Strip, as one described it. It’s getting larger, there are deputies upon deputies and a remarkable amount of duplication. But managerial skills aside, O’Leary also has solid political chops – indispensable in a chief of staff. She was a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, and she seems to have that lawyerly attention to detail that drives everyone crazy except other lawyers. After Clinton’s 2016 implosion, there wasn’t a lot of demand for O’Leary’s services as an executive director of the Clinton-Kaine transition team and she headed west to Silicon Valley as a partner with Boise, Schiller & Flexner in Palo Alto. Her westward move brought her back to familiar territory. She has a Master’s Degree from Stanford and a law degree from UC Berkeley’s law school, and she earlier worked at billionaire Tom Steyer’s Center for the Next Generation, where she was a senior vice president overseeing national communications for issues related to children and families. She’s also a director of KQED, and served at the Center for American Progress on the economic policy team. O’Leary’s strong background in education and health clearly appealed to Newsom, who has targeted these as two of his core priorities. Politically, of course, O’Leary knows her way around the byzantine, self-absorbed, excruciatingly partisan pomp of D.C., and since Newsom will be running for president in 2024 (you heard it here first), that kind of national political savvy will come in useful.
2. Ana Matosantos
Gov. Gavin Newsom has called Ana Matosantos “a genius.” Heady stuff, although the only real genius we ever knew was James Julian, the late journalism law professor at San Diego State (Go Aztecs!). Anyway, Matosantos knows the high end of the Capitol inside and out. She has served as Finance Director in both the Brown and Schwarzenegger administrations, and the budget-writing Finance Department is the single most important agency in state government. Matosantos is now Newsom’s cabinet secretary, who oversees executive-branch state agencies’ chiefs and acts as a key adviser to the governor on administering the state’s vast bureaucracy. (The job has been likened to herding cats.) Matosantos is a native of Puerto Rico and was an Obama appointee to the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Board. She was involved in enacting the state’s school financing and accountability system, financing and implementation of the Affordable Care Act in California, and the implementation of corrections realignment. She and O’Leary are sort of a tag team: Ana makes the trains run on time and Ann focuses on politics and policy.
3. Mary Nichols
As the nation grows ever more politically polarized and the rhetoric escalates, Mary Nichols is in line to become even more prominent as the state’s – indeed the nation’s — chief roadblock to what California sees as the Trump Administration’s war on the environment. She heads California’s Air Resources Board, charged with keeping our state’s air clean. She’s been the ARB’s chair for a dozen years now, and is respected by both Republicans and Democrats. She served on the ARB during Jerry Brown’s first administration, was also appointed to the board by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis. Nichols, a Yale graduate and a former staffer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, has been an environmental lawyer for more than 45 years. The Atlantic nicknamed her the “Queen of Green.” A music fan, she tries hard to never miss the annual New Orleans Jazz Fest. Her current term ends on Dec. 31, 2020, but no one in Sacramento would bet that she will disappear from the environmental wars after that. More than any other person on this list, Nichols truly is a California institution.
4. Keely Bosler
Keely Bosler moves into the slot once held by Ana Matosantos, and it’s a good fit. Bosler, a farm girl who grew up in the wilds of Siskiyou County, began her state career at the Legislative Analyst’s Office, which serves as lawmakers’ nonpartisan fiscal adviser. She served as Jerry Brown’s cabinet secretary, succeeding Dana Williamson; Newsom appreciated her efforts and kept her on the executive staff. Like Matosantos and Nichols, Keely brings institutional heft to her new gig and serves as a bridge between the Brown and Newsom administrations. There are surprisingly close ties between the two camps and Keely, like a number of other people on this list, has links to both. Bosler is clearly a policy wonk, which we argue is a sound characteristic in a Finance Director. California is actually rolling in dough – the state has a $21.5 billion surplus – but here’s an odd factoid: Budget fights when the state is flush tend to be just as bad as when times are tight, maybe even worse.
5. Robbie Hunter
Robbie Hunter, an ironworker and descendant of a guy who worked on the Titanic, is always high on this list, and deservedly so. His outfit, the State Building and Construction Trades Council, or BCTC, celebrated a major victory in November when they and their allies pushed hard to beat back Proposition 6, the attempt to repeal California’s new gasoline tax increase that initially was backed by a narrow majority of voters. The $5 billion tax hike means money for big-ticket construction jobs for thousands of workers at the prevailing wage – BCTC is affiliated with 160 unions with 350,000 members – and that’s right up Hunter’s alley. Hunter was a go-to person for Jerry Brown on building support for infrastructure funding, and he likely will play a similar function for Newsom, with whom he is fast building a relationship. One veteran Capitol watcher we spoke to said BCTC has become the single most important labor force in California, even above the California Teachers Association and the SEIU. Maybe. But money, jobs and politics are a potent mix in Sacramento, and Hunter stirs the pot.
6. Anthony Williams
Gavin Newsom’s legislative secretary is Anthony Williams, and he is a bit of an anomaly among the governor’s highest-level appointees: He served most recently as the chief lobbyist for a huge private enterprise — the Boeing Company. But he also has a long track record as a legislative staffer, and that will come in handy as he pushes legislation the governor likes and smacks the bills he doesn’t. He was policy director and special counsel to former state Senate Leader (now Sacramento Mayor) Darrell Steinberg, and, from 1999 to 2004, he was principal consultant to Senate Leader John Burton. He has also served as legislative advocate for the Judicial Council of California, as well as the State Bar of California. Williams is also founder and president of the Stand Strong Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. As legislative secretary, Williams will oversee the work of eight deputy legislative secretaries – count ‘em, eight! – and one assistant legislative secretary with areas of specialization ranging from high speed rail to family courts.
7. Ann Patterson
Newsom’s deputy legal affairs secretary is Ann Patterson, who came on board in January and hails from the law firm of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, where she was a partner and where she co-headed the public policy unit. Patterson’s name comes up repeatedly in conversations about the workings of the governor’s staff, with observers particularly citing her successful role in sensitive negotiations involving PG&E, among other issues. Earlier, she was legislative director for then-Lt. Gov. Gray Davis, and served as a special assistant to former Attorney General Bill Lockyer. She is a graduate of the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. For those of you who follow the minutiae of politics, two things: Her first name actually is Analea, but everyone calls her Ann, and she is married to Nathan Barankin, who was U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’ chief of staff in D.C., and who now is working on her presidential campaign.
8. Allan Zaremberg
The California Chamber of Commerce is one of the most powerful political players in California, and one the reasons is Allan Zaremberg, its president and CEO. That the conservative, pro-business, largely Republican Chamber flourishes in a state overwhelmingly dominated by Democrats is remarkable and reflects the Chamber’s political acumen. It was a crucial part of the Democrat-led coalition that managed – against the odds – to beat back a Republican-backed effort to repeal California’s new fuel tax, and it was one of the big supporters of the levy when it was originally approved in the Legislature. Of course, outspending the pro-repeal forces by 9-to-1 didn’t hurt either. Zaremberg, a protégé of former Gov. George Deukmejian, has headed the Chamber for more than two decades through four governors, and it doesn’t seem like he’s going anywhere.
9. Elaine Howle
Elaine Howle is the state auditor, and that sounds like a dull job. It definitely isn’t – especially this year. For Howle, by voter-approved order, is in the midst of setting up California’s 14-member redistricting commission, which will draw political maps based on the 2020 census. As we go to press, more than 7,000 people have asked to serve on the commission and Howle’s office has to screen them all. She also handles her usual chores, keeping her eye on the spending and efficiency of state operations and, as her office says, investigating “allegations received, and reports substantiated claims of fraud and abuse in state government.” A report from Howle two years ago resulted in resignations from two top University of California administrators. A state agency under an investigation by Howle’s people doesn’t necessarily tremble – but everyone makes sure to show up for work on time. Howle, a CPA, earned a bachelor’s degree in sports management from the University of Massachusetts and an MBA from Sacramento State.
10. Bill Devine
Bill Devine has been a vice president at AT&T since 2006, which means he’s the commander of the utility’s political forces and resources in Sacramento. He is a familiar face in the Capitol, especially when telecommunications measures are on the table, such as last year’s net neutrality bills prohibiting companies like AT&T from speeding delivery of some websites and choking back others. He has been described in the media as an AT&T lobbyist, but he’s not: As head of the AT&T’s legislative affairs unit, Devine runs the troops who advance AT&T’s interests in the Capitol, which includes functioning as a major donor in California politics and as the lead sponsor of the annual Speaker’s Cup at Pebble Beach, an iconic golfing event and the largest legislative fundraiser of the year.
11. Angie Wei
Gov. Gavin Newsom recently appointed Wei chief deputy cabinet secretary for policy development, which really means she’s serving as a political director for the governor. She was the legislative director and chief of staff for the California Labor Federation, which represents 2.1 million union members in 1,200 unions and was a significant factor in helping Newsom win the election. In that role, Wei expressed her concern about what workers will do as technology replaces their jobs. Wei was a key architect of California’s 2002 paid family leave law, which extends disability compensation to cover individuals who take time off work to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child. She served earlier as chair of the California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers Compensation, and promoted the California Immigrant Welfare Collaborative, a group of four immigrant rights organizations that united to fight cuts to public benefits for immigrants because of a 1996 welfare reform law.
12. Rusty Hicks
Soft-spoken and generally low-key, Rusty Hicks does not fit the stereotype of a powerful political figure – but he is. Hicks is the newly-minted head of the California Democratic Party, a powerful force in a deep-blue state and the most prosperous state party organization in the nation. It’s all in the numbers: Democrats have 8,612,368 registered voters in California, far outdistancing the Republicans’ 4,709,851. But it also has scandal: Hicks took over after the forced departure of Eric Bauman, who left amid a cloud of sexual harassment allegations. At the time of the CDP elections Hicks was the executive director of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, one of the country’s largest labor federations. He won the CDP chairmanship with 57 percent of the vote at the party’s convention, beating six rivals at the tumultuous gathering. Hicks wasted no time in spreading a soothing message: “I am humbled by the outcome,” he said. One of his major challenges now is hanging onto the congressional seats Democrats won in 2018 by flipping normally GOP districts in Orange County and parts of the Central Valley.
13. Daniel Zingale
After nearly a decade as senior vice president at the California Endowment, a multibillion-dollar nonprofit, Zingale has moved back into the familiar territory of the Horseshoe. A deft insider with sharp political and administrative skills, Zingale was tapped by Newsom to lead the Office of Strategic Communications and Public Engagement. That’s quite a title and takes in a lot of territory, but if anybody can do it, Zingale can. Already, he’s helped negotiate an agreement between police, families of police shooting victims and lawmakers to raise the standards of when police can shoot a criminal suspect. At the Endowment, Zingale worked to dramatically to engage the electorate and expand health care for children and low-income Californians. He previously served as chief of staff for former California First Lady Maria Shriver and was senior adviser to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He also served as cabinet secretary to former Gov. Gray Davis, was executive director of AIDS Action in Washington, D.C. and political director for the Human Rights Campaign. Under Davis, Zingale was the first chief of the Department of Managed Health Care, which regulates HMOs.
14. Jeff Kightlinger
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to California’s well being, and at the center of MWD is Jeff Kightlinger, the general manager and CEO. MWD serves nearly half of California’s population spread across six southern California counties. That’s a lot of thirsty people, and that’s why MWD wants to go with the Delta project, which Gov. Newsom pared back from two tunnels to one. MWD’s take from the depleted Colorado River also is likely to go down. These are just some of the issues on Kightlinger’s desk. He has a $1.8 billion annual budget and 1,800 employees, and MWD wholesales water to more than two dozen agencies. He’s been doing this for 13 years, and he’s been at or near the center of every important water spat for the past decade.
15. Marcie Frost
Marcie Frost, who is largely unknown to the public, is one of the most important women in California. She is CEO and hands-on overseer of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, a $350 billion behemoth that handles more than 1.9 million California public sector workers and their families. She leads a staff of 2,800 and manages an annual budget of $1.8 billion. She also has unusual background for a megamoney person: Frost was raised in poverty, living on public assistance and shopping at thrift stores like Goodwill. We argue that’s great training for a steward of the public’s money and her rise through the ranks of fiscal management proves it. The board agreed, hiring her in 2016. She spent 30 years in Washington State government, including her stint as chief of that state’s retirement system and as an ex-oficio voting member of the governing board. She also served in Gov. Jay Inslee’s cabinet. Frost drew fire year last year after a blogger who follows pension issues reported that Frost did not have a college degree when she was hired – a fact that she had not tried to hide.
16. Kip Lipper
Genial, bearded and knowledgeable, Kip Lipper is one of those Capitol denizens that the average Californian has never heard of, but who has had an outsized influence on said Californians’ daily life. That’s because Lipper, who is rarely quoted anywhere, is the lead adviser to the Senate leader on all things environmental. He’s been around for more than 30 years, and his fingerprints are on the California Clean Air Act, the California Safe Water Drinking Act and the Integrated Waste Management Act, to name only a few. This year, he was the Senate’s go-to person on the $21 billion wildfire damage fund and the drinking water cleanup. Lipper, who is the brother of communications consultant Donna Lucas (See No. 31), is in the thick of the Legislature’s fight with the Trump Administration over environmental issues.
17. Jennifer Siebel Newsom
She doesn’t want to be called California’s First Lady, preferring “First Partner” instead. Whatever the label, Jennifer Siebel Newsom is not someone willing to be an old-fashioned governor’s wife, content with social functions while her husband stands in the spotlight. Siebel Newsom, a documentary filmmaker and former Hollywood actor, gives speeches, and her husband listens to her counsel. She attends some policy meetings of the governor’s staff, and she interacts with lawmakers, the public and people pushing various causes. She campaigns on behalf of women assuming a full role in California politics, and doesn’t mind picking fights. During a recent talk before a capacity audience at the Sacramento Press Club, she called Donald Trump “the embodiment of toxic masculinity.” Newsom was raised in Marin County and holds an MBA from Stanford. During her acting days in Hollywood, she says her agent told her not to tell producers or casting agents about her degree! Gavin and Jennifer Newsom met on a blind date in 2006 and married in 2008. They have four children.
18. Dustin Corcoran
Dustin Corcoran represents 44,000 physicians in his position as chief executive officer for the California Medical Association. Among the issues the organization is working on are making sure there are enough residency programs for the state’s medical school graduates and helping physicians reduce the burden of running their businesses so they can spend more time focusing on patients. Corcoran thinks it’s crazy that primary care physicians are spending 30 to 50 percent of their time doing non-clinical work, such as figuring out payment issues. The association is also working to promote wellness and alleviate burnout for physicians with the goal of increasing fulfillment and purposes at work. Corcoran began working for the medical association in 1998, first as a membership coordinator for the association’s political action committee and then as a staff lobbyist. He continued to move up the ranks as first vice president, then as senior vice president before, being named chief executive officer in 2010.
19. Lenny Mendonca
Lenny Mendonca, a savvy businessman and economic consultant, is the new chief of California’s business development agency, or GoBiz, and it would be hard to find a better pick. We’re not just saying that because he’s the co-owner of a Half Moon Bay brewery. The Harvard-trained Mendonca is a former senior partner at the global consulting firm of McKinsey & Company and he co-chaired the nonprofit government reform group California Forward; he’s a lecturer at the Stanford’s business graduate school and, if that isn’t enough, Gov. Newsom recently tapped him to head California’s bullet-train project. Whatever his array of titles, his function is to serve as Newsom’s chief economic and business adviser. Mendonca – it’s pronounced “Men-don-suh” – was raised on a Turlock dairy farm and went on to become student body president at both his local high school and at Harvard.
20. Aaron Read
Aaron Read and Associates is one of California’s best known lobbying firms, and Read himself has lobbied the Capitol since Ronald Reagan’s first term. His outfit, founded in 1978, has scores of clients – from AT&T to Dunn & Bradstreet, from the Grocers Association to the Highway Patrolmen. We could go on, but why do that? Read has been on every Top 100 list we’ve produced, and his firm has always presented us with a dilemma: Why list just Read; why not the other lobbyists in the firm, such as Terry McHale, Steve Baker, Randy Perry, Patrick Moran and Jennifer Tannehill? As we’ve noted before, the firm also helps clients seeking procurement contracts with state agencies, and a sister firm, Marketplace Communications, provides graphic design, social media strategies and boasts its own broadcast studio.
21. Wade Crowfoot
California’s new resources secretary is Wade Crowfoot, who was a senior environmental adviser to Gavin Newsom when the latter was mayor of San Francisco, and who now will do much the same thing for Gov. Newsom. His agency oversees an array of departments, including Water Resources, Fish and Wildlife, CalFire, the California Conservation Corps and the Department of Parks and Recreation, among other offices. Crowfoot was CEO of the Water Foundation from 2016 to 2018. He’s no stranger to state government: He was a deputy cabinet secretary under Jerry Brown, and his chores then included the state’s response to the drought. Prior to working for Brown, Crowfoot was west coast regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund from 2009 to 2011.
22. Jason Elliott
Jason Elliott is the governor’s chief deputy cabinet secretary for executive branch operations. That translates into “idea person,” which means he advises Newsom on any number of major issues, including the recent landmark agreement between California and four of the world’s largest automakers to cut emissions, a move that seeks to make an end-run around the Trump administration’s regulatory cuts. One observer familiar with the Capitol described Elliott as “the governor’s brain,” and if you need a brain, Eliott definitely sounds like a good choice: He studied American history at Columbia University, then got a Master’s in public and social policy from Harvard. He worked for a decade under San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, and last year signed on to Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign, where he served as senior adviser.
23. Marybel Batjer
Newsom says she’s “one of the most accomplished management experts in state government,” and people who have worked with Marybel Batjer agree. Batjer is the new president of the powerful California Public Utilities Commission, a crucial regulatory body with authority over everything from railroads to cell phones. Batjer boasts a long resume of high-level state jobs, including as the first-ever Secretary of the California Government Operations Agency, charged with overseeing improvement of state procurement, real estate and human resources. Most recently, she headed Newsom’s “strike team” to overhaul the notoriously problem-plagued Department of Motor Vehicles, and things already seem smoother. (Editor’s Note: After a 90-minute visit, I got my mailed license in only three weeks! A personal record!) At the PUC, still more challenges: curb the threat of wildfires, including those sometimes caused by sparks from electric utility equipment; reduce carbon omissions; deal with the bankruptcy of the state’s largest public utility, Pacific Gas and Electric; help set up the $21 billion wildfire damages fund. Batjer will play a lead role in all this and more. Phew!
24. Nick Hardeman
Senate Leader Toni Atkins’ chief of staff is Nick Hardeman, who oversees the staff, moves along her legislative agenda, represents her when needed and puts out fires when they arise. And they always arise. He knows state and Senate budgeting, and he can read the tales behind the numbers. He earlier worked for Atkins when she was Assembly speaker, and when she moved to the Senate, Hardeman joined her in the upper house. Before joining Atkins, he had several gigs, including a stint with then-Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (she’s now state treasurer), and he was a consultant with the Senate labor and industrial relations committee. Among the bills he’s crafted was legislation to prevent the spread of Wal-Mart supercenters and to guarantee workers paid sick days. He has also been an active member of the labor movement and worked during his time at St. Mary’s College on a successful living wage campaign. He won a spot in the California Senate Fellowship Program shortly after graduating from St. Mary’s with a degree in American government and politics in 2003.
25. Alma Hernandez
There are some major labor players in state politics, and Alma Hernandez is executive director of California’s biggest – the 700,000-member-strong Service Employees International Union. Hernandez joined SEIU a decade ago as political director, and quickly built a reputation as a tough, canny campaign strategist and coalition builder. She rose through the ranks, and three years ago she became the first Latina to serve as SEIU California’s executive director. SEIU’s issues include immigration policy, affordable housing, homelessness, immigration, health care and opposition to almost anything the Trump administration proposes. Prior to SEIU, she worked as a staffer in the California Legislature for five years, was a lobbyist and worked on a number of statewide campaigns. Hernandez, who is a member of the board of directors of the nonprofit California Budget and Policy Center, graduated from UC Berkeley with degrees in rhetoric and political science.
26. Janet Napolitano
When the people of California created the University of California in 1868, they brought into being what many would argue is not only one of the largest public universities in the world (273,000 students, 223,000 faculty and staff and an operating budget of $36.5 billion) — but the best public university, as well. (Sixty-four Nobel laureates.) Presiding over this gargantuan enterprise is Janet Napolitano, possessor of a resume that would shame an emperor. She is the former governor of Arizona and former head of U.S. Department of Homeland Security, among other accomplishments. Napolitano took office in 2013 as the 20th president of UC, and the first woman. Napolitano is seen as a tough administrator and generally – but not always – has proved adept at staying on the good side of Sacramento, an important skill in the continuing effort to bring home those education dollars. But two years ago, UC got a big black eye when State Auditor Elaine Howle reported that some $175 million had been squirreled away and used for university projects, but not reported to the regents. Definitely, a no-no.
27. Yvonne Walker
This has not been the easiest year for Yvonne Walker, the head of SEIU Local 1000 representing 96,000 state workers. Not only does she face dissension from three vice presidents but she has to struggle to keep the union together following a US Supreme Court decision eliminating the ability of unions to collect fees from non-members who benefit from bargaining. On top of all that, the SEIU Local 1000’s contract with the state is expiring Jan. 1 so she is under pressure to deliver a good new agreement. Walker is well equipped to deal with the pressure, though, having been a veteran of the US Marine Corps. A native of Oceanside, Walker started working for the state of California in 1995 as a legal secretary for the Department of Justice. She soon became a union steward and rose through the ranks. In 2008, she became the first African-American woman to head SEIU Local 1000.
28. Peter Lee
It seems like Peter Lee’s battles never end. As executive director of Covered California, the state’s version of the Affordable Care Act, Lee has faced controversy for years over health care coverage, rising costs, eligibility, federal funding cutoffs, expansion – you name it. This year is no different: President Trump, again, has vowed to repeal and replace the ACA, and he wants to permanently remove the requirement that people get coverage or face a penalty. The governor and Legislature oppose Trump, and Lee has likened the penalty to seat belt safety: You either buckle up or pay a fine. Removing the penalty forces rates up, and they tend to rise, anyway. Lee has been executive director for eight years, and before that he served in the Obama administration as ranking Medicare and Medicaid official, and he also worked under former Health Secretary Kathleen Sibelius.
29. Brian Rice
Brian Rice is the new president of the California Professional Firefighters, a potent political force often tapped by Democratic governors. It has been involved in major campaigns for decades. Rice, who started as a reserve firefighter with the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department 36 years ago and retired as Deputy Chief of Operations in 2011. He was elected CPF president last year, and now heads a group representing 30,000 local firefighters in departments across the state. He’s no stranger to union politics: He was on the board of the Sacramento Firefighters Local 522, including 12 years as president and he served as a district rep for the International Association of Firefighters. Rice’s most visible moment occurred in the wake of the deadly wildfires last year, after Trump asserted that California’s horrific wildfires were caused by California’s forestry management. He called Trump’s comments ” ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines.”
30. Erika Contreras
The secretary of the Senate is an important position with virtually no public visibility but with responsibility over 150 Capitol staffers and much of the logistics of the upper house. The new secretary is Erika Contreras, who is part parliamentarian, part paperwork manager, part politician and part personnel director. It’s sort of like herding cats. Contreras replaces Daniel Alvarez, who served four years in the position during the tenure of former Senate Leader Kevin De León. Contreras came over to the Senate when Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat, was chosen Senate leader. For a decade, Contreras was chief of staff to former state Sen. Ricardo Lara, now insurance commissioner. Contreras, a UC Santa Barbara graduate, was born in Mexico and raised in the San Fernando Valley. A newspaper report noted that her family was granted legal residency following the amnesty bill signed by Ronald Reagan in 1986, and Contreras later earned her citizenship.
Ed’s Note: Corrects to delete reference to Darrell Steinberg, and include Kevin De León. (Updated Aug. 22, 2019)
31. Donna Lucas
For years, Donna Lucas, founder and chief of Lucas Public Affairs, has been one of Sacramento’s premier communications consultants, thriving through Republican and Democratic administrations. She offers sound, straightforward advice, and she’s a master networker, two skills that are valued in the Capitol. Lucas, former chief of staff to Maria Shriver, serves on the board of the Public Policy Institute of California sand was chair from 2013 to 2016. Not surprisingly, she also is building ties to the Newsom administration and to Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the governor’s “First Partner.” Lucas began her Capitol political career in the press office of Gov. George Deukemejian after serving on the staff of Deukmejian’s campaign.
32. Teri Holoman
Teri Holoman is associate executive director of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association, and the Sacramento-based Holoman heads the forces that push legislation – usually successfully – through the Capitol. She’s not the main CTA lobbyist (that’s Lori Easterling), but as associate executive director, Holoman is a ranking executive in the sprawling CTA. She also serves on the Secretary of State’s Voting Modernization Board, charged with upgrading voting systems, and provides strategic guidance on such topics as coalition building, communications and fundraising. She served as deputy appointments secretary for Gov. Jerry Brown and was deputy political director for the California Democratic Party’s Every Vote Counts Campaign. In July, the Capitol was rocked by the news that long time CTA leader Joe Núñez had been abruptly terminated by the board, ending a decades-long career that included six years as executive director. Just what effect, if any, his departure will have on CTA’s political clout is unclear, but it’s the subject of speculation in the Capitol.
33. Chris Woods
Chris Woods is one of those Capitol staffers who are below the public’s radar but who have a significant influence on policies that affect millions of Californians. Woods handles state budget matters for Senate Leader Tony Atkins of San Diego. That means Woods is the Senate’s principal adviser on fiscal policy targeting billions of dollars of spending, and while he doesn’t vote on budget bills, his advice is sought by those who do. He’s also pestered by lobbyists, reporters, special interest groups, activists – you name it – who want to know what’s really in the budget. We’ve said it before, but Woods, who held a similar job under Atkins when she was Assembly speaker, has a job that requires more than a green eyeshade.
34. Jason Kinney
Jason Kinney has served as an adviser in one way or another to Gavin Newsom for 14 years, including volunteering as part of his transition team. But that really understates his role. Kinney is a sort of majordomo for the new governor, helping to screen and recommend people for key administration jobs. He also makes strategic policy and political recommendations. He’s a lobbyist now, but he has a communications background. Kinney worked with Newsom to help legalize recreational marijuana – he was the communications director for Proposition 64, the 2016 marijuana initiative. He is a partner at the lobbying firm Axiom Advisers, and previously worked at the lobbying/communications firm California Strategies, where he handled several bigwig clients, including AT&T, the National Football League and the California Medical Association. Kinney previously wrote speeches for former Gov. Gray Davis. Born in Indiana, Kinney got his start in politics at age 13 helping manage his mother’s Senate campaign. He attended Princeton University and the Indiana University School of Law and is licensed to practice law in Indiana.
35. Art Pulaski
Art Pulaski is the chief officer of the California Labor Federation, which represents a whopping 2.1 million union members in 1,200 manufacturing, transportation, construction and public sector unions. He has been a leading voice in favor of Assembly Bill 5, which is aimed at the gig economy and would make it harder for companies to classify a worker as an independent contractor rather than an employee. He says the bill would “provide an opportunity for a better life to millions of workers who have been cheated out of basic protections on the job.” Pulaski has been a union supporter since age 16 when he worked at a supermarket and joined the meat cutters’ union. Since he took office at the California Labor Federation 23 years ago, the group has more than doubled in size. He has led several nonprofits, including the California Works Foundation and the Labor Project for Working Families.
36. Carrie Cornwell
When Anthony Rendon, a Democrat, was a rank-and-file member of the Assembly, his chief of staff was Carrie Cornwell. Rendon has now served since 2016 as speaker of the Assembly, and his chief of staff is… Carrie Cornwell. As such, Cornwell has major say on who is hired and fired, the flow of paperwork, the shuffling of bills and the handling of the speaker’s legislative agenda. She is no stranger to the Capitol, having served for nine years as chief consultant to the state Senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee and the Assembly’s version of that same committee. She was also chief of staff to former state Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson when he was a member of the Assembly and, later, as a state senator. She came to the Capitol as an Assembly fellow. Cornwell has degrees from Princeton and UCLA, and teaches at Sierra College and Sacramento City College, and has been named to the Sacramento County Project Planning Commission.
37. Bill Wong
Democrat Bill Wong has been known for years around the Capitol as a tough and smart political strategist. His political consultancy website notes that he “specializes in helping clients overcome complex policy and political challenges with precisely executed aggressive, creative and asymmetric tactics and strategies.“ Wong serves as an adviser to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and at one time was his chief of staff. His job is to protect the Assembly’s 61 Democratic seats next year. He also serves as an adviser to the Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus in the Legislature. He has broader connections, however, as political director of the Assembly Democrats. In 2009, while serving as chief of staff to Assembly member Judy Chu, he oversaw her underdog special-election campaign for Congress. Wong is also credited with swinging heavy numbers of Asian and Pacific Island voters to Jerry Brown in Brown’s successful 2010 campaign for governor.
38. Rex Frazier
As California figures out how to manage the losses from devastating wildfires, Rex Frazier has been busy advocating for the interests of insurance companies. He is president of the Personal Insurance Federation of California, representing five major insurance companies: State Farm, Progressive, Liberty Mutual, Mercury Insurance and Nationwide. There was a sixth insurer – Farmers – but it left the group earlier this year. Insurers in California faced $24 billion in losses following two consecutive terrible wildfire seasons, and have been dropping coverage for thousands of residents in fire-prone areas. Frazier previously served as an Assembly staffer and as the state’s deputy insurance commissioner. He previously worked as an attorney focusing on insurance and banking, and managed a campaign for a successful statewide measure in 1996 – Proposition 213, which limited the right of uninsured drivers, drunk drivers and felons to sue and recover damages from law-abiding citizens. Frazier graduated as valedictorian from McGeorge School of Law and has served as an adjunct professor at the school.
39. Henry Perea
Henry Perea, a ranking executive at the Western States Petroleum Association, runs that outfit’s state government affairs operation, which means he devises strategies to get the petroleum industry’s interests favorably viewed by lawmakers. In the Legislature, Perea – bright, energetic and politically savvy – was a star, the Assembly leader of pro-business Democrats who often favored economic development over environmental and social issues. But he abruptly resigned his Fresno seat in 2015 after a five-year stint and went to work for the pharmaceutical industry, then left there and joined WSPA in 2017. Perea is seen in the Capitol as something of a protégé of Michael Rubio, who earlier resigned his Senate seat to work for Chevron.
40. Richard Figueroa
When the talk turns to health care policy, one name always pops up – Richard Figueroa. He’s a deputy cabinet secretary under Gov. Newsom, and “Fig” combines health care knowledge with a background in financial analysis – a potent combo when it comes to negotiating legislation for the governor. Figueroa is part of the top-drawer triumvirate that Newsom snagged from the California Endowment – the others are Daniel Zingale (#13) and Maricela Rodriguez, who is taking a lead role in the census. Figueroa earlier served as deputy cabinet secretary under Arnold Schwarzenegger and a deputy legislative secretary for Gray Davis. He also was legislative director for former Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, and was a consultant for the Senate insurance and budget committees.
41. Joe Lang
If you want to get things done in Sacramento and have a big enough wallet to hire top lobbying talent, you’ll probably be getting in touch with Joe Lang. Based in the Senator building across the street from the Capitol, his firm – Lang, Hansen, O’Malley and Miller – is always a top biller among lobbying firms and his client list reflects it. Such companies as FedEx, Estee Lauder, the California Business Roundtable, the California Retailers Association, the Port of San Diego, Wal-Mart, DraftKings, etc., etc. We’ve said this before, but it’s true: LHOM is filled with people who should be on this list — Bob Giroux, George Miller IV and Larissa Cespedes, to name a few — but there’s not enough room. Partner Bev Hansen has been on the list before.
Ed’s Note: Corrects by deleting reference to John O’Malley, who has retired. Includes Bob Giroux, a veteran lobbyist and partner in the firm. (Updated: Aug. 22, 2019)
42. Anthony Wright
Health Access California is a high-profile advocacy group – actually a coalition of 200 groups – that pushes for health care reforms, and its fingerprints are usually all over any progressive health care-related legislation that emerges from the Capitol. The executive director of Health Access is Anthony Wright, based in Sacramento, who has spent much of his professional life advocating for the expansion of quality health care. He was active in discussions that led to the creation of Covered California, this state’s implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act. He’s been executive director at Health Access for nearly 17 years. Earlier, he served as a program director for New Jersey Citizen Action, and worked on coalition targeting HMOs. A graduate of Amherst College, Wright was born and raised in the Bronx.
43. Lori Ajax
Lori Ajax was appointed by former Gov. Jerry Brown as the first chief of the new Bureau of Cannabis Control. That’s no easy job as California grapples with legalized weed, and Ajax is at the epicenter. She took on the challenge of building an agency from the ground up amid changing regulations. It’s been slow going: In a recent audit, the state finance department noted that only 75 of the bureau’s 219 authorized positions have been filled to date. The current staff is not adequate to keep up with the demands for oversight, the audit said. Meanwhile, Ajax has kicked off a campaign “Get #WeedWise” to encourage consumers to buy marijuana from licensed dispensaries. She has warned those in the considerably large black market that the bureau will be stepping up enforcement on those who operate outside the law. Ajax previously worked 22 years at the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, including serving as chief deputy director.
44. Michael Quigley
If there is a single focus at the California Alliance for Jobs, it is California’s infrastructure. And the person who pushes for that 24-7 is Michael Quigley, the executive director. The Alliance is a coalition of builders, laborers, engineers, unions and contractors, and the group had a good run over the past year. The landmark $52 billion infrastructure finance plan, backed by fuel taxes, was signed into law by former Gov. Jerry Brown and voters in November rejected an attempt to repeal the new law. Quigley joined the Alliance in 2008, and since then was directly involved in successful efforts to win voter approve billions of dollars worth of water, transportation and high-speed rail funding.
45. Flo Kahn
Floreine “Flo” Kahn is the deputy vice president of state advocacy at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, otherwise known as PhRMA. It’s a powerful group with a lot of resources, and it brings them to bear in the Capitol when issues arise affecting its interests — particularly drug pricing. For those who don’t know, Kahn succeeds Merrill Jacobs, PhRMA’s long-time advocacy leader in California and a top Capitol player. Kahn’s turf includes California, Nevada and Arizona. She earlier handled state government affairs in the West for AbbVie, and before that she worked at Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
46. Carmela Coyle
Carmela Coyle is firmly in the saddle as president and CEO of the California Hospital Association, which represents 400 hospitals and which plays a role in virtually every piece of major health care legislation negotiated in the Capitol. Coyle came west in 2017 from Maryland where she led that state’s hospital association, a stint that followed 22 years at the American Hospital Association in D.C. In California, Coyle succeeded C. Duane Dauner, who was something of a Capitol institution. Like other health care organizations in Sacramento, the CHA is watching the Trump administration’s every move as it relates to California. Thus far, the news has not been positive.
47. Gale Kaufman
This is a non-election year, but political warrior Gale Kaufman is busy getting ready for next year. She’s working on still-unnamed independent expenditure committees (as she did last year for Gavin Newsom and Tony Thurmond), and there are interesting 2020 races shaping up next year that are all but certain to draw Kaufman’s expertise. One wonders whether the turmoil at the California Teachers Association – the executive director was fired abruptly in a surprise vote by the board – will have any impact on Kaufman, who has been the CTA’s chief political campaign strategist for two decades.
48. Jodi Hicks
It’s been quite a year for Jodi Hicks. She hadn’t been settled long at a new gig at Mercury Public Affairs, when she got an urgent request from Planned Parenthood of California to serve as its acting president and CEO, while Planned Parenthood sorted out some internal personnel issues. Hicks obliged, and we’ll probably get more details on all this next year. She is best known in the Capitol for her lobbying on health-related issues. She was head lobbyist at the California Medical Association, then left to become a partner at DiMare, Brown, Hicks & Kessler, where she specialized in health issues, then left there to go to Mercury. Hicks has also been prominent in the #MeToo movement, and she’s on the board at Open California, the nonprofit publisher of Capitol Weekly.
49. Diane Griffiths
Veteran Capitol staffer Diane Griffiths had retired in 2017 as chief of staff to Sen. Bob Hertzberg, who she had served earlier when he was Assembly speaker. But that retirement didn’t really last long. Senate Leader Toni Atkins persuaded her to come back into the building, and so she did, serving as one of Atkins’ key advisers. Griffiths has an unusual trajectory through state government: She has a law degree from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Law School, was chief of staff to the UC Board of Regents, and general counsel at the state’s campaign watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission.
50. Dan Dunmoyer
Dan Dunmoyer is a familiar name in the Capitol community, and has been for 25 years. He’s the president and CEO of the California Building Industry Association, which means he represents construction interests in the fierce debate over affordable housing and development. Dunmoyer succeeded former CBIA President and CEO (and former state Senator) Dave Cogdill who passed away in 2017. He served a decade as the chief of the Personal Insurance Federation of California, and from there he was deputy chief of staff and cabinet secretary to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. A former CalPERS board member he also chairs an advisory committee for USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. Like a number of other major Capitol players, Dunmoyer started out in the Assembly in the Jesse Unruh Fellowship program, and he worked in various caucus and committee positions. Longevity counts for much in the Capitol and many people trust only those they’ve known for years and Dunmoyer has built up a well of trust in his decades of service.
51. April Verrett
April Verrett is the president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015, which is a big deal. It’s the nation’s – and California’s – biggest long-term care union, with 385,000 home-care and nursing workers. That’s a lot of boots on the ground when it comes to elections, knocking on doors and wielding political clout. Verret earlier served as Local 2015’s executive veep, and she played an important role in the creation of Local 2015. Earlier, she was executive vice president of SEIU, Healthcare Illinois and Indiana (HCII). HCII is the largest union of healthcare workers in the Midwest, representing 92,000 hospital, nursing home, home care workers and child care providers across Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas. She’s also a vice president of the SEIU International Executive Board and serves on SEIU’s Racial Justice Center.
52. Mike Belote
A friend described Mike Belote’s California Advocates as “a real white-shoe lobbying firm,” which means it’s been around a long time, has lots of blue chip clients and is respected. Belote is the president of California Advocates, which has client list that includes Apple, Delta Airlines, Equifax, Coca-Cola, Monsanto, NRG and more, and dozens of associations in diverse areas such as real estate, health care, law, agriculture and others. Belote’s philanthropy includes such recipients as Volunteers of America, the Public Legal Services Society at McGeorge law school, and My Sister’s House, an organization focused on domestic violence and trafficking in the Asian Pacific Islander community. Full disclosure: Belote serves on the board of Open California, publisher of Capitol Weekly.
53. Jennifer Kent
Medi-Cal: A government health care program with some 4,000 employees serving about 13.5 million people, and with an annual expenditure of about $100 billion. As executive director of the Department of Health Care Services, Jennifer Kent has responsibility over the whole enchilada. Former Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her to the position in 2015, and Newsom has kept her on. Kent is familiar with the upper levels of state health care operations. She was a senior health and regulatory analyst at the California Optometric Association, and later became the group’s director. She went to the Department of Health Care services as deputy director, then moved to the Health and Human Services Agency to handle legislative issues. Kent, a graduate of St. Mary’s College, has a Master’s in public administration from the USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.
54. Catherine Reheis-Boyd
The Western States Petroleum Association (See No. 39), is a critical voice for a coalition of oil interests in California. For the past decade, Catherine “Cathy” Reheis-Boyd has served as president of WSPA – pronounced “wiss-puh” – and she’s been at the center of seemingly interminable debates over fuel taxes, exploration, fracking, pollution controls, and other issues. The Association represents the oil industry in Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona, as well as California. She received her bachelor’s of science degree in Natural Resource Management from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and pursued post-graduate studies in environmental engineering at the University of Southern California.
55. Janus Norman
Janus Norman – his first name is pronounced “jane-uss” – is a senior vice president of the California Medical Association, and he handles government relations and political operations. That means he’s the CMA’s top lobbyist, a strategist and a sort of watchdog over CMA’s interests in the Capitol. Those interests are varied, and include such familiar items as scope of practice, Medi-Cal reimbursements, doctors’ academic costs and the like. But the CMA also tracks medical issues related to homelessness, digital health and cannabis use. Earlier, Norman was a legislative advocate for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), worked for the Judicial Council of California, and staffed the State Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committees. His career began when he joined the office of then-Assemblymember Darrell Steinberg as a Jesse Unruh Assembly Fellow.
56. Fiona Hutton
Fiona Hutton and Associates, which started out as a small communications company nearly two decades ago, has grown to include a raft of top clients – including Comcast, Health Net, the State Water Contractors, the Southern California Public Power Authority, Clear Channel Outdoor, and others. Hutton’s Los Angeles-based nonpartisan firm was involved in some of the most closely watched issues of the year, such as police use of force and cosmetic product safety. The firm, sort of a one-stop shop, handles everything from crisis management to water policy to media relations to advocacy to political strategy. Last year, she opened an office across the street from the Capitol right next to a first-rate coffee shop – so we plan on visiting her often. Hutton, who worked for then-Gov. Pete Wilson in the 1990s, currently serves on the board of directors for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Valley Industry and Commerce Association and Open California, the nonprofit, nonpartisan publisher of Capitol Weekly. She received her B.A. in Political Science from San Diego State University (Again, go Aztecs!).
57. Lance Hastings
Lance Hastings is the president of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, replacing the venerable Dorothy Rothrock, who retired last year and who was on our list many times. Hastings knows a lot about beer, and that’s definitely good, we say. Hastings was most recently a vice president for national affairs for MillerCoors and he worked in the U.K. for SABMiller, but he has strong Capitol connections. He was a staffer in the state Legislature for almost a decade and he has handled state government affairs for Miller Brewing and CoorsMiller in Sacramento. Hastings also headed relations at the California Grocers Association and government relations for the Grocery Manufacturers of America.
58. Kevin Sloat
Kevin Sloat’s roots in the Capitol go back to Pete Wilson’s administration, and his firm – Sloat Higgins Jensen and Associates – boasts a hefty client list. That includes the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, California Business Roundtable, Anheuser-Busch, the California Trucking Association, Foster Farms and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, among others. Sloat was Wilson’s legislative secretary, a pivotal position in any administration, which entails pushing the governor’s agenda, negotiating legislation with often balky lawmakers and keeping a close eye on what those legislators are up to. After leaving Wilson in 1997, he launched his own lobbying firm.
59. Scott Wetch
Organized labor is heavily represented on this list, and one of the reasons is Scott Wetch, whose offices at 13th and I are right across the back alley from Capitol Weekly’s palatial digs on H Street. Wetch represents union interests first, last and always. His clients include the Building and Construction Trades Council (See #5), State Pipe Trades Council and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, among others. Wetch has earned a reputation as a notorious bill-killer if legislation coming out of the Capitol threatens his constituents’ interests. He worked at the Capitol in the Senate and Assembly for over 12 years prior to teaming up with his now-retired lobbying partner Art Carter.
60. John Latimer
Every year when we put this list together, we wonder if we should be focusing strictly on the lobbyists, who have such an outsized influence on policy. One of the reasons is John Latimer’s firm, Capitol Advocacy, which handles business regulation, tort reform, consumer concerns and environmental regulation, among many other issues. There are scores of clients at Capitol Advocacy – we won’t list them all, but you get the idea: Comcast, American Airlines, 21st Century Fox, a number of cities in San Diego County, Jack in the Box and L.A. County, to name a few. A year after an unsuccessful 1998 run for an Assembly seat, Latimer set up his own lobbying shop. Earlier, he had worked in the Capitol as a chief of staff and as a consultant to several Assembly committees, including Appropriations and G.O.
61. Christy Bouma
Relatively few Californians outside the Capitol know of Christy Bouma, but if you’re involved in pushing or opposing a particular piece of legislation she’s interested in, you definitely are aware of her. As the head of the Capitol Connection lobbying firm, Bouma is the top lobbyist for the 30,000-member California Professional Firefighters, which has been a major player in California politics. Bouma connected with CPF after an 11-year stint in Southern California as a mathematics and computer science teacher. She also represents the Consumer Attorneys of California and serves as president of a trade association for lobbyists called the Institute of Governmental Advocates. Bouma’s firefighters were in the headlines last year for risking their lives battling giant wildfires up and down the state. What’s not in the headlines is that, behind the scenes, CPF had a leadership change and elected a new president (see No. 29.) No matter who heads the CPF, Bouma is a major factor in any political moves they make.
62. Paula Treat
Lobbyist Paula Treat is impressive. All by herself, she’s built a client list that includes Tesla, the California Medical Association, two major tribes, among others, and she deftly handles them all. Treat, who now works out of the Senator building across from the Capitol, started lobbying 42 years ago, when young Jerry Brown had lots of hair and was two years into his first (of many) years as governor. In 1987, Treat established the first woman-owned contract lobbying firm, with offices in Carson City and Sacramento. With this résumé it was no surprise that Treat had her own #MeToo moments — she documented harassment by the late Assemblyman Lou Papan in a soul-baring Op Ed in the Sacramento Bee in 2017. But she ended the piece on a positive note: “We women are at the table, and we’re not leaving.”
Ed’s Note: Corrects by deleting reference to Southern California Edison among clients. (Updated: Aug. 22, 2019)
63. Steve Maviglio
From the first moment we established this list, it was clear Steve Maviglio had to be on it. Whatever the major issue – Sugary drinks? Public pensions? Transparency? Consumer protections? Rent control? Deregulating CBD? Affordable drugs? He’s always in there somewhere, on one side or another. Last year, he helped thwart the statewide rent control initiative Prop 10. This year, he helped to pass the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund and battle five bills aimed at the American Beverage Association while also leading the PR effort for the funds trying to help PG&E emerge from bankruptcy. His top clients include the AT&T and Californians for Retirement Security, which advocates against pension cuts. He was a spokesman for former Gov. Gray Davis, and deputy chief of staff to Assembly Speakers Fabián Núñez and Karen Bass, and was a communications consultant for a third, John Pérez. Earlier, in Washington, Maviglio was executive director of the House Democratic Caucus. He started out in politics on the other side of the continent as a member of New Hampshire’s House of Representatives, where he served three terms.
64. Michael Weinstein
When we reviewed a draft of this list with our super secret Top 100 brain trust, there was a collective “Ewwww” when we got to Michael Weinstein’s name. “Don’t reward bad behavior,” one said. Loudly. No one will accuse Weinstein, the head of the L.A.-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), of being too timid in his advocacy. In April he caused an uproar: He funded a Bay Area hit piece against Sen. Scott Weiner’s SB50 housing bill that featured a photo of author James Baldwin and charged that the bill would lead to “negro removal.” San Francisco Mayor London Breed and other prominent Black leaders denounced the ad and its message; what will Weinstein come up with when SB50 comes back in 2020? In 2018, AHF was the biggest funder behind Proposition 10 (the Costa-Hawkins repeal), spending over $22 million on the effort, which ultimately went down with less than 40% of the vote. Not to be dissuaded, Weinstein’s group is backing the Rental Affordability Act, which it hopes to get on the November 2020 ballot.
65. Carrie Gordon
Who likes dentists? Not us. But when it comes to politics, you have to respect them, and a big reason is Carrie Gordon, the chief strategy officer for the California Dental Association. The CDA has 27,000 dentist members spread across 32 local dental societies, numbers that directly translate into political clout. Dentists, who are independent business people, expect results from their folks in Sacramento and they usually get it. Gordon, a 17-year CDA veteran, earlier served as the CDA’s vice president for governmental affairs and chief lobbyist before ascending to her present position. One priority has been expanding and funding Denti-Cal, aimed at providing dental care for low-income Californians.
66. Fabián Núñez
We never quite know what to do with former Assembly speakers, but as far as this list goes, it’s an easy call: Fabián Núñez, an author of California’s landmark anti-pollution law, AB 32, runs the local office of Mercury Public Affairs, and that means he’s a potent force in California politics. He knows the Capitol, clearly, and he knows the legislative process and he knows how to get his clients’ views heard at the highest levels of California government. A lot of what Mercury does is below the radar, at least in Sacramento, although one of Mercury’s major clients is the California Endowment, the multibillion-dollar nonprofit that has enormous influence across the state. Mercury has a global reach, but its role in Sacramento is significant, given the political and economic importance of the state.
67. Darius Anderson
Darius Anderson was once a household name in California’s Capitol community, although not so much now. His iconic firm, Platinum Advisors, is still around and is a significant Capitol player, but Anderson himself has diversified, focusing more on other interests, including real estate and other interests in the San Francisco Bay Area. He remains a member of the group publishing the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, a first-rate daily newspaper that won a Pulitzer prize for its wildfire coverage. Platinum’s clients include the Hearst Corporation (owner of The San Francisco Chronicle) and UPS, among others. Anderson is a leader in the Treasure Island Development Project, a $6 billion redoing of the former naval station and 1939 World’s Fair site. Anderson also was instrumental in the effort to keep the Kings NBA team in Sacramento and later sued on grounds that he was shut out of team ownership. We’ve said it before, but if you’re ever stuck in an elevator with him, ask about his collection of Jack London memorabilia.
68. Rob Lapsley
The California Business Roundtable, a pro-business nonprofit, does a lot of things: economic research and projections, taxation research, data crunching, political analysis, environmental and education research, regulatory analysis, and much more. Rob Lapsley, well regarded in the Capitol on both sides of the aisle, has been president of the Roundtable since 2011. Lapsley, an Air Force veteran, has solid political chops — he used to be political director at the California Chamber of Commerce — so he knows the ins and outs of the Capitol’s political wars, a definite help in deeply blue state where pro-business advocates are viewed with suspicion. Lapsley served as chief of staff to former California Secretary of State Bill Jones, a Republican and one of California’s last Republican statewide officeholders.
69. Amy Brown
Lobbyist Amy Brown has long been a familiar, formidable presence in the Capitol. She still is. Her newly reconfigured firm, ARC Strategies, has more than three dozen clients and they are largely the same ones before last year’s revamp, which was the buzz of the lobbying community. Brown, a retirement and pension specialist, travels the state constantly, conducting seminars on retirement issues and educating retirees — and others — about their options. She’s also handled workers compensation insurance issues — she served on the Commission on Health, Safety and Workers Compensation — and she helped draft major changes to the industry that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law.
70. Dana Williamson
Dana Williamson has long been a major political player during Jerry Brown’s tenure, so we figured that with Brown’s departure to his 2,500-acre ranch near Colusa, Williamson would fade, too. Nope. She is a key political adviser to state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and her advice is sought by any number of California’s top Democratic political players. They see the same skills that Brown did – smarts and managerial ability. A former cabinet secretary under Brown, Williamson now heads Grace Public Affairs, her own firm named, we hear, after one of her daughters. Williamson, a former chief of public affairs at Pacific Gas and Electric Company, holds a B.A. in International Relations from the University of California, Davis and lives in Elk Grove with her husband Mark and four children Adam, Sam, Andrew and Grace.
71. John Myers
John Myers, the Los Angeles Times bureau chief in Sacramento and a solid journalist, came from broadcast to print – a difficult move, but one which he made with ease. From our perch in northern California, the L.A. Times, the state’s premier daily newspaper, is doing better than it has in years — surely because of its financial certainty — and its Capitol reporting reflects it. They’ve also made new hires – Taryn Luna from the Bee and Melody Gutierrez from the Chronicle, for example – who have bolstered the state report, which we think declined after the departure of such first-rate pros as Dan Morain and Marc Lifsher. Earlier, Myers was Capitol bureau chief for KQED in San Francisco and served a stint as a political reporter for Channel 10, the ABC outlet in Sacramento. He is a product of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism – call us biased, but we think that’s the best J-school in the U.S — and he earlier graduated from Duke University.
72. Carl Guardino
The president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group is Carl Guardino, whose organization represents some 350 businesses, large and small, in the high-tech heart of California. Guardino, once described by a local paper as one of the five most influential business people in Silicon Valley, has headed SVLG for more than 20 years. He also is a member of the California Transportation Commission, the powerful body that decides California’s transportation projects in five-year increments. Guardino originally was put on the board in 2007 by Gov. Schwarzenegger, then reappointed twice by Jerry Brown. This year, Gavin Newsom appointed him to another four-year term. In June 2018, Guardino co-led the Bay Area’s first nine-county transportation measure – Regional Measure 3 – which is set to generate $4.5 Billion in its first 25 years.
73. Brian Brokaw
Brian Brokaw opened his own political strategy firm nearly a decade ago, and he’s built an enviable track record: He’s advised public officials, global tech firms, labor and business coalitions, sports franchises and Native American tribes, just to name a few. The Guardian in the U.K. has called him “a top Democratic strategist” in California, and in 2019 he was named to the American Association of Political Consultants’ “40 Under 40” list. He’s also managed Kamala Harris’ campaigns for attorney general, was an adviser on her successful U.S. Senate campaign and has consulted on her presidential bid. Currently, he’s a political adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom, and meets with him and his staff regularly. The name Brokaw should be familiar: His dad, Barry Brokaw, is a well known California lobbyist, and his brother Nick, a lawyer, has gone into his dad’s firm. Full disclosure: Brian serves on the board of Open California, the 501c3 that publishes Capitol Weekly.
74. Jonathan Ross
KP Public Affairs is a regular top biller among lobbying firms, and Jonathan Ross is a reason. He handles such fiscal heavyweights as Citigroup, the California Mortgage Bankers Association and Morgan Stanley. When Google was searching for a lobbyist years ago, they hired Ross – a move that led to his hiring by other technology leaders, including Cisco, Airbnb and Lyft. Ross started his lobbying career with the San Francisco law firm of Landels, Ripley and Diamond, which he left in 1996 to help start the predecessor firm to KP Public Affairs.
75. Ed Manning
KP’s Ed Manning represents an array of water and energy interests, and he is always in the mix whether it be as one of the leaders of the fight against the water tax or on major energy issues such as regional transmission and wildfires. After a multi-year hiatus Manning is once again lobbying on behalf of homebuilders and developers by representing the California Housing Alliance. He also lobbies state government agencies such as the Cal-EPA, the Air Resources Board, the state water board and others. Like his partner Jon Ross (No. 74), Manning previously was a partner in a law firm and helped lead KP in transitioning from its prior incarnation as Kahl Pownall.
76. Jim Wunderman
For the past 15 years, the president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, a major economic development advocacy group in the San Francisco area, has been Jim Wunderman, and he’s had his work cut out for him. For starters, the problem of homelessness has become pervasive in a community that has long been one of the most appealing in the United States. The Council views the Bay Area as a whole, which means infrastructure linkage is critical in the nine-county area. One of Wunderman’s chief jobs is advocating for billions in state and federal dollars to improve infrastructure, including transportation projects. The Trump administration, not particularly attentive to California, especially doesn’t like the Bay Area, which makes Wunderman’s challenge that much harder. Before the council, he worked with Dianne Feinstein when she was mayor of San Francisco, and was chief of staff to Mayor Frank Jordan. Wunderman was chairman of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce board and is a visiting professor at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management.
77. Paul Mitchell
Paul Mitchell, the vice president of Political Data, Inc., lives at the intersection of politics, data and analysis. It’s a good thing he does, because we learn a great deal from him about campaigns and what makes us tick as an electorate. Mitchell’s firm markets information – census and precinct voting numbers, for example – to campaigns in both major parties. Over the years, he’s become a go-to person for the media and pollsters who pose the question, “What does this all mean?” Paul created a political column called CA120 to unveil the findings of his analyses, and it has a state and national following. He also was one of the first to tap the state’s voter registration file to pose email survey questions to thousands of voters – a move that likely will be duplicated in other states next year. Paul is also an avid cyclist and is married to Jodi Hicks (No. 48).
78. Jennifer Barrera
The California Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president for policy is Jennifer Barrera, who effectively represents the Chamber on legal reform issues. “Reform” is a word carrying an ambiguous meaning, depending on your perspective. In any event, Barrera advises businesses on complying with changes in employment laws, and she advises the Chamber on labor, jobs and taxation — a wide portfolio. Before coming to the Chamber, Barrera worked at a statewide law firm that targeted labor-management issues, representing employers in state and federal courts and an array of topics, including breach of contract, wage and hour disputes, discrimination and harassment.
79. Mark Macarro
As the elected chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, Mark Macarro is viewed as one of the most influential tribal voices in California. In Temecula, his tribe operates the largest casino in California, but respect for Macarro stems from more than just that. He is viewed as a successor to Richard Milanovich, the late chair of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who died in 2012. Pechanga’s casino helps provide it with resources to exert political clout in Sacramento, and as a funding source for campaigns and candidates. Disputes over online poker have dominated tribal Capitol concerns for years, but the issue has diminished of late. But in its place is a new gaming issue drawing the tribes’ attention: online sports betting. On that, stay tuned – more to come, we’re sure.
80. Jeff Grubbe
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, a tribe of about 500 members that owns several casinos and resorts on 32,000 acres of land in and around Palm Springs, is a powerful, affluent tribe and its assets are one of the region’s biggest economic drivers, with big impacts in the Coachella Valley. The tribe’s chairman is Jeff Grubbe, an increasingly prominent leader in Indian Country who is said to have an easy rapport with new guv Gavin Newsom. Grubbe’s grandfather, Lawrence Pierce, previously served on the Tribal Council. Grubbe, who began serving as tribal chairman in 2012, attended the University of Redlands, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems. He also has an associate arts degree from Haskell Indian Nations University.
81. Lynn Valbuena
Lynn Valbuena, the chairwoman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and the chair of the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations, is an influential figure in tribal issues, in California as well as nationally. Valbuena, the great-great-granddaughter of Yuhaaviatam tribal leader Santos Manuel, leads a major casino-owning tribe and has – like other tribal leaders – been involved in gaming issues, but also in women’s rights, social and environmental justice, sovereignty, and income disparity. She is viewed within the tribal world as a peacemaker and a canny negotiator, and she plays a significant role in the regular gatherings of tribal officials from across California. Her reputation extends beyond California: She’s a former trustee of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and has been inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame by the American Gaming Association.
82. George Skelton
Terse, wry and caustic by turns, L.A. Times columnist George Skelton glares at state political leaders with suspicion. He’s honed his stiletto over decades of watching the Sacramento drama unfold. In one thrust, Skelton spanked Gov. Newsom for using his executive authority to put the death penalty on hold, even though voters approved the death penalty and Newsom said had he wouldn’t let his personal views take precedence. In his Capitol Journal on March 21, Skelton wrote that Newsom “better make sure he isn’t seen as a governor whose word isn’t worth squat.” When Newsom said he’d withhold voter-backed gas tax money from locals unless they spurred housing construction, Skelton took aim. “Newsom should reread Article II, Section 1 of the California Constitution. It begins: “All political power is inherent in the people.” When Skelton writes, people pay attention – even the governor.
83. Cesar Diaz
Pretty much everyone agrees: California’s pothole-riddled infrastructure needs fixing. And one of the leaders of the fix-it charge is Cesar Diaz, the longtime legislative and political director of the California Building and Construction Trades Council. California’s Council can trace its roots back to County Limerick in 19th-Century Ireland, where a Catholic Bishop of the area demanded that workers building a cathedral work until 11:00 p.m. each evening. Patrick Henry McCarthy, then only 17, led a successful wildcat strike against the bishop’s orders. These days, the Council represents blue-collar workers ranging from boilermakers to bricklayers, and they stand to do well as those much-needed infrastructure repairs and new construction get underway. Diaz was formerly deputy legislative director of the Council and before that was senior policy consultant in the lieutenant governor’s office. He works to maintain that McCarthy-style feistiness on behalf of those blue collars.
84. Dan Newman
Dan Newman, who 25 years ago co-founded SCN Strategies with Ace Smith and Sean Clegg, has launched his own firm and he’s already attracting notice. He has connections to former Gov. Jerry Brown and to newly elected Gov. Gavin Newsom – he worked on Newsom’s campaign as chief strategist – and he is frequently seen in the Capitol in the governor’s suite as well as at Brown’s ranch in Colusa, where the former governor has strategy sessions to ponder future action on such issues as climate change and infrastructure. Over the years at SCN, Newman has played key roles in the campaigns of Brown, Newsom, Kamala Harris, Barbara Boxer, Xavier Becerra, Alex Padilla, Eleni Kounalakis and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. In addition to those campaigns, Newman has been involved in scores of successful races for local and other races.
85. Brandon Castillo
Brandon Castillo is a partner in one of Sacramento’s top political consulting firms – Bicker, Castillo and Fairbanks, with Gwyn Bicker and Kathy Fairbanks. He has been on the Capitol scene for some 20 years, and his firm’s website boasts that he “has been involved in dozens of initiative campaigns and has better than a 95% success rate.” Before Bicker, Castillo and Fairbanks was founded in 2001, Castillo was a manager of public affairs for Burson-Marsteller, one of the nation’s best-known public relations firms. Freelance writer John Hrabe once said of Castillo: “Even if you were opposite Brandon in a big campaign, you’d still want to hire him on your next project.” Castillo majored in public relations at Sacramento State, and is the father of four children. He describes himself as a “wannabe athlete.”
86. Jim DeBoo
Jim DeBoo is a political consultant who has participated in more than two dozen campaigns and can brag on his website that he has won 90 percent of them. DeBoo’s lobbying and consulting firm, DeBoo Communications, has worked for corporations, independent expenditure committees, labor unions, and legislative and political action committees and their lobbying teams. Housing is one of the big issues this year, and DeBoo’s firm was hired by the California Apartment Association as a contract lobbyist to help ward off what the Association says are “legislative threats and to help members navigate a growing number of complicated laws and regulations.” DeBoo has a long list of legislative posts before becoming a consultant. He served as interim chief of staff for Speaker John A. Pérez, was chief legislative representative for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City of Los Angeles, and as chief of staff for two former Assembly members as well as special advisor to former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.
87. Nancy Drabble
It’s a constant in the Capitol –- arguments, maneuverings and posturing over consumer protection legislation. Another constant: Nancy Drabble, CEO of Consumer Attorneys of California, using her considerable expertise and clout. The CAOC likes to think of itself as an organization that aims “to level the playing field for underdog consumers facing wealthy and powerful foes.” In the Capitol, however, the CAOC is not regarded as an underdog when it comes to legislation having to do with consumer protection. Drabble, a UC Berkeley graduate, came to CAOC in 1986 after a stint with Ralph Nader’s “Nader’s Raiders.” She was a player in the legendary 1988 “napkin deal” crafted at Frank Fat’s restaurant between what was then known as the Trial Lawyers and the California Medical Association, among others. Drabble and her attorneys may find themselves in a whole new series of issues revolving around the Trump Administration’s lack of admiration for California and its leader.
88. David Lesher
The nonprofit news and commentary website CalMatters is an expanding and influential observer of California politics and public policy headed by Editor David Lesher, a veteran newsman. The staff has grown to more than two dozen, and is expanding as funding becomes more secure. It already is the largest Capitol bureau, replete with veteran reporters and editors from news organizations that include The Sacramento Bee and The Los Angeles Times. Dan Morain, formerly of the Times and onetime editorial page editor of the Bee, is the senior editor. Lesher himself covered Sacramento for the Times and is a former editor of the late and lamented California Journal. He co-founded CalMatters in 2015 and led the organization as editor and CEO until December 2018, when he continued to serve as editor. Previously, Lesher was director of government affairs at the Public Policy Institute of California,
89. Jeff Randle
Jeff Randle, who has been on this list before, is president and CEO of Randle Communications, which handles political strategy, media, communications and other chores for an array of clients, including the California Hospital Association, Golden 1, the California Association of Realtors and the California Earthquake Authority, among others. Randle served eight years as deputy chief of staff under former Gov. Pete Wilson, and was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political director in the 2003 recall campaign against Gray Davis. Randle Communications got a boost this year when it was named to Inc. magazine’s list of the best workplaces nationwide; Randle Communications was the only company on this list from Sacramento. In 2017 the firm introduced its Digital Influencer Report, which details how social media is used to influence California’s legislative process – it’s an interesting look into Sacto political Twitter, etc. Randle also is chairman of the board and a driving force behind California Trailblazers, the state’s version of the NRCC’s Young Guns candidate recruitment program.
90. David Quintana
The state’s still-emerging cannabis industry continues to be shaped in cities across California and in the Capitol. One of the principal players in that ongoing saga is lobbyist David Quintana, a veteran lobbyist and attorney who has quickly developed an expertise in cannabis issues. With his strong build, shaved head and vast knowledge of the Capitol and its ways, Quintana is someone you want to have on your side in any contest. He is a partner at Quintana, Watts and Hartmann, a relatively new firm with 10 lobbyists, and his varied client list includes Netflix, the Cannabis Beverage Association, American Express and the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. Quintana is experienced – he’s been around the Capitol for more than 15 years, spending much of that time working on tribal gaming issues. He is a graduate of UC Davis and the Boston College School of Law.
91. Amy Jenkins
Precision Advocacy Group is a new lobbying firm, but its founder is an experienced Capitol hand who is working to become one of those leading the charge for California’s cannabis industry. She’s Amy Jenkins, who before launching her firm in September of 2018 had years of experience in public policy issues not always involving marijuana: In 2015, the California Military Department awarded her its Civilian Medal of Honor for her work improving the Department’s efficiency and effectiveness. She was a senior policy director at the lobbying firm Platinum Advisors, where she advocated on behalf of the California Cannabis Industry Association. She was a creator of the Cannabis Caucus, a group of 10 lobbying firms connected to the industry. Before all that, Jenkins was chief of staff to state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), lobbied for Solano County and served as a consultant to the Assembly Business and Professions Committee. Nicknamed “Pot Girl” in a glowing April 2017 profile by Dan Morain, Jenkins has carved a unique niche in a unique industry.
92. Roger Salazar
The San Francisco Chronicle once called him “a master of the soundbite” and Roger Salazar has the record to back up that description. He heads ALZA Strategies, a political communications firm with heavy connections to California’s Latino political community. The company just brought in as a partner veteran communications consultant Hilary McLean, who served as former Gov. Gray Davis’ spokesperson. Through ALZA, Salazar serves as a spokesman for the California Latino Legislative Caucus and the California Democratic Party, and he was in charge of media relations for Xavier Becerra for Attorney General. Salazar’s resume is not confined to California, however. He was a bilingual media spokesperson for Bill Clinton in the White House and Vice President Al Gore in the White House and in Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. Pretty good resume for a kid from Lodi.
93. Ditas Katague
California wants an accurate census, and here’s just the person to make that happen – Ditas Katague. She is the director of Complete Count, the state office coordinating the census program here. She served on the U.S. Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee (NAC) on Race, Ethnicities and Other Populations from 2012-2018, and as chair from 2015-18. Earlier, she was the Director of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Census 2010 project, and before that she was chief deputy campaign director for the 2000 census campaign. She also led a multilingual, multimedia outreach effort that resulted in a mail-in return rate that outpaced the entire nation. Ditas most recently served as chief of staff to the California Public Utilities Commissioner Catherine Sandoval. Since 1998, she has served on the Sacramento Center Advisory Board for USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.
94. McNally Temple
The firm of McNally Temple – the strategic combine of Ray McNally and Richard Temple – is traditionally a GOP-leaning consultancy, so one would think times would get tougher as the state turns deeper and deeper blue. But they’re still here, definitely. McNally, the president and creative director, founded the firm in 1980 and Temple joined in 1992. Clients have included Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, Gov. Pete Wilson, Steve Poizner, along with the state Chamber of Commerce and the California Republican Party. The mustached McNally can boast of a perhaps more exotic background than many political types. He studied playwriting at UC Davis and has done communications training for candidates and political parties in Nigeria, Mongolia, Iraq, Egypt, Mexico, Malaysia and Russia. Temple, who, rumor has it, has been shorn of his ’stache, is a fellow UC Davis graduate and worked in the California Legislature for more than a decade as a political director and caucus chief of staff.
95. Karen Skelton
Few people can boast of being steeped in California politics and policy as deeply as Karen Skelton. She’s been practicing the arts of communicating and political strategizing for 30 years. She is the founder and CEO of Skelton Strategies, a boutique consulting firm handling a wide variety of clients and causes. For almost a decade, Skelton was CEO of The Shriver Reports, a nonprofit media initiative examining seismic societal shifts currently affecting American women and families. Skelton was the coordinating producer of the Emmy-nominated HBO documentary Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert. The Shriver Report was part of the team winning a 2015 Emmy for All In with Chris Hayes for news discussion and analysis. She spent a decade in Washington, working most of that time in the Clinton/Gore Administration.
96. Ann Notthoff
Annie Notthoff, one of the state’s best-known environmentalists, directs California advocacy for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Her job has been made tougher by the Trump administration, which has made clear its opposition to an array of California environmental policies dealing with greenhouse gas emissions, fuel standards, oil drilling, automobile pollution, and more. Notthoff joined the NRDC in 1982 and directs a broad range of initiatives to promote public health and environmental protection. She was a leader of the successful bipartisan campaign to defeat Prop 23 and defend California’s landmark climate law, AB 32, in 2010. She is currently a Senate appointee to the State Coastal Conservancy and was a member of the board of the California League of Conservation Voters, or CLCV, for more than 20 years. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon and a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley. She works out of NRDC’s San Francisco office.
97. Shari McHugh
Pound for pound, the small lobbying firm of McHugh, Koepke & Associates seems to punch well above its weight. Their lengthy client list has a number of insurers, including Hartford, the National Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors of California and the Pacific Association of Domestic Insurance Companies. Shari has a history with the insurance industry: She served as senior vice president of the Coalition of California Insurance Professionals and senior vice president of the Professional Insurance Agents. But MKA also has the California Adult Education Administration Association; the American Beverage Association, made up of soft-drink companies; the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States; and the Shell Oil Company. The firm was started in 2000 by Gavin McHugh, and spouse Shari joined in 2003.
98. Scott Lay
Scott Lay is the publisher and editor of The Nooner, a daily compendium of news and analysis targeting the state Capitol that he started a few years ago and which has become a regular read for some 9,000 subscribers. The Washington Post called it one of California’s top political blogs. Scott, an attorney with tech savvy, also devised a way early on to provide automated updates of campaign contributions and other data on his website, a convenience for lazy readers like us. Scott, a graduate of the UC Davis School of Law, served from 2006 to 2014 as the president and CEO of the Community College League of California, a nonprofit association serving California’s 72 community colleges. If there is a person who lives and breathes capitol politics and intrigue more deeply than Scott, we don’t know them. Scott Lay serves on the board of Open California, the nonprofit that publishes Capitol Weekly.
99. Gimme Shelter
There is no shortage of proposed solutions for the housing crisis (heck, Sen. Scott Weiner pitched an entire catalog of them himself) and navigating the often internecine and multi-faceted planning/zoning/economic policy arguments is no easy matter, even for the experts. (Actually, that’s part of how we got into this mess… but I digress.) That’s where Gimme Shelter comes in. A joint effort from CalMatters’ Matt Levin and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon, the Gimme Shelter podcast offers a biweekly look at housing policy, delivering substantive but digestible discussions about hot topics and arcane issues including in-law units, earthquakes, gentrification, rent control, supply skepticism, etc. Hosts Dillon and Levin keep the discussions moving and feature guests from the front lines of the battle like Michael Weinstein (No. 64). Averaging over 5,000 listeners per episode, the podcast has become a go-to resource for keeping up on the single biggest issue in California. 4.7 stars on Apple podcasts!
100. Dale Kasler
The Sacramento Bee’s Dale Kasler writes good stuff and a lot of it, and he makes even hard-to-report stories look easy. He has speedily reported out – but with depth and nuance – complex tales about pensions, government, transportation, environmental regulation, dam safety, wetlands, farming, wildfires, investigative stories…. you name it. Just one example: A few years ago, CalPERS was rocked by scandal and it received nationwide coverage, but Kasler’s accounts were usually first, and often the best. Earlier this year he wrote a solid first-person account about being handcuffed by police at a Stephon Clark demonstration, and he gave the reader a real sense of the street. From first to last, we think Kasler’s reporting was the best. Just sayin’…