Nation enters state Senate race

Former Assemblyman Joe Nation has officially entered the race for the 3rd Senate District seat currently held by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco. Nation, ending months of speculation, made the announcement at a rally in the Petaluma Marina on Saturday morning.

Nation said his long delay was due to waiting to see the fate of  Proposition 93, the term-limits change that was rejected by voters in last Tuesday's presidential primary, which included several state ballot measures.

"It's official," said Nation when reached by phone after the announcement. "I'm looking forward to it. As I told the crowd this morning, I'm putting my running shoes on because it's going to be a sprint."

The state primary election is scheduled for June 6. Both Migden, the incumbent, and challenger Assemblyman Mark Leno are openly-gay liberal Democrats representing San Francisco. But the Senate district also contains several North Bay communities above San Francisco, and this area should form Nation's voting base. From 2001 through 2006, Nation represented the San Rafael-based AD 6 seat now held by Jared Huffman.

Leno opened up the race almost a year ago when he took the unusual step of challenging Migden, an incumbent from his own party with very similar politics. Several other candidates have entered since then, the best-known being Joe Alioto Veronese, a member of the San Francisco Police Commission

Nation would be considered a more moderate candidate than either Leno or Migden. He is known for strong environmental stands. He's carried global warming legislation and for the past several months has taught classes on the subject at Stanford University.

But he may also be considered more friendly to business than either Leno or Migden. He is also a consultant for Environ, where he counsels companies on implementing AB 32, the landmark 2006 California global warming law. Reached last month, Nation said that he had commissioned polling showing him to be competitive, especially in the North Bay.

"The question most people are asking is 'Why are you doing it and what took you so long?'" Nation said.

The biggest reason he waited, Nation said, was to see what voters decided on Proposition 93. This initiative would have reduced the amount of time one person could spend in the Legislature from 14 years to 12, but allow them to spend it in either house. If it had passed, both Leno and Nation would have been limited to a single Senate term if they managed to beat Migden. Nation served six years in the Assembly, while Leno is in his sixth year.

"I didn't want to get in the race and then say ‘Never mind,'" Nation said.

If elected, Nation said he would concentrate on taking further steps on global warming. He said he would like to see California begin a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions by 2010. He would also like to see the state get involved with a regional cooperative, such as the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (REGI), a coalition of Northeastern states that cooperate on limited emissions.

Finally, he said he wanted to use his training as an economist to get involved in the healthcare issue. He lamented to death in the Senate last month of AB 1X, a public/private statewide healthcare plan largely developed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Speaker Fabian Núñez.

"It really underscores one of the major themes of our campaign, that Democracy is best served when voters have a choice," said Leno when reached by cell phone as he was about to join a group of campaign volunteers at a Safeway in the North Bay town of San Rafael.

Leno said this his polling showed him with a significant lead over Migden among San Francisco voters. He's been concentrating much of his efforts in reaching North Bay voters, saying he's been there "nearly daily" for months. In fact, he said, he's been expecting an announcement from Nation since they ran into charity event in Mill Valley last Saturday.

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