Alexander Vassar, the floor manager of the Senate Republican Policy Office, is hoping readers will take a journey into the unknown when they read his book titled: “The Legislators of California,” which was issued in March by the Senate Rules Committee.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Panama in 1981. My parents were marine biologists working for the Smithsonian. I grew up in Watsonville, which was named for John H. Watson, who was the first Assemblymember to represent the area after California became a state. I graduated from San Jose State in 2004, and started my website [joincalifornia.com] that same year. My wife [Jane] and I recently celebrated our 8th anniversary.
In 2007-08, I was Senate Fellow in Senator Dutton’s office. After the Fellowship, I worked briefly for Senator Hollingsworth and have been a floor manager with the Senate Republican Office since 2009.
Congratulations! What made you want to write this book in the first place?
Over the years, I have been asked a number of interesting questions about the Legislature, like, “Who was the youngest legislator ever?” or “How many legislators have termed out of both houses?” I thought it would be useful to have this information available in a single place. I included a few short biographies for some of my favorite legislators, who I thought were unique and likely unknown to almost all current staffers.
What do you love most about history?
I enjoy learning about earlier legislators and the issues they faced because it gives me a better context for understanding how the Capitol came to be the way it is today, and to get some perspective on how future generations will look back on us 20 to 50 years from now.
How were you able to acquire so much history? How long did it take you?
I have been working on this project for about seven years. It started in 2004, while I was trying to find a history of the 21st Assembly District. At the time, the only election results available online were the Statements of Vote in PDF form on the secretary of state’s website. I thought that the information would be more accessible if the election data could be sorted a number of ways (by candidate, district number, county, election, etc…). In 2005, Shane Meyers, my best friend, offered to write some code to convert the data into a website, which went online a few months later. Since then, most of the time I’ve spent has been on adding information to the biographies of the candidates.
Do you plan on writing more books?
Definitely. I enjoy researching and writing. There is plenty of material to work with, and the average American life expectancy should give me another four solid decades.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I enjoy research and finding out about parts of California’s political history that have been forgotten. My favorite part about writing this book was being able to share that lost history of the Legislature with people. Whether it’s tensions between the speaker and the governor, or a skirmish on the Assembly floor, there is almost always a historic event that provides some insight on current events.
What inspires you to write?
I’ve found that learning about the history of the Legislature has made me a better staffer. I wrote this book to help share some of what I learned with the Capitol community.
What made you want to write about this subject in the first place?
There were a few legislators who were just too interesting to stay lost to history. Whether it was Willis W. Bradley, awarded the Medal of Honor in 1917, or Charles S. Fairfax, a Scottish nobleman who was elected Assembly Speaker at age 24, I felt like I had to share those stories.
Did you picture yourself being a published author growing up?
My mother wrote several books about marine life for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, so I was pretty sure that it would be a fun and interesting experience.
Where do you plan on taking this book?
The book was an attempt to bring together a lot of information about the California Legislature that I had found during eight years of research. I thought it might be of interest to legislators and staff, so I assembled a 20-page document highlighting some notable legislators and statistics about legislative service. I photocopied and stapled the document together and distributed it to colleagues in the Capitol. After many rounds of feedback and revision, it grew into the current form.