Alex Padilla
Secretary of State

alex-padilla-optAlex Padilla was sworn in as California Secretary of State on January 5, 2015. He is committed to modernizing the office, increasing voter registration and participation, and strengthening voting rights.

Padilla’s parents emigrated from Mexico and raised their family in the working class community of Pacoima, California.  His father worked as a short order cook and his mother cleaned houses.  Padilla attended local public schools and went on to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.  He recently completed a five-year term as a member of the MIT Corporation (Board of Trustees).  Padilla is often asked how he moved from engineering to public service. He explains that in many ways they are similar; the goal of each is solving problems.

Padilla currently serves as President of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), a non-partisan organization made up of more than 6,000 federal, state, and local officials dedicated to all aspects of civic engagement.
Padilla previously served in the California State Senate (2006-2014) where he chaired the Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications. As chair, he shepherded legislation to combat climate change and create a greener and more sustainable economy.  He pursued an ambitious agenda in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart grid, and broadband deployment.

While in the Senate Padilla also worked on legislation that required chain restaurants to post calorie information, school systems to identify and implement best practices in English Learner curriculum and instruction statewide, and streamline the transfer process and create a clear and consistent pathway for community college students working to transfer to the California State University system.

Before he was elected to the Senate, Padilla had served many other leadership positions, such as, Council President of the Los Angeles City Council (2001), Acting Mayor (during Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy), and President of the League of California Cities (2005).
Padilla, 43, lives with his wife Angela and their three sons in the San Fernando Valley.

Darrell Steinberg    
Mayor of Sacramento

steinbergDarrell Steinberg is one of Sacramento’s most accomplished public servants, serving the Sacramento community for over 20 years.

As a young man, Steinberg bought his first home in Tahoe Park, where he and his wife Julie started their family. When Tahoe Park was having trouble with gangs, the neighborhood began to organize and formed the Tahoe Park Neighborhood Association, electing Darrell Steinberg as its first President.

After a time, things turned around and Darrell was encouraged to run for City Council. On the Council, Darrell focused on making neighborhoods safe, creating good jobs and providing quality after-school programs for kids. Steinberg founded Sacramento START, a program to help kids in our most challenged schools improve their test scores. Today, START is a model after-school program statewide.

Darrell later ran for State Assembly and then State Senate, becoming the first Sacramentan to serve as President of the Senate in over 125 years. As a leader of the state’s upper house, Darrell got things done by building coalitions and finding common ground among opponents to deliver real results including guiding the state back to fiscal solvency during the economic downturn.

As a state legislator, Steinberg championed economic development, education reform, building sustainable communities and major investments in healthcare and education. He fought to ensure a portion of Cap-and-Trade funding be used to help cities invest in local transit improvements. Through all of this, his work has always focused on Sacramento.

Steinberg played a key role in the downtown revitalization, obtaining state funding for the new courthouse in the Railyards, which is expected to create 1,800 good paying jobs to the city. Steinberg also fought for state monies for career pathways to connect high school students to 21st century jobs, delivering millions of dollars to Sacramento area schools in the first round of funding.

Today, Steinberg is working to leverage the state mental health dollars for permanent supportive housing to help end the cycle of homelessness for good in Sacramento.

Darrell Steinberg and his wife, Julie, have two children Jordana, 21 and Ari, 19. Darrell is a graduate of UCLA and UC Davis Law School. He is a founder and Board Chair of the Steinberg Institute for Advancing Mental Health Policy and is the Director of Policy and Advocacy and a visiting professor for the UC Davis Behavioral Health Center of Excellence.

Celinda Lake    
Lake Research Partners

c_lakeCelinda Lake is one of the Democratic Party’s leading political strategists, serving as tactician and senior advisor to the national party committees, dozens of Democratic incumbents, and challengers at all levels of the electoral process. Celinda and her firm are known for cutting-edge research on issues including the economy, health care, the environment and education, and have worked for a number of institutions including the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA), AFL-CIO, SEIU, CWA, IAFF, Sierra Club, NARAL, Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, The Next Generation, EMILY’s List, VoteVets Action Fund, and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Her international work has included work in Liberia, Haiti, Ukraine, South Africa, and Central America. In 2008, Celinda worked as pollster for Vice President Biden.

Prior to forming Lake Research Partners, Celinda was partner and vice president at Greenberg-Lake. Her earlier experience includes serving as Political Director of the Women’s Campaign Fund, as the Research Director at the Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and as a Policy Analyst for the Subcommittee on Select Education.

Celinda, a native of Montana—born and raised on a ranch—and one of the political world’s most avid whitewater rafters, holds a master’s degree in political science and survey research from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and a certificate in political science from the University of Geneva, in Switzerland. Celinda received her undergraduate degree from Smith College in Massachusetts, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude and was recently awarded the Distinguished Alumna Medal by the College.

Chris Hoene    
California Budget and Policy Center

hoeneChris Hoene became the Budget Center’s executive director in October 2012, bringing to the organization 15 years of leadership in state and local policy research and analysis. He leads the strategic direction of the organization, acts as primary spokesperson, and works with the board of directors and community partners to implement our vision and mission. Prior to joining the Budget Center, Chris was director of the Center for Research and Innovation at the National League of Cities in Washington, DC, leading efforts to analyze trends in local and state government and promote constructive policy action on issues including public finance, economic development, housing, poverty reduction, infrastructure, and governance.  Chris also previously worked for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, DC, and the Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco. Chris holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science of the College of Idaho. In 2011, in recognition of his service to the state and local community, Chris was elected as a Fellow into the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA).

María Blanco
UC Immigrant Legal Services Center

María Blanco is Executive Director of the Undocumented Student Legal Services Center, which operates out of UC Davis School of Law to provide immigration-related legal services for undocumented students at the six University of California campuses without law schools: UC Merced, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, and UC Riverside.  Launched in November 2014, the Center is a pilot project of the University of California Office of the President and works in collaboration with the UC Davis School of Law Immigration Law Clinic.

A graduate of UC Berkeley, Blanco has more than 20 years’ experience as a litigator and advocate for immigrant rights, women’s rights, and social justice. She most recently served as Vice President of Civic Engagement at the California Community Foundation and led its immigrant integration initiatives.  Blanco has also served as Executive Director of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute at UC Berkeley School of Law, as Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, as an Equal Rights Advocates attorney, as associate director and associate professor at Golden Gate University School of Law, and as National Senior Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She is a member of the Public Policy Institute of California Board of Directors and the California Citizens’ Redistricting Commission.

Jill Darling
University of Southern California 

darlingJill E. Darling, MSHS joined USC’s Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR) in 2016 as Survey Director for the Understanding America Study. Jill is also a Research Health Scientist at the Veterans Health Administration Health Services Research and Development Center for Healthcare Innovation, Implementation, and Policy (CSHIIP). Prior to joining CESR, Jill served as CSHIIP’s Survey Director. Her research has recently focused on using survey methods in context of implementation science research, particularly in the area of women’s health services. She served as lead survey investigator on several multi-year mixed-method studies and CRTs and her work informed the design and implementation of national programs aimed at ensuring women are provided with a respectful and secure healthcare environment at VA. Prior to her work at the VA, Jill was Associate Director of the Los Angeles Times Poll (later Times/Bloomberg poll). The LAT polling unit conducted more than 400 surveys over two decades on a wide range of topics and earned multiple awards. After leaving the LA Times in 2008, Jill spent two years working as an independent consultant helping state and local governments study storm water pollution behavior. Jill obtained her B.A. in mathematics from Sonoma State University in California and left UCLA without finishing her dissertation to go to work for the LA Times. She completed a MSHS degree from The George Washington University in 2010.

Brooke Binkowski

Brooke Binkowski is an award-winning journalist and researcher who has written and produced for CNN, CBS, NPR, the Globe and Mail, AJ+, The Christian Science Monitor, and various other news outlets.

Brooke speaks two languages well and five languages very badly. She loves to travel, run, play music, and read, and is an avid saber fencer and an accordion enthusiast.