For Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, 16 years of teaching in elementary school prepared her for the California Legislature.
“The amount of learning you have to get through in a single day to understand the issues is crazy. If you’re not prepared for it, you could be overwhelmed,” said the West Covina Democrat in a recent interview about her first year in office. “Thankfully, I was a teacher. That’s the dynamic a teacher has to deal with every day. I’m used to it.”
Elected in 2016, her district includes Azusa, Baldwin Park, Bradbury, Industry, Covina, Duarte, El Monte, Glendora, Irwindale, Monrovia, West Covina, and unincorporated areas such as Bassett, Charter Oak, Citrus, East Arcadia, Ramona, Valinda and West La Puente.
With 20 years of elected office, serving on the Valley County Water Board and Baldwin Park Unified School District Board, she built many relationships in Sacramento over the years. But once elected to the Assembly, Rubio said, she met with every member in both houses to expand on those relationships. She also learned about issues that were important to Northern California members so that they could work together.
The results: six of Rubio’s bills were signed into law in her first year. During budget negotiations, she obtained millions of dollars for San Gabriel Valley transportation projects. This included $33.7 million for a pavement preservation project to add and upgrade lanes, guardrail and improve roads on the 605 freeway from the 10 to 210; $2.8 million to resurface parts of the 605 between El Monte and West Covina; and $2.9 million for a bridge project on Peck Road.
Chairwoman of the Human Services Committee and Select Committee on Domestic Violence, Rubio has authored bills that support victims of domestic violence, help children in foster care and assist immigrant communities.
In addition, Rubio and state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, recently introduced a bill to combat the growing youth homelessness problem. The proposed legislation would use $60 million from the cannabis tax fund and general funds for rapid rehousing, rental assistance, transitional housing, shelters and other assistance for minors and youth.
It’s an issue that reminds her of why she ran for Assembly. She estimated that she had more than 500 students come through her classrooms, but it was two young girls, Alicia and Aveena, she remembers often. They had to overcome major obstacles to even get to school, let alone succeed, including being hungry. Once she realized they didn’t have any school supplies at home to complete assignments and put together a take-home box of pens, pencils and other items.
“I will tell you, I have a hard time asking for myself. But if I’m advocating for a cause, I can ask for anything,” she said, when discussing the challenges of running for office as a Latina and single mother of two as well as raising money from donors. So “why am I doing this? I’m advocating for the Alicias and Aveenas of the world. There are many kids just like them.”
She has also generated some criticism from liberal groups. The California Environmental Justice Alliance and the Courage Campaign essentially gave her C grades on her voting record.
Rubio said that while she was aligned with the groups’ goals, she didn’t agree with all of their legislative aims. She said she would continue to advocate for the residents and businesses of her district. It’s critical for businesses to stay in California, she added, because they pay the taxes that fund important programs.
While Rubio bristled at the description of her 2016 Assembly election being an “upset,” she said she knew she was going to win as did many community members, she acknowledged that the lack of establishment endorsements in the campaign turned out to be a good thing.
“I can look at all sides of the issue” without worrying about being beholden to special interests, she said. She noted that the same qualities that helped her win elections, work in the Legislature. “They might have the money and the endorsements, but no one will ever outwork me.”