State Assembly candidate Betsy Butler believes she has developed skills as a coalition builder that will be a valuable asset as the next representative of the 53rd District.

As a former fundraiser for two environmental organizations and the Consumer Attorneys of California, Butler said she gained experience working with groups on differing sides of various issues. Working as the development director for the California League of Conservation Voters and the Environmental Defense Fund, Butler said she helped solidify support for environmental efforts such as carbon emission standard changes, water conservation and habitat protection policies.

She previously served as a field representative for former Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy coordinating public policy outreach and later served in the Clinton administration at the Department of Commerce where she worked on international trade policies.

These experiences, along with relationships that she has developed with different groups and elected leaders, have helped prepare her for a statewide legislative office, she believes. Butler is one of eight candidates vying to replace 53rd District Assemblyman Ted Lieu, who is termed out of office, in the Democratic primary June 8th.

“I have a very broad range of support and very strong relationships that I’ve accumulated and worked on over the years,” Butler said of her qualifications, adding that her campaign has received support from a number of legislators.

Butler, who has lived in Marina del Rey for 14 years, noted that the 53rd District, which stretches from the Torrance and Lomita areas north to Venice and West Los Angeles, is comprised of very diverse communities. In addition to economic concerns for the district, Butler said mass transportation, the environment and education will be her top priorities as Assembly member. Regarding the environment, she said she opposes off-shore drilling and would work to ensure that the ocean is kept clean.

Butler says her run for the Assembly is simply about public service.

“Running for office is about serving the people and doing good policy, and right now California is in rather a crisis,” she said, adding that the state’s economic crisis motivated her to want to get involved.

Butler’s campaign has been the target of some of the more significant opposition against any district candidate, something she attributes to her work for the environmental and consumer groups. She believes groups representing oil and insurance companies have gone on the attack due to her support of Assembly Bill 32, a global emissions bill, and the regulation of health care insurance.

The Los Angeles Times reported that groups funded by the Civil Justice Association of California and two medical malpractice insurance companies have spent nearly half a million dollars to defeat Butler. John Sullivan, president of the association, told the Times that Butler’s role as a former fundraiser for the consumer attorneys “shows she already has been a part of the Sacramento money machine.”

One of several opposition mailers that were sent out to district voters showed a shark labeled “lobbyist” swimming below the capitol and charged that she has accepted thousands of dollars from lobbyists representing big oil, drug and insurance companies. But mailers from Butler’s campaign have rejected those claims, saying she has not taken a single dollar from any lobbyist. Butler stressed that she has never been a lobbyist and only worked for people whom she supported.

“I’m really a good person, and all I’ve done is put my head down and worked for people who I believe in,” she said. “What I’m fighting for is what people of the 53rd would want too.”

As the next Assembly member, Butler said she would focus on investing in renewable technology and green jobs. Other central issues for the candidate would be health care and elder care, explaining that state legislators may need to look at universal health care, perhaps a single-payer plan.

In regards to education, she said that higher education schools need to be fully funded so that they can be at full capacity.

“They are the jewel of the state of California and the country. They are world-renowned universities; we need to make sure we are not cutting people from them and make sure they’re full,” she said.

Like a number of her opponents, Butler supports changing the two-thirds majority vote requirement to pass the state budget, saying it “doesn’t allow for us to govern properly in California.”

Asked about the controversial issue of overnight RV parking in Venice, she said she supports an effort to establish a safe parking program where the vehicles could park on designated lots and have access to services. Butler, who along with her opponents signed a “no jets” pledge for Santa Monica Airport, called the concerns of nearby residents regarding jet pollution disturbing. She would look to bring all sides together to determine the best way to solve the airport problems.

With mass transit a major priority for Butler, she said she supports the Metro Exposition Line extension to Santa Monica and will be a strong advocate for the Metro Green Line connection to Los Angeles International Airport, which should have been in place from the beginning.

“The rail should’ve gone through the airport to begin with,” she said.

As voters prepare to go to the polls in the June 8th primary, Butler said she hopes to advocate on behalf of their interests and encourages them to continue communicating their concerns if she is elected.

“I’m going to be the voice for most of the members of the 53rd (District),” Butler said. “I will ask the voters of the 53rd to be in touch with me, and if elected, to continue their communications with me about how we’re going to solve all of these problems here in California and the district.

“It’s a very exciting time. It’s a crisis time, but this district is very smart, practical and also quite creative and we can draw on all that, which builds for a very strong district.”

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