Pledging to curb the political influence of big-money donors and update California's voting infrastructure, activist and former Common Cause vice president Derek Cressman announced today his candidacy for California secretary of state.
Cressman joins a field already populated by Republican Pete Peterson, who heads a public policy school at Pepperdine University, and two Democratic state senators, Alex Padilla of Los Angeles and Leland Yee of San Francisco. Like Peterson, Cressman is positioning himself as an outsider with no interest in ascending the political career ladder.
"I'm running for secretary of state only to be secretary of state," Cressman said in an announcement on the south steps of the State Capitol, promising that if he were elected, he would not run for other public offices while serving as secretary of state.
"With the growing concentration of political power in the hands of an elite few," he added, "it too often feels as if our government has been conquered by an army of special interests, lawyers, lobbyists and career politicians who no longer act on our behalf."
In his capacity as a government watchdog, Cressman has been a vocal critic of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that helped loosen limits on campaign spending by third-party groups. He pointed to his role in supporting ballot measures in San Francisco and Los Angeles that asked Congress to overturn the ruling, and said he would hold hearings questioning members of Congress about how they are complying.
California has some of the lowest voter turnout rates in the nation, a shortcoming Cressman attributed to "an outdated voter registration system and a lack of clear and dependable voter information." He said he would work on an updated voter guide with more information on ballot measures and candidates that cuts through "the mudslinging TV ads."
PHOTO: Derek Cressman launches his campaign on the south steps of the State Capitol on June 18, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Jeremy B. White.