Debra Bowen

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Debra Bowen
168 pix
31st Secretary of State of California
In office
January 8, 2007 – January 4, 2015
GovernorArnold Schwarzenegger
Jerry Brown
Preceded byBruce McPherson
Succeeded byAlex Padilla
Member of the California State Senate
from the 28th district
In office
December 7, 1998 – November 30, 2006
Preceded byRalph Dills
Succeeded byJenny Oropeza
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 53rd district
In office
December 7, 1992 - November 30, 1998
Preceded byRichard Floyd
Succeeded byGeorge Nakano
Personal details
Born (1955-10-27) October 27, 1955 (age 65)
Rockford, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materMichigan State University (B.A)
University of Virginia (J.D.)

Debra Lynn Bowen (born October 27, 1955) is an American attorney and politician who served as the Secretary of State of California from 2007 to 2015. Previously, she was a member of the California State Legislature from 1992 to 2006. In March 2008, she was given the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.[1]

Background and education[edit]

Bowen was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, where she graduated from Guilford High School in 1973. She received her bachelor's degree in 1976 from Michigan State University, and her Juris Doctor in 1979 from the University of Virginia School of Law.[2][3] In 1984, she started her own California law firm.

Motivated by the death of Robin Williams a few weeks earlier, in September 2014, her last year serving as Secretary of State, Bowen revealed that she has been battling depression since she had been in college.[4] She vowed to continue to serve out her term as Secretary of State.[5]

Career in politics[edit]

Bowen began her career in politics on the Neighborhood Watch and Heal the Bay.[6] Her first elected office was to the California State Assembly, where she represented the 53rd Assembly District in the South Bay, Los Angeles area from 1992 to 1998. Bowen was first elected to the California State Senate, representing the 28th State Senate District, in 1998. Her district included all or portions of the cities of Carson, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Venice, and Wilmington. Bowen chaired the California Senate's Committee on Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments. She also sat on the Energy, Utilities & Communications and Rules committees. Due to term limits, her service in the Senate ended in December 2006.

On June 6, 2006, Bowen faced Deborah Ortiz, another state senator, in the Democratic primary to run against Bruce McPherson for the position of California Secretary of State. Bowen won the primary by a 61-39 margin.[7] On November 2, Bowen defeated Republican candidate McPherson for reelection by a margin of 3%.[8]

She was re-elected on November 2, 2010 over Republican Damon Dunn.[citation needed]

Candidacy for Congress seat[edit]

Bowen at the 2011 Democratic Party of California state convention

After incumbent Jane Harman announced she was vacating the seat,[9] Bowen was widely discussed as a possible candidate for the 36th congressional district special election to replace her.[10] On February 15, 2011, Bowen announced in an email to her supporters that she was entering the race.[11] Her candidacy was endorsed by former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean,[12] Democracy for America,[13] the California League of Conservation Voters,[14] and the California Nurses Association.[15] She came in third, not qualifying for the general election for the seat.[16]

Policy interests[edit]

Bowen is known for her support of opening government to the Internet. In 1993, her first year in elected office, she helped to pass Assembly Bill (AB) 1624,[17] which made all of California's bill information available on the Internet.

In May 2007, Bowen commissioned a "Top to Bottom Review" of California's electronic voting systems, to determine their security. On August 3, 2007, Bowen withdrew approval and certification and conditionally re-approved three electronic voting systems (Diebold Election Systems, Hart InterCivic, Sequoia Voting Systems), and rescinded approval of a fourth system, (Election Systems & Software), after the top-to-bottom review of the voting machines found the machines to be highly insecure.[18][19] For these efforts she was awarded the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.[20]

Bowen was interviewed for the January 16, 2008 broadcast of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer[21] and was the keynote speaker for the 2008 Usenix Security Symposium.[22]


  1. ^ "Debra Bowen - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum". 2008-05-12. Retrieved 2011-05-18.
  2. ^ "About Debra Bowen - California Secretary of State". Archived from the original on 2011-05-20. Retrieved 2011-05-18.
  3. ^ "Intersection of Technology, Democracy Influenced Bowen's Path to California Secretary of State". 2010-03-03. Retrieved 2011-05-18.
  4. ^ McGreevy, Patrick (September 5, 2014). "Secretary of State Debra Bowen tells of struggle with depression". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ Miller, Jim (September 8, 2014). "Bowen vows to press on as election nears". Sacramento Bee. Archived from the original on 2014-09-24.
  6. ^ Maddaus, Gene (2011-02-15). "Debra Bowen Will Run For Congress - Los Angeles News - The Informer". Retrieved 2011-05-18.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-07-06. Retrieved 2007-07-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-29. Retrieved 2007-09-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "First Read - 2011: Harman to resign, setting up cycle's first special". 2011-02-08. Archived from the original on 2011-02-11. Retrieved 2011-05-18.
  10. ^ Cruickshank, Robert. "Bowen for Congress". Calitics. Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2011-05-18.
  11. ^ Merl, Jean (February 16, 2011). "Debra Bowen enters race to succeed Rep. Jane Harman". Los Angeles Times.
  12. ^ David Catanese (March 28, 2011). "Howard Dean for Debra Bowen". Politico.
  13. ^ "DFA Endorses Debra Bowen for CA 36". Democracy for America. March 23, 2011.
  14. ^ "News Release: CLCV endorses Debra Bowen for Congress | California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV)". 2011-03-30. Retrieved 2011-05-18.
  15. ^ California, Nevada, Texas Legislation. "California Endorsements". National Nurses United. Retrieved 2011-05-18.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ "Official Results for California's 36th Congressional District Special Election, 2011" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-24.
  17. ^ "Bill List". Retrieved 2010-09-04.
  18. ^ "Top-To-Bottom Review". California Secretary of State. 2007-08-03. Archived from the original on 2007-07-15. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  19. ^ San Francisco Gate: "County officials fear new voting standards will be hard to meet". Archived from the original on January 19, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-19.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link). August 4, 2007.
  20. ^ John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum: Debra Bowen award announcement. May 12, 2008.
  21. ^ Michels, Spencer (2008-01-16). "Ballot Blues in California". PBS. Retrieved 2011-05-18.
  22. ^ "USENIX Security '08 Technical Sessions". 2008-12-09. Retrieved 2017-09-18. Keynote Address: Dr. Strangevote or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Paper Ballot, Debra Bowen, California Secretary of State.

External links[edit]

California Assembly
Preceded by
Richard Floyd
California State Assemblymember, 53rd District
December 7, 1992–November 30, 1998
Succeeded by
George Nakano
California Senate
Preceded by
Ralph C. Dills
California State Senator, 28th District
December 7, 1998–November 30, 2006
Succeeded by
Jenny Oropeza
Political offices
Preceded by
Bruce McPherson
California Secretary of State
January 8, 2007–January 4, 2015
Succeeded by
Alex Padilla