Wilma Chan

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Wilma Chan (born October 5, 1949 in Boston, Massachusetts, Chinese: 陳煥瑛; pinyin: Chén Huànyīng) is a politician in California serving on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Chan served as the California State Assembly Majority Leader from 2002–2004; she was the first woman and the first Asian American to hold the position. She also served as Assembly Majority Whip from 2001-2002. Chan is a Democrat. She represented the 16th District, which includes Oakland, Alameda, and Piedmont from 2000 to 2006 before being termed out. In June, Chan lost a Democratic Party primary election[1] for the California State Senate District 9 seat that is now held by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, who will be termed out in 2008. Chan was a resident of Oakland for more than 20 years; she lives in Alameda. She is the mother of two grown children.

Early life[edit]

Chan holds a BA from Wellesley and a Master's Degree in Education Policy from the Stanford Graduate School of Education.

Early Political Activism[edit]

From the late 60's into the 80's Chan was active in Bay Area far-left radical political movements, as a member of the League of Revolutionary Struggle (LRS), a Maoist organization. For a time, she serced as the Chairperson of the National Asian Struggles Commission within the LRS.[2]


Chan was elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 1994 and re-elected without opposition in 1998. She chaired the county’s committee on Health. She was the first Chair of the Alameda County Children and Families Commission that annually distributed $20 million for children's services. As a member of the Board of Supervisors, she worked to expand the number of school-based health clinics and worked to restore benefits to legal immigrants. She initiated a pilot welfare-to-work project in Oakland's San Antonio neighborhood, and developed the strategic plan on the future of health care services in Alameda County.

Run for the Assembly[edit]

Chan declared her candidacy for California Assembly District 16 by mid-June 1999. Chan highlighted the need for more Asian American representation in the state Assembly in her campaign. Former Oakland mayor Elihu Harris briefly entered the Democratic primary, but dropped out, leaving Chan unopposed. Chan won the primary with over 80% of all votes cast [1]. She ran against the incumbent Audie Bock in the general election and captured over two-thirds of all votes cast [2].

State Assembly[edit]

Beyond her role as majority leader and whip, Chan served in several committees during her time in the Assembly. Chan served as a Chair of the Health committee, Chair of the Select Committee on Language Access to State Services, and Vice Chair of the Asian-Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. She also served as a member of the committees on Aging and Long Term Care, Jobs, Economic Development, Government Organization, and Banking and Finance. Chan was a member of the Legislative Women's Caucus, Environmental Caucus, Internet Caucus and Smart Growth Caucus.

During her six years in the Assembly, she passed more than 70 bills and resolutions. Her primary legislative areas include health care, senior services, early childhood education, environmental health, jobs and economic development. Chan authored legislation to phase out birth defect and cancer causing chemicals in California. Chan expanded preschool opportunities for toddlers by working to gain $100 million in the state budget. She also carried landmark legislation to make affordable health insurance available to 800,000 uninsured California children.

Run for State Senate[edit]

In 2003, Chan considered running for Perata's Senate District 9 seat. Because Perata had won his seat during a special election, it was unclear whether Perata would be termed out in 2004. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer issued a legal opinion declaring that it was within California term limits law for Perata to stand for reelection. Chan hired her own lawyers who offered the opposite finding, but she did not challenge Perata in the primary or contest Lockyer's findings. In 2005, Chan briefly considered a run for Alameda County Board of Supervisors, District 3, but decided against because she wanted to focus her attention on legislating in 2006 and on her 2008 Senate campaign [3].

Chan ran for the California State Senate District 9 against current Berkeley Assembly member Loni Hancock. The race was hard-fought and controversial.[3] On May 29 on KQED's Forum show, Chan acknowledged that she sent campaign mailers featuring a large photo of Barack Obama without his endorsement and without his permission. There was a great deal of confusion over who incumbent State Senator Don Perata supported, with both Hancock and Chan claiming his endorsement in direct mail and robocalls. Loni Hancock bested Chan in a low-turnout Democratic Primary in June 2008.[4]

Present career[edit]

Chan is a teacher and the Legislator-in-Residence at the University of California, Berkeley. She taught the course Cal-in-Sacramento in Spring 2007. She is also working on expanding healthcare in Oakland and Alameda County. Chan has recruited more than 1000 volunteers to spruce up childcare centers in Oakland and Alameda at an annual event.

In 2010, Chan was re-elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

California Assembly
Preceded by
Audie Bock
California State Assemblywoman, 16th District
Succeeded by
Sandré Swanson
Political offices
Preceded by
Gloria Romero
State Assembly Majority Whip
Succeeded by
Fabian Núñez
Preceded by
Kevin Shelley
State Assembly Majority Leader
Succeeded by
Dario Frommer