Wilma Chan

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Wilma Chan
Member of the
Alameda County Board of Supervisors from the 3rd district
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
Preceded byAlice Lai-Bitker
In office
January 2, 1995 – December 4, 2000
Preceded byDon Perata
Succeeded byAlice Lai-Bitker
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 16th district
In office
December 4, 2000 – November 30, 2006
Preceded byAudie Bock
Succeeded bySandré Swanson
Personal details
Born (1949-10-05) October 5, 1949 (age 71)
Boston, Massachusetts
Political partyDemocratic Party
Alma materWellesley College
Stanford Graduate School of Education

Wilma Chan (Chinese: 陳煥瑛; pinyin: Chén Huànyīng; born October 5, 1949) is an American politician in California serving on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. A Democrat, she served in the California State Assembly from 2000 to 2006 before being termed out, representing the 16th District, which at the time included Oakland, Alameda, and Piedmont. She served as Assembly Majority Whip from 2001 to 2002 and from 2002 to 2004 as Assembly Majority Leader, the first woman and the first Asian American to hold the position. In 2008, Chan lost a Democratic Party primary election for the California State Senate District 9 seat.[citation needed]

Early life and education[edit]

Chan was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Chinese immigrant parents. She holds a BA from Wellesley and a master's degree in Education Policy from the Stanford Graduate School of Education.[citation needed]


Early political activism[edit]

From the late 1960s into the 1980s Chan was active in Bay Area far-left radical political movements, as a member of the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L). For a time, she served as the Chairperson of the National Asian Struggles Commission within the LRS.[1]

Alameda County Board of Supervisors[edit]

Chan won election to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 1994, the first Asian American to do so,[2] and was reelected unopposed in 1998. In 2000, while serving as President of the board,[2] she was elected to the California State Assembly and resigned her seat on the board.[3][4]

During Chan's term, 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.[citation needed]

Run for the Assembly[edit]

Chan declared her candidacy for California Assembly District 16 by mid-June 1999. In her campaign she highlighted the need for more Asian American representation in the Assembly.[2] Former Oakland mayor Elihu Harris briefly entered the Democratic primary but dropped out, leaving Chan unopposed. She won the primary with over 80% of all votes cast[5] and in the general election defeated the incumbent, Audie Bock, with over two-thirds of all votes cast.[6]

State Assembly[edit]

Beyond her role as majority leader and whip, Chan served in several committees during her time in the Assembly. She 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

In 2006, Chan termed out of the Assembly.[7]

Run for State Senate[edit]

In 2003, Chan considered running for Don Perata's State Senate District 9 seat. Because Perata had won his seat during a special election, it was unclear whether he 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,[8] 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 [1].[dead link][citation needed]

In 2008 Chan ran for the District 9 seat against current Berkeley Assembly member Loni Hancock. The race was hard-fought and controversial.[9] 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.[citation needed] There was a great deal of confusion over who incumbent Senator 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.[10][11][12]

Return to Alameda County Board of Supervisors[edit]

In 2010, Chan ran for her old seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.[13] and won with 54.6% of the vote.[14] She was re-elected unopposed in 2014[15] and 2018, as a nonpartisan candidate.[16] In 2015, she abandoned another attempt to run for State Senate District 9 because of the fundraising required.[17]

One of Chan's most significant accomplishments as supervisor was keeping San Leandro Hospital open after Sutter Health announced it would close the facility.[18] At the time, San Leandro Hospital was the sole acute care facility in San Leandro with its emergency room serving 26,478 people and had 3,599 inpatient admissions annually.[19] Chan proposed that the City of San Leandro donate $1 million per year for three years. This amount, combined with funds from Alameda County, provided a subsidy to keep the hospital open until it could achieve profitability as part of its transfer to public ownership by the Alameda Health System.[20][21] San Leandro Mayor Stephen H. Cassidy credited Chan with saving the hospital: "Wilma Chan's work was extraordinary. Our deal was dead, but she persisted, sustained it, and moved it forward."[20]

Personal life[edit]

Chan was a resident of Oakland for more than 20 years and later moved to Alameda. She is married to a public school teacher and has two children.[2]


  1. ^ Chan, Wilma (Fall–Winter 1982). "Chinese Immigrants". East Wind Magazine. Archived from the original on 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2013-07-02 – via Azine September 26, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d Ni, Perla (June 17, 1999). "Wilma Chan Announces Assembly Bid". AsianWeek. Archived from the original on 2007-10-07.
  3. ^ "Full Biography for Wilma Chan". Smart Voter. 2004-11-02.
  4. ^ "First Open Race in 10 Years to Decide New County Supervisor for Ashland and San Lorenzo". San Lorenzo Express News. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  5. ^ "Statement of Vote: 2000 Primary Election, March 7, 2000". California Secretary of State. Archived from the original on 2007-07-02.
  6. ^ "Statement of Vote: 2000 General Election, November 7, 2000". California Secretary of State. Archived from the original on 2008-05-28.
  7. ^ Johnson, Chip (April 29, 2005). "Termed-out legislators roil politics". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  8. ^ Allen-Taylor, J. Douglas (May 23, 2003). "Chan Bucks Perata in State Senate Race". Berkeley Daily Planet.
  9. ^ Jon Carroll (May 29, 2008). "Bad people everywhere!". San Francisco Chronicle.
  10. ^ Richman, Josh (June 3, 2008). "Loni Hancock leads Wilma Chan for Don Perata's state Senate seat". East Bay Times.
  11. ^ Dongallo, Angelica (June 4, 2008). "Voters Choose Hancock Over Chan in State Primary". Daily Cal.
  12. ^ Richman, Josh (June 6, 2008). "Indian tribe boosts Don Perata's legal fund". Inside Bay Area / Contra Costa Times. Archived from the original on 2008-10-22. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  13. ^ "First Open Race in 10 Years to Decide New County Supervisor for Ashland and San Lorenzo". San Lorenzo Express News. May 6, 2010.
  14. ^ "Wilma Chan wins seat on Board of Supervisors". ABC 7 News. June 9, 2010.
  15. ^ "Election Results" (PDF). Registrar of Voters, Alameda County. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-07-04.
  16. ^ "Wilma Chan". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  17. ^ Tavares, Steven (October 1, 2015). "Wilma Chan Drops Out of East Bay State Senate Race". East Bay Express. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  18. ^ "New Agreement for RNs at Reborn San Leandro Hospital" (press release). National Nurses United. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  19. ^ Woodall, Angela (2013-05-14). "Sutter Health to transfer control of San Leandro Hospital to Alameda County's medical system". East Bay Times. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  20. ^ a b Abate, Tom (2013-05-15). "Wilma Chan Brokers Deal To Save San Leandro Hospital". San Leandro, CA Patch. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  21. ^ Parr, Rebecca (2012-11-09). "Alameda County Medical Center puts together funding deal that could save San Leandro Hospital". The Mercury News. Retrieved 2018-09-11.

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