(SACRAMENTO, CA) – In response to the rising tide of political violence in California and the United States, Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 37 on the very first day of the 2023 legislative session to improve security for candidates, elected officials, their family, and staff.
Across the state, candidates and elected officials faced frequent threats of violence during the 2022 election cycle. In Palm Springs, State Assembly candidate Christy Holstege used her social media as a platform to describe, and bring attention to, her personal experiences dealing with hateful and harassing comments during her campaign.
Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and former Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) have received numerous threats for their LQBTQ-inclusive and pro-public health legislation. Additionally, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) was on the receiving end of unwarranted horrible messages and harassment, including a trucker convoy that drove around her neighborhood, for her work in protecting reproductive rights and abortion access.
“As public servants, there is a lot we sacrifice to serve, this includes spending time with family and our privacy. However, the one thing we should never be willing or expected to give up is our sense of safety. Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in threats against public officials, especially women, and harassment against legislative staff who are serving the constituents who elected us to office,” explained Assemblymember Bonta.
The political rhetoric across the country is becoming increasingly alarming, with lawmakers across the country from local school boards to congressional leaders constantly receiving threats. “When Trump took office as President and spewed lie after lie about how the election was stolen, radicalized followers have taken it upon themselves to confront public officials, and even their family members, by any means necessary, often justifying the need for violence,” said Assemblymember Bonta.
Data from the Public Policy Institute of California found that voters believe political violence across the country is going to increase and those perpetrating the violence will believe its justified. Further, testimony from the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, threats against federal officials have skyrocketed, increasing from 902 threats investigated by the Capitol Police in 2016 to 9,600 in 2021. What is even more alarming is that women in elected office are disproportionally targeted.
Under current law, campaign funds can be used to pay for in home or office security systems but that is limited solely for the protection of the candidate or elected official once the threat has been verified by a law enforcement agency.
“Since I was first elected to public office in 2010, we’ve seen a terrifying spike in threats and violence against elected officials – myself included. It’s been harrowing to deal with endless threats on social media; I’ve gotten thousands over the past few years. A couple of months ago, we’ve even received bomb threats and bomb-sniffing dogs had to search my home. I’m grateful to Assemblymember Bonta for her work to make sure elected officials, our staff and our families are protected,” said Senator Wiener.
“Our number one job as legislators is to protect the people we serve, and that duty includes our families, our staff, and ourselves,” said Assemblymember Wicks. “As radicalized extremists’ harassment and intimidation tactics continue to grow, so must our ability to maintain a sense of security. I applaud Assemblymember Bonta for bringing forth this important bill, one that will bring California up to speed with what is allowed on the federal level.”
AB 37 expands on current law by allowing candidates and elected officials to use campaign funds for the protection of themselves, their families, or their staff. This protection includes security systems and security personnel. AB 37 will mirror what is currently allowed on the federal level.
“Political violence is never the answer. When reactionary elements fan the flames of violence, they are putting candidates and elected officials squarely in their sights. Holding public office is about serving your community, but we never signed up for violence, and our families and children must be protected,” said Assemblymember Bonta.
AB 37 will be heard in the Assembly early in 2023.