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Health care, education priority for Californian

When the 107th Congress is called into session, four new Jewish faces will be seen in the U.S. House of Representatives.

By GAYLE HORWITZ
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
December 14, 2000

WASHINGTON—Susan Davis, the newly elected U.S. congresswoman from San Diego, never anticipated a life in politics.
 


As a college student, she studied social work and honed her skills at a center for delinquent boys in Israel.

"The change in my career was kind of gradual," says Davis, a Democrat now completing her sixth year as a member of the California Assembly. "But the principles have stayed consistent."

Davis traces her lifelong interest in education and tzedakah to her Jewish upbringing. In 1983, the wife and mother of two decided to run for a San Diego City School Board seat to oppose a leading candidate who advocated school prayer.

After serving nine years on the board, Davis became executive director of the Aaron Price Fellows Program, a leadership initiative for multiethnic high school students.

One day, during her three-year tenure with the organization, Davis was crushed to learn that one of her brightest young participants was killed in a drive-by shooting.

"It made me see how hard we need to try to create a better community, especially for our children," she says.

In the assembly, Davis has dedicated herself to child welfare and education issues. In addition, she continues to oppose religious practice in public schools, as well as school vouchers. She has also worked extensively on heath care reform and drafted much of California's patients' bill of rights.

Since 1996, she has headed an annual Holocaust remembrance week at the capitol, featuring survivor testimonies and guest lectures.

"A lot of times when someone speaks on the floor, people don't pay attention," she says. "When the survivors come, we all listen with a new respect."

Davis says she hopes to bring to Washington this January a strong voice to the 49th District seat, which she wrested from incumbent Republican Brian Bilbray by four percentage points.

Davis will represent about half the population of San Diego, which is predominantly middle class with a substantial military presence.

She plans to continue on the trajectory of her California policies, focusing on health care, education and consumer privacy, as well the quality of life in the American military.

Advocating for Israel, which she has visited several times since her college years, will also be a priority.

"I strongly support Israel's security," she says. "I'm certainly looking forward to playing some role there through my work in Congress."

© JTA Inc., 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission
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