Former State Assembly Member Dr. Keith Richman has passed away. I asked Leslie Cornejo to write a guest blog entry remembering his political legacy because I know she has a deep admiration for him. Here is her entry:
Remembering Dr. Keith Richman
By Leslie Cornejo
As I reflect on the life of Keith Richman, both a friend and political mentor, I cannot help but wish that there were more legislators and political activists like him. He left his daily work as a physician to venture into politics and advocate for better government. He, like most Californians, had suffered far too long under an inefficient, over-reaching, job-killing government, and decided that complaining was not enough. He was going to do something about it. I remember one of his first political speeches as he ran for an Assembly seat in 2000. It was at a Republican BBQ at Camarillo Grove Park. He was a little clumsy, as he was not a practiced political speaker - yet, but he was passionate and articulate when he spoke about going to Sacramento and trying to make a difference.
After he won his election and started commuting to Sacramento, he immediately stood out as a dedicated public servant. I remember when he was named Rookie of the Year amongst the newly electeds. He told me that he had been appointed to the Utilities and Commerce Committee, and he had jumped right in to learn everything he could about the energy policies. He said his bedstand was piled high with books and papers and he was regularly reading far into the night. He was serious and studious, and worked tirelessly for more efficient and practical options for Californians. As he delved deeper into policy and state budget issues, he started giving speeches warning about the impending budget crisis that was going to hit once the mandated pension contracts that had been awarded throughout all levels of state and local governments took hold. This, being the political third rail, was not a popular subject, and most legislators avoided even talking about it. But Keith Richman knew that with every year that it was not addressed, it would only make future budgets unsustainable.
Keith Richman worked tirelessly to find ways to provide better health care to the underprivileged and uninsured, including a proposal where the state would pay the deductible for the uninsured, therefore qualifying many more people for federal health care programs. In doing so, he was trying to free up emergency rooms for the real emergencies. He viewed government as an institution with problems to be fixed and he never gave up trying to solve them with practical answers. He was smart and he was reasonable. Therefore, he threatened the uber-political, status-quo. This was forever his challenge. He tried to work with moderate Democrats ("reach across the aisle") to find solutions to our problems, and formed a political alliance with Democrat Joe Canciamilla to do so. The parties on either side of the aisle would not have it.
When asked, Keith Richman served as an adviser to the California Association of Political Centrists. He helped our organization focus on doing what is right, not what is easy. He encouraged us not to give up, and reminded us that working for the public good, whether you win or lose a battle, was the right thing to do. He counseled me personally, to stay strong and focus on the big picture when I was taking arrows from my own party and from even those I thought were friends. He was an inspiration to many and his passing is a loss to us all.