“Keep yourself humble. Keep God in your life. Don’t ever lose sight that there’s someone higher than yourself that you have to be accountable to, no matter how high an elected position you’re elected to.”
Three years after winning his first campaign, State Assemblyman Steve Baldwin still adheres to this basic approach to politics, and to life.
Since 1994, Baldwin has become Chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, sponsoring bills to reduce class size and to stress basic tools like phonics to teach children how to read.
How did he get there? Who helped him? What makes Steve Baldwin run? Good News, Etc. asked Steve Baldwin these questions in an interview at his La Mesa district office.
Why did he run for elected office? Role models, especially his father, played a part in Baldwin’s choice of a career. “I walked precincts for Barry Goldwater with my dad in 1964, at age 7 or 8.” He was also influenced by family members who were teachers.
“My family is full of educators going way back, on both sides. There was a tradition there. I have 17 teachers in my family tree, including principals and superintendents.”
In college, Baldwin was active in College Republicans at Pepperdine, but found his real niche in Young Americans for Freedom, eventually becoming its national executive director.
These activities took young Steve Baldwin to Washington D.C. for two years in the early days of the Reagan Administration. “I met William Buckley and had dinner with him several times. He became a mentor. I also met an obscure Georgia Congressman named Newt Gingrich who remembered me when I saw him at the Republican Convention here last year. He singled me out, saying ‘Hey, Baldwin, about time you got elected!'”
“I worked with Oliver North, in an unofficial role, and got to know Ollie quite well. I was really fortunate to be at the right spot, the right time to meet these people.”
After near misses in 1988 and 1992, Steve Baldwin was elected to the state Assembly by East County voters in 1994. Who made it possible for him to win?
“My wife, Patti, was supportive. She wanted me to try again. She knew it was going to be a hard road. Nonetheless, she said, ‘If I have to work extra hours to pay the bills so that you can campaign full-time, so be it.’ I started campaigning almost immediately and, of course, we took out an incumbent and helped end Willie Brown’s speakership at last. I could not have done it without Patti’s faith and support.”
Other family members volunteered, including Steve’s mother, brother and sister. Friends from his church, Shadow Mountain Community Church, took part, childhood friends from the old neighborhood joined, along with longtime personal friend and La Mesa City Councilman Barry Jantz. Acquaintances from his childhood place of worship, the Point Loma Church of Christ, also took a hand.
What advice does he have for Christians who have considered seeking office?
“It is very satisfying to be in office and do something to help people, like my bill to provide benefits to Filipino-American veterans who fought in World War II.”
“You have to have a message” (to get elected) and “you have to focus.” Baldwin encourages readers who have considered running for a city council, education board or special district board to “go for it.”
“I didn’t hold any other seats before this one, but sometimes I wish I did. The state Assembly members who did serve on a fire board or a water board have a special insightة that in Sacramento really helps them.”
Steve Baldwin, native San Diegan, is in his second term as state Assemblyman for the 77th District. He is expected to seek reelection to a third term in 1998.
Where will the next Steve Baldwin come from? He, or she, may be reading this article right now!
James Sills, Jr., a native San Diegan, is a political and research consultant with clients in California, Arizona and Washington. He was chief aide to County Supervisor Paul Fordem and City Councilman Bruce Henderson.