Karen Lorraine Jacqueline "Jackie" Speier (born May 14, 1950) is the U.S. Representative for California's 12th congressional district, serving since 2008. She is a member of the Democratic Party. The district includes the northern two-thirds of San Mateo County (formerly part of the district represented by her political mentor, Leo Ryan) and the southwest quarter of San Francisco. She is also a former member of the California State Senate who represented parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties. On April 8, 2008, she won the special election for the vacated United States House of Representatives seat of late Congressman Tom Lantos.
Speier was born in 1950 in San Francisco and grew up in an apolitical, working-class family.
Her mother, Nancy (née Kanchelian), was Armenian American, and her father, Fred Speier, was the son of a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. Speier took Jacqueline as her confirmation name after Jackie Kennedy. She is a graduate of Mercy High School in Burlingame, which is where her daughter attended as a freshman in the 2008–2009 school year. She earned a B.A. from the University of California, Davis, and a J.D. from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1976. Speier's first husband, Dr. Steve Sierra, died in a car accident in 1994 at the age of 53. At the time, she was two months pregnant with their second child, a daughter named Stephanie. They also had a son, Jackson Kent, to whom Speier gave birth in 1988 while she was serving as a member of the California State Assembly, the first woman in that legislature to do so. Speier then supported her children as a widowed single mother before marrying Barry Dennis, an investment consultant, in 2001.
Speier served as a congressional staffer for Congressman Leo Ryan. Speier was part of the November 1978 fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by the Reverend Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple followers, almost all of whom were American citizens who had moved to Jonestown with Jones in 1977 and 1978. Speier was one of only two members of the mission who were concerned enough about potential violence to make out a will before traveling to Jonestown. Several Peoples Temple members ambushed the investigative team and others boarding the plane to leave Jonestown on November 18. Five people died, including Congressman Ryan.
While attempting to shield herself from rifle and shotgun fire behind small airplane wheels with the other members of the team, Speier was shot five times and waited 22 hours before help arrived. The murder of Congressman Ryan was the only assassination of a Congressman in the line of duty in the history of the United States. That same day, over 900 of the remaining members of the Peoples Temple died in Jonestown and Georgetown.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
On January 13, 2008, Speier announced she was running for the House seat being vacated by 14-term representative Tom Lantos, who announced on January 2, 2008, that he was not seeking re-election. Speier had spent much of 2007 building support to challenge Lantos in the Democratic primary.
On January 17, 2008, Lantos endorsed Speier as his successor. She also picked up endorsements from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Congressman Mike Thompson and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Lantos died February 11, 2008. Speier won a special primary election on April 8, 2008, to fill the remainder of his term, which ended in January 2009. She won an outright majority, avoiding a runoff that would have been held on June 3, coinciding with the regular primary election. Speier easily won the Democratic primary on June 3. The 12th is so heavily Democratic that this virtually assured her of a full term. She was elected to a full term in November with 75 percent of the vote. On July 11, 2008, Speier introduced her first bill, the Gasoline Savings and Speed Limit Reduction Act, which would set a national speed limit of 60 mph in urban areas and 65 mph on less-populated stretches of highway.
Speier supports legal abortion. When she took the National Political Awareness Test in 2002, she answered, “Abortions should always be legally available.” The organization NARAL Pro-Choice America rated Jackie Speier as 100% on interest group ratings because she supported the choice of abortion in her voting for legislation. Also, in 2008 the Planned Parenthood Organization gave Speier a 100% on her actions regarding abortion. In a speech on the House floor on February 17, 2011, Speier said that she herself had undergone an emergency D&E procedure when complications developed in a wanted pregnancy.
Speier believes in a stricter view of gun control. According to her answers on the NPAT (National Political Awareness Test) she would like to require safety locks on all guns, and background checks on prospective buyers. As well as, ban certain guns except for use in hunting and strengthen state restrictions on buying and owning guns. To show that her legislation currently follows what she answered on the NPAT when the Gun Owners of America graded Jackie Speier they gave her an ‘F’ and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Jack Berman Advocacy Center gave her a 100%. Other organizations that gave Speier a low grade on loosening the restrictions on gun use include: the National Rifle Association, and Gun Owners of California.
Speier is concerned for the protection of the environment and wants to preserve the health of this planet. She lists as evidence the decline of salmon on the West Coast as proof of global warming. Speier believes global warming poses a growing danger and negatively affects the environment. When she spoke to the House on the subject of global warming and the environment, she expressed a desire “to craft a bipartisan and commonsense energy plan that makes polluters pay, provides for middle class energy tax credits, and creates a new industry and lots of good, clean, green jobs.” Jackie Speier is working to improve energy legislation with the Clean Air Rebate Act of 2009, the Home Star Act and the American Clean Energy and Security Act.
September 7th, 2011