The Republican-endorsed Senate candidate looking to unseat entrenched incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein has deep roots in Seal Beach and Los Alamitos.
Raised in Seal Beach’s College Park East neighborhood, Elizabeth Emken graduated from Weaver Elementary School, Pine Jr. High and Los Alamitos High in the class of 1981. Emken moved north to Danville, California to raise her family and kickoff her political career, but her local roots remain deep, according to her mother, Dorothy Neblett.
A mother of three, Emken first ran for office in 2010 in a failed Congressional bid, but her senate campaign this year has picked up speed with the recent endorsement from the California Republican Party.
“This was a humbling experience and a tremendous honor to receive the Party’s endorsement,” said Emken. “I look forward to the challenge ahead and will start right away building a strong partnership with Chairman Del Beccaro and Republican leaders as we work toward victory together.”
Emken said she left corporate America after her son, now 19, was diagnosed with autism. She most recently served as vice president of governmental relations for Autism Speaks, a national nonprofit organization that bills itself as the cause's largest U.S. advocacy group.
Feinstein consultant Bill Carrick downplayed Emken's challenge in an interview with the Bee, saying her showing in the congressional race shows she probably won't be able to "make the transition to a statewide race."
Emken has been firm in her stance on hot-button issues, namely: she staunchly opposes abortion and strongly supports drilling for oil off the California coast.
She has taken the long road to electoral politics.
After graduating from UCLA with degrees in economics and political science, Emken worked for IBM for 13 years in financial analysis and corporate operations.
Her life took a sharp turn in 1996 when her 4-year-old son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. She remembers kneeling at his bedside and promising she would find out what happened to him and also help other children.
Since then, Emken has advocated for autism research. She has worked with 30 state legislatures as well as Congress on autism legislation. Among other things, she launched a multi-state campaign to secure insurance coverage for autism-related services.
Emken has spent a lot of time the past 14 years in Washington D.C. and what she saw in the nation's capital bothered her as an activist and as a mother.
"My breadth and depth of experience will be helpful in Washington," she said. "I know how to take good ideas, turn them into bills and then turn those bills into laws."
Emken describes herself as a fiscal conservative who has clear positions on an array of issues.
On health care, she would work to block, repeal or amend the health care reform legislation.
"It's bad policy that doesn't solve the basic problems in our health care system," she said back in 2010 in her run for Congress.
On immigration, she has supported Arizona's controversial law as well as beefing up our border fence along Mexico, even if it requires bringing in soldiers to guard it. That's in addition to cracking down on employers who hire people from outside the country.
"It comes down to money," she said. "If you dry up the money, illegal aliens will go home on their own volition."
On spending, she would look for cuts in all entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare, she has said.
"We have a contract with our senior citizens and we should honor that," Emken said, "but I don't want to take anything off the table."
She is a fan of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and said the media overreacted to Palin's 2008 vice presidential nomination, adding the media couldn't handle a woman who is a fiscal conservative and has charisma.
When she first ran in 2010, Emken cited that media uproar as part of her motivation for seeking office
"A small part of me is running in this race because of that hysterical reaction," she said at the time.
In taking on one of California’s longstanding, political powerhouses, Emken has had to take pains to demonstrate the viability of her campaign.
In February, a San Francisco Chronicle blogger wrote:
She’s taken on the political equivalent of a suicide mission: She’s aiming to take on U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is arguably the most popular politician in California (yes, the bar is low)….
As of April Feinstein had raised $11.4 million, with $7.2 million cash on hand, while Emken had only $301,278, with $252,003 on hand.
In a video, the Chron's Carla Marinucci wants to find out why Emken is going after Feinstein in such a seemingly impossible race. Marinucci kicks it off with asking Emken: "Are you insane?"
She answers: "No, I'm not insane. Diane Feinstein ... is polling at the worst of her political career. California is ready for a change."
Emken continues in the video to say she believes in the free market and America is the greatest country on earth.
Read the entire post and watch the video here.