By Andrew Cohen
Ricky Gill ’12 has announced that he will run for U.S. Congress in what is currently California’s 11th District, which includes his native San Joaquin County. A former member of the California State Board of Education, Gill hopes to revitalize the area’s agriculture industry and foster ties with innovators in Silicon Valley.
“There’s substantive hardship in this area in terms of unemployment, educational opportunities, and access to health care,” says Gill, who is running as a Republican. “Part of that is connected to a lack of legislative leadership.”
Gill said he was motivated to consider political office by a sense of frustration with San Joaquin County’s staggering unemployment—nearly twice the national average—and what he perceives to be a troubling lack of local representation. In March, he formed an exploratory committee to evaluate his Congressional prospects.
“There isn’t a single legislator at the state or federal level who actually resides in San Joaquin County,” Gill noted. “We need some home-grown representation. People are hungry for leadership that knows the area, politics with foresight, and constructive solutions to rejuvenate this community.”
The 11th District is currently represented by Democrat Jerry McNerney. It encompasses parts of San Joaquin, Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara counties, though redistricting will change the composition of the district before the November 2012 election.
While aware that his age will likely be raised during the primary campaign, Gill is “proud of my set of experiences.” He was appointed to the California State Board of Education as student representative at age 17, and—as the board’s youngest member—spoke on educational equity at California’s 2005 Republican Party convention.
Gill was his high school’s valedictorian, Phi Beta Kappa at Princeton, co-chair of the Greater Lodi Area Youth Commission, and an adviser to the California Secretary of Education. The son of immigrant parents from India, he also worked for then-Senate Majority League Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.
“Regardless of how the age issue surfaces, over the course of a long campaign we’ll be able to show how serious this candidacy is,” Gill said. “In fact, one of the toughest challenges facing this area is how many people leave at age 18 and don’t come back. Young people are a key constituency, not just for the election but for the future of these communities.”
Gill credits several Boalt faculty members for sharpening his knowledge of policy and politics, including Stephen Sugarman for torts, Patrick Hanlon for medical malpractice reform, and Bertrall Ross for legislation. And while Gill needs no professor to explain the odds of becoming one of the youngest Congressional representatives in history, he remains undaunted.
“Doing this requires a lot of kinetic energy and a belief that community is larger than self,” Gill said. “You need to wear the soles off your shoes a couple times while criss-crossing the district, meet as many residents as possible, and disseminate your message effectively.”
More information about the campaign is available at www.rickygill.com.