With less than a year to go until the November 2012 election, a GOP challenger to Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has emerged.
Elizabeth Emken, a longtime advocate for children with autism and 2010 congressional candidate, has decided to run against the incumbent Democrat next year, announcing her candidacy on her campaign website and the conservative blog Flashreport.org.
"She's definitely in and we're putting together the campaign now," campaign consultant Tim Clark said in an interview Monday.
Emken, 48, 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. The Danville Republican, whose 19-year-old son is autistic, previously worked as a legislative consultant and board member for Cure Autism Now, another nonprofit advocacy group that merged with Autism Speaks in 2007. Clark said she also worked in what he called an "efficiency manager" role for IBM Corporation.
At The Flash Report, Jon Fleischman adds some detail:
One unique aspect to Elizabeth’s is her life’s passion — which is about helping children with disabilities such as autism. She and her husband of 25 years, Craig, make their home in Danville, California, where they are raising their 2 daughters and 19 year old son, Alex, who has autism. Like most families of children with autism, Elizabeth found the lack of available information and research frustrating. Most who have studied autism believe that some sort of environmental “trigger” was the catalyst for the current spike in autism in the United States. For over a decade, Elizabeth has fought to bring a greater awareness and commitment to identifying the causes of autism. During that time, she has made some impressive gains for autism research and advocacy, including securing, for the first time ever, placement of autism as a Presidential campaign issue. In 2008, both major political parties included autism solutions in their national convention platforms and presidential debates.
She also conceived and created the www.AutismVotes.org website which now boasts over 100,000 qualified registrants, and is a central advocacy portal for information, media, legislation tracking and action alerts. Autism Speaks’ Facebook page has over 1 million followers.
In the 2010 primary campaign, David Harmer used her activism against her, calling her a "former Washington, D.C., lobbyist who spent much of her career fighting for government health care mandates and government health care funding.” She finished fourth, with just under 17 percent of the primary vote.