Conference Speakers

The Honorable Stacey Abrams, Georgia House Minority Leader, Georgia General Assembly

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House Minority Leader for the Georgia General Assembly and state representative for the 89th House District, Stacey Y. Abrams has found success as an attorney, business owner, politician and author. Abrams was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2006 and was selected by her peers to be Minority Leader four years later, becoming the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly and the first African American to lead in the House of Representatives. During her time as a legislator, she has championed smart tax policy, public transit and investments in education. In 2012, Abrams was recipient of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier award, which is given to “role models for a new generation of public servants.”

Abrams co-founded and serves as Senior Vice President of NOWaccount Network Corporation, a financial services firm that provides capital to small businesses. Abrams is also an award-winning author, having written eight romantic suspense novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery. Her novels have sold over 100,000 copies. Abrams has also published numerous articles on issues of public policy, taxation and nonprofit organizations and has a recurring blog on the Huffington Post.

In 2012, Abrams received the Drum Major for Justice Award from SCLC, as well as recognition from the National Urban League and the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She has been listed among the “100 Most Influential Georgians” by Georgia Trend for two years in a row and nationally ranked as one of 12 legislators to watch by Governing magazine. She is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

A graduate of Spelman College, Abrams holds an M.P. Aff. in public policy from the University of Texas at Austin and a J.D. from Yale Law School.

Aimee Allison, Senior Vice President, PowerPAC+

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Aimee Allison is a political and communications strategist who served as a director at the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women. She was a host and producer for LinkTV, Comcast Newsmakers and a public radio morning show. She has appeared as a political commentator on various media outlets including PBS, CBS, and Fox. Aimee has been published in Huffington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle as well as the blog she founded OaklandSeen. She was awarded fellowships at the Women’s Media Center and the Knight Digital Media Center at U.C. Berkeley. Aimee serves on the corporate board of the YMCA of the East Bay. She is the author of Army of None (Seven Stories Press, 2007) and holds a MA and BA from Stanford University, where she recently was honored with an Award of Merit for her public service.

Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director, Center for Community Change Action

Deepak_Bhargava_headshot.jpg Deepak Bhargava is Executive Director of the Center for Community Change, a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to develop the power and capacity of low-income people, especially low-income people of color, to change the policies and institutions that affect their lives.

During his tenure as Executive Director, Mr. Bhargava has sharpened the Center’s focus on grassroots community organizing as the central strategy for social justice and on public policy change as the key lever to improve poor people’s lives. He conceived and led the Center’s work on immigration reform, which has resulted in the creation of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), a leading grassroots network pressing for changes in the country’s immigration laws. He has spearheaded the creation of innovative new projects like the Community Voting Project, which brings large numbers of low-income voters into the electoral process. Mr. Bhargava has also overseen a dramatic internal transformation of the organization over the past years, resulting in ayounger, more diverse board and staff, a new physical home at 1536 U Street, and greater focus of the organization’s work on strengthening and aligning community organizations towards policy change.

Mr. Bhargava currently serves on the boards of the Discount Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Bauman Foundation and the National Immigration Forum Action Fund. Born in Bangalore, India, Mr. Bhargava immigrated to the United States when he was a child. He grew up in New York City and graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College. 

The Honorable Cory Booker, U.S. Senate

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When Booker swept into office as mayor of Newark, N.J. in 2006, defeating the political operation of a five-term incumbent, he won with the largest margin ever recorded in a contested Newark election and immediately began uniting people to tackle problems that had been plaguing Newark for decades.

Violent crime was rising; businesses were leaving Newark, and its tax base was shrinking; its population had been declining for 60 years; failing schools were pervasive, and the city’s finances were in shambles. Today, after decades of neglect, mismanagement and decay, Newark has started a turnaround.

In his announcement for Senate, Booker explained it this way: “If I can claim any credit, it is that I was successful bringing people together who believed that better things were possible – community leaders, philanthropists, residents and entrepreneurs who didn’t just bet on themselves but who also bet on the city of Newark and its people.”

Senator Booker was elected to the U.S. Senate on October 16, 2013 in a special election. With his strong national following, Cory continues to make positive changes as New Jersey’s Senator. In his first year, Cory co-sponsored and voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. He has also co-sponsored the Respect for Marriage Act. 

Subodh Chandra, Managing Partner, Chandra Law Firm LLC

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As a former federal prosecutor, big-city attorney and general counsel, law professor, and large-firm litigator in both Los Angeles and Cleveland, Subodh Chandra is able to draw on experiences that few lawyers have had in combination. That experience, along with the strong legal-research, case organization, and persuasion and advocacy skills of the rest of the firm (all large-firm alumni), and the international network of lawyers of which the firm is a part, have led to tremendous results for clients when everything---liberty, property, or reputation--was on the line. In Februrary 2013, Chandra was appointed to the Special Ohio Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

The Chandra Law firm focuses on high-profile criminal and civil trial and appellate litigation including advocacy in civil-rights (e.g., employment discrimination and retaliation; First Amendment, voting rights, and police misconduct), whistle-blower actions including the federal False Claims Act, white-collar criminal defense (such as healthcare fraud, mortgage fraud, telecommunications fraud, and public corruption), insurance-coverage disputes, and business disputes, in both federal and state courts. The firm also performs internal investigations (including for Fortune 200 companies). 

Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford University

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Linda Darling-Hammond is Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University where she has launched the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and the School Redesign Network and served as faculty sponsor for the Stanford Teacher Education Program. She is a former president of the American Educational Research Association and member of the National Academy of Education. Her research, teaching, and policy work focus on issues of school reform, teacher quality and educational equity. From 1994-2001, she served as executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, a blue-ribbon panel whose 1996 report, What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future, led to sweeping policy changes affecting teaching in the United States. In 2006, this report was named one of the most influential affecting U.S. education and Darling-Hammond was named one of the nation’s ten most influential people affecting educational policy over the last decade. In 2008-09, she headed President Barack Obama’s education policy transition team. 

Among Darling-Hammond’s more than 400 publications are Getting Teacher Evaluation Right: What REALLY Matters for Effectiveness and Improvement (Teachers College Press, 2013), The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future (Teachers College Press, 2010), winner of the 2011 Grawemeyer Award in Education; Powerful Teacher Education: Lessons from Exemplary Programs (Jossey-Bass, 2006); Preparing Teachers for a Changing World: What Teachers Should Learn and Be Able to Do (with John Bransford; Jossey-Bass, 2005), winner of the AACTE Pomeroy Award. Among recent recognitions, she is recipient of the 2011 Brock International Prize in Education, and the 2009 McGraw Hill Prize for Innovation in Education.

The Honorable Trey Martinez Fischer, Texas State Representative District 116 and Chairman, Texas State Assembly and Mexican American Legislative Caucus

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Texas State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer is a prominent figure in Latino and Lone Star State politics and represents the new face of American leadership. Currently serving his seventh term representing District 116 in San Antonio, he has built his
career as a no-nonsense, down-to-business Democrat whose influence among his own caucus and respect among Republicans allows him to guide key bills to passage or defeat.

Rep. Martinez Fischer is a frequent visitor to the White House. He is also an advisor to the U.S. Trade Representative and a speaker before legal, legislative and business groups. Rep. Martinez Fischer’s counsel is often sought by leading national figures fighting attacks on the Voting Rights Act and those seeking strategies for enrolling minorities in health insurance.

Rep. Martinez Fischer and the 41-member-strong Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) that he chairs have been steadfast in their efforts to ensure that minorities are fairly represented in Texas legislative districts, and they were joined in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Justice as plaintiffs in federal court fighting to curtail discriminatory voting and redistricting laws in Texas. The oldest and largest Latino legislative caucus in the U.S., MALC has emerged as one of the nation’s leading Latino public policy organizations and “the group to watch” in the Texas legislature according to The Economist.

Born and raised in San Antonio, Rep. Martinez Fischer is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law and has practiced before state and federal courts throughout Texas since 1998. He also holds a B.A. in political science from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a master’s in public administration from the Baruch College of Public Affairs in New York. In 1993 he was selected to be a National Urban Fellow.

The Honorable Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Chair, Congressional Black Caucus

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Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge is a committed public servant who brings a hard-working, problem-solving spirit to Congress and to the task of creating jobs, protecting safety net programs, and improving access to health care, healthy foods and quality education. She represents the people of the 11th Congressional District of Ohio and is Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Congresswoman Fudge consistently fights for food stamp (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients, child nutrition and access to locally grown, healthy foods, as well as equitable access to a quality education from preschool through post-secondary programs, fair labor practices, and civil and human rights, among other issues. Congresswoman Fudge continues her commitment to ending childhood obesity in a generation, stamping out hunger, strengthening our education system and promoting job creation. Additionally, she was an early and consistent voice for voter protection.

Congresswoman Fudge has served the people of Ohio for more than two decades, beginning with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. She was the first African American and the first female mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, where she led the city in shoring up a sagging retail base and providing new residential construction.

Congresswoman Fudge is a Past National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and a member of the Greater Cleveland Alumnae Chapter. Congresswoman Fudge earned her bachelor’s degree in business from The Ohio State University and law degree from the Cleveland State University Cleveland-Marshall School of Law.

Alida Garcia, Former National Latino Vote Deputy Director for Obama for America

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Alida Garcia is a political strategist with an expertise in Latino civic empowerment and Latino infrastructure building in non-Latino institutions. She currently is the Director of Coalitions & Policy for FWD.us, a tech advocacy organization founded by Mark Zuckerberg focused on passing comprehensive immigration reform and spurring innovation in technology to increase citizen participation in the legislative process.

She served as the National Latino Vote Deputy Director for President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign whereby she focused on developing the national Latino vote program in the 11 priority battleground states, which ultimately produced the highest Latino voter turnout in Presidential campaign history. Some of Alida’s portfolio included: a primary focus on Colorado, which had the highest support level from the Latino community in a battleground state (87%); launching Latino strategies in nontraditional states such as Iowa and New Hampshire; and developing innovative digital strategies specifically geared towards engaging Latino youth on Obama for America digital platforms.

Alida was extensively involved in Los Angeles politics as the right hand for Austin Beutner, Deputy Mayor and founder of Evercore Partners, where she worked in economic development for Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa’s Office of Economic and Business Policy. Additionally, she chaired California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ Young Professionals, Latino efforts and vote count efforts, and was the California Latino Vote Deputy Director for President Obama’s 2008 Campaign. Prior to LA politics, Alida was an associate at K&L Gates LLP where she focused on commercial disputes and employment litigation. She is a graduate of Stanford University and Columbia Law School.

Dr. Julie Martínez Ortega, New Majority Institute 

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Dr. Julie Martínez Ortega is the founder of New Majority Institute. She is a quantitative researcher and an attorney with over twenty years of experience working on electoral, health, immigration, employment, and labor issues impacting Latinos, low-income families, youth, and minority communities. She is the Principal Investigator and a partner with Project New America Latino, a national political polling, survey and strategy firm that helps clients understand and engage Latino populations. 

Dr. Martinez Ortega has taught graduate and undergraduate courses on Health Policy, Race and the Law, Wealth and Social Inequality, and Legal Studies. She has served as a consultant on the Latino and African American electorates for political and issues campaigns, including the Obama primary. 

She was born and raised in a large Mexican American family with deep roots in South Texas, and is a graduate of Stanford University, the UCLA School of Law, and Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

Ingrid Nava, Board Member, PowerPAC+

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Ingrid Nava is Associate General Counsel for Service Employers International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ, District 615, and is a member of the bars of Massachusetts and the Federal District Court of Massachusetts. Ingrid was named an "Up and Coming Lawyer" for 2011 by MA Lawyers Weekly. She is a graduate of Stanford University and Northeastern University School of Law, where she now teaches "Lawyering with Spanish-Speaking Clients" as an adjunct professor. Prior to her current position she was an employment lawyer with Greater Boston Legal Services, where she worked on legislative policy initiatives and engaged in direct client representation primarily with unemployment, wage and hour, and FMLA matters. Her major cases include the class action Chach et. al. v. Michael Bianco, Inc., et. al. Prior to law school, she was an organizer for SEIU International Union and various Locals.

Steve Phillips, Founder & Chair, PowerPAC+

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Steve Philips is a San Francisco-based donor activist. Steve works on both the state and national level in progressive donor organizing and infrastructure-building, after a 25-year career as an education reformer, attorney and elected official. In 1992, Steve became the youngest person ever elected to public office in San Francisco when he won a seat on the Board of Education, where he served for eight years. He is the Founder and Chairman of PowerPAC.org, a national advocacy organization that conducted the country’s largest independent expenditure effort in support of Barack Obama during the 2008 Presidential primaries. Steve is also a founding member of the Progressive Era Project, a statewide donor collaborative working to build progressive political infrastructure in California; board member of Progressive Majority, electing progressive champions to office throughout the country; and board member of the Democracy Alliance, a national collaborative of the country’s largest progressive donors working to fund progressive infrastructure nationally.

Susan Sandler, Donor 

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Susan Sandler is a large dollar donor for progressive initiatives. Following in the tradition of her family’s work, she succeeds in strengthening the infrastructure of the Progressive arena/space and identifies and underwrites efforts that assist progressives adapt to the demographic changes of the 21st century.

Susan is also President of a donor collaborative called the Progressive Era Project (PEP).  PEP builds progressive power in California through investing in voter turnout, the candidate pipeline, and other strategies to move a bold, social justice policy agenda.

Susan has spent her career advancing equitable and high quality education as an executive director, policy advocate, researcher, professional development provider, school therapist, teacher, and activist. 

Susan holds a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University and a Master’s in Social Work from San Francisco State University. She is the Chairperson of the Board for the Campaign for Community Change and sits on the Board of Directors for Center for American Progress.

The Honorable Mark Takano, U.S. House of Representatives

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Mark Takano represents the people of Riverside, Moreno Valley, Jurupa Valley and Perris in the United States Congress. He serves on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and the House Education and Workforce Committee.

Upon graduation from Harvard College, Mark returned home to Riverside and began teaching in the Rialto Unified School District in 1988. As a classroom teacher, Mark confronted the challenges in our public education system daily.

In 1990, Mark was elected to the Riverside Community College District's Board of Trustees. At RCC, Mark has worked with Republicans and Democrats to improve higher education for young people and job training opportunities for adults seeking to learn a new skill or start a new career. He was elected Board President in 1991 and helped the Board and the District gain stability and direction amid serious fiscal challenges.

During Mark’s long history of public service in Riverside County he has served on the Community Advisory Board of the Children's Spine Foundation and the Board of the Chancellor's Asian Pacific Islander Community Advisory Center at the University of California, Riverside. He has served as chairman of the Riverside Mayor's Task Force on the Digital Divide, as a charter member of the Association of Latino Community College Trustees, as a member of the Association of California Asian American Trustees and as a member of Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education. He is a recipient of the Martin Luther King Visionaries Award.

Neera Tanden, President, Center for American Progress

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Neera Tanden is the President of the Center for American Progress. Tanden previously served on President Obama’s health reform team to develop and pass the Affordable Care Act.  Prior to that, Tanden was the director of domestic policy for the Obama-Biden campaign, managing all domestic policy proposals.  She had served as policy director for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, legislative director to Senator Clinton and associate director for domestic policy and senior advisor to the First Lady in the Clinton administration.

Andy Wong, Executive Director, PowerPAC.org

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Andy Wong co-founder of PowerPAC and Vote Hope, has been running political campaigns since the mid-1980s. His career began by winning a series of student government elections at San Francisco State University, UC Berkeley, UCLA and Stanford. Over the next decade he went on to run city and county campaigns in the San Francisco Bay Area, electing people of color and gay community activists to Community College Board, BART Board, School Board and the Board of Supervisors.

Since 2007 he has been the executive director of PowerPAC.org, a c4 committed to increasing voter participation of communities of color and under-represented voting constituencies. As director he has led PowerPAC’s California 4 county strategy to increase participation amongst the fastest growing people of color populations leading to major changes in San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties. Under his leadership PowerPAC has been effective in policy campaigns and statewide propositions as well as local, state and federal electoral campaigns. In 2007 and 2008 Andy worked with Steve Phillips and Ben Jealous to implement an 18 state initiative under Vote Hope that increased communities of color participation in state primaries and the federal general election in 2008.

Andy also started AJW Inc, a software company focused on the government and non-profit sectors, in 1998 in San Francisco. This 15-year old company has served government and non-profit initiatives in health, economic development, education, early childhood development and criminal justice. AJWI is nationally known for its groundbreaking work in building cross-agency data management systems. The expertise in data management developed by his company has helped in improving data manipulation and analysis for Andy’s campaign work.

 

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