Meet Your Neighbor – October 2023

(Courtesy of the Office of Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan)
Rebecca Bauer-Kahan addressing a gathering at National Gun Violence Awareness Day on the grounds of the state Capitol in Sacramento, California on May 31.

    Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (aka RBK, in a nod to her admiration for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg) represents Orinda as part of the 16th District in the California State Assembly. Read on to learn about Bauer-Kahan, her job, her family and her inspirations.

How long have you lived in Orinda and what brought you here?
    We moved here from Oakland in 2011 when I was pregnant with our second child. My husband went to Cal and he said everybody he met from Lamorinda was so kind and wonderful, so we chose to move here and raise our kids.

What are your favorite things about Orinda?
    I love the community. It’s been an amazing place to have my kids grow up. We have a village here.

Is serving in the State Assembly a full-time job?
    Yes. I have two full-time jobs. Mom and assemblymember.

You commute to Sacramento every day during the eight months the assembly is in session. How do you do it?
    I have an amazing partner. My husband Darren is incredibly supportive of me serving our community. Our village has been critically important, too. I do my best to make sure I’m home for dinner and to tuck my kids in at night.

Why did you want to run for State Assembly?
    Our kids. We have two boys and a girl, ages 13, 11 and 9. I really want to ensure they inherit a planet at least as good as the one we inherited. I was an environmental lawyer and I’m a huge environmentalist. I knew somebody had to continue the fight to save our planet.

You are a granddaughter of refugees who escaped the Holocaust. How did this affect your desire to serve?
    My grandparents were 18 when they came to the United States. They were very clear-eyed that this country gave us life in the most tangible way possible. If they had not been able to come here they would have died in the Holocaust. They taught me we owe this country everything we have, including our lives.

What issues are particularly important to you and why?
    The environment, womens’ and reproductive rights have been front and center. Also, education and gun violence prevention.

What is the makeup of your district in terms of Republicans vs Democrats?
    I don’t know. Independent voters are a growing part of the electorate. It’s the most highly educated, with the most advanced degrees district in the state. [Our constituents] tend to be huge supporters of the environment, LGBTGQ+ and reproductive rights, while being very fiscally conservative.

You’re a Democrat. In 2018, you narrowly defeated Republican incumbent Catharine Baker. How did you do it?
    I think (the constituents) felt comfortable with a moderate Republican when she was elected in 2014. We thought reproductive and LBGTQ+ rights were safe, and we had a federal government which was going to hold the line on climate change. When that shifted, the district prioritized some of those issues.

Who is your hero?
    Ruth Bader Ginsburg. From her time as a lawyer to serving on the court, hers was some of the most brilliant work in the legal field. She started with gender equity cases representing men, because at the time, she thought that would be successful. I think sometimes we have to achieve our goals in the least expected ways.

Who inspires you now?
    There are so many young people becoming activists, especially in the area of climate. Watching them, even before they can vote, stand up and use their voices and want to learn about government and how they can make change, is incredible. We have a problem today where not enough people are engaged. I see a shift in this generation that is so amazing and makes me want to show up every day and do the work they need us to do.

What’s your best experience serving in the assembly?
    A year ago I co-authored and got Assembly Bill 988 passed into law, which created an alternative to 911 when people are in a mental health crisis. If you are struggling with suicide ideation or you’re in a mental crisis, you can call 988 instead of 911 and you can get mental health officials instead of law enforcement.

Do you have political ambitions beyond your current position?
    I don’t. I love my job. I can do it for seven and half more years. (Twelve years is the term limit.)

Then, what will you do?
    It’s funny. I didn’t expect to ever do this. I had no ambition to be a politician or an elected official. At the moment I decided to run I decided it was the best use of my talents and skills for the community and I don’t know what that will be when I’m done with this.

Kathy Cordova can be reached at

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