- Democratic Member of Congress
- Member of the Progressive Caucus
Diane Watson is a Democratic Member of Congress who represents the 33rd District of California, located in the heart of Los Angeles. This carefully gerrymandered district is 35 percent Hispanic, 30 percent black, and 12 percent Asian-American.
Born in Los Angeles in November 1933, Watson graduated from UCLA in 1955. Three years later she earned an MA in school psychology from California State University. (In 1987 she received a PhD in educational administration from Claremont Graduate School.)
Watson worked as a teacher and school psychologist from 1958 to 1976. In 1975 she became the first African-American woman elected to the L.A. Board of Education. In 1978 she was elected to the California Senate, where she went on to serve for 20 years before being term-limited out in 1998.
In 1999 President Bill Clinton named Watson to be U.S. Ambassador to Micronesia.
When veteran congressman Julian Dixon died in December 2000, Watson returned to Los Angeles and sought to win Dixon's congressional seat. With money and support from EMILY's List, Watson narrowly beat two male candidates in a special Democratic primary. She then won a June 2001 special election in this heavily Democratic district, garnering 75 percent of the vote. She has been re-elected in every congressional election since then.
In 2001 the United States withdrew most of its diplomatic participation in the United Nations' World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, after it became apparent that the gathering would give prominence not only anti-American but also to anti-Israel and anti-Semitic perspectives. Despite this, Watson and six other congressional Democrats attended and lent their prestige to this event. “America is a racist state,” Watson told a symposium in Durban that coincided with the opening of the conference.
In February 2002 Watson was part of a delegation of California congressional Democrats -- among whom were Sam Farr, Bob Filner,
and Mike Thompson -- who, along with entertainer Carole King, paid a
friendly visit to Havana in an effort to soften U.S. policy toward Fidel Castro's Cuba.
Watson is a member of the both the Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus in the House of Representatives. Since 2002, Americans for Democratic Action has consistently rated her voting record as 80 to 100 percent on the left side of legislation. In 2006 the National Journal ranked Watson as the “most liberal” member of Congress.
During her legislative career, Watson has voted:
- against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001;
- against the post-9/11 anti-terrorism measure known as the Patriot Act;
- against allowing the U.S. government to use electronic surveillance to investigate suspected terrorist operatives;
- against a bill permitting the government to combat potential terrorist threats by monitoring foreign electronic communications which are routed through the United States;
- against an October 2002 joint resolution authorizing U.S. military action in Iraq;
- against the establishment of military commissions to try enemy combatants captured in the war on terror;
- in favor of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq immediately and by a preordained date;
- against President Bush’s 2007 decision to deploy some 21,500 additional U.S. soldiers in an effort to quell the violent insurgents in Iraq;
- in favor of a proposal to expedite the transfer of all prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention center;
- against requiring hospitals to report (to the federal government) illegal aliens who receive emergency medical treatment;
- against the Real ID Act, which proposed to set minimal security requirements for state driver licenses and identification cards;
- against separate proposals calling for the construction of some 700 miles of fencing to prevent illegal immigration along America's southern border;
- against a proposal to grant state and local officials the authority to investigate, identify, and arrest illegal immigrants;
- against major tax cut proposals in May 2003, October 2004, and May 2006;
- against a welfare reform bill designed to move people off the welfare rolls and into paying jobs;
- in favor of prohibiting oil and gas exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR);
- against a proposal to fund offshore oil exploration along the Outer Continental Shelf.
Watson strongly opposes the agendas of Ward Connerly, the former California Board of Regents member who led the fight to abolish race preferences in his state's public sector. Said Watson of Connerly (who is black): “He's married to a white woman. He wants to be white. He wants a colorless society. He has no ethnic pride. He doesn't want to be black.”
The American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) and the Service Employees International Union rank consistently among Watson’s leading campaign contributors.