Mark Takano was born on December 10, 1960, in Riverside, California. After earning a B.A. in Government from Harvard University in 1983 and a teaching certificate from UC Riverside in 1987, he worked 24 years as a teacher in the Rialto Unified School District. He also sat on the Riverside Community College District’s board of trustees from 1990-2012. In 2000 Takano earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for the Performing Arts, from UC Riverside.
Takano grew up Republican but became a Democrat in the early 1990s, just before his failed 1992 run for California’s 43rd Congressional District seat in Congress. “My whole family is Republican and I was a Republican all the way through college,” said Takano. “But my Harvard education really had an impact. It truly made me smarter. I became a Democrat.” In 1998, Takano lost yet another congressional bid.
Fourteen years later, in 2012, Takano again ran for a seat in the House of Representatives—this time winning the race in California’s 41st Congressional District. He continues to hold that seat and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). The first openly gay Asian member of the House, he also sits on the LGBT Equality Caucus.
In early 2013, Takano and fellow CPC member Alan Grayson—with help from the Progressive Democrats of America—drafted a “line-in-the-sand” letter to President Barack Obama, imploring him not to approve any budgetary cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits. The letter affirmed: “[W]e will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits—including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.” Deficit reduction, said Takano and Grayson, could best be achieved by “creat[ing] jobs” and implementing tax policies that “require the rich and giant corporations to pay their fair share.”
At a Netroots Nation conference in June 2013, Takano and some other CPC representatives unveiled their “Raise Up America” campaign—a three-point plan that called for increasing the national minimum wage, making it easier for low-wage workers to unionize, and requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a “living wage.” Said Takano: “We stand in Congress on the side of the 99 percent against the one percent. So we need this campaign, we need to raise the minimum wage, we need to raise up the 99 percent of America.” Takano again spoke at a Netroots Nation gathering in 2015.
In early 2013, Takano and a number of fellow elected officials and activists—most of whom were aligned with the Democratic Socialists of America—drafted a proposal urging President Obama to award a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom to the late Fred Ross Sr., a radical who had been trained by Saul Alinsky and had served as a mentor to both Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.
Takano condemned the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down, as anachronistic, a Voting Rights Act (VRA) provision requiring mainly Southern states to undergo—based on the presumption of their continuing racist tendencies—special federal scrutiny before being permitted to change their election laws in any way. On the premise that America was a permanently and irremediably racist nation, Takano warned that this Court ruling “could seriously undermine the ability of millions of Americans to participate in the political process.” In Takano’s estimation, Voter ID laws, which require voters to present valid proof of their identity at their polling places, “are nothing but artificial excuses to disenfranchise certain voting populations”―specifically, “the elderly, new voters, the disabled, and minorities” by “mak[ing] it harder for them to participate in this fundamental American right.”
In February 2015, Takano was one of several House Democrats who signed a letter calling on Republican House Speaker John Boehner to postpone Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress, where Netanyahu was slated, at Boehner’s invitation, to discuss his strong opposition to the nuclear deal that the Obama Administration was pursuing with Tehran. The Democrats’ letter complained that the invitation to Netanyahu “enlists a foreign leader to influence a Presidential policy initiative,” “undermin[es] the presidency,” “threaten[s] our diplomatic priorities,” and “offers the Congressional platform to elevate a candidate [Netanyahu] in a foreign election.”
In September 2015, when Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was immersed in a major scandal involving her illegal use of a private, unsecured email server during her entire tenure as Secretary of State, Takano voiced his hope that Americans could soon “get over this email bump” and focus instead on core issues like increasing incomes and making college more affordable. “We know it’s not going to be obstacle-free,” said Takano, “but there’s still a general confidence that she’s going to be our nominee and very likely be our next president.”
In advance of Pope Francis‘s highly anticipated visit to the U.S. in September 2015, Takano and several fellow House Democrats appeared in a series of short videos asking the pope to: (a) urge congressional Republicans to “address climate change and talk about how it especially hurts lower income communities and the most vulnerable among us”; (b) encourage lawmakers to rectify the “unacceptable” reality that “far too many people today in the United States still don’t make a living wage”; and (c) “speak in support of comprehensive immigration reform,” in hopes that “our Republican colleagues [might] listen to your voice of compassion towards immigrants.”
Over the course of Takano’s political career, one of his more noteworthy supporters has been the organization J Street.
For an overview of Takano’s voting record on a variety of key issues during his years in Congress, click here.
Further Reading: “Mark Takano” (Ballotpedia.org, Votesmart.org, Keywiki.org); “Netroots Grassroots: Progressive Caucus Launches ‘Raise Up America’ Drive” (People’s World, 6-24-2013); “Government Reform” (by Mark Takano, re: VRA and Voter ID laws); “Dems Push Boehner to Postpone Netanyahu Speech” (Breitbart.com, 2-19-2015).