Like a veteran warhorse galloping back into the fray, Robert M. (Bob) Hertzberg has announced he is running for a State Senate seat in a district encompassing most of the San Fernando Valley.
One of the more colorful California politicians and a skilled coalition builder, Hertzberg, 58, has served twice as Assembly speaker, the second-most influential political office in the state. Moreover, he was elected both times by the unanimous vote of the usually fractious chamber.
Besides running the Assembly, he printed out a 36-page dictionary to explain the use of such Yiddish words as oy vay, farblondjet, haimish and loch in kop to his Anglo, Latino and African-American colleagues.
Hertzberg retired as speaker in 2002, but three years later made a run for Los Angeles mayor. He lost to Antonio Villaraigosa, his longtime friend, with whom she shared an apartment when both were serving in Sacramento.
In a phone interview, Hertzberg projected an old-fashioned campaign for the Senate seat, going door-to-door and “talking to as many folks as I can possibly meet.” That’ll be quite a job in a district of almost 1 million residents, equivalent to the 10th-largest city in the United States.
During the decade he has been out of office, Hertzberg noted, he has been engaged in public policy issues, with emphasis on green energy projects, as a private but peripatetic citizen, visiting some 100 countries. He found that foreign leaders still look at California as the Golden State, where innovation prospers and things get done.
Twice divorced, Hertzberg also let it be known that he is now a “free agent,” should any Jewish ladies be interested.
In his new political career, Hertzberg will be vying for the 20th District seat, now held by Alex Padilla, who will be running for California secretary of state in 2014 and is supporting Hertzberg as his successor. (In the immediate future, it was announced on Tuesday that he will also co-chair City Attorney-elect Mike Feuer’s transition team.)
In his days in the Assembly, Hertzberg was known as a nonstop hugger, to the point that Villaraigosa generally referred to him as “Bobby Hugsberg.” Asked whether he was still in form for this kind of exercise, Hertzberg responded, “I am worse than ever. Now I hug three people at the same time.”
Over the past 25 years, the number of Jewish officeholders on the local and state levels has declined, a trend accelerated by the retirement of Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
However, with the election of Eric Garcetti as mayor of Los Angeles, and his own run and anticipated election, Hertzberg pledges, “We will return.”