The Calderon name is legendary in California politics. There has been a Calderon in the Legislature every year since 1982.
Charles Calderon, a member of the UC Davis School of Law Class of 1975, is the first person in the history of the Legislature to serve as Majority Leader in both the Assembly and the Senate. He has now spent nearly 30 years as a public servant and says he always knew he was destined for Sacramento.
“I chose King Hall because of its focus on law as an instrument for social change, and because of its proximity to the State Capitol,” said Calderon. “I always had plans to run for state office. Among other things, attending law school at UC Davis provided unique opportunities for exposure to policy and politics in the Capitol including internships with legislators and the Office of Legislative Counsel.”
Growing up poor in East Los Angeles, Calderon witnessed the devastating effects of poverty and gangs in his community. Determined to lead a better life and provide one for his community, he graduated from California State University, Los Angeles. Drawn to the Law School’s small class sizes and outstanding faculty, he enrolled at King Hall.
“Back then, Ed Barrett was teaching Constitutional Law. It was a privilege to study under him,” he said. “I also enjoyed studying under Professors Daniel Fessler and Jim Hogan. Given the close student-teacher ratio, I benefited immensely from the opportunity to interact with my professors in a meaningful way. After law school, I was proud to spearhead Senate confirmation of Professor Fessler when Governor Pete Wilson appointed him to the California Public Utilities Commission.”
Calderon also got to know his classmates well. “In my second year, our class started the Cardozorama talent show, which is an annual Law School tradition to this day,” he recalled. The bond that Calderon formed with his law school classmates has remained strong through the years. “I was privileged to help my friend and classmate Dean Pregerson with his appointment as federal judge for the United States District Court for the Central District of California and proud to speak at his enrobing ceremony.”
After graduation from King Hall, Calderon started as a prosecutor with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. In 1980, he was elected to the Montebello School Board. In 1982, Calderon was elected to the California Assembly. In 1990, he was elected to the Senate. During this period he chaired the Toxics Committee, Judiciary Committee, served on the California Judicial Counsel and became the first Latino Senate Majority Leader. After term limits ended Calderon’s time in the Senate, the voters returned him to the Assembly, where he rose to the post of Assembly Majority Leader.
He counts among important legislative achievements, the “Amazon Tax Bill” mandating collection of state use taxes by out of state on-line retailers, the Whittier Narrows Earthquake Victims Relief Act, the creation of the California Earthquake Authority, the mandatory offering of mammography as basic coverage in all health insurance, the Drug Dealer Liability Act to make drug dealers personally liable for the harm they cause, and the Sex Offender tracking bill which tracks movement of convicted child molesters and sex offenders through phones and computers.
Charles Calderon’s final term in the Legislature expired in 2012, but his legacy carries on with his son Ian Calderon, who was sworn in on December 3, 2012 as the Assemblyman for the 57th District. “When Ian was 7 years old, he and I posed for a picture sitting at my desk in the Assembly,” he said. “Ian now sits at the same desk.”
As Charles Calderon plans for his next step in public life, he is confident his King Hall experience will continue to serve him well. “Going to King Hall was the best investment of time and energy in my life,” he said.