Scripps professor Vanessa Tyson announces run for state legislature

A woman smiles at the camera.
Scripps College politics professor Vanessa Tyson is running for an open seat in the California State Assembly’s 57th district. (Courtesy: Scripps College)

Scripps College politics professor Vanessa Tyson is running for an open California Assembly seat in her hometown of Whittier, she announced in December.

Her campaign for the 57th District seat focuses on investment in K-12 and college education, equitable housing policy and climate justice. She has specific initiatives tackling women’s rights and sexual violence, according to her campaign website and Facebook page

“I’m pursuing this opportunity so that I can advocate for groups who rarely have a seat at the table,” she said in an announcement on her campaign website. 

Tyson’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The seat, vacated by Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, has become the focus of an intense campaign featuring nine candidates, including Calderon’s stepmother Lisa Calderon and the sister of two other current assembly members. 

The election will take place alongside the 2020 presidential election Nov. 3.

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Tyson garnered national attention in February 2019 when she accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, alleging that Fairfax had assaulted her in a hotel room at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Fairfax maintains that the encounter was consensual and denied the allegations.

When Tyson spoke to ABC News in January 2019 about the incoming freshman class of Representatives in the 116th Congress, she emphasized the importance of inspiration and confidence in politics.

“You don’t get into these positions by asking for permission,” she said. “You get elected by inspiring people to turn out and vote for you, and part of what they’re saying is we can do better and we should do better.”

Alison Jue SC ’20, who has taken classes with Tyson, praised her and said she would be well-suited for public office.

“I can attest to her passion for policy and her dedication to improving any community that she is a part of,” Jue said via message. “I know that Professor Tyson will bring the same energy to her campaign that she brings into the classroom each and every day. If Professor Tyson’s campaign is successful, her constituents will be in great hands.”

Harper Mills SC ’20 emphasized Tyson’s compassion, empathy and commitment to thoughtful scholarship in a February 2019 interview with TSL.

“She’s one of the most brilliant humans I know, and I know for a fact she grounds her work across all fields in compassion and empathy,” Mills said.

Tyson is the most recent 5C faculty member to seek political office. Claremont McKenna College government professor Zachary Courser CM ’99 and Jennifer Stark PZ ’98, a yoga instructor at Pomona College, ran for a Claremont City Council seat in 2018. 

Stark won her seat, while Courser narrowly lost to Ed Reece.

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