East Bay Times | May 31, 2017
by Sarah Tan
Bay Area attorney Jeff Bleich, a longtime Piedmont resident and former U.S. ambassador to Australia, formally announced his official bid to run for lieutenant governor to a packed audience of supporters at the Impact Hub on Tuesday night.
Bleich will be running on the platform of helping to reform education in California, and said he was inspired to run after the November election.
“The reason I’m running is that after the last election, politics have gone off track and people need to engage in ways outside their comfort zone,” Bleich said.
Soft-spoken and careful in his words, Bleich said that politics is in some ways outside his comfort zone. But Bleich’s campaign strategist Douglas Herman said he was inspired to run after the election of Donald Trump. “He’s answering Obama’s call to be the next generation of leaders,” Herman said.
Bleich’s commitment to education dates to his days serving as president on the California State University Board of Trustees. One of his biggest policy proposals will be based around a plan to reform K-12 education in California to a K-14 system.
“I decided to live in Piedmont because I care about public schools and one of the challenges we’re facing is how we educate the next generation,” Bleich said. “The thing that draws families there is the idea of the American Dream.”
Bleich said he hoped that by helping reform the education system to allow for more vocational training, he could help more students achieve that dream — not just in Piedmont — but everywhere in California.
Nadir Vissanjy, a former student of Bleich and a supporter, said he believed Bleich was a good fit for the position because of his attitude not as a politician, but as a public servant.
“He’s been a mentor and adviser, all characteristics you need in politics, and he’s focused on leading by example and empowering others,” Vissanjy said. “Given all the noise that’s about winning media battles, having people like Jeff who focus on service is important in these times.”
Although he grew up in Connecticut, Bleich moved to Piedmont 19 years ago. He received his bachelor’s degree at Amherst, a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University and a law degree from UC Berkeley. He is a partner at Dentons in the firm’s Bay Area offices.
He also served as special counsel to former President Barack Obama.
Bleich enters a field in the race for state lieutenant governor that includes state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina; Democrat Eleni Kounalakis, former ambassador to Hungary; and Democrat Asif Mahmood, a Los Angeles physician.