Derek Cressman

Photo courtesy of Derek Cressman

Derek Cressman, a Democrat who ran for secretary of state in 2014, plans to challenge California Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, in the 2018 Senate District 6 election. The winner will represent the Elk Grove, Sacramento, and West Sacramento communities.   

Cressman, 50, said the top issue he will be campaigning on is single-payer health care.

“That’s an issue that polling showed has a strong majority support across the entire political spectrum in California,” he said. “A majority of Republicans support it; a majority of Democrats support it.

“I think people just don’t see much value being added to our health care system by profiteering, private health insurance agencies that pay their executives billions of dollars.”

Cressman is concerned about Pan’s views on a single-payer health care system.

“Sen. Dr. Richard Pan has not been on board with that (system), I think in part, because he was elected with millions of dollars from the health care industry,” he said. “So, I think it’s important for voters to have an alternative, at least for those voters who support that idea. So, that was the reason that I jumped into this particular race.”

Cressman said he believes the senator is misrepresenting himself as a Democrat.

“(Pan) is presenting himself to voters as a Democrat, but the Democratic Party has unanimously endorsed this idea of Medicare for all, yet he’s not supporting that,” he said. “So, I feel that it’s a bit disingenuous to be running as a Democrat while not supporting the Democratic Party agenda.

“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and I feel he’s sincere about his opinion, but it might be more appropriate to be running as an independent if you want to be acting independently of your party.”

Cressman mentioned he plans to take a different approach to his campaign, when it comes to financing.

“We need to have candidates who differentiate themselves by not taking the corporate money,” he said. “And so, that’s what I’m doing in this particular race to try to build up that different model of campaigning for office.”

He supported an electoral process that encourages elected officials to represent the voters.

“Right now, we have an electoral process that encourages elected officials to represent corporations who fund their campaigns, then listen to the lobbyists who are funded by those corporations,” he said.

As one who voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primary and Hillary Clinton in the general election, Cressman said he desires to use his frustrations with the current administration to create change in the future.

“I think it’s important not only to be frustrated but to think about what we can do to change things, and that’s part of what led me to this Senate race,” he said.

Cressman, a Midtown Sacramento resident, has spent the majority of his working career involved in public policy.

His first job out of college was with the California Public Interest Research Group.

Cressman’s background also includes work at the University of California, Santa Barbara, as a community organizer on environmental issues, in particular working to ban the use of cancer-causing pesticides in California agriculture.

He said one of his biggest frustrations was working on agricultural issues that involved ballot measures, in which the industry side outspent the environmentalist side by as much as 20 to 1.

“I just came to the conclusion that we weren’t going to win that way,” he said. “My next instinct was to go, ‘OK, the environmentalists need more money.’ So, I founded Earth Tones,” a long distance telephone company. “(It) was wholly owned by a coalition of environmental groups; therefore, it gave 100 percent off its profits to support environmental work.”

Although the company was successful, Cressman ultimately concluded it did not raise sufficient funds to battle issues such as climate change.

For the past 22 years, Cressman has dedicated his efforts to the issue of money in politics.

He spent five years in Washington, D.C., lobbying Congress and building an effort in state legislatures across the nation for constitutional amendments that would overturn Supreme Court rulings that recognize political money as free speech.

Cressman also became a national leader in the effort to overturn Citizens United, authoring a book on the topic.