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In the Field

Never a Dull Moment

Where others see obstacles, lawmakerJared Huffman sees opportunity.

Photograph by Caitlin Cunningham

Pocket Résumé

Jared Huffman ’90: US Representative (D-Calif.) since 2013; served six years in California State Assembly and was senior attorney of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Smart and Tall: Graduated UC Santa Barbara magna cum laude; was NCAA All American volleyball player and member of No. 1-ranked 1987 USA Volleyball Team. House Committees: Natural Resources and Transportation and Infrastructure Passion: Protecting the environment.

Along with most of the country, US Representative Jared Huffman ’90 has been frustrated by a Congress mired in conflict. Yet, as one of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, he remains energized by possibilities beyond the seemingly endless gridlock.

“There has always been a strong majority in Congress that agrees on issues like immigration reform, commonsense background checks, and reauthorizing the import/export bank,” says Huffman, a Democrat who was elected to the House in 2012 to represent California’s second district, which spans from the Golden Gate Bridge north to the Oregon border. “There is no shortage of bipartisan willingness to do this work. The problem is that the current House leadership won’t allow hearings or votes on most of these issues, and that’s frustrating.”

Whether he is focused on what he can accomplish at the federal level, or trying to help those in his district with local issues, Huffman is motivated by a sense of responsibility to serve. “There is never a day where I only do one subject or get bored,” he says. “We are constantly moving on an almost endless number of subjects. It’s potentially overwhelming but also energizing.”

He considers passing a bill though the House two years ago to permanently protect a section of the Mendocino County Coast as part of the Coastal National Monument his proudest moment in Congress. “The bill stalled in the Senate, but President Obama implemented it by executive action and I was invited to the Oval Office for the signing of his executive order,” he recalls. “The area is called Point Arena-Stornetta and it became the first land-based addition to the Coastal National Monument, which includes all of the rocks and islands off the coast of California.”

Though he takes the responsibilities of his office quite seriously, Huffman’s sense of humor was gamely apparent when he played the straight man in a September 2014 episode of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report”—part of the “Better Know A District” series. Huffman and host Stephen Colbert discussed the California redwoods, the landmark state law banning shark finning that Huffman co-authored as a state legislator, and California’s record drought. When Colbert asked what his position was on Star Wars’ Han Solo shooting first, Huffman replied, “I’m not a fan of shoot first.”

Prior to joining Congress, Huffman served six years in the California State Assembly, where he authored more than sixty pieces of successful legislation and received numerous awards for his legislative leadership. He chaired the Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee, served on the Budget Committee, and was co-chair of the Legislative Environmental Caucus. In comparing Congress to his state-level office, Huffman says they are like “night and day.”

“In California, I was in the majority, passing dozens of new laws,” he says. In Congress, he’s “getting used to my diluted share of authority in this huge institution. You don’t appreciate how big and slow-moving Congress is until you get here.”

While Huffman spends weekdays in the Capitol, he is home in Marin most weekends with his wife and two children. He also runs an amateur winemaking operation, counting himself among the “garagistas” in his district. So far, he has mastered a full-bodied syrah and is working on perfecting his zinfandel.