Debra Bowen

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The information about this individual is current as of when they left office. See anything that needs updating? Send a correction to our editors
Debra Bowen
Debra Bowen.jpg
California Secretary of State
Former officeholder
In office
2007 - 2015
PredecessorBruce McPherson (R)
Base salary$130,490
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 2, 2010
First electedNovember 7, 2006
Next generalTerm-limited
Campaign $$3,543,678
Term limits2 terms
Prior offices
California State Senate
California State Assembly
High schoolGuilford High School
Bachelor'sMichigan State University (1976)
J.D.University of Virginia School of Law (1979)
Date of birthOctober 27, 1955
Place of birthRockford, Illinois
Office website
Personal website
Debra Bowen (born October 27, 1955 in Rockford, Illinois) is the former Democratic California Secretary of State. She was first elected to the statewide position in 2006 and officially took office in January 2007. Bowen ran for and won re-election in 2010.[1] She faced six challengers, including Republican Damon Dunn, former professional football player, in the general election on November 2, 2010. Despite the crowded ballot, she won with over 53 percent of the vote.[2]

Bowen's second term ended in January 2015 and she was constitutionally barred from running for a third term as secretary of state when her seat comes up for election in November 2014.

In the wake of the high-profile suicide of actor Robin Williams, Bowen told The Los Angeles Times, in September 2014, about her lifelong struggle with depression. She revealed that she recently moved out of her Sacramento home, moved into a trailer home and frequently works from home. Bowen also spoke to her financial struggles; $14,591 in state and federal liens placed on her property from 2009 to 2014.[3] For more details on these stories, jump to the Struggles with depression and Tax liens sections.

Prior to becoming secretary of state, Bowen served eight years apiece in the California State Senate, from 1998 to 2006, and in the California State Assembly, from 1992 to 1998.


Bowen attended Michigan State University for her undergraduate degree, and later received her law degree, in 1979, from the University of Virginia School of Law.[4]

Before entering politics, Bowen practiced corporate, tax and ERISA law at Winston and Strawn and Hughes, Hubbard & Reed.[5]

Bowen has served in several other roles throughout her career, including, but not limited to:

State executive officials
State legislatures
  • Member, Court Technology Advisory Committee, Judicial Council (2000-present)
  • Chair, Assembly Natural Resources Committee
  • Member, Heal the Bay Legal Committee
  • Chair, National Conference of State Legislatures E-Communications Steering Committee
  • Executive Board, National Conference of State Legislatures
  • Member, National Conference of State Legislatures Task Force on State and Local Taxation of Telecommunications and Electronic Commerce
  • Chair, Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee
  • Chair, Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee


  • Graduated from Guilford High School (1973)
  • Bachelor's degree, Michigan State University (1976)
  • J.D. degree, University of Virginia School of Law (1979)

Political career

California Secretary of State (2007-2015)

Bowen was first elected to the office in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. Bowen's second term ended in January 2015 and she was ineligible to run for re-election due to term limits.

Struggles with depression

Bowen acknowledged that she suffers from "debilitating" depression in an interview with The Los Angeles Times in September 2014. She has suffered with depression since her college years, and recently faced a "more difficult episode" that led her to work from home rather than her Sacramento office. Bowen also admitted that she moved out of the home she shares with her husband, opting for a trailer home outside of the city that serves as a "refuge." She also acknowledged her previous struggles against alcohol and prescription drug addiction to The Times, which she surmounted during her time in the California State Legislature. She got sober in 1995, while she was in the State Assembly. Bowen is undergoing treatment for depression, but has not been hospitalized during her recent struggles.[3]

"Work is anyplace I have a telephone. Just because I'm physically not in the office doesn't mean I don't know what's going on and that I'm not participating," said Bowen in regard to her work as secretary of state.[3]

Tax liens

Bowen and her husband, Mark Nechodom, faced tax liens from unpaid taxes equaling $14,591 between 2009 and 2011. These liens included a 2011 filing by state revenue officials that indicated $4,623 in unpaid income taxes by Bowen. The couple repaid debts associated with the liens by September 2014, according to local and county records. Bowen noted that the unpaid taxes were not intentional and occurred during a busy time, as Nechodom moved from California to Washington, D.C. for work.[3]

Taxpayer funded trip

The Los Angeles Times reported in late-October 2010 that two years earlier Secretary of State Debra Bowen initially had taxpayers foot the bill "when she went to the Democratic National Convention in Denver to see Barack Obama accept the party's nomination as president."[6] She said that expenses for that and another trip in April 2010 were accidentally placed on a state credit card rather then the one for her campaign account. Bowen has since reimbursed the state for $1,595 from her campaign account to make up for the clerical error.

Secretary of State Project

See also: Secretary of State Project

In 2006, Bowen, who was named "one of the most progressive Secretaries of State in the nation," received the endorsement of the Secretary of State Project, a below-the-radar 527 political organization whose purpose is to "wrestling control of the country from the Republican Party" through the process of "removing their political operatives from deciding who can vote and whose votes will count," namely the office of Secretary of State in many cases.[7]

She again received the endorsement of the political activist group in the midst of the 2010 election cycle.[8]

California State Senate (1998-2006)

Prior to being elected as California's Secretary of State in 2006, Bowen was a member of the California State Senate, representing the 28th State Senate District, a role she maintained until December 2006 when her service ended due to state term limit laws.

In her eight-year tenure as a state senator, Bowen did not shy away from voting for controversial pieces of legislation. Bowen voted in favor of SCR 113, which recognized May 1, 2006, as The Great American Boycott 2006, in order to educate people in California and the United States about the contributions of immigrants in California. Organizers called for supporters to abstain from buying, selling, working, and attending school, in order to demonstrate through direct action the extent to which the labor obtained of illegal immigrants is needed for the economy of the United States. Supporters of the boycott demanded general amnesty and legalization programs. Opponents of the boycott saw it as promotion of illegal immigration. The proposal Bowen supported passed by a vote of 24 to 13 on April 27th, 2006.

On May 11, 2006, SB 1437, also known as Sexual Diversity Content in Public School Curriculums, a bill co-sponsored by Bowen, passed by a vote of 22 to 15. The bill says that "no teacher shall give instruction nor shall a school district sponsor any activity that reflects adversely upon persons because of their ... gender ... sexual orientation." SB 1437 was controversial with religious advocates because it "would remove 'sex-specific' terms such as 'mom' and 'dad' from textbooks."[9] According to the California Senate Judiciary Committee, "The bill also would direct the school governing boards to include only instructional material that accurately portrays the cultural, racial, gender and sexual diversity of our society, and, in instructional material for the social sciences, include the contributions of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to the economic, political and social development of California and the United States of America." After being enacted by the state senate, SB 1437 was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in September 2006.

Bowen voted on June 1st, 2006, in support of SB 1160, a measure that would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue drivers licenses to undocumented workers, or illegal aliens, in the state of California. The bill passed by a vote count of 23 to 15.


See also: Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

Debra Bowen received the endorsement of ACORN-PAC in her 2006 election bid. In spite of the embattled nature of the organization, she continued to display her endorsement on her Sacramento office wall.[10]

California State Assembly (1992-1998)

Bowen served on the California State Assembly, representing the 53rd Assembly District.[1]



See also: California Secretary of State election, 2010
  • 2010 Race for Secretary of State - Democratic Primary
  • Debra Bowen ran unopposed in this contest
2010 Race for Secretary of State - General Election[11]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Debra Bowen 53.2%
     Republican Party Damon Dunn 38.4%
     Green Party Ann Menasche 3.0%
     Libertarian Party Christina M. Tobin 2.2%
     American Independent Party Merton D. Short 1.6%
     Peace and Freedom Party Marylou Cabral 1.6%
Total Votes 9,336,900


2006 Race for Secretary of State - Democratic Primary[12]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Debra Bowen 60.9%
     Democratic Party Deborah V. Ortiz 39.1%
Total Votes 2,163,961
2006 Race for Secretary of State - General Election[13]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Debra Bowen 48.1%
     Republican Party Bruce McPherson 45.0%
     Green Party Forrest Hill 2.2%
     Write-In 4.7%
Total Votes 8,385,573

Campaign donors

Comprehensive donor information for Bowen is available dating back to 1998. Based on available campaign finance records, Bowen raised a total of $3,543,678 during that time period. This information was last updated on July 8, 2013.[14]

Debra Bowen's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2010 California Secretary of State Won $715,056
2008 California Secretary of State Not up for election $57,118
2006 California Secretary of State Won $1,460,591
2004 California State Senate District 28 Not up for election $218,776
2002 California State Senate District 28 Won $253,591
2000 California State Senate District 28 Not up for election $372,401
1998 California State Senate District 28 Won $466,145
Grand Total Raised $3,543,678

2002, 2006, 2010

Ballotpedia collects information on campaign donors for each year in which a candidate or incumbent is running for election. The following table offers a breakdown of Debra Bowen's donors each year.[15] Click [show] for more information.


Debra Bowen currently resides in Marina del Rey, California with her husband, Mark Nechodom, and their daughter, Maya. She is a recipient of the Profile in Courage Award (2008) from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum[16]

Recent news

Know more information about this profile?
Submit a bio

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Debra + Bowen + California + Secretary"

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Debra Bowen News Feed

  • Loading...

Contact Information

Capitol Address:

Office of Secretary of State
1500 11th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 653-6814

See also

External links

Suggest a link

The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine was used to recall this version of the website from November 3, 2010.


Political offices
Preceded by
Bruce McPherson (R)
California Secretary of State
Succeeded by
Alex Padilla (D)