Gill '09 forms congressional exploratory committee in California
Ricky Gill ’09 launched an exploratory committee on March 1 to examine his potential run for Congress as a Republican representative for California’s 11th district in San Joaquin County.
“There seems to be a yearning for something different in San Joaquin,” Gill said in an interview.
Though the committee is still in an exploratory stage, if he decides to run, Gill said, his campaign would center on public education reform and economic renewal in the San Joaquin Valley.
“There’s a pervasive sense that broken politics have exacerbated economic situations,” he explained.
“One point I continue to make is that no matter how large San Joaquin County is ... there isn’t a legislator that lives there, reinforcing a poor economic situation.”
The issue of public education reform, he said, has been a “motif” in his life. “It’s not a new conversation for me,” he explained.
His involvement in reform began in 2004, when he was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the California State Board of Education.
The combination of public education and economic problems, Gill explained, has led San Joaquin to develop one of the country’s highest unemployment rates, with almost 20 percent of residents out of work.
“The one thing I continue telling people that is the greatest indication that things aren’t working is that people can’t return home [to San Joaquin],” he noted. “There’s a mass exodus once they turn 18.”
“Current representation has been totally inadequate on these two issues,” he said. “There’s a big opportunity to leverage this type of change.”
Gill, a Wilson School major, partially attributed his interest in public office to his time at the University and said that it infused him with a strong ethic of public service.
“I think Princeton has certainly contributed to a desire to serve,” he said. “I credit Princeton a lot for putting me in a position to even contemplate this. Everything from the University motto on down really emphasizes this method at its core.”
The Wilson School in particular, he noted, gave him a “strong analytic foundation in the policy realm” and provided him with a “prism through which to look at policy issues.”
He also benefited from the faculty and advisors, he said.
“I’m blessed to have a lot of mentors in the Princeton community to think about this form of public service,” he said.
Gill formed a particularly strong relationship with his thesis advisor, former U.S. Representative and current Chairman of the National Endowment of the Humanities Jim Leach ’64, who served as a visiting lecturer in the Wilson School, he explained.
“He’s an exemplary leader who is now focused in intent in civil dialogue,” Gill said of Leach.
Leach, who served as a congressman from Iowa, is also a member of Gill’s exploratory committee, which, he said, is made up of an “eclectic group of people.” Members of the committee include doctors, farmers, members of the County Board of Supervisors and other people working in public education.
The committee is still in an exploratory phase, he said, and that he is “going through it in steps” and has not yet determined whether he will run for office.
Gill said he aims to have the committee convene a couple of times over a period of 10–12 weeks, discuss its progress and then provide a recommendation.
“If you think that you’re competitive, it makes sense to go ahead,” he said.
While his decision is still uncertain, Gill noted that, thus far, the reaction has been a positive one.
“The adjective people use to describe our effort is ‘refreshing,’ ” he said.
Gill, who was born and raised in San Joaquin County, is currently pursuing a J.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.
He spent the last year as a math and literacy mentor at a Bay Area Charter School.