Mindy Romero (Board Chair) is the founder and director of the California Civic Engagement Project (CCEP). Romero is a political sociologist and holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from UC Davis. Her scholarly work focuses on the intersection of political behavior and race/ethnicity/age. Romero has been invited to speak about civic engagement and political rights in numerous venues, and has recently provided testimony to the National Commission on Voting Rights and the California Legislature. Her research has been cited in numerous major news outlets, including the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Politico and the Huffington Post. A native of California’s Central Valley, Romero is also active in community leadership. She currently serves as President of the Board of Mutual Housing California, and is a member of the Social Service Commission for the City of Davis.
Dr. Sam Blakeslee (Vice-Chair) is a former scientist, legislator, reformer, and businessman living in San Luis Obispo. He was elected to serve as a CA State Assemblymember, the Assembly Minority Leader, and as a State Senator. Upon leaving the legislature he founded the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where students and faculty utilize advanced technologies to explore innovative solutions to public policy challenges. His early career as a senior research geophysicist and strategic planner for ExxonMobil informed his non-partisan science and outcomes-based approach toward politics and public policy. In 2016 Sam served as co-proponent with Charles Munger Jr. to pass Proposition 54, a Constitutional Amendment that brought much-needed transparency to the CA State Legislature.
Brian Brennan is Senior Vice President at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, where he leads membership development and various strategic initiatives. He previously worked for several years on political development programs for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Russia. Brian has a Ph.D. in comparative government from the University of Oxford, where he studied electoral accountability in California’s special districts, and related degrees from Princeton and Stanford. Proud husband to Wendy and father of three young children, he grew up in the artichoke fields around Castroville, California.
James Woodson is currently the Policy and Strategic Projects Manager at California Calls Education Fund. He manages California Calls’ work around the 2020 census, redistricting, and the Voters Choice Act. He is a member of the Secretary of State’s VCA Task Force as well as the Voters Choice Los Angeles Steering Committee. He is also on the leadership team of the Black Census and Redistricting Hub. James began at California Calls in 2016 on the African American Civic Engagement Project. Previously, James served in a variety of capacities within the Democratic National Committee, the NJ Democratic State Committee, Obama For America, and the NJ Health Care for America Now campaign. James is a licensed attorney in the states of New Jersey and New York. He served as co-Counsel for the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission in 2012. In addition, James was the Founding Director of the Friendship Development Corporation, where he led the effort to create an outreach center that provides food, clothing, and other services to thousands of low-income families in the Baltimore metropolitan area.
Mary Elizabeth Hanna-Weir is a senior attorney at the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights. A true good government geek, she served on the City of Santa Clara Charter Review Committee in 2016 and 2017. She has volunteered for the Election Protection hotlines in Michigan, and currently serves on the board on the American Constitution Society and Lutheran Outdoor Ministries of Northern CA. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School.
Shakari Byerly designs and conducts public opinion research encompassing a broad range of issues, including candidate and ballot measure campaigns, American social and political values, and public attitudes toward transportation infrastructure and services, education, health care, natural resource conservation. With nearly 20 years of experience, Ms. Byerly has served as a pollster for dozens of electoral campaigns, cities, counties, local school districts, community college districts, special districts, public agencies, and non-profit organizations across the country, with concentrated expertise in California.
Zabrae Valentine has worked to engage policymakers and the public in conversations to strengthen civic literacy and public policy for over 25 years. Since 2016, she has convened and facilitated the Economic Mobility Collaborative, a multi-partisan group of policy and political leaders who believe current barriers to economic security in CA present a critical threat to the state’s future both economically and socially, and who want to accelerate change that enables all Californians to be secure, feel valued, and thrive. Earlier in her career, she served as a Legislative Aide in the U.S. Senate in Wash. D.C., and as a Program Officer for the National Democratic Institute, providing technical assistance and training to the Parliament of Malawi and the Malawian NGO community. Zabrae also was part of the team that developed and launched the governance reform organization California Forward and its sister organization, the California Forward Action Fund in 2007, and co-led both organizations until 2012. In addition to the CA Common Cause board, she serves on the Oakland Go Public Schools Advisory Board, and regularly volunteers at her kids’ school (along with a bunch of other terrific parents).
Gary Ferdman served Common Cause for a decade as National Director of Major Gifts. He co-coordinated Common Cause’s conference on the 40th anniversary of Watergate and helped organize the first major demonstration against the Koch brothers. Along with his wife, feminist author Myriam Miedzian, he founded Monumental Women, creators of the first state of real women in New York’s Central Park. He founded Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities/TrueMajority with Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s. Mr. Ferdman served on the boards of The Shalom Center, Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Peace Action and Prepare Tomorrow’s Parents, and volunteers with the California Women’s Museum. He curated an exhibit about Marc Chagall’s life in High Falls, NY. Trained as a grassroots organizer, Mr. Ferdman holds a Masters in Social Work in Community Organization and Planning.
Hinnaneh Qazi is an analyst at the California Department of Finance, where she conducts fiscal and policy analysis for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program which provides health care for nearly 13 million low-income Californians. Hinnaneh’s career has been dedicated to advancing greater racial, political, economic, and health equity through policy research, data analysis, and grassroots organizing. Prior to the Department of Finance, Hinnaneh served as a consultant for the California Health in All Policies Task Force, analyzing racial and gender pay inequities across the state’s civil service workforce. Hinnaneh also previously worked for the Berkeley Institute for the Future of Young Americans, where she conducted research exploring the rise of anxiety disorder among young adults. From 2013 to 2016, Hinnaneh was a staff member at California Common Cause, where she supported policy campaigns and grassroots organizing efforts. Hinnaneh received an M.P.P from UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy in 2018 and a B.A. from UCLA in 2013.