Mark Simon

For more than 40 years, it has been a joy and a privilege to write about politics for local newspapers. I got the bug — for both writing and politics — from my mother, Barbara, who was a campaign operative throughout my childhood. One of my lasting memories is coming home from school in the fourth grade and walking into a candidate’s coffee in my front room.

The candidate was Leo Ryan. He was running for the state Assembly the first time. He was intent on breaking the Republican stranglehold on San Mateo County, and also defying the power brokers of San Francisco, who regarded this county as though it were a colony of the big city. 

And there you go. From Leo Ryan through Tom Lantos to Jackie Speier. And from Pete McCloskey through Ed Zschau and Tom Campbell to Anna Eshoo. These are the members of Congress I covered, wrote about, annoyed, challenged and, yes, admired. 

Their common denominator can be summed up in one word: Courage.

Ryan’s courage cost him his life. Lantos, a survivor of the Holocaust, never forgot what would happen if good people failed to stand up to evil. Speier’s courage is well documented. McCloskey stood up against the Vietnam War and President Nixon. Zschau and Campbell bucked the Republican status quo to carve out moderate positions on social issues. Eshoo’s courage was to push past all those who dismiss women as under-qualified.

I’m sure you have figured out why I’m writing about that particular quality now. So much is happening — so much is at stake these days. It is harder than ever to sort through the careening emotions of outrage, apprehension and dismay, clutching desperately to the tenuous belief that the better angels of our national experiment will see us through.

But it is pretty clear what these days call for — the same kind of courage that has blessed us here on the Peninsula.

As I said, I’m not sure I can sort through it all, or that I have anything original or useful, or even coherent, to offer. In the absence of anything else, I’m going to just keep doing what I do — because this is what I do. So, here are some random observations about the last several days, mixed with the more customary notes, comments and items about our local political scene.

NO, SERIOUSLY: This day of insurrection, disloyalty and assault on America is unlike anything I have ever witnessed. Congratulations are in order, I suppose — this is worse than Watergate. The main argument being made against ousting President Trump is that it will only aggravate national divisions. This hands me a laugh. After years of sowing disunity, their argument now against doing something is that it might cause disunity. … And there are those, even in these pages, who want to equate what happened last week at the U.S. Capitol with the violence and vandalism that marred the largely peaceful and broad-based protests associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. The differences are so profound that comparisons can be drawn with only the most contorted logic. But it demonstrates a basic Trump era truism: Whatever they accuse you of doing, they’re doing. 

ITEM TYPE ITEMS: The race for the District 3 seat on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, being vacated by Don Horsley, continues to be a busy little beehive. Menlo Park Councilman Ray Mueller announced he has been endorsed by Pacifica Councilman Mike O’Neill, who was rumored to be considering running. The other announced candidate, San Carlos Mayor Laura Parmer-Lohan, announced her endorsement by council colleague Ron Collins, who also has endorsed Mueller. Endorsing two candidates in the same race seems like misguided diplomacy, but that’s just me. Another name has cropped up as a possible District 3 candidate — newly elected San Mateo County Board of Education Trustee Chelsea Bonini. Right now, she’s busy leading a slate of candidates for the biennial race for delegate to the California Democratic Party convention, an event that’s every bit as much fun as you think it is.

Supervisor David Canepa, this year’s president of the board, has been named to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, replacing board colleague Warren Slocum. The MTC is the major conduit for state and federal transit funding, and the county now is represented by Canepa and Millbrae Councilwoman Gina Papan. I envision dueling press releases as they scurry to outdo each other.

With the impending departure of General Manager/CEO Jim Hartnett and the appointment of Belmont Councilman Charles Stone as chair of the SamTrans board, expect the fight over Caltrain to break wide open.


Mark Simon is a veteran journalist, whose career included 15 years as an executive at SamTrans and Caltrain. He can be reached at


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(13) comments


Christopher Conway said:

What ledge there Mikey?

CC, I once knew a Claire Conway.

Terence Y

Another day, another writer who tries to excuse the death and destruction wrought by BLM goons, but for whatever reason, doesn’t discuss Antifa goons, or the left wingnuts who stormed the Capitol during the Kavanaugh hearings. It is amusing Mr. Simon talks about courage, yet he himself doesn’t have the courage to speak against BLM.

Cindy Cornell

On January 6th, I shuddered, thinking of how Congresswoman Speier may be feeling as she hid in the Capitol building hearing shots and screaming, echoes of herself being shot along with Congressman Ryan and others on the tarmac in Guyana. She has tremendous courage and fortitude and I hope she can find some sense of safety and security after the outrage in Washington.


"And there are those, even in these pages, who want to equate what happened last week at the U.S. Capitol with the violence and vandalism that marred the largely peaceful and broad-based protests associated with the Black Lives Matter .movement. "

Can't compare. The Capitol gives it a new dimension. However, don't use that as an argument to diminish the BLM looting and vandalism. It set the stage for more violence.

Christopher Conway

Mr. Simon, you are a partisan wimp that has done nothing for our community. What gives you a voice to comment is beyond me. Those of us who love our president will stick behind him no matter how many half-pints like yourself give us an opinion that is worthless. Trump and his supporters are going nowhere and they are right here on the peninsula. Get back up to your taxpayer funded gym on the top of hill with all your swell friends in the local Democrat scene.



I see you still haven't found a mirror.


Taf, he's sharing it with Patty Henry.

Mark Simon

Have we met?


Mark, Patrick Henry aka former poster Chris Conway is dis unhappy human being and it is furthermore a badge of honor for you to have pushed him off the ledge.

Mark Simon

Yes. But when someone calls me a wimp, I’d think it might be more relevant if he’s actually met me and can make a proper judgment.

Christopher Conway

What ledge there Mikey?


CC, we both went to Serra, you, me, Gary (RIP) Mac and we all had to memorize MLK's speech and I am sure you know it by heart and this portion deserves our and your undivided attention.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Christopher Conway

Love the good Reverend. My only hope was that he brought more Black Americans over to the Republican Party in which Dr. King was a member. The Black community in the United States would be in a much better place if African Americans voted Republican instead of their slave masters in the Democrat Party, the party that literally held them in chains.

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