Sandra Santos/Daily Journal
President Bill Clinton and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi speak about health reform and the Garamendi for Congress campaign during a rally at the Basque Cultural Center in South San Francisco Tuesday.
Former President Bill Clinton urged Americans to support health care and energy reform in South San Francisco yesterday at an event hosted by Lt. Gov. John Garamendi.
Garamendi is running for Congress in the 10th District and Clinton spoke at the Basque Cultural Center to support his candidacy. Garamendi was the undersecretary of the Interior under Clinton starting in 1991 and also happens to be Basque.
The two arrived late to the event as hundreds filled the center waiting for their arrival. As they entered the room, Kool and the Gang’s "Celebration” was playing.
"Any time you are with William Jefferson Clinton, it is a celebration,” said Garamendi, the state’s former insurance commissioner.
Clinton is in town for the President’s Cup Golf Tournament in San Francisco. Although Garamendi is running for Congress in the East Bay, Clinton used his time in South San Francisco to tout Garamendi’s run.
"The Republicans have targeted the 10th Congressional District,” said Eric Bauman, California’s Democratic Party vice chair. "It is time to restore the economy back to the Clinton days.”
Clinton reminded the crowd that the United States spends more on health care than any other industrialized nation with less results.
"We spend 18 percent of our gross domestic product on health care,” Clinton said. "Switzerland spends 11 percent and gets much better results. We are on the bottom of industrialized nations.”
The former president urged the crowd not to listen to insurance companies.
"They will tell you everything is fine, but it is not,” Clinton said.
California has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the country and is the leader in home mortgage foreclosures, Clinton said.
"The median salary has dropped since I’ve left office and health care costs have doubled,” Clinton said.
A large group of union employees took the trip from the East Bay yesterday to support Garamendi’s run and get a glimpse of the 42nd president.
The president of the Contra Costa Central Labor Council, John May, traveled from Bay Point yesterday for the rally.
"I’ve seen Reagan speak. I’ve seen Carter speak and now I’ve seen Clinton speak,” May said, who had the president sign his name badge. "I pushed my way up to the front to get his autograph because he is the one I do respect.”
Mike Patino, from Burlingame, said Clinton still understands the needs of working people.
"A vision for the future has been lost since he left office,” said Patino, who supports the public option.
Garamendi supports the public option, is an advocate for single-payer health care and defends Medicare and Medi-Cal.
Garamendi cites his time in the Peace Corps with his wife Patti for forging his commitment to health care reform. The couple worked in rural southwest Ethiopia, where they worked for two years to eradicate small pox in the 1960s.
Garamendi is a former state assemblyman and senator and was the chair of the Senate Health Committee, where he authored 20 bills signed into law.
Bill Silverfarb can be reached by e-mail: email@example.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.