Secretary of State Debra Bowen is termed out of office this year and is not a candidate for re-election, but as California’s top elections official this is still a challenging time of the year for her.
That challenge has been made more formidable by depression. Bowen told the Los Angeles Times she has moved out of the home she shares with her husband, California’s Department of Conservation Director Mark Nechodom, and into a rented trailer after a difficult episode of the problem she has wrestled with since college.
She is currently working from her new home. “I know this territory,” she said. “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.”
Bowen, a Democrat and a lawyer, is wrapping up her second term as secretary of state. Before that, she served three terms in the Assembly and two in the state Senate, representing voters in western Los Angeles County.
Bowen has freely discussed her problems with substance abuse in the past. She said she kicked alcohol in 1995 while serving in the Assembly and a prescription drug problem she had later in the Senate.
But Bowen said it’s been 30 years since she had a bout of depression like this, for which she is receiving professional help. “It's like someone drew a black curtain across the world and the things that normally give me joy don't touch me,” Bowen told the San Francisco Chronicle. She called her illness “debilitating.”
In July, Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters took Bowen to task for being a “passive figure” as the November 4 election threatened to become a “logistical disaster.” Walters, who is generally not fond of Democrats, thought she needed to be more involved in fixing the state’s useless recount law, exposed in the June primary battle for Controller, and upgrading the department’s technology and transparency.
Steven Greenhut, at conservative U-T San Diego, alluded to an allegation of Bowen being a “couch potato” last month in explaining problems “plaguing” her office, like unprocessed business applications.
Bowen is an elected official and it is doubtful anything, short of resignation, will interfere with her completing her term. As she well knows, since her office upgraded the “Procedure for Recalling State and Local Officials” (pdf) in May, the process whereby voters remove an officeholder is lengthy. Her office would oversee the procedure.