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Your House member’s State of the Union guest

Here are the special guests whom Bay Area members of Congress are bringing to President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: Black Lives Matter movement co-founder Alicia Garza

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin: Fremont Police Chief Richard Lucero, a gun-control advocate

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough: Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist and neuropathologist who first published findings on the impact of chronic traumatic encephalopathy on football players; Omalu is portrayed by Will Smith in the film Concussion.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord: Amanda Wilcox, the legislation and policy chair for the California Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; Wilcox’s daughter, Laura, was shot to death in 2001.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael: Ali Rezaian, brother of Jason Rezaian, the Iranian-American journalist and Washington Post Tehran bureau chief who has been imprisoned in Iran since July 2014; the brothers are Marin County natives.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose: Irene Bueno, whose family immigrated to the United States from the Philippines; due to the slow legal process, her aunt and cousins were separated for many years. Honda will introduce family reunification immigration legislation in March.

Rep Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose: Sameena Usman, government relations coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ San Francisco Bay Area chapter.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto: Intuit CEO Brad Smith, who hosted Eshoo and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew for a tour and Q&A with company executives.

UPDATE @ 3:34 P.M.: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson earlier Tuesday questioned the wisdom of allowing two members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, to attend the State of the Union. Both Lofgren and Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., brought them as invited guests.

“They have done things that are clearly, you know, not pro-American,” Carson said on CNN. “If they are our buddies, let’s put that clearly out there. And if they’re not our buddies, let’s not be giving them access to the ability to further carry on what they call a civilization jihad and to change us from a Judeo-Christian foundation to a Muslim foundation. We have got to be smarter than that.”

But Lofgren told me this afternoon that Carson’s comments are “sadly misinformed,” and she was delighted that Usman had accepted her invitation as a means of “highlighting patriotic Americans who are also Muslims.”

“She has been a terrific leader in our community for civil rights” not only among Muslims but in the Bay Area at large, Lofgren said. “To suggest somehow that she is un-American is just pathetic … It’s ignorant and sad, but luckily it’s very clear Dr. Carson will not be our president, so I guess he’s entitled to his ignorant statements.”

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California lawmakers’ State of the Union guests

Here’s a sampling of guests invited by California lawmakers to attend President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight:

FloresRep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose: Honda is bringing Claudia Flores, an immigration rights activist who was allowed to stay in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Flores and her family moved to San Jose from Honduras when she was a teenager; she became a leader at San Jose High School and in her community, eventually earning a full-ride scholarship to Santa Clara University. She was an intern in Honda’s office two summers ago and is now a public policy fellow with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. “This hard-working, bright woman, who has done so much in her young career, would have been deported if not for President Obama’s action in 2012,” Honda said. “She is exactly the type of person this policy was meant to encourage to stay in the United States.”

UsafiRep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin: Swalwell is bringing Mohammad Usafi, an Afghan interpreter who worked with U.S. Marines and after waiting nearly four years received a special immigrant visa to move to the Bay Area one year ago. The Taliban kidnapped Usafi’s young brother for ransom and killed his father because of the aid he had worked for American troops; after Swalwell and other House members helped friends and advocates petition the State Department, Usafi’s mother and seven siblings were granted humanitarian parole to join him here in December. “It’s a great relief that today Mohammad and his family live in the Bay Area, but more must be done and can be done in a bipartisan fashion to help interpreters like Mohammad,” Swalwell said.

ChristensenRep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo: Speier is bringing retired U.S. Air Force Col. Don Christensen, that branch’s longest-serving chief prosecutor and a leading advocate of military sexual assault reform. Christensen is president of Protect Our Defenders, a group that’s leading efforts to remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command. “I invited Colonel Christensen with the hope that he could witness President Obama announce his support of fundamental reform of the military justice system,” Speier said. “A year after requesting a report from the Pentagon, the president now has the results on his desk. He has all the information he needs. Tonight would be a perfect time for him to lead on this issue by supporting taking sexual assault cases out of the chain of command.”

MartinezRep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara: Capps is bringing Richard Martinez, whose son, Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, 20, was among those slain in last May’s rampage near UC-Santa Barbara. Martinez, of Los Osos, became a face of the tragedy as he urged lawmakers to pursue stricter gun-control measures; he since has joined the staff of Everytown for Gun Safety. “As the 114th Congress begins their tenure, it is time they put the public safety of their constituents first, and that means making gun safety a priority to help reduce gun violence in America,” Martinez said.

OliverRep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove: Bera is bringing Susan Oliver, widow of Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver, who was shot to death in the line of duty in October by a gunman who also killed a Placer County deputy. Their lives “remind us that our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day for our safety,” Bera said. “They were true heroes and we are forever indebted to them and their loved ones. Let’s honor their memory by building understanding and trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, just like Deputy Oliver did.”

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.: Feinstein is bringing Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. He’s been mayor since 2013 and earlier was a councilman; Feinstein said they’ve worked together on issues such as funding for the Metro’s Purple Line extension and efforts to reduce homelessness among veterans.

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California guests at White House state dinner

Several Californians will be among the many dozens of diplomats, dignitaries and guests at tonight’s White House state dinner for French President Francois Hollande:

    Director and producer J.J. Abrams of Pacific Palisades, and wife, Katie McGrath
    Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, and her guest, Barbara Jordan
    NBA player Jason Collins of Los Angeles and his boyfriend, Brunson Green
    Democratic activist Shefali Duggal of San Francisco and her husband, Rajat Duggal
    Television producer Ken Ehrlich of Westlake Village and his wife, Harriet Ehrlich
    Former insurance executive and philanthropist John Goldman of Atherton and his wife, Marcia Goldman
    Qualcomm cofounder and former chairman Irwin Jacobs of La Jolla and his wife, Joan Jacobs
    Actress and producer Mindy Kaling of Universal City and her friend, Jocelyn Leavitt
    SEIU International Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina of La Canada-Flintridge and his guest, Arcelia Rocio Saenz
    Oracle heiress and Democratic fundraiser Nicola Miner of San Francisco and her husband, novelist Robert Mailer Anderson
    PayPal cofounder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk of Los Angeles and his ex-wife, Talulah Musk
    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and her daughter, Jacqueline Kenneally
    Philanthropist and Democratic fundraiser Azita Raji of Tiburon and her husband, Gary Syman
    philanthropist and retired teacher Liz Simons of Atherton and her husband, Medley Partners Managing Director Mark Heising
    Big Block managing director Kenneth Solomon of Pacific Palisades and his wife, Melissa Solomon
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Lawmakers bringing gun-violence victims to SOTU

Some California lawmakers now embroiled in the nation’s gun-control debate will bring gun-violence victims with them as guests to President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who has introduced S. 150, a bill to reinstate an updated and expanded federal ban on assault weapons, will host Josh Stepakoff, 20.

Stepakoff was six years old in 1999 when he was shot in the leg during the North Valley Jewish Community Center shooting in Granada Hills, near Los Angeles. The gunman was a white supremacist who fired more than 70 rounds from a semi-automatic assault rifle, injuring five people including three young children.

Now a Cal State Northridge student, Stepakoff is a member of the board of Women Against Gun Violence and is involved with Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“Josh is a remarkable young man whose life was forever changed by a senseless act of mass gun violence.” Feinstein said in a news release. “Since his tragic experience, Josh has become a voice for young victims across the country. It is important for members of Congress to see the faces behind these tragedies of gun violence.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, who led House Democrats’ gun-violence task force, will host Elvin Daniel of McHenry, Ill., whose sister, Zina Daniel, was shot and killed by her husband in October inside the Azana Salon and Spa in Brookfield, Wisc. Two others were killed and four were injured in the shooting.

“Whether you’re an NRA member like Elvin, a hunter and gun owner like me, or one of the millions of Americans who have never fired a gun, we can all agree that we need to do everything we can to keep firearms out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them,” Thompson said in a news release. “Elvin has dedicated himself to helping the victims of gun violence and it is my high honor to host such an extraordinary man at the State of the Union.”

Shortly before she was killed, Zina Daniel had been granted a restraining order against her husband which prohibited him from purchasing a gun. Nonetheless, he was able to buy a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun online two days after the restraining order was issued. In Thompson’s news release, Daniel noted his sister’s killer “was able to buy a firearm from a private seller without a criminal background check.

“As a gun owner and an NRA member, I support common-sense reforms to fix our broken gun laws,” Daniel said. “It’s time for our leaders in Washington to act, so that others do not have to experience the grief I’ll live with for the rest of my life.”

Other lawmakers bringing relatives of gun-violence victims at the State of the Union include Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.; Rep Diana Degette, D-Colo.; Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.; Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I.; Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y.; Rep. Eleanor Norton, D-D.C.; Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo.; Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.; Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

The president’s State of the Union address will be broadcast live at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on most channels. I’ll be tweeting at @Josh_Richman, and later posting some reactions here.

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Ice cream & bipartisanship at State of the Union

A pair of business partners from Santa Cruz who started their ice cream shop with a Small Business Administration loan funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus are among those invited to sit with First Lady Michelle Obama at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address tomorrow night.

From the White House’s advisory:

Business partners Kendra Baker and Zachary Davis had a dream of opening an organic, homemade ice cream shop in Santa Cruz, California, but had trouble finding a lender that would help finance their dream. With the help of a Recovery Act SBA loan of $250,000, Kendra and Zack were able open the doors to The Penny Ice Creamery in August 2010. The SBA Recovery Act funding allowed them to not only open the shop, but also to employ eleven people, purchase American-made equipment, and to hire nearly twenty local businesses to design and renovate the space. Kendra and Zack were so thankful for the financing help, that they posted a video on YouTube thanking the Administration and Members of Congress for their Recovery Act SBA loan. As a result of the video, the Vice President called them in November 2010 to thank them for the video and wish them good luck.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., reports she’ll be sitting tomorrow night with Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., as part of the bipartisan seating initiative – that is, Democrats and Republicans sitting together, rather than “across the aisle,” to present a more united front.

Mica chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, while Boxer chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over transportation and infrastructure. With this shared jurisdiction, they’ll most likely be working together a lot this year.

“We both have responsibility for the transportation bill and water infrastructure legislation,” Boxer said. “We have already started working together and we thought it would be nice to sit together to show that there’s not just cooperation between Republicans and Democrats, but also between the House and Senate.”