Sheila Kuehl: Wikis


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Sheila Kuehl

Member of the California Senate
from the 23rd district
In office
2000 – 2008
Preceded by Tom Hayden
Succeeded by Fran Pavley

Member of the California State Assembly
from the 41st district
In office
1994 – 2000
Preceded by Terry Friedman
Succeeded by Fran Pavley

Born February 9, 1941 (1941-02-09) (age 68)
Tulsa, Oklahoma,
United States
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Residence Santa Monica, California
Alma mater Harvard Law School
Profession Attorney
Sheila Kuehl
Born Sheila James Kuehl
Other name(s) Sheila James; Sheila Ann Kuehl
Years active 1950s – 1980s

Sheila James Kuehl (born February 9, 1941; Tulsa, Oklahoma) is an American politician, and a former child actress. She most recently served as a Democratic member of the California State Senate, representing the 23rd district in Los Angeles County and parts of southern Ventura County. A former member of the California State Assembly, she was elected to the Senate in 2000 and served until December 2008.



As a young actress with the stage name Sheila James, she played Jackie, Stuart Erwin's tomboy daughter, in the television show Trouble With Father, which was later retitled The Stu Erwin Show. She is better known for her portrayal of the "irrepressible" Zelda Gilroy in the long-running 1960s TV show The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. The running gag was Zelda's roaring crush on Dobie, and his resistance to her advances. The program spawned two sequels, an unsold television pilot, Whatever Happened to Dobie Gillis? (1978) and TV movie Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis (1988). In these, Dobie had married Zelda and had a son named Georgie, who was like Dobie had been at his age. Kuehl reprised her Zelda role in both updates.

James co-starred in the short-lived television series Broadside, a female version of the hit show McHale's Navy during the 1964-65 season. After the show's cancellation, she got a job as a campus adviser to student groups at UCLA and eventually became an associate dean of students. At age 34, as Sheila Kuehl, she was admitted into Harvard Law School, where she excelled. She was elected class marshall and president of law school student council. In 1978, her final year at the law school, she chaired the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the 1953 graduation of the first group of women to be admitted to Harvard Law School. That same academic year, she became the first woman to win "Best Oralist" in the law school's prestigious Ames Moot Court Competition, judged by a panel including then-Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.[1]


The Washington Post asserts that Kuehl misrepresented a study on the connection between domestic violence and the Super Bowl during a 1993 press conference, when she was managing lawyer of the California Women's Law Center. Kuehl and others (including a spokeswoman for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) said that Super Bowl Sunday was the most dangerous day of the year for American women. Subsequently, NBC aired a public service spot about domestic violence during the Super Bowl telecast, and later said that they aired it just because it was a good cause and not because of the campaign. The Post writes that the cited study did not contain the claimed conclusions claimed by Kuehl.[2]

Kuehl was elected to the California State Assembly in 1994, becoming the first openly gay person elected to the California legislature. She was later a founding member of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus. She served as Speaker pro tempore during the 1997–98 legislative session, becoming the first woman in California history to hold the position. After three terms in the Assembly, she was elected to the California State Senate in 2000, beating Assemblyman Wally Knox in the Democratic primary and becoming the first openly gay person elected to the Senate. Re-elected in 2004 with 65.7% of the vote, she has repeatedly been voted the "smartest" member of the California Legislature.[3]

In 2006, she sponsored a bill that would prohibit the adoption by any school district in California of any instructional material that discriminates against persons based on their gender or sexual orientation.[4]

Throughout her career as a legislator, Kuehl has taken a leadership role on health care policy. Her foremost objective has been securing passage of legislation to establish a single-payer health care system in California.[5] SB 840 passed both houses of the legislature in 2006, but was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; it was reintroduced in 2007 and again passed the state Senate, with a vote pending in the Assembly.[6]. SB 840 passed both houses of the California legislature in August 2008 and was, again, vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.

Kuehl has been criticized by some for regressing reform of California paternity law.[7][8]

Announced intention to vote no on healthcare plan

On January 28, 2008, The New York Times reported that Kuehl planned to vote against a health care plan sponsored by Governor Schwarzenegger and supported by a majority of Democrats in the Assembly, while opposed by a majority of Republicans. Her opposition along with the opposition of Senator Leland Yee led the Times to predict that California's widely touted healthcare bill – widely but inaccurately called "universal" coverage – would be effectively killed. [9]. However, by the time the bill came to the Senate Health Committee, chaired by Kuehl, all but one of the Democratic Senators on the Committee had grave doubts about the bill and, after an eleven hour hearing on the bill and an intervening week to caucus, on January 28, 2008, one Democrat voted yes, three abstained and three (including Kuehl), along with all Republicans, voted no.


  1. ^ Diliberto, Gioia (December 2, 1985). "Sheila Kuehl, the Brainy Bird on Dobie Gillis, Likes to Lay Down the Law as a Professor". People Magazine.,,20092334,00.html. Retrieved 2009-10-21.  
  2. ^ Ringle, Ken (January 31, 1993). "Debunking the 'Day of Dread' for Women; Data Lacking for Claim of Domestic Violence Surge After Super Bowl". The Washington Post: p. A.01.  
  3. ^ "Out's Power 50: Sheila Kuehl". Retrieved 2008-06-02.  
  4. ^ Christie, Jim (April 7, 2006). "California braced for battle over gays in textbooks". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2007-07-29.  
  5. ^ "SB 840 The California Universal Healthcare Act". June 12, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-29.  
  6. ^ "SB 840 Passes Senate Floor, Heads to Assembly Health". June 7, 2007.{FB09811F-A6ED-4042-9D4A-DFC306B532A9}&DE={30426154-2E35-454C-B5A5-BE31361ED2D3}. Retrieved 2007-07-29.  
  7. ^ Welch, Matt (February 2004). "Injustice by Default - How the effort to catch "deadbeat dads" ruins innocent men's lives". Reason. Retrieved 2007-07-29.  
  8. ^ Sealey, Geraldine (October 2, 2002). "Duped Dads fight child support". ABC News. Retrieved 2007-07-29.  
  9. ^ "California Governor’s Plan for Health Care in Trouble". 2008-01-28. Retrieved 2008-01-28.  

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Terry Friedman
California State Assemblymember,
41st District

Succeeded by
Fran Pavley
Preceded by
Tom Hayden
California State Senator,
23rd District

Succeeded by
Fran Pavley

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