John Lowell Burton (born December 15, 1932) is the Chairman of the California Democratic Party since April 2009 and a professor of California Politics at San Francisco State University. He is an American politician who served in the California State Assembly (1965–74), in the U.S. House of Representatives (1974–83), in the State Assembly again (1988–96), and in the California State Senate (1996-2004) (representing the 3rd district).
Life and career
Burton earned a BA degree in social science in 1954 from San Francisco State University and was the University’s Alumnus of the Year in 1998. From 1998 until he was forced out of office by term limits in 2004, he served as the President pro tempore of the State Senate. Prior to his time in the Senate, he served in the California State Assembly from 1965 until 1974, and again from 1988 until 1996. He was originally elected to the Assembly to succeed his brother Phillip Burton, who had been elected to Congress. He was returned to the Assembly in a 1988 special election to succeed Art Agnos, who had been elected Mayor of San Francisco. Burton also served in the U.S. House of Representatives, alongside his brother, from 1975 until 1982, when he resigned.
As a legislator, Burton was known for expanding the Cal Grant scholarship program, and passing a law (subsequently defeated in a referendum) that would have required California businesses to pay for health coverage for their workers. The magazine California Journal said about Burton's departure from the Senate in 2005: "Gone will be the Senate's most vehement partisan for social services for the poor, the Senate's angriest voice against tax breaks for businesses and the wealthy, its loudest voice for protection of workers, its fiercest pro-labor advocate and its disciplinarian."
After leaving the Senate, Burton formed the John Burton Foundation, an organization that, according to its web site, is "dedicated to improving the quality of life for California’s homeless children and developing policy solutions to prevent homelessness." In February 2007 he was appointed board member of the University of Phoenix.
On April 26, 2009, Burton was elected chair of the California Democratic Party, succeeding Arthur Torres. He received roughly 76% of the vote, over his sole challenger, Chris Finnie of Santa Cruz.
Burton is a graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law.
Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
In 2008, Burton settled a $10 million sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Kathleen Driscoll, then the executive director of his charitable foundation for homeless children. Driscoll claimed Burton repeatedly swore at her and directed lewd and suggestive comments regularly.