San Diego, California , United States
|| January 05, 1945
Mar 30, 2016 09:29pm
|Info||Schenk was born 1945 in the Bronx, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. She attended public schools in the Bronx and Los Angeles. She received a BA from UCLA in 1967 and a JD from the University of San Diego in 1970. There were only 3 other female students in her law class. Schenk did post-graduate study in international law at the London School of Economics. |
In 1971, with two other female lawyers, she broke the gender barrier at The Grant Grill in the downtown San Diego U.S. Grant Hotel. Women were prohibited during lunch, so a male friend made a reservation and the three women went in to eat, unescorted. They ordered mock-turtle soup, a specialty not available in the hotel’s other restaurants. After trying to push them out the door, the staff seated them. The three continued to come back until a "No women before 3 p.m." sign was removed. The next year she and other women formed the Lawyers Club of San Diego, which worked for the Equal Rights Amendment and other women's rights issues. In 1972, Schenk married USD Law Professor C. Hugh Friedman.
Schenk worked for the California State Attorney General as a deputy attorney general, an attorney for San Diego Gas and Electric, and White House Fellow (special advisor) to Vice Presidents Nelson A. Rockefeller and Walter Mondale. She was appointed by former Governor Jerry Brown as deputy secretary, then secretary, for the California State Department of Business, Transportation and Housing from 1977 until 1983, after Brown decided not to run for a third term. She then returned to private practice.
In 1984 she ran against Republican Susan Golding (who later became mayor of San Diego) for San Diego County Supervisor. It was a nasty campaign, and at the last moment, Golding sent a mailer claiming Schenk charged personal trips on state expense forms. Schenk lost 45% to 55%. Schenk sued Golding for slander and settled out-of-court for $150,000 from Golding's insurance companies in 1988.
In 1992, Schenk won the Democratic nomination for California's 49th Congressional District, which took in most of San Diego. The district had been renumbered from the 41st after redistricting, and the seat was open after six-term Republican Bill Lowery was drawn out of the district. She won, becoming the first Democrat to represent the district since its creation in 1953. However, even her supporters said she was inaccessible and did not pay enough attention to the constituents in her district. She was defeated for reelection in 1994 by Brian Bilbray, the Republican mayor of Imperial Beach.
After serving in Congress Schenk served in various positions in the California state government under the Gray Davis Administration, including Chief of Staff, from 1998 until Davis was recalled in 2003. As Chief of Staff, she didn't "suffer fools" and was responsible for much of the “centrist” policy of the Davis Administration.
Schenk and her husband live in San Diego.