Elizabeth Diane Emken (born April 4, 1963) is an American politician. Emken was the Republican Party nominee for United States Senator from California in the 2012 election, challenging incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein in the November general election. Emken is the former Vice President for Government Relations at Autism Speaks.
In 2010, she ran for Congress in California's 11th Congressional District to replace Democratic representative Jerry McNerney. Emken finished last among four candidates in the Republican primary, winning 16.7% of the vote.
In 2012, she was the Republican nominee for the United States Senate. She lost the election to incumbent Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein by 63% to 37%.
In 2014, she was one of three Republicans running to challenge Democrat incumbent Ami Bera in California's 7th congressional district, finishing fourth in the June 3 Primary Election.
Emken graduated from UCLA in 1984 with a degree in Economics and Political Science. Prior to her professional involvement in the field of autism awareness and research, she focused on field management, cost and financial analysis, and corporate operations at IBM Corporation.
She lives in Fair Oaks, California with her husband of 28 years, Craig Swartz, a Global Enterprise Solution Architect at Dell. They have two daughters and a 21-year-old son, Alex, who has autism.
Emken joined Autism Speaks in March 2007 to manage the relationship between the organization and the federal government, state governments, and related agencies.
Prior to joining Autism Speaks, Emken was a legislative consultant and board member at Cure Autism Now since 1998. She initially coordinated grassroots advocacy for the first major piece of federal autism legislation, the Advancement in Pediatric Autism Research Act, ultimately becoming the lead title of the Children's Health Act of 2000, which authorized programs at the NIH, CDC, and HRSA.
Emken advocated for the Combating Autism Act of 2006 on behalf of Cure Autism Now, Autism Speaks, and 17 other leading autism organizations. The Combating Autism Act of 2006 passed in December 2006, and authorizes nearly $1 billion over the next 5 years to "combat" autism through research, screening, early detection and early intervention.
In 2007, she launched a multi-state campaign to secure insurance coverage for autism-related services. Fifteen states approved and enacted these measures; similar legislation is pending in over twenty others. Florida Governor Charlie Crist appointed her to the Governor's Task Force on Autism Spectrum Disorders.
In 2008 she officially registered as a lobbyist for Autism Speaks, and in 2009 she lobbied for numerous bills related to healthcare reform and combatting autism.
Emken was the Republican nominee against incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein in the 2012 Senate election in California. Feinstein and Emken finished in first and second place in the top-two primary on June 5, 2012, with 49.3% and 12.5% of the vote respectively and faced one another in the general election in November. Emken's 12.5% share was nearly double that of the next finisher, Republican candidate Dan Hughes, who garnered 6.7%. Feinstein easily won re-election, breaking the record for the most popular votes in any U.S. Senate election in history in the process.