"This doesn't deter me. I won't roll over and leave," she said last week after Houston (R - San Ramon) ended speculation about his political future by announcing he would challenge Piepho in District III, which covers much of East County and the San Ramon Valley.
"It will definitely be an interesting race. I'm committed to winning," said Piepho, a Discovery Bay resident. "There remains a lot more work to do at the county level. We have made huge strides in the last two and a half years."
At the time Houston was elected to the state Assembly, Piepho was working for former Assemblywoman Lynn Leach. She stayed on as an aide to Houston. "He encouraged me to run for this seat," she said, adding that he also recently suggested she run for his Assembly seat.
"Guy said, 'You need to run for my seat because I'm termed out.' I said, 'No I'm not ready to leave the county yet,'" said Piepho.
Houston said he had read news reports quoting Piepho on that topic. "That isn't portrayed quite the way it was. In December, I hosted a luncheon in Dublin and I invited all the potential candidates for Assembly, probably 14 to 16 people, and she was one of them, as was her husband, David (president of the Discovery Bay Community Services District Board of Directors). I talked to all the candidates (about terming out)," he said.
Pat Keeble, political blogger and retired Contra Costa Times political editor, said she had heard comments earlier this year about Piepho expressing disappointment with the fact that her job kept her away from her family much of the time.
She said Piepho would experience even greater separation from her family by joining the Assembly. "With term limits, she can wait a few more years. By then her daughter will be out of school and maybe in college, and she (Piepho) will not be too old to run for state office."
Keeble added that Houston has no other place to go politically. Republican Party insiders nervous about ethical issues were unlikely to support him for a higher office while he and his father are being sued for fraud by some investors.
Piepho also has her legal woes. She and a brother are being sued by a third sibling who alleges that the two were responsible for their late father, Sen. John Nejedly, cutting him out of his will.
Houston last Friday declared his intent to challenge his former aide. In a telephone interview, he said he thought it would be "a very good opportunity to put my experience to use."
A former Dublin City Council member, Houston served as that city's elected mayor from 1994 to 2001 before moving to Livermore to run for the Assembly. He later moved to San Ramon.
Because of legislative term limits, Houston must either run for another office or retire from politics. Many had expected him to either challenge Sen. Tom Torlakson (D - Antioch), who also terms out next year, or Rep. Jerry McNenry (D - Pleasanton), who unseated Republican Richard Pombo of Tracy in the November, 2006 election.
Instead, Houston has decided to take on Piepho.
Houston was quoted as saying during a press conference that party leaders told him they were supporting the more conservative Dean Andal, a former Stockton assemblyman who has entered the race.
In the telephone interview, Houston cited his tenure in Dublin and the city's record for fiscal thrift. During his tenure in the Assembly, the state's deficit has dropped nearly five-fold, he said.
"It's a very good fit: the county with its budget problems stemming from retirement benefits and related health-benefit issues," he said.
When asked if as supervisor he would pull out next year should term limits be extended, or leave in two years to run for Congress or some state seat, Houston replied, "The reality is I'm running for supervisor. I pledged to all the (Assembly) candidates that if term limits (extension) were to pass, I'm still running for supervisor."
"I'm sure (Sen.) Tom (Torlakson) is mildly interested in term-limits extension as well. But as for me, I'm taking it (a senate race) off the table," he added.
A run for the state Board of Equalization also is off the table, Houston said. He had raised in excess of $160,000 for a possible run for that board, some of which he can divert to a supervisor's race. "My experience at the local level will be very valuable for Contra Costa. It is something that speaks volumes," he said.
Beyond the county's fiscal problems, Houston said he was committed to getting money to improve Vasco Road between Brentwood and Livermore. The road has been the scene of several fatalities in the last few years.
Houston said he had not followed the most recent developments concerning the county urban limit line and a proposal for a residential development east of Danville and San Ramon just outside that line. "That's something I have not studied. I don't know the details."