Berkeley has the reputation of being the most progressive city in the US, but impressions are not always reality. Berkeley has particularly struggled with issues of homelessness and police militarization and brutality, which its City Council has not always been able to address adequately.
It’s a new election and a chance to install a fully progressive City Council. Here are the best progressive choices.
There are three progressives running on this race. They all support rent control, holding the police accountable and ending police militarization, humane solutions to homelessness and smart growth. I am ranking them in terms of their preparation for this office.
Igor Tregub is an engineer and long time community activist, currently in the Berkeley Rent Board. I’ve known him for many years, as he is also a member of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee. He is a strong progressive, with the right values, who is committed to making Berkeley a better city. He can be a little timid at times, but will vote the right way. He has the #1 endorsement from Our Revolution East Bay.
Margo Schueler has impressed me with her “can do” attitude, her willingness to take on sexist establishments and her straightforwardness. However, her expertise seem more limited than Igor’s so I’m recommending her as a #2 choice, as has Our Revolution East Bay.
Mary Behm-Steinberg seems to mostly be a protest candidate, aiming to bring attention to disability issues. She has overall progressive values, so I’m recommending her as number 3.
Rashi Kesarwani, the fourth candidate, is your run-of-the-mill elitist candidate, running to make it easier for developers to build luxury housing and to keep the status quo.
My amazing partner Maritessa has been with me through every step of this journey – from the moment I announced my candidacy, to attending community meetings and house parties, to knocking on doors to listen to the concerns of our neighbors. We care so deeply about this district. This is our home. This is where we will start a family. There is no one else I trust to tell my story than her. This election, I ask you to vote Igor #1 for Berkeley City Council District 1.
Incumbent Kate Harrison is the epitome of a progressive politician, the sort we wish we could clone and put one of in every city council. She is firm in her convictions that a city must be run for its citizens, she supports human rights and social/racial/gender/environmental justice. She is well informed and has clear and intelligent solutions to the problems facing Berkeley. She is not easily intimidated and is not afraid to stand up to the Berkeley police. And she is a pleasant human being, without an ego and the ability to get along with everyone. She was endorsed by Our Revolution East Bay.
Her opponents are two pro-development guys in vanity campaigns. Neither is worth a second choice vote.
City Council District 7 was created as a student district – with the express purpose of having student representation in the Berkeley City Council. The current officeholder, Kriss Worthington. promised he’d step aside when a suitable student would step up to run for this seat. Rigel Robinson, who graduated last spring from Cal, took that challenge. Rigel is an extremely mature, intelligent and well spoken young man. At Cal, he participated in student government and was a leader in the campus campaign for Bernie Sanders. He has strong progressive values, including opposing the militarization of Berkeley police. He is overall very impressive and will add a needed young voice to the Council. Rigel has been endorsed by Our Revolution East Bay.
Aidan Hill, our second choice, is currently a student at UC Berkeley. A young gender non-binary person of color, he has struggled with discrimination and homelessness and is running to bring attention to those issues as well as push for an overall progressive agenda (one that seems less local than Rigel’s).
The last candidate in the race, Ces Rosales, is an older woman who seeks to represent the interests of the non-student residents and small businesses in the district. She’s ran for City Council before and while she supported the creation of a student district, she harbors a lot of resentment to supports of Bernie Sanders. She is also a supporter of police militarization. We cannot recommend her.
Alfred Twu is an artist and designer, with brilliant innovative ideas on how to solve the housing crisis. They are a passionate progressive, a volunteer for Bernie Sanders and many other progressive candidates and a key member of the progressive movement. They are intelligent, capable, willing to stand up for what they believe and would be an amazing addition to the Berkeley City Council. They have been endorsed by Our Revolution East Bay.
We are still awaiting more information on the other two challenger before making our second and third choices. Incumbent Lori Droste, however, clearly does not represent Progressive values. She has voted in favor of police militarization and is lukewarm on rent control.
School Board (vote for 3): TBD
We are still working out this race. Please leave us your comments below.
Jenny Wong is a professional auditor who is running to take the place of the present one, who is retiring. She has the support of basically everyone in Berkeley City government for what should not be a political position. Her opponent seems both unqualified and unable to do the job – he would not even answer my questions. She was endorsed by Our Revolution East Bay.
Measure O: Yes
This is a $135 bond measure to fund affordable housing.
Measure P: Yes
This would race the property transfer tax from 1.5% to 2.5% for properties that sell for over $1.5 million, with the proceeds going to to help homeless people. It’s exactly the type of common-sense progressive taxation that we should get behind.
Measure Q: No
This measure was put in the ballot through the pressure of landlords who are afraid that if Prop 10 passes and Costa Hawkins is repealed, their units will fall under rent control. It exempts accessory dwelling units from both rent control and just cause – allowing landlords to not only raise the rent as high as they want, but evict tenants for any reason.
Measure R: Yes
This measure advises the Mayor in the development of a 30-year infrastructure plan for Berkeley. The Mayor supports it.
Welcome to the first post of my new political blog. For better or worse, we’re starting with a hyperlocal inside baseball post. The Alameda County Democratic Party has just announced their endorsements for races throughout the county and people are texting me and saying: “They endorsed him?!!! What were they thinking?!” in more than one race.
While I cannot read anyone’s mind, after 8 years in the Central Committee I can guess why most candidates were endorsed. In general, the Committee want to endorse candidates that are likely to win, so we endorse incumbents and clear front runners. We like candidates that bring us money, as a committee and as consultants, so we endorse those with ties to developers and big donors. We want to pretend we support labor, so we often endorse candidates that have labor support – though that alone is seldom enough. We like our friends, so we endorse candidates that hang out in Democratic party circles And we like to play politics – some of us are even in the business of making money from politics – so we horse trade. You’ll note that there is no “I” in “we,” not all of us play those games. But those of us who vote on endorsements based on the quality of the candidate or their values are a definite minority.
If you want to know how the endorsement process works, go to the bottom of this page. Meanwhile, here are the Democratic party’s endorsed candidates in Alameda County and my best guesses as to why we endorsed them. Note, in order to not betray anything I was told in confidence, I’m only guessing on those races in which, well, I have to guess 🙂
Alameda Mayor: No Endorsement
Assemblymember Rob Bonta has a lot of influence over the City of Alameda, both because he is an Assemblymember who lives there and because he’s the Committee’s greatest donor. If there is no endorsement on this race, it’s because Bonta doesn’t support any of the candidates. Indeed, none were nominated. Incumbent Trish Spencer incurred the wrath of the Party back in 2014 when she ran against then incumbent Mayor Marie Gilmore, which was supported by the Firefighters Union and Bonta. Her challengers, meanwhile, have fallen out of favor with Bonta. The result was that none of the candidates were nomianted. Establishment members didn’t nominate them out of respect to Bonta (or because they don’t want to get involved in Alameda politics) and progressives didn’t nominate them because all of the candidates endorsed Nancy O’Malley, and her record of supporting police brutality.
Jim Oddie, the only incumbent in the race, is Rob Bonta’s district directo and a member of the Central Committee’s executive board. John Knox White had Oddie’s support. Both were put on consent by the Executive Committee. They weren’t pulled by progressives because the candidates running against them are even less progressive.
Berkeley Councilmember – District 7: No Endorsement
No incumbent in the race. The Executive Committee had put Rigel Robinson on consent because District 7 was created as a student district, and Rigel is a recent Cal graduate with vast experience in student government, active on the campus Democratic club and very well prepared for this role. However, Ces Rosales, an older resident of the area, jumped into the race. Rosales has also been a long-time associate and alternate member of the Central Committee and she had enough friends in the Committee to block Rigel’s endorsement.
Berkeley Rent Board: James Chang, Paola Laverde-Levine, John Selawsky, Maria Poblet and Soli Alpert
Slate of incumbents plus one Democratic activist.
Dublin Mayor: No Endorsement/No Candidates Nominated
Republican incumbent. Arun Goel is the only Democrat running for this seat. However, the establishment does not support him because Arun is pro smart-growth rather than unfettered development, and he’s lost the support of progressives for his support of Nancy O’Malley. He was not nominated for the endorsement.
No incumbent in the race, 3 Democrats running. Kumagai got endorsed because he made the effort to show up at Committee meetings in the last two years and get to know the members. He is a delegate to the California Democratic Party and just a pleasant guy. I’m guessing Josey got endorsed because she is being propped up by Angela Ramirez Holmes, a “consultant” (she dislikes the word “lobbyist”) for developers in the Tri-Valley. Angela controls the tri-valley as far as the Democratic Party is concerned. Bobby Khullar, the third Democrat in the race, was not endorsed because he is running on a smart growth agenda and does not have the support of developers. Progressives were unable to pull Jean Josey from consent as the Party changed its rules to require that one of the members making the pull live in the Assembly district for the office in question.
Emeryville Councilmember (2 seats): Scott Donahue and Dianne Martinez
They are both incumbents, Dianne also serves in the Central Committee.
Fremont Councilmember – District 1: No Endorsement
Three candidates are running for this seat, all new to politics. The Party’s establishment is backing Chandrakala (Chandu) Siramdas, a candidate running on a Trumpian-sounding “Make Fremont Safe Again” platform and they put her on consent. Apparently, the establishment considered her the front runner because she raised the most money. Progressives were able to pull Siramdas from the consent calendar, however, and block her endorsement because even some of the more moderate members were put off by her extreme pro-police state ideology.
Fremont Councilmember – District 2: No Endorsement
The incumbent, Rick Jones, had the support of the establishment but his challenger, progressive Cullen Tiernan, represents Ro Khanna at the Central Committee and had forged personal relationships with Committee members. Jones also made the mistake of making his racism clear during the endorsement interviews, when he replied to the question of whether Black and Latino Lives Mattered with “All Lives Matter” . He still managed to get 16 votes from Party members, but not enough to win the endorsement.
Fremont Councilmember – District 4: No Endorsement
No incumbent. The front runner, Yang Shao, is a homophobic school board member who recently voted to oppose teaching sex education in Fremont elementary schools. A No Party Preference voter, Shao has four opponents, three of whom are Democrats. Committee members wanted to be able to rally behind one candidate so as to best help defeat Shao – but they weren’t able to agree on whether to support Craig Steckler or Debbie Watanuki. Ultimately, they split the vote and there was no endorsement.
There are two incumbents in the race but only one, Sara Lamnin, was endorsed. The other, Marvin Peixoto, has a very bad relationship with his local SEIU and that particular SEIU representative is a regular at Central Committee meetings. Five other Democrats are running for that seat, and of those Aisha Wahab was endorsed because she has the longest relationship with the Democratic party, being a regular at Party events and having served as a state party delegate.
The single incumbent running is an NPP. There are three Democrats in the race and these two are likely to be the two most pro-development, Munro has gotten the endorsement of the Building Trades union (which in the tri-valley signifies support for unfettered development) and Pann is an architect. The third Democrat, Rosmary Bartsch, has a history of speaking out against developments.
This one has a long and sordid history. Four years ago, when Courtney Ruby chose to run for Mayor rather than for re-election as Auditor, the Party endorsed Brenda Roberts, despite her becoming a Democrat the day she filed her papers to run. Sharon Ball, a (now former) member of the Party who worked in the Auditor’s office, was her strongest advocate. Alas, Brenda ended up being terrible, Sharon quit her job and spilled the beans to the East Bay Express.
Oakland Councilmember – District 4: No Endorsement
No incumbent in the race. Oakland City Council member Rebecca Kaplan’s Chief of Staff, Sheng Thao, has been able to use her boss’ political capital and receive most of the endorsements out there. But Pamela Harris, an African American member of the California Democratic Party, was able to steal her thunder with far superior rhetorical gifts. Harris’ support from progressives and some African Americans, I suspect, was enough to block Sheng’s endorsement but not get it for herself.
Oakland Councilmember – District 6: No Endorsement
Incumbent Desley Brooks is not liked by many in the political establishment. A scuffle with former black panther Elaine Brown left the City of Oakland with a lawsuit it settled for around $2.2million. Her weakened position has brought her four challengers, none of whom was compelling enough to deserve the endorsement on their own.
No incumbent. Tejinder has been making the rounds of the Democratic Party for a while and he has the support of the local establishment. His opponent is well known for being a progressive Bernie supporter. Progressives weren’t able to find a fifth member willing to pull Tejinder.
This was probably the single race on which the endorsements were based on the actual merit of the candidates.
This was one of the most controversial races at the Central Committee. Instructors at Peralta community colleges are very dissatisfied with the Chancellor, whom they apparently believe is misusing money from a parcel tax. They’ve recruited a couple of candidates to run against the incumbents in the Board who, apparently, are rubber stamping whatever the Chancellor does. Labor is backing these candidates. Meanwhile, the papers have reported financial problems with the district that scream out “board negligence”. For this reason, I think the Committee members were willing to give the challengers a chance.
Corean Todd, the challenger in Area 3, seemed like a committed community member, but she came into the race late and she wasn’t able to answer those questions that required knowledge of the district. Linda Handy, the incumbent, did not come to the endorsement interviews. She sent the President of the Board of Trustees to speak for her, and while she did a very good job, she wasn’t Linda. A “no endorsement” decision on that race made the most sense and is what I voted.
In Area 5, however, Cynthia Reiss was dynamite. She spent many months reading and analyzing all the financial papers of the district and talking to different stakeholders before deciding she would run, so she was able to answer all questions expertly. She is also an exciting and engaging speaker. The incumbent did not have her breadth of knowledge and is a fairly poor communicator.
Mialisa Bonta is the wife of Assemblymember Rob Bonta, the aforementioned largest donor to the Alameda County Democratic Party, and she was the only candidate to be put on the consent calendar.
The competition for the other spot was between Gary Lym, an elected incumbent, and Anne McKereghan, an appointed one. As mentioned above, Rob Bonta controls the endorsements as far as Alameda goes. If Gary Lym got endorsed instead of McKereghan, it’s because that’s what Bonta wanted.
Albany School Board (3 seats) : Charles Blanchard, Brian Doss and Sara Hinkley
Ty Alper is the only incumbent running for re-election. Julie Sinai was a previous Berkeley School Board member and was endorsed by the party when she last ran in 2014. Ironically, she lost her seat to Alper. The two are now running in a slate with Ka’dijah Brown.
Dublin School Board- District 2: Megan Rouse
Dublin School Board- District 5: No Endorsement/No Candidates Nominated
No Democrats in the race
Emery School Board (3 seats): Brynnda Collins, Susan Donaldson and Sarah Nguyen
Four Democrats are running for these three. The one not endorsed is also running for Emeryville City Council and, therefore, is not considered a serious candidate.
The one incumbent running for re-election, Larry Sweeney, is a conservative who most recently voted against sex-ed in Fremont elementary schools. Of the other five Democrats running, Dianne Jones and Fahria Khan are the ones most involved with the party and the political power centers in Fremont.
Two incumbents were running, but of these only Bill McGee was endorsed, probably because he has the most developed relationships with members of the Central Committee. The rumor going around was that Todd Davis got the second spot because his mother is the head of the local NAACP chapter. Given how unusual it’s to not endorse an incumbent, that seems possible.
Livermore Valley School Board (2 seats): Craig Bueno and David Vonheeder
The only two Democrats in the race.
New Haven School Board (2 seats): Linda Canlas and Sarabjit Kaur Cheema
I am guessing Caskey was the only candidate that applied for the endorsement. Candidates from Piedmont seldom do.
A.C. Transit District Director – At Large: No Endorsement//No Candidates Nominated
Incumbent Joel Young still has not recovered from domestic violence charges that came out during a 2012 Assembly election. He has also not yet apologized. His opponent, a former bus driver, is a perennial candidate who has been unimpressive in previous elections.
A.C. Transit District Director – Ward 4: Mark Williams
Incumbent & sole Democrat running.
A.C. Transit District Director – Ward 5: No Endorsement
No incumbent is running in this race.
Kewal Singh has the support of Labor because he, literally, represents labor. He works for BART as a team leader and has represented workers in strike negotiations. He also has the support of the Fremont political establishment. For this reason, he was put on the consent calendar.
However, progressives pulled him and nominated Diana Shaw, who is far more knowledgeable about all aspects of AC Transit’s operations as she worked for the San Mateo County Transit District until retiring. She was supported by a former AC Transit Director that is a member of the Committee and Singh has very troublesome pro-surveillance tendencies. In all, Shaw was able to block the endorsement.
Anu has a long history of involvement with the Democratic Party and is a former Fremont City Councilmember.
City of Alameda Healthcare District Director (short term): Dennis Popalardo
Dublin San Ramon CSD Director (2 seats) : Georgeann Vonheeder and Ann Marie Johnson
Vonheeder is the only incumbent running. I don’t have a guess as to why Johnson was endorsed (put on consent) vs the other Democrat running.
East Bay MUD Director – Ward 7: Frank Mellon
Incumbent & sole Democrat running.
East Bay Reg. Park District Director – Ward 3: Dennis Waespi
Incumbent & sole Democrat running.
East Bay Reg. Park District Director – Ward 5: Ayn Wieskamp
Incumbent & sole Democrat running.
Eden Township Hospital District Director : Roxann Lewis, Mariellen Faria and Felix Martinez
They endorsed all the Democrats that are not former San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy, whom the Chair and other Committee members hate with a passion.
Fairview Fire Protection District Director: Michael Justice
Incumbent & sole Democrat running.
Oro Loma Sanitary District Director (3 seats): Shelia Young, Rita Duncan and Frederick Simon, Jr.
Only Democrats running
Washington Township Health Care District Director (3 seats): Jacob Eapen, Hon. Michael J. Wallace and Hon. Bernard L. Stewart
The Democratic Party’s endorsementsare made by the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, an organization that consists of around 46 members, 32 elected and 14 ex-officios. Most of the members of the Committee are moderates/establishment politicians. There are a total of six actual progressive members, with a handful more that are progressive in some issues and not in others.
There is a new requirement that candidates must be registered as Democrats by the first day of the filing period to be eligible for the endorsement – this requirement made Oakland Mayoral candidate Cat Brooks ineligible for the endorsement as she registered too late (not that there was any chance anyone but the incumbent would get it).
Candidates are first interviewed by the Executive Committee, which is formed by the most establishment members of the Party. A candidate needs 2/3 of the votes of the Executive Committee to be put on consent. The aim of the Committee is to put as many candidates on consent as possible, so as to make the Committee-wide interviews as short as possible.
Until this year, it took two members of the Committee to either nominate a candidate or pull them from the consent calendar. As more progressives entered the Party, the establishment decided to make it harder to pull candidates by requiring five members to do the pulling, one of whom would have to live in the same Assembly district as the office being pulled. That meant that progressives weren’t able to pull some incumbents in districts where no members were willing to risk the ire of the incumbent.
What do you think? Did I get something wrong? Comment below!