As an upswell of candidates seeks to fill State Assemblymember Tony Thurmond’s seat for California State Assembly District 15, Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto secured Thurmond’s official endorsement.
Thurmond released an official statement Monday endorsing Pardue-Okimoto — an El Cerrito City Council member and registered nurse — citing her experience as an activist and labor leader.
“(Pardue-Okimoto is) an experienced nurse who will always put patients first, a community leader fighting for criminal justice reform and a true progressive fighting for working families every day, (which) makes her the best candidate in this race,” Thurmond said in the statement.
In May 2017, Thurmond announced his campaign for state superintendent of public instruction. He will not be pursuing reelection for state assembly, according to Madeline Franklin, Thurmond’s campaign manager.
Pardue-Okimoto first announced her candidacy for state assembly Aug. 2017. Her experience as a registered nurse at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center has given her a unique perspective as a candidate, she said.
“There are no nurses currently serving in the legislature,” Pardue-Okimoto said. “We deliver most of the health care in the hospital. … One of my big issues is single-payer health care and making sure that everyone has access to health care.”
Pardue-Okimoto’s platforms also include criminal justice reform, increased investment in education and the mitigation of environmental issues through greater focus on renewable energy. Her two children have influenced these policy positions, according to Pardue-Okimoto.
“(Tony’s endorsement) means that he has faith in me that I will do the best job to represent (District 15),” Pardue-Okimoto said. “That encouragement gives me strength and makes me feel proud to represent the people of (our district).”
Pardue-Okimoto said she would rather focus on her policies, rather than the other candidates.
“Tony Thurmond is an exceptional leader and fantastic mentor,” Pardue-Okimoto said. “(I’m) putting my head forward and concentrating on my race (and) not worrying too much about what the other folks are doing.”
Twelve candidates are currently registered for the 2018 race for State Assembly District 15 . Cheryl Sudduth, longtime activist and one of the candidates running, recognizes this as a part of democracy and called it a positive for voters.
“The more voices, the more choices,” Sudduth said. “Whenever there’s an open seat, you expect a lot of people running.”
The race has attracted candidates from a wide variety of backgrounds, including the Berkeley Unified School District Board and Berkeley City Council, as well as a writer and a former adviser to former president Barack Obama. Campus student Pranav Jandhyala filed his intent to run mid-January, making him the only student and the only Republican running.
Voting for the primary for the California State Assembly will take place on June 5.