Attorney Cecily Brewster withdraws from Berkeley City Council District 1 race, citing racial bias

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UC Berkeley alumna and Bay Area attorney Cecily Brewster plans to withdraw from the District 1 City Council race, though she is still publicly filed as a candidate.

Brewster has lived in District 1 for the past 18 years. While she filed on March 20, she decided to bring an end to her campaign in early April, after meeting with community leaders and growing disillusioned with Berkeley.

“The first realization was that Berkeley, the bastion of progressiveness, the city my mother so loved for its inclusive and liberal attitude, was hardly recognizable any more,” Brewster said in an email. “My neighbors, who once reflected a diverse working community of families, now reflects young, white, high-income earners.”

In her early career, she served as an assistant district attorney in San Francisco. Since 2007, Brewster began working with private clients and became interested in the issues that would form the basis of her campaign — the lack of affordable housing, homelessness and District 1’s high homicide rate.

She decided to run when Linda Maio, who currently holds the seat, announced that she would not run for re-election. Brewster hoped that city council could address some of Berkeley’s most pressing issues with “new leadership.”

There are currently three other candidates filed to run for the District 1 seat. Another candidate, Rashi Kesarwani, said the large number of candidates is a “positive thing.”

“It shows that there’s no shortage of people who are willing to step up and be of service in our community,” Kesarwani said.

Despite her early optimism, Brewster came to the conclusion that her multicultural background would be a hindrance, not a help as she’d hoped.

“I realized that due to the unconscious racial bias of many of my constituents, winning the race would be in spite of my own racial diversity,” Brewster said in an email. “Based on these realities I decided to withdraw and have even considered leaving Berkeley to find a community that does more than simply say ‘we’re progressive.’ ”

Contact Alexandra Stassinopoulos at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AE_Stass.