Buffy Wicks and Dan Kalb lead in Assembly District 15’s primary election

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Updated 6/6/2018: this article has been updated with the candidates’ approval percentages once 100 percent of the precincts were reporting. 

Out of the 12 candidates running for the Assembly District 15 seat, former Barack Obama campaign field director Buffy Wicks took the lead in the primary election, with Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb trailing her in second place, according to the unofficial election day results.

Wicks secured first place with 31.1 percent of the vote. Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb received 14.9 percent, while Richmond City Councilmember Jovanka Beckles trailed Kalb narrowly with 14.6 percent of the vote — with a difference of only 182 votes, the result could change as ballots continue to be counted.

The District 15 candidates were questioned publicly about their stances on everything from public health to housing to criminal justice. While Wicks boasts a political history going all the way to Washington, D.C., Kalb has been endorsed by big names such as the Sierra Club.

Wicks said transit-oriented affordable housing and increased teacher salaries are her goals if she is elected to the Assembly District 15 seat. Wicks said she is proud of her team’s collaboration on holding house parties, collecting signatures, door knocking and phone campaigning with the help of more than 500 volunteers.

“More than anything, I believe in the power of organizing,” Wicks said. “It is how women secured the right to vote, how we elected the first Black president, and it is how we will move forward from the 2016 elections.”

Beckles has built her candidacy around people power and has a track record of standing up to corporations.

She plans to use her experience confronting the Chevron refinery in Richmond to fight corporate influence in politics, push for single payer health care in California, decriminalize illegal drugs and strengthen police transparency, among other goals.

“People have really responded to our corporate-free campaign,” Beckles said. “People are tired of struggling — we are at a point where we cannot afford incremental change.”

During his five years on the Oakland City Council, Dan Kalb has worked on issues such as strengthening community oversight of police and the Oakland coal handling and storage ban.

Protecting the environment, reducing gun violence and improving pre-K, public schools and higher education are the main tenets of Kalb’s campaign. He added that helping immigrant families was a core part of his campaign.

“We need to push back and ensure that families are not pulled apart,” Kalb said.

Another candidate, workers’ rights attorney Andy Katz, serves on the East Bay Municipal Utility District board. Katz said his campaign focus is to protect the environment, establish universal health care and save Alta Bates Summit Medical Center — he came in seventh with 5.5 percent approval.

“It is important to increase renewables that California gets its electricity from in the limited window before it is too late,” Katz said.

Berkeley Unified School District board member Judy Appel supported affordable access to health care, and planned to work toward alleviating the housing crisis and the problem of homelessness. Appel, who was fourth with 11.6 percent approval, is a co-founder and board member of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights where she has worked to reform the criminal justice system.

“I have a deep commitment to public education as the cornerstone of our democracy and I will be a strong voice for public education,” Appel said.

Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett, who got eighth with 3.4 percent approval, ran on a platform of systemic change. His career as an environmental attorney has brought him to focus on issues of homelessness, environmental destruction and racism.

“When you have 100,000 to 300,000 people who are homeless, the status quo has absolutely failed,” Bartlett said. “Therefore you need insurgent candidates with new perspectives and new energy.”

Contact Ryan Geller at [email protected].

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Dan Kalb will move forward to the November general election for Assembly District 15. In fact, as of press time, this has not been confirmed.