Dan Kalb, Jovanka Beckles vie in close primary race for state Assembly District 15

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As of press time, Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb is in second place for the state Assembly District 15 primary.

Initially, on June 6, Kalb and Richmond City Councilmember and Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles had a difference of 182 votes, with Kalb leading. Beckles briefly overtook Kalb on June 9, leading by 284 votes. Kalb currently has a lead of 575 votes, or 0.6 percent, over Beckles.

To Kalb, this serves as an important lesson.

“That just reminds all of us that every vote counts,” Kalb said. “It’s a good lesson that people should be voting.”

Kalb’s campaign emphasized his public service and advocacy career, while Beckles has built her candidacy around “people power” and her track record of standing up to corporate interests in her work at Richmond City Council.

According to Kalb, the voter turnout was disappointing. District 15 consists of areas in Alameda and Contra Costa counties; the two counties had overall voter turnouts of 32 and 29 percent, respectively. Kalb said he believes more people should be engaged, registered and voting.

The rapid change in results can be attributed to vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots and other ballots. It can take up to 30 days before all these votes are counted and the top two candidates are decided, according to an FAQ from California Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s website.

“This has been a very special kind of election,” Beckles said. “I ran for office in 2008, 2010 and 2014. This is the first one that has been the most stress-inducing because of the fact we don’t know what’s happening a week later.”

Under the top-two system, all candidates running for a voter-nominated office are listed on the same ballot, according to the Alameda County Voter Information Guide. The top two candidates move on to the general election.

First-place candidate and former Barack Obama campaign field director Buffy Wicks has a substantial lead, with 31.8 percent of the vote in the primary, and has built her campaign on “the power of organizing” — referencing her team of more than 500 volunteers. Wicks said she is proud of her campaign and is looking forward to the general election in November.

In the event that Beckles wins, she said she is looking forward to facing Wicks in the general election. According to Beckles, she and Wicks are “opposites.” Despite the close election, Beckles said she has no ill will toward other candidates.

Beckles stated she looks forward to winning; however, if she doesn’t, Kalb will have her full support. As of press time, Kalb has 14,651 votes and Beckles has 14,076 votes across the district.

“This has been an exciting campaign,” Beckles said. “I have met the most generous and passionate people.”

Contact Suryan Bhatia at [email protected].