‘It doesn’t stop’: Assembly District 15 primary candidates continue working in civic circles after losing

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Kavya Narendra-Babu/File

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For many of the candidates who lost the state Assembly District 15 primary election, their postelection goals and plans remain the same as they were before — emphasizing civic engagement.

While former Barack Obama campaign field director Buffy Wicks and Richmond City Councilmember and Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles will be campaigning for the District 15 seat in this November’s general election, many of their opponents in the primaries will be continuing their civic engagement to address issues afflicting the East Bay.

Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education Vice President Judy Appel, who was fourth in the primaries, said she was excited to move forward and “reinvest” in the school board through special education and restorative justice work.

Appel was also excited to spend more time with her family after almost a year on the campaign trail, a sentiment that she shared with one of her primary election opponents, El Cerrito Vice Mayor Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto.

In fact, family was one of Pardue-Okimoto’s main motivations to run for office.

“I think it’s really difficult for regular working people that have children to run for office,” Pardue-Okimoto said. “One of things that motivated me to (run) is feeling like I was underrepresented in that way.”

As vice mayor of El Cerrito, Pardue-Okimoto plans to address the same issues that she would have as an Assembly member, such as fighting structural racism and tackling environmental concerns.

Additionally, as a nurse at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, it is important for Pardue-Okimoto to fulfill her long-term goals that the Alta Bates campus be kept open and that another hospital facility be built somewhere in the area.

Keeping Alta Bates open is a goal shared by another one of Pardue-Okimoto’s primary election opponents, Andy Katz, a member of the East Bay Municipal Utility District board.

“I’m going to continue to contribute to public service in the East Bay community — serving on the East Bay MUD Board, through reinvesting in our aging infrastructure, and addressing health equity and saving Alta Bates Hospital on the Berkeley Community Health Commission,” Katz said.

All of the candidates emphasized this continuation of civic duty and addressing issues concerning the East Bay community.

There are a few different types of candidates, according to local activist and primary candidate Cheryl Sudduth. While most candidates aim to win, some run for office just to raise awareness for a particular issue, and others run just to try to get others to be civically engaged — which is the type of candidate that Sudduth identified with.

“You’re telling the public, your constituents, your neighbors and your friends and everyone that you’re concerned about housing and immigration rights and racial justice and social justice and environmental justice and all these things,” Sudduth said. “If you’re concerned about all these things, it doesn’t stop because you didn’t get the highest number of votes on June 5.”

Ben Bartlett, another primary opponent and a Berkeley City Council member, spoke highly of both the women who won and said he is looking forward to their contest this November.

Furthermore, Bartlett emphasized his own excitement at how the continuing candidates are incorporating issues he cared about — namely, homelessness and the lack of Bay Area housing — into their campaigns.

“The reason I ran was to also shine a light on the issues facing … young people,” Bartlett said. “I want young people to see that they can do it no matter who they are or where they’re from or who they know — as long as they put their mind to it and work hard, they can create big change in the world.”

Contact Mani Sandhu at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ManiSandhu24.

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  • June Goodwin

    In addition to campaigning, Jovanka Beckles is continuing her civic engagement, just like Kalb, Appel and Pardue-Okimoto, because she is a city councilmember in Richmond. She also has a full-time job as a mental health worker with children in Contra Costa County.

  • dwss5

    Article quote:
    “While former Barack Obama campaign field director Buffy Wicks and Richmond City Councilmember and Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles will be campaigning for the District 15 seat in this November’s general election, many of their opponents in the primaries will be continuing their civic engagement to address issues afflicting the East Bay.”

    A major concern I have on this is the degree to which those AD15 non-elected candidates will be either SUPPORTING or HINDERING Jovanka Beckles in her race to overcome the lead that the Buffy “Big Buck$” Wicks political machine currently enjoys — even while these non-elected candidates are pursuing their “civic engagement to address issues afflicting the East Bay”.
    IIRC, a few of the more Progressive AD15 candidates were actually acting as SPOILERS to the votes given to Progressive frontrunner Jovanka Beckles.