Alumni hope to bring UC Berkeley spirit to local governments

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As November approaches and the election frenzy picks up, UC Berkeley students can expect some familiar names on their local ballots.

From the Petaluma school board to Berkeley’s own City Council, recent campus graduates are vying for spots in local governments. These graduates hope to join many other UC Berkeley graduates who hold office, from Gov. Jerry Brown to Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín.

“It’s exciting and inspiring to see other grads going through this process that will lead to moments of happiness and also definitely moments of struggle,” said Bryan Osorio, a 2018 graduate running for Delano City Council.

Osorio, along with 2015 alumni Jocelyn Yow and Caitlin Quinn, have moved back to their respective hometowns since graduation and are running in races there. Though 2018 graduate Rigel Robinson grew up out of state, most of his family is from California, and he has long felt connected to Berkeley, where he is running for a City Council seat against Aidan Hill, who is also affiliated with UC Berkeley.

Many of those running in the November elections are among the youngest in their respective races. They are up against candidates who are mostly older, better-funded and more experienced. Despite these challenges, they feel that they are uniquely prepared to represent their constituents.

Yow, who was a campus transfer student, hails from Eastvale. She has worked with state senators before, but is now focused on local politics, which has more tangible effects, she said. She’s now running for a seat on Eastvale City Council, and has spent the past couple months knocking on doors to get the word out about her campaign.

“Everyone in the city knows that I’m a Democrat, but … at the end of the day it’s issue-based. I’ll do whatever it takes to protect the interests of our residents,” Yow said. “What affects residents of Eastvale is different than what affects residents of Berkeley.”

Even Robinson, who is staying in Berkeley, has to readjust his thinking to include more constituent groups, such as homeowners. Nevertheless, these candidates draw on their time as students to inform their work ahead.

Quinn, who was the ASUC external affairs vice president when on campus, has returned to her hometown of Petaluma. She is running for a seat on the school board there, where she hopes to continue to represent students.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s anyone who has gone to these schools on the school board,” Quinn said. “I aim to be making the case for students, and making the case to students for why they should be involved.”

Petaluma, Eastvale and Delano are cities that are not as politically involved as Berkeley. One of the biggest challenges that candidates anticipate is getting people engaged enough to vote.

Osorio and Robinson, like Quinn, gained experience both in campaigning and in working for a legislative body as members of the ASUC while at UC Berkeley.

“Student government is a sandbox at times and a little full of itself at other times, but also a really valuable microcosm of how other decision-making bodies do work,” Robinson said.

Outside of the ASUC, the candidates said living in Berkeley was transformative in the way that they approached politics. Robinson discussed arriving in Berkeley from St. Louis, Missouri just as the Ferguson riots were exploding. He noted that in Berkeley, there is the “momentum to create best practices.”

Osorio called coming to Berkeley from Delano a “culture shock,” but quickly realized that he identified with the city’s values and wanted to carry those with him.

“One group’s liberation does not come at the expense of another. The status quo in politics is that you have to compromise to get solutions,” Osorio said. “You can’t compromise one community for another — that’s something that I learned from Berkeley.”

Madeleine Gregory covers city government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @mgregory_dc.