Councilmember Jesse Arreguin officially launched his first campaign event Thursday for his 2016 mayoral run, at which community members gathered to hear his speech and voice their support.
The campaign kickoff was held at the Berkeley Arts Festival space, where both longtime and potential supporters met to discuss issues facing Berkeley and listen to Arreguin’s goals for his 2016 campaign.
In an Oct. 22 email sent to his supporters, Arreguin became the first candidate to announce his intent to run for mayor in the 2016 election in the midst of speculation that Councilmember Laurie Capitelli will also run.
Arreguin’s speech detailed his platforms, which revolve around increasing affordable housing, raising the minimum wage and promoting environmental sustainability. Supporters cheered at Arreguin’s proposed goal of alleviating what he called “one of the biggest wealth gaps in the Bay Area.”
Susan Meyer, a resident of District 4— the district Arreguin currently presides over — said that she witnessed Arreguin’s support for the “Save the Berkeley Shattuck Cinemas” petition and that Arreguin exhibits a close relationship with the citizens of Berkeley.
“I don’t feel like he’s somebody that works behind closed doors,” Meyer said. “He cares about the people of Berkeley. He’s so available and accessible.”
Arreguin also cited experiences from his childhood in public service and his love of Berkeley as motivations for his run.
Berkeley resident Tom Hunt said Arreguin’s record of progressiveness, such as his support for the expansion of affordable housing, is an important factor for Hunt in choosing whom to vote for in the upcoming election.
“I think he’s supportive of the disadvantaged, the people who have less money, affordable housing and, of course, environmental issues,” Hunt said. “Whether a politician agrees with my ideas is a big part of whether I decide to support them.”
Capitelli has not announced his candidacy amid speculations that he will run, but has said that he is committed to making a decision within the coming weeks. He described the approaching 2016 race as “wide open” because of Mayor Tom Bates’ decision not to seek reelection in 2016.
Councilmember Susan Wengraf, who did not confirm whether she would endorse him, said that potential opponents may use factors such as Arreguin’s age against him.
She added that opponents might describe his trajectory — from moving directly from being a student to an elected official — as unorthodox in that he may not have real work experience.
According to Wengraf, other factors that might impact his popularity include his votes as a council member to move more slowly with development.
Noah Finneburgh, Arreguin’s campaign consultant, said that because of the significance of the 2016 election year, voters will have many issues to grapple with on the ballot. Arreguin intends to appeal to undecided voters by engaging with the community, he added.
“It’s going to be a big competition for attention, and voters are going to be bombarded with every candidate and ballot measure out there that wants their vote,” Finneburgh said. “So I think the obstacle there is really getting out there and knocking on as many doors as possible, talking to as many friends and family members as possible in the community and making sure that they know this is an important election for Berkeley.”
Arreguin said his next priorities are to focus on fundraising and “build a grassroots campaign to start engaging with voters as soon as possible.”
Contact Cassandra Vogel at [email protected].