Claire Chiara, a campus senior and aspiring Republican politician, will add an uncommon twist to the 2016 state primary elections as a hopeful District 15 representative in the California State Assembly.
Chiara, who is double-majoring in political science and economics and formerly reported for The Daily Californian, has platforms that include halting new taxes on state businesses and providing equal opportunities to all students. Despite facing unfavorable election odds as a Republican in a predominantly Democratic area, Chiara decided to run after learning that Tony Thurmond — the current Democratic assemblymember representing District 15 — was running unopposed.
Chiara said this lack of opposition was “undemocratic and un-American” because it denied voters their right to question whether they were being properly represented. She added that her candidacy will expose voters to multiple perspectives on key issues.
“Even if I don’t win the election, I truly hope to start a conversation and remind each and every constituent of Assembly District 15 that they can ask questions, and they can decide whether they are being truly represented,” Chiara said.
Jose Diaz, chair of the Berkeley College Republicans, praised Chiara as a “very hard worker” and a “fantastic individual,” adding that she was an exemplary spokesperson for the Republican party.
According to Sue Caro, former chair of the Alameda County Republican Party, the percentage of registered Republican voters in District 15 was among “the lowest in the state” at about eight percent.
“When things become this lopsided, they become one-party rule, and voters don’t really get a chance in the same way … to see what other candidates bring to the table,” Caro said.
Caro added that this election would be particularly difficult for a Republican to win because voter turnout is typically higher when presidents are on the ballot, meaning that the voting population would be more representative of the predominantly Democratic district.
Thurmond said in an email that he hoped to serve the district again, citing as his accomplishments the first statewide policy monitoring methane emissions, a ban on tobacco products in major league baseball stadiums and fund securement for underserved communities.
“Tony Thurmond has done an excellent job representing student interests and progressive values for our district,” said Rigel Robinson, a member of Cal Berkeley Democrats and an incoming ASUC senator. “I don’t expect this to be a competitive race.”
According to Caro, members of the Republican Party encouraged Chiara to run despite the many obstacles standing in the way of her victory, in the hopes of inspiring other young Republican women to become politically involved while providing Chiara with invaluable skills for future elections. She noted that many in her party view Chiara as a “rising star” among Republicans.
“Yes, I’m young, and I’m forced to acknowledge that and do so readily because I enjoy talking about my experiences as a Berkeley undergraduate,” Chiara said. “I’m fortunate to go to such an elite university and be surrounded by students and professors who force me to question and defend my beliefs.”
District 15 covers most of eastern Alameda county.
Executive news editor Logan Goldberg contributed to this report.