The lucky voters of the Ninth Senate District of California can’t go wrong this year. They will elect either Sandré Swanson or Nancy Skinner to represent them in Sacramento, and both would serve this portion of the East Bay admirably.
But at the end of the day, we’ll all be forced to choose, and Skinner’s longtime commitment to fighting for the Berkeley community proves she has our interests at heart.
Her progressive agenda already appeals to her East Bay constituents, but her leadership in the Senate will have an impact that reaches all corners of the state. We need a candidate willing to make difficult decisions to get this progressive agenda through an often-hostile state Legislature, which is composed of some not-so-progressive districts.
Skinner’s proven willingness to compromise on tough issues highlights the primary difference between the two candidates. In 2009, at the height of the recession, she voted in a compromise with Republican holdouts to approve a budget that severely cut funding to many state programs but was able to secure a budget committee chairmanship afterward and fought tirelessly to return that funding.
Skinner’s political prowess ensured that the state government wouldn’t shut down and that the compromise wouldn’t permanently set back her causes.
This isn’t to say that Swanson is completely uncompromising, and he is by no means unfit for office. In his interview with the Senior Editorial Board, Swanson stressed that staying abreast of education funding and pushing progressive causes requires more than just tax increases. To him, it mandates an in-depth look at the way tax money is allocated to prisons, for example, and how we can improve a broken criminal justice system.
East Bay voters deserve a representative willing to dig in and fight hard for progressive causes. But that goes beyond stonewalling, and we appreciate Skinner’s propensity to cobble together votes on contentious issues when needed.
For example, an old, problematic California law passed during the Reagan era forbade formerly incarcerated citizens from receiving CalFRESH food stamps. After several failed attempts to overturn the law, Skinner’s leadership finally returned the stamps to many low-income Californians in need.
Both candidates also emphasized the need to increase funding for public higher education. But Swanson’s emphasis during his interview with the Senior Editorial Board on the fact that underrepresented minorities on UC campuses are, well, underrepresented sets him apart. In fact, only 3 percent of UC Berkeley’s student body identifies as Black, compared to 7 percent of the state. His commitment to addressing that inequity makes him an intensely appealing candidate.
But it doesn’t hurt that Skinner’s career took root in representing the Berkeley community well. Years as a Berkeley City Council member, ASUC senator and state Assembly member leave Skinner particularly suited to serve District 9. So vote for Skinner, but even if you don’t, we’re in good hands.
Endorsements represent the majority opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.