Berkeley Working Families political action committee raises $24,000 for 8 city candidates

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A political action committee backed by three unions has raised $24,000 this year for eight candidates in the upcoming Berkeley elections, according to an expenditure report filed Thursday.

The committee, entitled “Berkeley Working Families supporting Arreguin & Worthington for Mayor, Moore & Bartlett for City Council, & Tregub, Soto-Vigil, Murphy, & Simon-Weisberg for Rent Board 2016,” has spent about $9,000 thus far in support of these candidates. About $8,112 of the expenditures has gone toward Jesse Arreguin’s campaign alone.

The PAC is a collaboration between SEIU Local 1021, the California Nurses Association, or CNA, and the hotel workers group UNITE HERE, according to Gabriel Haaland, political coordinator for SEIU Local 1021.

“We’re doing our best to support the candidates that we think will be the best leaders in Berkeley,” Haaland said. “These contributions are from everyday members.”

Each group had a separate vetting process for candidates and later decided on which candidate to prioritize together, Haaland said. SEIU Local 1021 has endorsed all of the candidates named in the PAC in addition to both District 5 candidates, Sophie Hahn and Stephen Murphy. CNA has endorsed Hahn, Ben Bartlett and Fred Dodsworth for City Council as well as Arreguin and Kriss Worthington for mayor. UNITE HERE Local 2850 has publicly endorsed Arreguin and Worthington.

Haaland said SEIU Local 1021 chose which candidates to support through a union membership poll taken throughout northern California, which showed that the major issue among members was affordable housing. Citing their voting records on that issue, as well as on workers’ rights, SEIU Local 1021 chose Arreguin and Worthington as political priorities. According to Haaland, CNA and UNITE HERE also identified Arreguin and Worthington as priorities.

The funds have gone toward website support, such as paid advertising on social media, and campaign literature and postage. In 2014, SEIU Local 1021 endorsed and raised $16,000 in support of Arreguin and Worthington’s City Council campaigns.

“(It’s) our hope … in general, to do our best to help level the playing the field, with big interests and corporate landlords heavily backing the opposition,” Haaland said.

The National Association of Realtors has poured over $92,000 into this year’s local election, supporting mayoral candidate Laurie Capitelli and City Council candidates Darryl Moore, Susan Wengraf and Stephen Murphy. The Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition, or BRHC, has spent almost $500,000 campaigning for Measure DD, a tax increase for certain landlords that is competing with the city-backed Measure U1.

Rent Stabilization Board candidate Igor Tregub said he was glad to see funding coming from organizations representing ordinary people rather than out-of-town interests.

“Certainly, money spent from anyone can make an impact,” Tregub said. “(I’m) pleased to learn that unions and working families might want to spend money on our behalf.”

The Berkeley Working Families PAC is not associated with the Berkeley for Working Families coalition, which was involved in efforts to put Measure CC, a $15 minimum wage initiative, on the November ballot. According to Steve Gilbert, an organizer with Berkeley for Working Families, the group does not intend to endorse any candidates.

Also released Thursday was an independent expenditure report from BRHC, which has raised $1,000 for Rent Stabilization Board candidates Judy Hunt and Nate Wollman this year. BRHC could not be reached for comment.

According to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko, at this point in the election, all campaign contributions of $100 to $999 have to be reported within 48 hours. Contributions of $1,000 or more have to be reported within 24 hours. These late contribution reports can be filed up until election day.

The general election will take place Nov. 8.

Contact Camryn Bell at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @cbell_DC.