BUSD board member Judy Appel joins race for Tony Thurmond’s state assembly seat

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Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education member Judy Appel announced Tuesday that she will run for state assembly in the CA-15 district in 2018, joining a growing field of candidates for the seat.

Appel, the executive director of the California School-Based Health Alliance, was elected to the BUSD school board in 2012 and re-elected last November. Appel said she will bring more than 30 years of experience as a “strong, bold leader here in the district who has worked alongside our communities.”

“California needs to be a beacon for the country … and District 15 needs to be the beacon for that beacon and lead this state in leading the nation,” Appel said. “I’ve spent my career working on issues that deeply impact the lives of people in this district, and that’s the work I will be running on.”

Appel’s announcement adds her to a number of contenders for the local office currently held by Tony Thurmond, including former Obama administration official Buffy Wicks, Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb, Richmond City Councilmember Jovanka Beckles and East Bay Municipal Utility District Board member Andy Katz.

Thurmond announced last April he would be running for state superintendent of public instruction in 2018.

Kalb said he welcomed the growing competition in the race for the open assembly seat.

“Democracy is all about having choices, and when you have a lot of choices, it requires having voters paying close attention,” Kalb said. “Voters will have to discern who has the record of experience and accomplishments that give them the most confidence.”

Wicks added that voters want their assembly member to be “someone who (they) think can enact a bold, progressive vision.”

As a school board member, Appel said she has been focused on closing the district’s “achievement gap” and taking the lead on implementing restorative justice programs across the district to build a more positive school environment.

“I’m very committed to social justice,” Appel said. “It has been the core of my entire professional life, and I see running for state assembly as a natural next step.”

Appel said the biggest issues the 15th district faces include homelessness, affordable housing and “ensuring working families can live here in our district.”

She added that as a state assembly member, she would focus on promoting “fairness for working families,” advocating for greater educational equity, expanding healthcare and reforming the criminal justice system.

Appel said the district needs someone who both comes from and works with the local community, who will bring “strong and progressive values” to the state assembly.

“I think we need to build systems that support people in succeeding,” Appel said. “Currently there are a lot of barriers, so I hope to work with other progressive policymakers in Sacramento to eliminate those barriers and promote success.”

Bobby Lee is an assistant news editor. Contact Bobby Lee at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @bobbylee_dc.