Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett runs for California 15th State Assembly District on platform of affordable housing

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Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett, who previously filed his candidacy for the California 15th State Assembly District election in 2018, formally announced his campaign Wednesday morning.

Bartlett grew up in Berkeley and was introduced to an activist lifestyle from an early age by his parents, who were both advocates for social justice. He was elected to the City Council last November, replacing Max Anderson in representing District 3.

If elected, he plans to focus on increasing affordable housing and initiating policy reforms across the state, based on housing issues he’s seen as a council member.

“We’re talking about displacement — we’re talking about my family, we’re talking about my friends,” Bartlett said. “For me, this is a personal conviction that I’ve dedicated my life to.”

Bartlett has focused on improving the housing crisis in Berkeley through projects such as the “Step Up Housing” initiative, which passed in February. He has also promoted building more affordable housing units in the Adeline Corridor.

He joins a growing list of candidates for the District 15 assembly seat, which is currently held by Tony Thurmond. Other candidates include former Obama Administration official Buffy Wicks, East Bay Municipal Utility District Board member Andy Katz, local activist Cheryl Sudduth and Berkeley Unified School District board member Judy Appel.

Thurmond announced last April that he is also running for state superintendent for public instruction in 2018.

Appel said the expanding candidate list was an encouraging sign that more people are becoming involved in politics.

“I’m just really excited that so many people are engaging in democracy in this way,” Appel said. “I think it’s a sign that we have an engaged and a politically passionate district, and I think it’s a sign of the times. … I think a lot of people want to be involved to build a stronger tomorrow.”

Wicks also said the increasing list creates more options for voters. She added that she was glad that the candidates who are getting involved have a lot of experience in many different fields.

Councilmember Sophie Hahn said Bartlett is a very active member on the council but added that she is not endorsing anyone at this time. Hahn noted that whoever is elected for the assembly seat should be “somebody who can really hit the ground running and knows how to get things done in Sacramento.”

Bartlett said he wants to take the work he and the council have accomplished in Berkeley, specifically with regards to addressing the housing crisis, to “the next level.”

“East Bay should be a home for everyone. I want to make sure that … the mechanisms of success and inclusion are revitalized (and) that literally we all have a home here,” Bartlett said. “We want to initiate dramatic housing policy reforms in the state. We want to make sure there’s no 10-year waitlist for senior housing and there’s no student sleeping in (their) car.”

Contact Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.