Race to replace California Assemblymember Tony Thurmond attracts large pool of candidates

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California Assemblymember Tony Thurmond will step down from his position after the November election to run for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, leaving nine candidates in a race to fill his position.

The nine democratic candidates vying to represent District 15 — a district that includes Berkeley, Richmond and part of Oakland — range in their backgrounds and campaign strategies. Their platforms range from topics including 100 percent renewable energy and education equity to universal health care and protection of immigrant communities.

Thurmond says he is most proud of his ability to bring key resources to his community during his time as an Assembly member. One of his major achievements was authoring Assembly Bill 1014, which provided $35 million in funding to 30 school districts to establish community schools, increase student attendance and eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline.

“Being in Assembly has taught me to deliver results,” Thurmond said. “It reminds me how important it is to work with (the) legislature.”

The number of candidates in the race is “atypical,” candidate and East Bay Municipal Utility District Board member Andy Katz said.

Katz has received support from individuals with whom he has previously worked regarding environmental protection, workers rights and access to health care. Katz said he has also received support from people he met during his time as ASUC student affairs director.

“My activism at UC Berkeley was a pivotal moment of getting involved in the community,” Katz said.

Candidate Cheryl Sudduth said the race is less daunting for her because of her background, both as someone who has previously run for office and as a former athlete.

“I used to be a runner. … As a runner, you know one of the things you never do is turn around and look where everyone else is,” Sudduth said.

Sudduth said that after more than 30 years of experience working at the federal, commercial and grassroots levels, she has proven that she can enact the changes she needs to.

“I can get things done, … and I don’t have to holler or scream about it,” Sudduth said. “I have the respect of people in the business level and in the community.”

The nine candidates have raised more than $1.1 million total in campaign finances as of press time.

“I think that we definitely spend too much money on campaigns,” candidate Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto said. “This race, as it is, is shaping up to be one of (the) costliest races in the state.”

Candidate Buffy Wicks, former campaign organizer for Barack Obama and grassroots activist, has raised the most money out of the nine candidates. Her campaign has raised a total of $520,124 as of press time.

Other candidates include Judy Appel, Ben Bartlett, Owen Poindexter, Dan Kalb and Jovanka Beckles.

Thurmond says whoever the next Assembly District 15 representative is, they will be a “champion” for the people.

“The person I vote for is a person who is willing to innovate, to create new programs, to ask for resources for the ones who need them and to stand up for those who need a voice fighting for them here in Sacramento,” Thurmond said.

Alicia Kim is the lead businesses and economy reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @aliciackim.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that California Assemblymember Tony Thurmond will step down from his position in April. In fact, he will step down after the November election.