UC Berkeley student joins race for California State Assembly seat as only Republican candidate

Pranav Jandhyala/Courtesy

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UC Berkeley sophomore Pranav Jandhyala is running for California State Assembly District 15 as the only Republican on the ballot, among 12 other candidates.

The seat is currently held by Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, who is running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. He will not be pursuing reelection for state assembly, according to Madeline Franklin, Thurmond’s campaign manager. Before January, there were 9 candidates who had filed their intents to run. Now, that number has increased to 12, with Jandhyala, Sergey Piterman and Raquella Thaman joining the race.

Jandhyala, founder of BridgeUSA at Berkeley and member of Berkeley College Republicans, or BCR, filed his intent to run in mid-January and said he is running to “give voters a choice.” Among 12 other Democratic candidates, Jandhyala plans to focus on criminal justice reform, education reform and the environment.

I think the main perceptions that people have are that the Republican people hate the people, hate the planet, hate the poor,” Jandhyala said. “I’m very pro-environment. I believe in criminal justice reform efforts and (am) still Republican. Tough on crime and smart on crime.”

After sustaining a concussion at the Milo Yiannopoulos protests last year, Jandhyala garnered national attention by founding the Berkeley chapter of BridgeUSA. He invited Ann Coulter to speak on campus in spring 2017, but the event was canceled. As a part of the Berkeley Patriot, a campus publication, he helped organize “Free Speech Week,” which was set to take place in September 2017 but was canceled as well.

Jandhyala is following in the footsteps of former BCR president Claire Chiara, who also ran for the District 15 seat against Thurmond in 2016. Jandhyala decided to run after he was approached by the local Republican party in Alameda and Contra Costa counties about running. Encouraged by mentors, he sees this as a great learning experience, as he plans to run for office in the future as well.

“I just want to be a voice, to be able to speak,” Jandhyala said. “I’m going to give it my best shot.”

University news editor Ani Vahradyan contributed to this report. 

Malini Ramaiyer is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @malinisramaiyer.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Assemblymember Tony Thurmond would be seeking reelection for state assembly. In fact, he is not.