California District 15 Assembly candidates Jovanka Beckles and Buffy Wicks discuss campaigns and answer questions at forum

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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The two candidates for California State Assembly District 15, Jovanka Beckles and Buffy Wicks, voiced their platforms and answered questions regarding districtwide issues at a League of Women Voters candidate forum Tuesday.

The forum, held at the Berkeley Community Theater, began with each candidate’s opening statement. Beckles thanked the audience for attending and went briefly into her work as a mental health professional and two-term Richmond city councilmember.

“I’m running for state Assembly to win California for the many and not for the few,” Beckles said during the forum. “I ask that you will join our movement to put people over profit.”

Wicks opened with her experience growing up in a trailer park in rural California. Wicks said during the forum that she strives to solve the homelessness crisis, claiming, “I believe that I’m the candidate best suited to do this.”

Guy Marzorati, the forum’s moderator, then began asking the same questions to both candidates. Many questions were related to housing issues in the district, to which Wicks voiced her support for upzoning, especially around transit centers.

“If you look around that BART stop (in Rockridge), you can add some density around there, which I don’t think would dramatically alter the character of the neighborhood,” Wicks said during the forum.

Beckles said during the forum that she does not support upzoning — that is, changing the zoning regulations to allow for greater density — because some communities, such as some in Point Molate, Richmond, do not want increased housing, and leaders should not bypass community input.

The questions progressed to issues surrounding healthcare and education, to which Beckles and Wicks voiced their support for a single-payer healthcare system and investment in public education. Both candidates also claimed to receive zero dollars of corporate money for their campaigns.

After the questioning period, Beckles and Wicks delivered their closing statements, reiterating their campaign platforms and encouraging constituents to support them in the November election.

Dean Wallace, Wicks’ deputy campaign manager, said there was an altercation between Beckles’ supporters and Wicks’ support team after the forum.

Wallace said one of Beckles’ supporters yelled at a high school intern working for Wicks’ campaign using profane language. The intern was crying when she came back to Wallace.

Beckles responded to the incident Wednesday in a text message sent by one of her campaign staffers on her behalf.

“This kind of behavior is obviously unacceptable, from one of my supporters or anyone else,” Beckles said in the text message. “I’ve spoken to the supporter in question and made it clear that this behavior runs counter to everything that my campaign stands for.”

Despite this incident, attendees said they felt the forum was useful in making an informed vote. Insurance agent Ruth Stroup, from a neighboring district, said she was “so glad to see the level of engagement by the community and the hard work of the candidates.”

Contact Sabina Mahavni at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sabina_mahavni.