Berkeley resident Derek Wallace recently announced his run for mayor of Berkeley in the November 2020 election.
According to Wallace, his history with political involvement began during Hurricane Katrina, when he flew to New Orleans to volunteer after witnessing what he perceived as the government’s poor response. This led him to volunteer with Common Ground Relief, a social services organization, in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.
“When I saw what happened on the news and how our government failed (like so many times before) to protect its own citizens, a fuse blew in my brain,” Wallace said in an email.
From there, he volunteered with various organizations, including Democracy Matters, Social Forum, the Sierra Club and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others.
Wallace later served as a student ambassador for Berkeley City College, or BCC, helping students register for classes and giving guided tours and outreach to local high schools and middle schools. He then became a BCC campus life assistant and oversaw campus clubs and activities.
During his time at BCC, Wallace helped the college’s wellness center establish a free food pantry for registered students.
“By the Grace of God, I was able to do all of this while also being un-housed,” Wallace said in the email. “Most people didn’t know I was living on the streets, often sneaking into a rented storage unit.”
Wallace, who politically identifies as independent, added that he supported the Bernie Sanders campaign.
According to Wallace, his political platforms include preserving wild nature spaces, honoring Indigenous individuals and other people of color, promoting sustainability, creating organic, non-GMO victory gardens and defunding the police to instead invest in social services such as affordable housing.
“I hope we see more citizens get involved in local politics,” Wallace said in the email. “I don’t think politics needs to be cut-throat and corrupt, and I would love to see more people engaged versus disenchanted. Let’s help make Berkeley the best it can be TOGETHER!”
As of press time, Wallace has not sought any endorsements, as he is currently working toward collecting 150 signatures by July 23 to fulfill campaign financing fees. The city of Berkeley requires candidates for mayor, City Council, Rent Stabilization Board commissioner or school board director to pay a $150 filing fee, which can be offset through the collection of signatures. For each signature a candidate receives, $1 is taken off the candidate filing fee, according a city press release.
Per the Berkeley Fair Elections Act of 2016, which created a public financing program, mayor and City Council candidates are eligible to get a 6-to-1 match from the city on campaign contributions of up to $50 from Berkeley residents. Wallace plans to use the matched funds to set up a website to share his platform.