Tom Butt
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  Please vote for Jesse Arreguín for State Senate
February 4, 2024

I urge you to vote for Jesse Arreguin for State Senate. See Editorial below:

Editorial: Arreguín best suited to replace Skinner in state Senate

He is smart, articulate, well-informed, progressive and willing to pragmatically bridge treacherous political divides

Jesse Arreguin is running for State Senate District 7. (Photo courtesy of Jesse Arreguin)
(Photo courtesy of Jesse Arreguín)
Jesse Arreguin is running for State Senate District 7. (Photo courtesy of Jesse Arreguin)

By East Bay Times editorial
PUBLISHED: February 3, 2024 at 5:30 a.m. | UPDATED: February 3, 2024 at 4:12 p.m.

Over the past half century, the East Bay’s liberal state Senate district centering around Berkeley and Oakland has been represented by some of California’s leading legislators: Nick Petris, Barbara Lee, Don Perata, Loni Hancock and, most recently, Nancy Skinner.

Now with Skinner forced out at the end of the year by term limits, five Democrats and one sacrificial Republican are vying to replace her. Of those, the person who can best carry on the tradition of impactful lawmaking is Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín.

Smart, articulate, well-informed and willing to pragmatically bridge the treacherous divides of progressive politics, Arreguín, 39, is entering his 20th year in office. He was just 20 years old when he was elected to Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board, 24 when he won a City Council seat, and 32 when he became mayor in 2016. Now, he deserves voter support in the March 5 state Senate primary election.

Senate District 7, which stretches along San Francisco Bay from Hercules to Oakland, has 69% Democratic Party registration, the highest for any Senate district in the state, and 6% Republican registration, the lowest proportion. Twenty percent have no party preference, and the remaining 5% are scattered among minor parties.

Of the six candidates, Arreguín is the most direct and succinct about his policy positions: unequivocally supportive of badly needed student housing on UC Berkeley’s People’s Park site; opposed to Gov. Newsom’s plan for a water tunnel through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta; supportive of consolidating the Bay Area’s 27 transit agencies and insistent that service must be improved; a backer of Proposition 1, the mental health measure on the March 5 ballot; and an advocate of planning now for the transition of the region’s refineries and their workers as the state and nation move off of fossil fuels.
Arreguín has found that many of the issues he cares deeply about — such as housing, homelessness and public safety — require help from the state Legislature. With the rare vacant state Senate seat, he wants to try to make a difference in the Capitol.

It will be a heavily contested race. The other candidates are:

• Kathryn Lybarger, president of the California Labor Federation, a collection of 1,200 affiliated unions across the state. She’s clear on her plans to advance labor’s agenda in the Capitol but struggles on other policy issues.
• Jovanka Beckles, a hard-left progressive who served on the Richmond City Council for eight years before running unsuccessfully for state Assembly in 2018. She then won election to the AC Transit Board of Directors in 2020 by touting her union backing.
• Oakland Councilmember Dan Kalb was another unsuccessful 2018 Assembly candidate. In 2021, as the city hit the highest level of homicides since 2006 and the lowest police staffing level since 2014, he was part of the council majority that pared back then-Mayor Libby Schaaf’s request for more officer training academies. To this day, crime in the city remains at unacceptably high levels.
• Sandré Swanson, who served in the state Assembly from 2006-12 and ran unsuccessfully against Skinner for the state Senate seat in 2016. He was so tied to labor that in 2012 he was one of just nine in the 80-member Assembly who voted against then-Gov. Jerry Brown’s modest pension reform plan.
• Real estate broker Jeanne Solnordal, the only Republican in the race, who declined to be interviewed.
While the politics of the district bend sharply to the left, the key to success for any legislator will be winning support from more moderate members. Of the six candidates, Arreguín has the progressive politics to match the district and the strongest record for navigating political differences. Voters should select him on March 5.

You should be receiving your ballot for the March 5th election in the mail any day now, and I hope you will vote for Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín for State Senate District 7. He is a Democrat running to replace Senator Nancy Skinner, who is termed out. If you live in Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Hercules, Oakland, Piedmont, Pinole, Richmond, or San Pablo, you can vote for Jesse.

Jesse served as my alternate when I was on the BCDC board, and he chaired ABG when I was on the ABAG Execuv Committee. When I was mayor, we discussed common challenges often, such as homelessness.

Watching him serve as mayor of Berkeley during incredibly challenging times has been inspiring. From Trump's attacks on the East Bay and his white supremacist supporters marching in our streets, to the pandemic and economic downturn, to rising housing costs, homelessness, and climate change, Jesse has taken on each of these challenges with grace, grit, and effectiveness. Here are a few of his accomplishments:

  • As mayor, Jesse has overseen a housing boom in Berkeley, as the city has built the most housing we've seen in decades under Jesse's leadership.
  • He's addressed homelessness with boldness and compassion, investing in shelters, mental health, and housing, and as a result, homelessness has actually dropped in Berkeley over the last couple of years, while it's gone up elsewhere.
  • He has also served as President of the Association of Bay Area Governments, our regional government, and led the development of a plan which will bring more than 440,000 new, affordable homes to the Bay Area over the next 8 years. 
  • Under Jesse, the City of Berkeley made its largest investment in renter protections and built its biggest affordable housing development ever.
  • His balanced approach to public safety is one I strongly believe in. He has fought for funding to fully staff his police department and believes we need to hire more police officers, particularly those who live in and come from the communities they serve. At the same time, he negotiated with his police department to increase police oversight and accountability, and pushed through historic reforms to shift responses to homelessness and mental health calls from officers with guns to trained social workers. Which also enables police to prioritize their time on stopping violent crime. 
  • If you have seen one of those Bay Area Stands United Against Hate signs (or Berkeley Stands, or Oakland Stands, etc.) in a home or business, or if you have one up in your home--that campaign started in Jesse's office in early 2017 in response to Trump's stoking of racism. In the years since, it has spread as a campaign throughout the region and state. 
  • He has also been leading the fight to prevent the closure of Alta Bates Hospital (where I, my brother, and both of my kids were born) and, in parallel, is fighting to build a new full-service hospital serving West Contra Costa County and Northern Alameda County. 

Jesse is running for State Senate at a critical time when we need leaders who will be truly bold in jumpstarting housing construction across the state and addressing the humanitarian crisis of homelessness with real urgency, and who will bring a pragmatically progressive approach to public safety, keeping all of us safe while advancing criminal justice reform. Jesse is that leader.

He's endorsed by an impressive coalition of elected officials, community leaders, labor unions and other progressive organizations, including Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, Alameda County Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez, civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, the California Professional Firefighters, California State Council of Laborers, California State Building and Construction Trades Council, current and former mayors from every city in our district, and many more. Here's his list of supporters