East Bay Assembly District 18 special election nears

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Seven Democrats, a Republican and a Socialist are vying to win Tuesday’s special election to replace former Assembly Member Rob Bonta as one of the most progressive areas in the state.

Some of them have raised substantial campaign funds for the effort, while those who haven’t are hoping their posts alone will win the day.

Bonta left his Assembly District 18 seat after accepting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s offer to become California attorney general.

Any candidate who obtains more than 50% of the votes will win the seat immediately. Otherwise, the first two voters in this primary will face off in a general election on August 31, according to the secretary of state’s office.

The 18th district represents just over 500,000 people in much of Oakland and throughout San Leandro and Alameda.

The Democratic candidates are James Aguilar, 21, board member of the San Leandro Unified School District; the vice-mayor of San Leandro, Victor Aguilar, 42; Mia Bonta, 49, board member of the Alameda Unified School District; public health consultant Eugene Canson; social justice lawyer Janani Ramachandran, 29; the vice-mayor of Alameda, Malia Vella, 36; and organizer and political consultant Nelsy Batista, 36, who is a written candidate.

Stephen Slauson, 81, is the only Republican candidate and Joel Britton, 80, is the candidate for the Socialist Workers Party, which is not officially recognized by the state.

The contestant whose name is arguably the best known is Rob Bonta’s wife, Mia Bonta, and she has also raised the most money in the race so far – around $ 1 million, according to the state campaign funding records.

Bonta’s campaign received around $ 575,000 Thursday afternoon, according to its campaign staff, largely from unions, teachers’ unions, medical and health industry workers, and health groups. gambling industry and casinos.

Independent spending committees formed to support his campaign with direct mail and television, newspaper and digital media ads spent nearly $ 400,000 on Thursday. Most of them came from a committee formed by unions of teachers, school workers, doctors and dentists. Another committee is largely supported by $ 40,000 from California health insurance company Blue Shield, as well as large individual donors.

The unions have also been a big contributor to the campaign of Malia Vella, Alameda’s vice mayor since 2016, which has raised around $ 361,000 on Thursday, according to Vella and state records.

Janani Ramachandran said she raised around $ 203,000, mostly from individual donors, including lawyers, software engineers and workers in the tech industry.

All Democratic candidates interviewed for this story said police should be removed from handling calls involving people facing mental health crises and low-level issues like homelessness complaints. They say unarmed specialists could handle these calls so police can focus on dangerous criminal activity.

They also support state reform efforts to withdraw police certification for misconduct, such as State Senator Steven Bradford’s SB 2.

“We are at a low point in terms of police accountability,” Bonta said.

Vella said she would try to “create ways to make it easier for cities to establish civilian police commissions”, given the oversight of law enforcement.

The candidates agree that more needs to be done to prevent homelessness, which increased by more than 40% in Alameda County between 2017 and 2019 and continued to grow during the pandemic.

Vella said Newsom’s Project Roomkey and Homekey programs have helped, but they are temporary and “we need to expand (such programs) to some level of permanence.”

“We are already spending hundreds of millions of dollars on housing and homelessness issues,” she said. “We need to make better use of the money we have.”

Tenants’ rights are a key issue for several candidates, including political newcomer Ramachandran, who said she was “motivated to run for this seat due to our government’s horror of protecting tenants.” .

If elected, Ramachandran said she would likely only be the third state legislator to be a full-time tenant, adding that some lawmakers are landlords.

“There is a reason why legislation in favor of tenants is not often rejected by the committee,” said Ramachandran. She wants to repeal the Costa-Hawkins and Ellis rental housing laws, which allow cities to extend rent control as they see fit.

Bonta agreed Costa-Hawkins should be repealed, noting that as a youngster she has moved 13 times in 16 years as a result of owners acting “in bad faith.”

Ramachandran said that although she has no political office experience, she has worked in the field with homeless people, advocated for survivors of domestic violence and implemented violence prevention programs.

She said corporate interests controlled the Democratic majority in the legislature and accused Mia Bonta of a possible conflict of interest in accepting money from the gaming industry, explaining that she could theoretically influence her husband attorney general by writing the title and summary of a potential voting measure. legalize sports betting in tribal casinos.

Mia Bonta called the accusation “incredibly unfortunate, largely sexist” and “ignorant”, saying she only places her candidacy “within the scope of what my husband might do”.

Ramachnadran and other candidates, including Victor Aguilar and Nelsy Batista, are supporting a single-payer health care system in California, which Aguilar says should be funded by a wealth tax for the mega-rich.

School board member James Aguilar also wants to establish a wealth tax, revise much of the state’s institutional spending on prisoners and corrections, and reform Proposition 13 to better fund education.

“We can spend around $ 70,000 per prisoner. As a student it didn’t make sense, and as an adult it didn’t really make sense either, ”said Aguilar.

Although he is only 21 years old, Aguilar said his youth should be a popular prospect among voters.

“I come from the generation that will inherit the consequences of the decisions of my parents’ generation and previous generations,” he said.

Batista, the writing candidate, said she was in the race “to take the voice of the community and bring it to the table.” She says local elected officials should make private developers more accountable and charge them higher construction costs.

Slauson, the Republican, wants to eliminate the gasoline tax and end extended unemployment benefits, but admitted that with just 6% of district voters registered as Republicans, the only chance he would have of winning the race would if Democrats “kill each other” in the polls.

Britton also realizes that he is unlikely to win, but nonetheless goes door-to-door to spread the word about his desire to form a workers’ party and to encourage public servants to create a ” Massive public works funded by the federal government to provide millions of jobs. “

Eugene Canson was not available for an interview on his candidacy.

Voters have already received mail ballots and people can vote in person starting Saturday.

Voters can also return their ballots by mail as long as they are stamped by June 29, or can drop them in one of 19 ballot boxes around the district by 8 p.m. on June 29.


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