Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich endorsed Laurie Capitelli for mayor today, a week after Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Jesse Arrreguín for the same spot. Photo: Capitelli campaign
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich endorsed Laurie Capitelli for mayor today, a week after Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Jesse Arreguín for the same position. Photo: Capitelli campaign

National politics have entered the Berkeley mayor’s race.

On Sept. 8, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the former Democratic Party presidential candidate, endorsed Jesse Arreguín for mayor of Berkeley, one of 100 local candidates Sanders endorsed around the country.

Today, Robert Reich, a former U.S. Labor Secretary and a UC Berkeley professor, endorsed Laurie Capitelli, calling him “a serious progressive.”

Whether the high-profile endorsements matter in the competitive mayor’s race remains to be seen. Mayor Tom Bates is retiring after 14 years in office and eight people are vying to replace him. In addition to Arreguín and Capitelli, who are both city council members, City Councilman Kriss Worthington is running. So are Ben Gould, a UC Berkeley graduate student, Bernt Wahl, the executive director of Brain Machine Consortium, Guy “Mike” Lee, a homeless activist, Naomi Pete and Zachary Running Wolf, a longtime Berkeley activist.

Noah Finneburg of RALLY Campaigns, Arreguín’s campaign consultant, called Sanders’ endorsement “an absolute, no doubt about it game-changer.”

Former Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport, who reached out to Sanders to encourage him to endorse Arreguín, said the Vermont senator captured 54% of the vote in Berkeley in June, according to the East Bay Times. (Clinton won 45% of the vote.)

The majority of those votes were in Berkeley’s flatlands, according to former planning commissioner Rob Wrenn, a member of the Berkeley Progressive Alliance. Sanders won “South Berkeley, West Berkeley and the central part of the city and sweeping the areas near the UC campus, Southside, Northside and Downtown by large margins,” Wrenn wrote in Berkeley Citizens Action. “He did well in the areas where progressive candidates usually fare well in local elections.”

But Reich, who supported Sanders in the presidential primary, is also popular in Berkeley. A post he put on Facebook on Wednesday got 7,500 comments within 18 hours – a reflection of Reich’s influence. Reich has lived in Berkeley since 2006, according to Capitelli’s campaign.

Both of the endorsements stress the “progressiveness” of each of the candidates.

Photo: Arreguin campaign
Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has endorsed Jesse Arreguín for mayor. Photo: Arreguín campaign

“Berkeley is known across the country and the world as a progressive, trailblazing city,” Sanders said, according to a press release put out by the Arreguín campaign. “And so Berkeley needs a truly progressive Mayor. That is why I endorse Jesse Arreguín. Jesse Arreguín will be Berkeley’s kind of Mayor. He is a tireless and effective champion for workers’ rights, for civil rights, and for social justice. He will not rest until Berkeley works for everyone, not just the few.”

Reich also commented on Capitelli’s politics.

“Laurie is a serious progressive, one that doesn’t just talk about progressive values but who demonstrates them,” Reich said, according to a press release put out by the Capitelli campaign. “From the soda tax to his effective support of affordable housing; from his leadership on Berkeley’s landmark minimum wage to his life-long commitment to quality public schools — Laurie deeply understands the challenges facing working families and works to address them. I’ve worked with Laurie. Laurie is my councilmember. I’m looking forward to calling him my mayor.”

Both candidates have many other endorsements.

The majority of the Berkeley City Council is endorsing Capitelli, including Bates, Susan Wengraf, Darryl Moore, Lori Droste and Linda Maio. He has also been endorsed by State Senator Loni Hancock and former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner. (Skinner is running for Hancock’s seat.) Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has also endorsed Capitelli, as have the mayors of Albany, Fremont, Union City and San Leandro, according to Capitelli’s mayoral webpage. He also has the endorsement of four members of the Berkeley school board, the Alameda County Building Trades Council, and the Berkeley firefighters and Berkeley police unions. (See the full list.)

A number of labor unions have endorsed Arreguín, including the Alameda Labor Council, the California Nurses Association, SEIU 1021, and the United Farm Workers, among others. Shirley Dean, a former Berkeley mayor, has endorsed Arreguín, as have current city council members Max Anderson and Kriss Worthington and the majority of the Rent Stabilization Board. Betty Yee, California state controller, Fiona Ma, the chair of the California State Board of Equalization, and Assemblymember Sandré Swanson, who is also running for Hancock’s seat, are also endorsing Arreguín. (See the full list.)


The mayor’s race is off and running: Where do campaign coffers stand? (08.04.16)
Kriss Worthington to run for mayor (07.22.16)
Would a homeless mayor make a difference for the homeless (06.29.16)
Laurie Capitelli to run for Berkeley mayor in 2016 (11.18.16)
With mayor and two councilmen stepping aside,  Berkeley’s election is heating up (01.26.16)
Jesse Arreguín formally announces run for mayor (10.22.15)

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...