Berkeley City Councilman Ben Bartlett announced his candidacy for state assembly Wednesday, joining a crowded race. Photo: Courtesy of Ben Bartlett

Less than a year after his election to the Berkeley City Council, Ben Bartlett has joined the packed race to represent the East Bay in the state Assembly. Tony Thurmond is vacating the post in 2018 to run for state superintendent of public instruction, and a number of local figures have jumped on the chance to fill it.

Bartlett announced his candidacy Wednesday for Assembly District 15, which spans Berkeley, Albany, Oakland, Emeryville and Piedmont in Alameda County, and Richmond, El Cerrito, Kensington, El Sobrante, San Pablo and Hercules in Contra Costa County.

Bartlett is a former planning commissioner and environmental attorney in Berkeley, who replaced longtime South Berkeley representative Max Anderson after he retired from the City Council in 2016. Despite his so-far short stint on the council, “My mother always says the golden rule is to answer the call and go where you’re needed,” Bartlett told Berkeleyside. “The moment has arrived. Senior citizens begging for food on the streets can’t wait, black kids with no future can’t wait, so I’m not gonna wait.”

Bartlett’s campaign will focus on housing, “because everything bleeds out from there,” he said. In a press release Wednesday, Bartlett said he would advocate for anti-displacement policies, “equitable development and reforms to discriminatory zoning laws that wall off communities of color, seniors and low-income families” in the East Bay if elected. He cited his advocacy for an anti-displacement legal advocate in Berkeley (part of a deal with the developers of a large project on Adeline Street), as well as his support for accessory dwelling units and supportive housing among his qualifications for the job.

Bartlett is not the only Berkeley official vying for the spot in Sacramento. Judy Appel, serving her second term on the Berkeley School Board, announced she was running in July.

At the “Bay Area Rally Against Hate” Sunday morning by UC Berkeley’s Crescent lawn, Appel appeared onstage alongside Berkeley teachers. Speaking with Berkeleyside later in the morning, she praised the thousands of people who turned out to Oxford and the surrounding streets to protest bigotry.

“This exemplifies why I’m running,” she said. “We need to be a model for the country.”

Appel, the former executive director of Our Family Coalition, which advocates for LGBTQ families, has said she will fight for education equity, access to health care, affordable housing and fair pay if elected.

Also running is Buffy Wicks, an Oakland resident and former White House official who was instrumental in both Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns. Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb, Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, activist Cheryl Sudduth and Andy Katz, who sits on the board of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District, have also declared their candidacies.

Thurmond, who is from Richmond, won his first race for District 15 by a large margin in 2014, after Nancy Skinner, now state senator, termed out. He was reelected in 2016.

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Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...