EBMUD director Andy Katz, a candidate for State Assembly in the 15th District. Photo: Guy Marzorati/KQED

This story is part of a series of profiles of candidates running for the 15th Assembly District. See all the KQED profiles and news about this race.

No legislative primary in California is as crowded as the June election for an open State Assembly seat in the East Bay. The final list of candidates in the 15th District, certified by the Secretary of State on Thursday, runs 12 names long.

Among them are candidates with experience as council members, vice mayors, and time on local school boards. Only one, Andy Katz, has represented nearly all the cities in the district, in his role on the East Bay Municipal Utilities District board of directors.

“I’ve represented Ward 4 for 12 years, ensuring that we have a clean and safe, reliable water supply,” Katz said. “And that we protect our environment where we get our water from.”

But compared to time on a city council, serving on a water board offers fewer opportunities for resident interaction, media exposure, and experience on the kind of issues that tend to draw, and keep, voters’ attention. It was a challenge Katz faced in 2014, when he explored running in this same race; he raised money for Assembly but ultimately decided not to file. Katz has still found ways to work on issues outside the weeds of drinking water and sewage treatment. In 2016, labor union SEIU qualified a ballot measure to raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. The city council still wanted to put their own minimum wage measure in front of voters. “I just showed up and urged the city council not to put a second measure on the ballot,” Katz remembers. “Two measures would have confused voters and both could have failed.” The council voted to advance their ballot measure anyway, but after the meeting, both the council and labor union approached Katz and asked for his help to hash out a compromise. “I didn’t realize what I was signing up for,” Katz said. “We led about forty or fifty hours of mediation in my office. On my laptop we wrote out a compromise ordinance.” As part of the deal, the council approved the compromise measure, and both sides campaigned against their own ballot measures in the fall. The dueling initiatives failed on the ballot, and the agreed-upon framework will bump Berkeley’s minimum wage to $15.00 starting in October. “That’s why I spent the time,” Katz added. “It’s so important to have progressive laws that improve the quality of life for working families in California.” KQED pointed the microphone at Andy Katz (listen below):