Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín speaks at a rally for opponents of the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021. Credit: Amir Aziz, The Oaklandside

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín launched his run for state Senate on Wednesday, positioning himself as a regional progressive leader fit to replace termed-out Sen. Nancy Skinner.

The two-term mayor will seek the seat representing Senate District 7, which spans the East Bay shoreline from the Carquinez Bridge to the Oakland-San Leandro border, covering voters in Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond and several other cities.

With just over a year to go until the March 2024 primary election, the field to replace Skinner is beginning to take shape. State records show two more candidates, AC Transit Director Jovanka Beckles and labor leader Kathryn Lybarger, have formed campaign committees for the seat, while Oakland Councilmember Dan Kalb told the San Francisco Chronicle he is running.

A press release announcing Arreguín’s campaign highlighted his personal background as the son of farm workers who experienced evictions while growing up in San Francisco. His campaign website touts Arreguín’s work as Berkeley mayor to build new affordable housing, increase police oversight and lead the city through the COVID-19 pandemic, and as president of the Association of Bay Area Governments to address the housing crisis on a regional level.

“I understand the issues, I have the experience, I can build coalitions and I can get the job done,” Arreguín said in an interview. “I’m ready to deliver — not just for Berkeley, but to make a real difference for the East Bay.”

Skinner, a former Berkeley city council member, has authored several pieces of high-profile legislation, most notably the 2019 housing law SB330 that required cities to streamline the approval process for new development, and the 2018 law SB1421 expanding access to police misconduct records. Those laws were cheered by pro-density groups and police accountability advocates, respectively, but also drew opposition from some California cities and law enforcement organizations.

Arreguín praised Skinner’s record on housing and policing, saying he would build on her accomplishments.

“I believe that my experience and my positions are best aligned with Senator Skinner, and I want to continue her work — recognizing that those are big shoes to fill,” he said.

A spokesman for Skinner did not respond to a message Wednesday asking whether she would make an endorsement in the primary, or what she plans to do once her term ends.

Beckles and Lybarger — the president of AFSCME Local 3299, which represents thousands of workers at University of California campuses and medical centers — could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The top two vote-getters in the spring 2024 primary, regardless of their party, will advance to the November general election.

The timing of the primary would leave the door open for Arreguín to run for a third term as mayor if he finishes outside the top two since Berkeley’s deadline for candidates to qualify for city elections is in the summer. Arreguín didn’t rule out running for the mayor’s office a third time if his campaign for Sacramento is unsuccessful.

“I think it’s too early to say — but I intend to win,” he said.

Nico Savidge joined Berkeleyside in 2021 as a senior reporter covering city hall. Born and raised in Berkeley, he got his start in journalism at Youth Radio as a high-schooler in the mid-2000s. Since then,...