As if there wasn’t enough drama at the national level, 2024 is shaping up to be a big year for Berkeley politics too.
The race is on to replace Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who is campaigning for state Senate, as three members of the City Council — Sophie Hahn, Kate Harrison and Rigel Robinson — have so far filed to run for the mayor’s office. Arreguín has also filed to run for re-election, a step he took back in 2021, though city records show he isn’t raising money for that effort as he focuses on the race to fill termed-out state Sen. Nancy Skinner’s seat in Sacramento.
Meanwhile, District 6 Councilmember Susan Wengraf told Berkeleyside this week that she does not plan to seek re-election, setting up an open race for the Berkeley Hills seat she has held for the past 15 years. And Hahn’s run for mayor creates an open race for District 5, which she has represented since 2016 because she can’t seek both offices in the same election.
The field for the Berkeley mayor’s race is by no means set since the deadline to file for the office is still nearly a year away.
Berkeleyside reached out to every councilmember this week, four of whom — Taplin, Bartlett, Wengraf and Mark Humbert — said they had no plans to seek the mayor’s office. Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani did not respond to inquiries.
Arreguín and his supporters are bullish on his chances for state Senate, but if he fails to make the top two for the seat in that race’s March 5 nonpartisan primary, he would have plenty of time to run for another mayoral term as a consolation.
Harrison, who has represented District 4 since she won a 2017 special election to fill the seat Arreguín vacated when he was elected, said she would draw on her experience representing the varied Central Berkeley district to deliver as mayor, and touted accomplishments like the vacant homes tax she pushed to put on the 2022 ballot.
“I can bring coalitions together,” Harrison said in an interview. “We really need to work on the way the city runs and how we deal with issues — stop demonizing each other and move forward with a progressive agenda, but [recognize] that people have needs today that need to be met.”
Hahn noted her “deep roots” in Berkeley in a written statement, saying she would work to improve city infrastructure such as streets and parks, invest in commercial districts and produce affordable housing.
“I’m committed to making our city the very best that it can be, and to more fully realizing Berkeley’s values in everything we do,” Hahn wrote. “I have a strong vision for Berkeley as a place that supports individual wellbeing, community, and vibrant local arts and businesses.”
Robinson, who has represented the student-heavy District 7 since 2018, has been active on housing and transportation issues, pushing to increase density in the Southside neighborhood he represents and throughout Berkeley and to convert the north end of Telegraph Avenue into a pedestrian street. He declined to comment for this story.
Berkeley voters will have a lot of choices to make in 2024 — along with the presidential election, the usual slew of state propositions and the campaigns for city office, there are rare open races for U.S. Senate and the House district that covers the East Bay, plus the state Senate. Officials at various levels of government are also mulling ideas for several revenue-raising measures, including a Berkeley parcel tax to improve streets, a regional housing bond and a state behavioral health bond.