For some on the ballot, this primary season is one of many; for others, it’s their first time running for an elected office. Regardless, candidates have brought to the table ideas and promises that are close to the hearts of many Californians. From Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s fight for immigrant protection to Alameda County Board of Education Trustee Joaquín Rivera’s promise to improve the county’s school system, politicians and community members have come together to push for the issues that matter most to this diverse and eclectic state.
Ultimately, many endorsement discussions came down to the two top candidates in a race: a newcomer who brings fresh ideas and a political incumbent who has shown that they can get things done in their office. While this election cycle brings dozens of qualified candidates who are passionate advocates for the platforms that matter to them, the decision comes down to who will be the best for making change in the Golden State.
Governor: Gavin Newsom
Gavin Newsom is no stranger to California. As the mayor of San Francisco, he made groundbreaking efforts to legalize same-sex marriage and instituted Project Homeless Connect, a program that connects homeless individuals to government resources — and these are only a few examples of the strides Newsom has made to uplift the state’s underrepresented communities. When his time as mayor ended in 2011, Newsom moved up the ladder, winning two consecutive terms as California’s lieutenant governor. During this time, he sat on the UC Board of Regents, where, in an effort to make university education more accessible, Newsom voted against every proposed tuition hike.
Newsom has achieved a lot, but what really makes him the top choice for this gubernatorial race is his institutional knowledge, thanks to years of working in California politics. Not only does he stand for more progressive platforms, he has the experience and connections to enact real change as California’s next governor.
Lieutenant governor: Jeff Bleich
Although Jeff Bleich has never held an elected office before, he’s been recognized time and time again for his exceeding competency in the political field. He was recruited to lead the Clinton administration’s Youth Violence Commission after the Columbine shooting, and he’s served as a senior adviser to former president Barack Obama. So why is Bleich, a man whose political career has taken him around the world, looking to take the seemingly sleepy role of California’s lieutenant governor?
As it involves sitting on California’s committees for both environmental and educational matters, the position deals with issues that Bleich is passionate about solving. As a UC Berkeley alumnus and a former California State University trustee chair, Bleich has expressed his commitment to making sure the state supports its college graduates. Additionally, with the push to drill oil from California’s coast, Bleich has expressed an urgency for preserving and protecting the California landscape. As lieutenant governor, Bleich is equipped with the fervor and experience to excel in this position.
U.S. senator: Dianne Feinstein
Dianne Feinstein, a current U.S. senator from California, has held this position since 1992. In her more than two decades of work in this position, she has shattered the glass ceiling as a female politician. But despite her progressive stance on gun laws, health care and women’s rights, some California Democrats have expressed the sentiment that Feinstein, who is pulled between the hyper-liberal and the uber-conservative, has become too moderate as a California senator.
Nevertheless, this isn’t a good enough reason to turn over one of California’s most dedicated public servants. Granted, Kevin de León, one of Feinstein’s biggest Democratic challenges in this race, could be a fresh face of progress in the Senate, if elected. But at a time when Republicans and Democrats are more polarized than ever, the political experience and leveraging abilities of Feinstein are more valuable than any chance taken on more far left-leaning candidates would be.
Secretary of state: Alex Padilla
As California’s current secretary of state, Alex Padilla has shown that he will put his ideas intoaction. With his years of experience working in public offices, Padilla has shown his ability to work within the confines of the system to make change. To get more young people to the polls, Padilla developed online preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds; he also instated automatic voter registration for anyone who obtains or renews their driver’s license. Since 2014, when he first won the election for secretary of state, Padilla has raised the registration count in California by about 1.2 million, making it possible for more people to do their civic duty and vote.
Although Padilla is the strongest candidate for this race, he has definitely relied on past achievements to move him forward in this election cycle. He’s voiced his stance on issues such as immigration, education and climate change, but he hasn’t given very many concrete plans for what he will do postelection. In the case that Padilla does continue as secretary of state, he must strive to continue his efforts for positive change in California.
Attorney general: Xavier Becerra
In terms of the American political scene, Becerra’s background and platform make him a standout candidate — and as a first-generation American and the son of two Mexican immigrants, his personal story is one that hits very close to home for many Californian families. After going to public schools through high school, Becerra eventually went on to graduate from Stanford Law School and serve in California’s public offices.
Becerra has been recognized nationally for being a vocal advocate against the Trump administration’s controversial propositions for immigration reform. He’s filed 28 lawsuits against the administration, fighting for the rights of people who, like his parents and many other Californians, are immigrants to this country. In addition to advocating for immigrant rights, Becerra has been a staunch supporter of making health care more affordable and accessible. His platform works to uplift and empower underrepresented communities, giving everyone a fair chance at success in the United States.
Auditor-controller/clerk-recorder: Irella Blackwood
The auditor-controller/clerk-recorder is a position with many hats — from auditing budgets to issuing marriage licenses, many of the county’s most crucial responsibilities fall under this position. In Alameda County, the past several election cycles for auditor-controller have been fairly quiet. Through the county’s “hand-off” system, those within the office pick their successors — this was how Irella Blackwood’s opponent, Melissa Wilk, was hoping to win this race.
Although Wilk and her 20 years of experience in managing Alameda County’s finances make her qualified for the job, Blackwood offers a unique and fresh perspective — one that could prove to be beneficial for the county. As an executive manager with the city and county of San Francisco, Blackwood’s audits unearthed inappropriate spending in multiple sectors. Not only does Blackwood have the experience to maintain the county’s award-winning credit ratings, she has the prowess and drive to create positive change.
Board of Education: Joaquín Rivera
In the race for Alameda County’s Board of Education Area 1 — which contains Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville and parts of Oakland — both incumbent Joaquín Rivera and newcomer Abdur Sikder are competing for the trustee position. While Sikder is running on noble platforms, he lacks Rivera’s history of involvement in Alameda County’s public school system.
Not only has Rivera been on the county Board of Education since 2010, he has also sat on the Berkeley school board. Rivera has firsthand experience working with students and understanding their needs as a community college chemistry professor for 28 years; he also served as the president of the Skyline College Academic Senate. In his time serving on the Board of Education, Rivera has worked to accredit schools and hold charter schools more accountable. Electing him to hold his position would ensure that the projects for academic improvement that he has led in Alameda County will continue into the future.
District attorney: Nancy E. O’Malley
It should be addressed that incumbent Nancy E. O’Malley is not the perfect candidate. She previously accepted money from the Fremont police union in the months preceding her office’s decision to clear a Fremont police officers in the fatal shooting of an unarmed teen. Rightfully, many have questioned O’Malley’s ethics — she defended the decision to accept this money, maintaining that she will prosecute police officers who have violated the law.
But, between O’Malley and opponent Pamela Price, O’Malley is more qualified to hold the seat of Alameda County district attorney. While Price stands for progressive platforms and is highly educated in American law, she has never been a prosecutor before. In comparison, O’Malley has worked to end human trafficking, dismissed previous marijuana-related convictions and started the Alameda County Family Justice Center for uplifting victims of domestic violence. Although O’Malley has made questionable decisions in the past, her achievements as Alameda County’s district attorney should not be overlooked.
Superior Court: Tara M. Flanagan
In the upcoming election, Tara M. Flanagan is the only judge in the Alameda County Superior Court who is being challenged for re-election. Her opposition, Karen Katz, claims that her run is in response to Flanagan’s failure to report campaign loans in 2012. But Katz’s campaign doesn’t seem to be comprised of anything more than combating this controversy. When looking through Katz’s campaign promises, they come off as vague and directionless.
Flanagan was elected to her position as a Superior Court judge in 2012 and has shown a commitment to her service ever since — a commitment that has been corroborated by the more than 80 judges who have endorsed her. While Katz’s attempts to hold her accountable can be commended, these reasons aren’t substantial enough to challenge Flanagan’s position. Berkeley voters must not choose to oust a qualified and accomplished judge based on a mistake from more than six years ago.