Though Berkeley’s 2024 mayoral race is still more than a year out, the slate is taking shape early, as Councilmembers Kate Harrison, Sophie Hahn and Rigel Robinson all announced their candidacies this week.
Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who announced his campaign for state senate earlier this year, also has paperwork on file for a third bid as mayor. The California primaries next March will determine whether he advances to the November ballot for state senate. If this bid proves unsuccessful, it will still leave him the opportunity to run for reelection as Berkeley’s mayor.
As of press time, Arreguín has not made a formal announcement for reelection. The Daily Californian spoke with Harrison, Hahn and Robinson to discuss their early campaign platforms and motivations for running.
Kate Harrison, District 4
Harrison was first elected to the City Council in 2017 in a special election after Arreguín, the previous District 4 councilmember, was sworn in as mayor. Since her first term, Harrison has won two additional bids for reelection and served as the city’s vice mayor.
“I want to make sure the city is as best-run as possible so that we are building to see the future for current and new residents,” Harrison said. “We have to take the environment into account and also make sure that it’s an affordable place to live.”
Harrison is running on platforms of exploring environmentally-friendly alternative forms of transportation, putting more funding into initiatives and taxes aimed at beautifying the Marina and implementing budgetary and government reform and transparency.
Additionally, Harrison said she is committed to reforming law enforcement and fighting the racial disparities present in policing.
Since serving on the council, Harrison has authored and passed legislation such as the vacancy tax, which applies taxes to properties left vacant for over a year. Harrison said it is “tragic” to have vacant units in a city with a housing shortage and houselessness crisis.
Harrison is also credited with passing the natural gas ban for all new constructions. Berkeley was the first city in the nation to pass such a ban, according to Harrison, and many other cities nationwide have followed suit. After its passage, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked the city from enacting the ban. However, the ruling is not final, and the ban is pending further review by the Ninth Circuit.
“I have a unique combination of experience and passion,” Harrison said. “I know how to get things done, and I also want to get things done. I have goals.”
Sophie Hahn, District 5
Hahn was first elected to the City Council in 2016 and has won three additional bids for reelection. Like Harrison, Hahn has also served as the vice mayor of Berkeley.
According to Hahn, she chose to run for mayor to ensure Berkeley has a future “as safe, vibrant and visionary as the people who live here.”
Hahn is a lifelong Berkeley resident. Her father was a professor at UC Berkeley — as a child, she watched the Free Speech Movement and anti-war protests firsthand. Hahn attended Berkeley schools and worked to desegregate extracurricular activities as a Berkeley High School student.
According to Hahn, her love and service to the community has been long-standing.
Prior to being elected to the City Council, Hahn served on the city’s zoning board for nearly seven years.
She is running on platforms of safety and sustainability.
During her time on the council, Hahn has authored legislation such as the Pathways Project aimed at reducing houselessness in the city. Hahn also wrote Measure O, a 2018 affordable housing bond that resulted in Berkeley’s first affordable housing construction in decades.
“I’m a proven leader who has dedicated her life to this community, and to uplifting our values in everything we do,” Hahn said in an email. “I will focus on improving Berkeley as a place — our shared home — and on caring for the people who live here, as well as the businesses that serve our community.”
Rigel Robinson, District 7
Robinson was first elected to the City Council in 2018 at just 22 years old, making him the youngest person to serve on the council and the second student to serve after State Sen. Nancy Skinner, who was elected when she was a UC Berkeley student in 1984.
Uniquely, Robinson announced his City Council campaign during finals week as a senior at UC Berkeley and his campaign was entirely student run. Robinson was a masters student at the Goldman School of Public Policy during his time as a councilmember.
Robinson said he chose to run because the city of Berkeley is “at a crossroads.”
“We’re facing a dire shortage of affordable homes,” Robinson said. “Our streets are crumbling. I hear from too many residents who don’t feel truly safe in Berkeley.”
Robinson is running on platforms of addressing the lack of affordable housing, improving the conditions of streets and infrastructure and improving public safety for residents.
During his tenure, Robinson co-authored the COVID-19 eviction moratorium and worked on measures to support small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
Additionally, Robinson credits himself with having worked on initiatives aimed at accelerating the production of affordable housing and improving safety on streets and intersections.
“I believe that my record serving on the City Council and the support I’ve earned from trusted leaders in our community are proof that I’ll be ready to hit the ground running on day one,” Robinson said.
The California primaries will be held March 5, 2024 and the general election will be held November 5, 2024.
Riley Cooke also contributed to this report.