An early glance at next year’s AD-15 showdown

Quite a battle is shaping up in the 15th Assembly District, where Nancy Skinner will be term-limited out at the end of 2014 and five could-be candidates cover the political spectrum from left to… well, left.

With less than 13 months to go until June 2014’s top-two primary, all five of the candidates who’ve filed statements of intention to run are Democrats, and pretty liberal ones at that – not surprising for this East Bay district, which includes Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Piedmont, El Cerrito, Hercules, Pinole, Richmond, San Pablo, Kensington and parts of Oakland including Montclair and North Oakland. As of February, the district was registered 64.5 percent Democrat, 7.8 percent Republican and 18.6 percent no-party-preference.

The field appears to include, in alphabetical order:

EcholsElizabeth Echols, 53, of Oakland – regional administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, appointed by President Obama in 2010, and an Alameda County Democratic Central Committee member. Among her earlier jobs, Echols was Google’s director of policy from 2004 to 2008; executive director of the White House’s E-Commerce Working Group, under Vice President Al Gore, from 1999 to 2001; and a senior advisor at the Clinton administration’s Commerce Department from 1995 to 1999.

KangSam Kang, 34, of Emeryville – general counsel at the Greenlining Institute, a Berkeley-based policy, research, organizing, and leadership nonprofit working for racial and economic justice. A Korean immigrant who says he grew up working in his family’s small business, Kang earlier worked at several non-governmental organizations on issues ranging from Iraqi sanctions enforcement to economic development in New York’s West Harlem neighborhood

KatzAndy Katz, 33, of Berkeley – government relations director for Breathe California, a nonprofit fighting for clean air and public health, and president of the board of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District. Katz has a long record on issues such as renewable energy and climate change and is a former chairman of the Sierra Club California; earlier in his career, he worked at a law center helping injured workers collect unpaid wages and workers’ comp, and as Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson’s community liaison.

MooreMargaret “Peggy” Moore, 49, of Oakland – was California political director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, and a longtime LGBT and political activist. An Oklahoma native, Moore was a 2008 Obama campaign volunteer who became the Northern California field director for Organizing for America, the campaign’s community-organizing successor group. She also was an Oakland City Council candidate in 2005.

ThurmondTony Thurmond, 44, of Richmond – senior director of community relations at the Lincoln Child Center; a West Contra Costa County School Board member from 2008 to 2012; and a Richmond City Council member from 2005 to 2008. His current project at the youth center, CEO Youth, is a high school youth entrepreneur program that applies the lessons students learn in the classroom to conceptualizing and launching a youth-led business venture. Thurmond lost to Skinner in the 2008 primary for what was then the 14th Assembly District.

The field might not turn out to be this big; while Thurmond and Katz have already launched their campaign websites and Kang is collecting contributions via ActBlue, neither Echols nor Moore has taken such overt action yet. (UPDATE @ 4:57 P.M. FRIDAY: Scratch that – Echols clearly is in, per comment #1 below.)

However many candidates actually get into the race, the top two vote-getters in June will advance to November’s general election – meaning candidates will need to muster enough money to survive a year-long campaign. Though all of these are toward the liberal end, it’ll be interesting to see who tries to maneuver toward the middle – and how – in order to attract non-Democrats, or if most of them just try to double-down on the progressive vote.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Echols is having her campaign kickoff on June 9th at the Berkeley Arts Center. Her host committee includes Betty Yee, Richard Valle and a whole array of local electeds and other politicos. Tickets start at $100. So yeah, I’d say she’s running 🙂

    It’s interesting that of the five candidates so far, only one has held elected office (OK, Katz is the President of the EBMUD board, but he ran unopposed). Alas, as Mr. Thurmond is from Contra Costa county I don’t know him at all.

    Here is a question for you, Josh: have any of them sent you a press release announcing that they’re running? I take it Echols has not, which shows inexperience. Have the others?

  • Josh Richman

    I’ve received no news releases from any candidate in this field.

  • RR senile columnist

    Scanning the brief bios of the prospective candidates, I’d say Thurmond is the only one even remotely prepared for the job. Echols, Katz and Chang are well-compensated professional do-goodniks whose accomplishments are debatable. Moore, aside from counterparts in places such as Hawaii, DC and New York, had virtually nothing to do in the 2012 presidential race. Anyone who reads this blog could have assured the Prez he would easily carry California by a hefty margin. Kang’s insights on racial justice appears to be based mainly on his non-white appearance. Katz likes clean air–who doesn’t? As for Echols, the Commerce Dept.’s love of small biz stems largely from the fact it is easier to intimidate than Big Biz. Oh, and she worked with Al Gore. Cool. Thurmond, at least, has spent time getting to know the folks he’d like to represent.

  • JohnW

    You never know. Don Perata could move to the district and throw his hat into the ring.