Opinion: It’s time to stand up for Assembly District 15

There is a battle on all over the country between corporate Democrats and corporate-free, people-powered, locally-based candidates. It’s happening here, too.

We in the East Bay can get lulled into business-as-usual politics. Or we can make a stand to represent all our people.

We can do what those teachers in “red” states are doing. They are standing up for their students and themselves. Their students don’t have enough money to eat decently, let alone do homework. The teachers are working two or three jobs to make ends meet and are supplying classroom needs from their own pockets. It can’t go on.

We are not all teachers. But a lot of us are hurting in many ways because of the enormous economic inequities in the East Bay. We can stand up too.

The Democratic Party is trying to tell us what we want. The campaign in Assembly District 15 reflects EXACTLY what is happening all across the U.S.

There is a battle on all over the country between corporate Democrats and corporate-free, people-powered, locally-based candidates. Look at the attempt by Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer to force out a progressive primary candidate in Colorado. Look at the Democratic Congressional Central Committee’s effort to sabotage progressive candidate Laura Moser in Texas’ seventh congressional district. It’s happening all over.

Here in AD15, we have an establishment candidate with hundreds of thousands of dollars bulldozing to the top of the campaign despite being a recent arrival here, lack of local engagement and never having held public elective office.

Money is at the core of the battle for our right to our own representation. A corporate candidate is a professional candidate, an expert in converting elite money into large-scale organizing. From the top down, such a candidate creates an illusion that the people will be represented.

Corporate candidates try to crush campaigns with money – here in AD15, more than half a million at last count – to create a sense of inevitability. The other candidates look like amateurs or one-trick ponies: the education candidate, the nurses’ candidate, the environmental candidate.

The corporate Democratic candidates claim to know how to get stuff done for their constituencies.

What is that “stuff?” and who is the constituency?

Is the “stuff” going slow on health care reform? Is it don’t move too fast on solving our housing and homeless crises? Is it platitudes about our justice and prison system?

Is the constituency the donors?

Yes. In AD15 the professional candidate is organizing, but only to get herself elected. She’s trying to buy the grassroots.

Here in AD15, has there been any corporate Democrat organizing for Black Lives Matter, or repealing Costa-Hawkins, or supporting strikes, or fighting for No Coal in Oakland?

None that I can see.

But we do have a candidate here who has done those things. Jovanka Beckles is a two-term City Councilwoman in Richmond who, even before her council service, was grappling with the expressed needs of Richmond residents, first as a member of the Richmond economic development commission and then on its planning commission. The “stuff” she’s worked on is what her constituents have been telling her they need most.

She has no corporate donors to please, and it shows.

Beckles has dealt with environmental issues (among other things, helped force Chevron to adhere to tighter air standards), housing (new low-income housing, first new rent controls in California in 30 years), education (helped Richmond finance and make available scholarships to college for all Richmond students), police and justice reform (helped establish community policing and aid to citizens returning from incarceration) and she’s championed genuine single-payer health insurance for California since 2011.

Richmond is part of, and reflects, Assembly District 15, including impoverished, industrial, commercial, middle-class and wealthy areas and people, all kinds of folks in great and wonderful diversity. Beckles has been working with and for all of them across a broad range of issues.

She’s the corporate-free candidate and that’s why she is endorsed by Our Revolution, founded by Bernie Sanders and under the current powerful leadership of former Senator Nina Turner. We know the truth about how the power of money works, and we’ve had enough of that. Just like the teachers. Let’s not let a campaign professional parachute in and define the AD15 campaign.

The power of money is not inevitable. It’s time to take over from the national corporate Democrats whose hold on power is driving young, and disenchanted and disenfranchised people out of the party.

Mail-in ballots have already been sent out to voters. The election is on June 5. It’s high time to recognize what’s going on here and to stand up for the people of Assembly District 15 and vote for Jovanka Beckles.

Gus Newport was mayor of Berkeley from 1979-1986. More recently he worked to help Gulfport, Mississippi, rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and he currently serves on the Democratic National Committee’s Unity Reform Commission.