Illustration by Sophie Devaney
Buffy Wicks and Jovanka Beckles, both running for the Assembly District 15 seat, which includes most of Alameda and Contra Costa County, discussed their campaign platforms at a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters on October 2 in the Berkeley Community Theatre. Each had 90 seconds to respond to questions covering key issues.
Both candidates support a single-payer health care system. Wicks described her plan to create a such a system at the state level. Wicks said she will work on fixing reimbursement rates, protecting the affordable care act, providing coverage for undocumented communities and pushing for a public option to be available. When a new president takes office, Wicks hopes to work with the federal government to establish such a system in the state.
Beckles said she will fight for Medicare for all to removes profit from the healthcare system and make sure that health care providers have safe working conditions. She will also fight for a publicly funded system that works with doctors and hospitals.
Candidates also addressed their positions on housing, a big issue within the district. Beckles expressed her support for Proposition 10, which would allow cities to expand rent control, citing a lack of affordable housing. Wicks is against Proposition 10, saying that affordable housing experts believe the proposition will exacerbate the housing crisis.
“I like to hear people in real time to be able to compare and contrast their views,” said audience member Nathan Clark. Other audience members, such as Ilana Clark, of Richmond, and Meryl Citron, are Wicks supporters but attended the debate to hear from Beckles.
Kevin Flyn said that on Nextdoor, a neighborhood-oriented social network, supporters of both candidates have been discussing the debate. Flyn felt some of Beckles’ supporters were sharing misinformation. “So that’s one reason I wanted to come and see how it plays out on stage,” Flyn said.
Julie Steinberg, a Wicks campaign volunteer, said she’d also noticed some negativity around the race, and would “like to find out what’s going on.” Flyn, Citron, and Steinberg all agreed that the outcome of the debate would not swing their vote.
Wicks, who has made a career in grassroots politics and worked six years for President Obama, has said she is running to build a better future for the children of California.
“I think that Buffy stands out not just from her opponent but from most politicians I see or know in terms of her organizing experience and understanding of how policy reforms can best help our communities,” said Lillian Patil, Wicks’ policy director.
Wicks has pledged not to accept corporate donations. “I can say that the folks who have donated to Buffy that I’ve talked to are inspired by her progressive policy ideas and her concrete plans to turn those ideas into real change for Californians,” Patil said.
Beckles, with 20 years experience in public service, is running to create solutions to the states’ most pressing issues, such as homelessness, healthcare, and justice reform. Beckles’ platform calls for corporations to be fairly taxed, said Noemi Tungui, a member of the campaign team, and denounces corporations that drive conventional campaigns.
Beckles has real legislative experience, Tungui said, and deep community connections. She is endorsed by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, LGBTQ+ organizations, and over 30 labor unions.
Steinberg said more people are interested in this race than any previous assembly district race she can remember.