Senator and former Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders endorsed District 4 Councilmember Jesse Arreguin as candidate for Mayor of Berkeley.
In a statement released Thursday, September 8, Sanders wrote: “Berkeley is known across the country and the world as a progressive, trailblazing city … Jesse Arreguin will be Berkeley’s kind of Mayor. He is a tireless and effective champion for workers’ rights, for civil rights, and for social justice. He will not rest until Berkeley works for everyone, not just the few.”
The endorsement is part of a national initiative organized by Sanders’ nonprofit, Our Revolution. The senator is to weigh in on one hundred local elections in support of candidates he believes will continue his progressive political movement. In Berkeley, Sanders also endorsed the CALI Slate, a pro-tenant coalition of candidates for four seats on the Rent Stabilization Board.
A report published by the Berkeley Citizens Action coalition on June 24 showed that Sanders won 54.4 percent of Berkeley votes in the Democratic presidential primary. Arreguin is hoping that he will receive a large portion of the same support.
Arreguin contacted Sanders through their mutual friend Gus Newport. Both Newport and Sanders were mayors in the 1980s, Newport serving Berkeley while Sanders represented Burlington, Vermont. Commenting on the endorsement, Newport said, “I can’t tell you how big this is.” He added that Arreguin is continuing a decades-long tradition of progressive leadership harkening back to his own days in office.
Arreguin sees similarities between Sanders and himself, such as the support garnered by their grassroots campaigns. “[Sanders] went up against very well-financed interests and put together an amazing coalition throughout the country fueled by very small donations. We want to continue that revolution, continue that movement in Berkeley,” he said.However, Mayoral candidate Laurie Capitelli said that Arreguin has voted on council items in a way which didn’t aid the progressive issues.
He cited Arreguin’s support of Measure R, a failed 2014 ballot measure to increase environmental requirements for tall buildings downtown, as an example. “Measure R was supposedly an environmental proposal, but it put such stringent requirements on housing that no new housing would have been built,” Capitelli said. Asked what he thought of Sanders’ endorsement, Capitelli said, “Good for Jesse,” but instead of seeking the support of a national political figure himself, he said he would be staying local. “Bernie’s back in Vermont and in Washington DC. I have probably the biggest Bernie supporter in the country who endorsed me,” he said.
Capitelli was referring to UC Berkeley Professor of Public Policy and former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who released his endorsement on Thursday, September 15. An excerpt of the text read, “Laurie is a serious progressive, one that doesn’t just talk about progressive values but who demonstrates them.”
Capitelli does not believe that the Sanders endorsement will have a major impact on his campaign. In the end, he said, “Berkeley voters are smart voters, and they’re going to look at our records, and make a decision.”
Both candidates believe their records speak for themselves.