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Loni Hancock to run for assembly – maybe

By Judith Scherr Daily Planet editor
Friday September 21, 2001

It’s hard to be lite, in these trying and tragic times, but the Berkeley political rumor mill stops for nothing – so let me tell you, in case you’re one of the few who’s missed it, what most everyone in town’s whispering. 

Loni Hancock’s running for Dion Aroner’s Assembly seat.  

At this point, of course, it’s just a rumor, but one almost a dozen local politicos seem to be quite sure of. 

“I understand Loni Hancock is in. I heard it was announced by (Assemblymember) Dion Aroner,” said Mayor Shirley Dean, who’s once again thinking about plunging into the race. (She told this column, some months back, that she wasn’t running.)  

Could it be that Dean doesn’t want to face former assemlymember Tom Bates - Loni’s husband – who’s rumored to be running for mayor? (To be truthful, we heard that rumor from only one source – Jane Brunner, vice mayor of Oakland who’s running for the assembly.) 

The possibility that Loni will run doesn’t faze Oakland attorney and candidate Charles Ramsey, who seems to be well on his way to picking up funds and endorsements for the March primary. To date, he says he’s raised $125,000 and has been endorsed by several pages-worth of folk, including five Richmond City Councilmembers, the entire San Pablo City Council, and three former Berkeley council members. He says he’s a progressive, considered a moderate by many who cling to labels and is the only African American in the race. 

Jane Brunner said she’d heard Hancock was in the running. 

“I welcome Loni to run,” she said. “She will be a serious opponent. We’ll have a good debate.” Asked what issues she felt she could best Hancock on, Brunner, who’s amassed a campaign war chest of $80,000, said the specifics would have to wait for the race to heat up some. 

Brunner, who’s about to move into the district she was redistricted out of, said she thought she’d do well in Lamorinda, having worked as a labor lawyer in Walnut Creek for 10 years. 

Others - not Hancock, who did not return messages – said the former mayor knew Lamorinda well, since the district of her hubby, assemblymember for 18 years, used to include that part of Contra Costa County. 

But Brunner said Lamorindans would see Hancock running in their district as “the old guard coming back.” 

Dean said she’s not married to running a race for the Assembly. She gets calls asking her to run again for mayor. The Assembly race “crosses my mind once every 24 hours,” she said, adding that she has to make up her mind soon. 

She said she would not be afraid to run against the former mayor, who left office in 1994 to take a post in Clinton’s Department of Education. 

“I believe the last time Loni ran for mayor, she won by 85 votes,” Dean said. “I don’t know how short or long the electorate’s memory is.” 

And so, what does this do to the candidacies of Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who announced he was running months ago, and former councilmember Nancy Skinner, who had been mulling over the race. 

Skinner said she’d decided against running for personal reasons, one of them being that she loves her job working internationally against global warming. But she said that, though she had originally opposed term limits, the turnover means there will be a chance for her to run down the line. (A promise, perhaps?) 

Does she support Hancock? “Yes, I suppport Loni,” she said. Comparing her to Brunner, she said Hancock has “far more experience,” having served as city councilmember, mayor and having worked with the Department of Education. 

And Worthington won’t be in the race. He said he’d promised that if the progressives came up with a “concensus” candidate – particularly if it was a woman or a person of color – he would not run. “I am a man of my word,” he said, noting that he was afraid he would disappoint the 1,900 people who had signed on as his supporters. Worthington declined to say who he’d support until the “concensus” candidate formally announces. 

Apparently, the folks that come together to make the consensus are such luminaries as U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, Aroner, Supervisor Keith Carson and, do you think? Tom Bates. They may be crossing t’s and such as you read your Daily Planet today. 

While Carson would not say he endorses Hancock, he said “her entry into the race brings some excitement.”  

How will she play in Lamorinda?  

Given her experience (and I assume her husband’s) “she won’t have to go through a learning curve,” Carson said. “She probably knows the issues that affect people in that part of the district.” 

Will she have a hard time catching up, given that Ramsey and Brunner are already campaigning heavily? “People know her,” Carson said. “There’s already a level of support.”