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Hancock formally enters race

Wednesday October 24, 2001

By Judith Scherr 

Daily Planet staff 


When former Mayor Loni Hancock announced Tuesday that she’s running for the 14th District Assembly seat, most everybody already knew she was going after the post held by her husband, Tom Bates, for 18 years. 

Opponent Charles Ramsey, a Richmond resident and Oakland attorney, who says he has both a bigger campaign war chest and more endorsements, said he’d seen Hancock – also a former councilmember – on the campaign trail for weeks. 

Meanwhile, opponent Oakland City Council Vice Mayor Jane Brunner – who did not return phone calls – has said in the past that she can beat Hancock. But from early appearances, Brunner’s strategy is to run against the Berkeley City Council, having sent out a missive asking the public how it feels about three “issues of concern” she ascribes to Berkeley officials. The campaign piece, faxed to the Daily Planet, was probably prepared by Brunner’s campaign manager Larry Tramutola, who did not return calls to his office.  

The concerns Brunner’s flier expressed were that a Berkeley councilmember called the U.S. bombings a “terrorist act,” that the American flags had been taken from the fire trucks and returned only after a public outcry and that the council had condemned the United States for the bombing in Afghanistan. 

Hancock declined comment on the Brunner missive, saying she’s more interested in campaigning on education, the environment, the economy and her experience.  

But Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who’s stepped out of the Assembly race in favor of Hancock, did not hesitate to express himself on the flier. 

“It’s amazing that she has three major distortions and doesn’t say what her position is,” Worthington said, correcting the three “distortions:” While a UC Berkeley student-run newspaper quoted Councilmember Dona Spring saying the bombings were “terrorist,” Spring has said a number of times that she was misquoted. The flags were taken from the trucks for a few hours so that they wouldn’t become targets for UC Berkeley students demonstrating and the council did not “condemn” the bombings, but called for their halt as soon as possible. 

“This gives a very distorted and inaccurate picture,” Worthington said. 

Education in No. 1 

Time will only tell if it takes flashy campaign literature to distinguish the three candidates. When it comes to issues, all three place education at the top of their lists.  

Ramsey, Brunner and Hancock all have expertise in this arena.  

Now an attorney, Brunner was a teacher in Berkeley for a number of years; Ramsey sits on the West Contra Costa school board, and Hancock worked for the Clinton administration in the Regional Office of the Department of Education for seven years. 

“I know what is needed,” Hancock said, pointing to a need for preschool and early childhood education, as well as an increase in teacher and childcare worker salaries and enhanced teacher training. 

Hancock conceded that this is a difficult period to expect funding for schools to increase. “One of the major jobs (for the assemblymember is) to protect funding for schools,” she said, noting that the state expects a $10 billion deficit next year.  

The answer? “Spend the money smarter. Close tax loopholes.” 

Charles Ramsey said his experience on the school board has shown him the detailed workings of the school district, from child nutrition needs, to curriculum. “We put a dentist’s office” in one school Ramsey said. 

Who’s endorsing whom 

Hancock and Ramsey share the dual endorsement of Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Rep. George Miller, D-Richmond endorses Hancock. While Ramsey has captured the recommendation of the Service Employees International locals 530 and 790 and a number of other labor unions, Hancock has the endorsement of SEIU local 535.  

Hancock has the endorsement of incumbent Assemblymember Dion Aroner. While she has the endorsement of Richmond Mayor Rosemary Corbin, Ramsey has Richmond councilmembers Tom Butt, Richard Griffin, Gary Bell, Rev. Charles Belcher and Gina Brusatori. 

A spokesperson for Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, who was in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, said the mayor was probably waiting for the Berkeley Democratic Club to make its endorsement, before she made hers. 

Among Ramsey’s long list of endorsers are former Berkeley Mayor/former Alameda County Supervisor Warren Widener and former councilmember Mary Wainwright. 

Former Berkeley councilmember Nancy Skinner, who had considered running for the seat, and Molly O’Shaugnessy are running Hancock’s day-to-day campaign, with San Francisco consultants Staton & Hughes overseeing the effort.  

While Hancock says she’s raising $400,000 and already has $100,000 in the bank, Ramsey says people have donated all the $150,000 he has raised and chides Hancock, saying her war chest has been filled, in part, by personal loans. 

And if Hancock should come out ahead, don’t expect Tom Bates to be her chief of staff. 

“He’ll have no formal role,” Hancock said, noting however, the couple “always shared ideas when I was mayor and he was in the Assembly.”