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Women’s endorsements heat up March elections

By Pamela Reynolds Special to the Daily Planet
Wednesday December 19, 2001

OAKLAND – There was standing-room-only Monday night as local candidates campaigned for endorsements from the Political Action Committee of the National Women’s Political Caucus, Alameda North Chapter.  

About 60 people packed a meeting room at the Rockridge branch library to hear candidates give short speeches and respond to questions.  

Chair Lori Durbin said this was the organization’s largest turnout ever, which she attributed to the number of candidates running for office. 

The NWPC Political Action Committee, a nonpartisan group, endorses women candidates only and bases its support on those who value the organization’s key tenets – non-discrimination, a woman’s “right to choose,” economic justice, education, health and wellness, and support for women and children.  

In addition to the published endorsement, chosen candidates also receive funds, training and volunteers to help their campaigns.  

Endorsed candidates are chosen by a vote of all members present at the candidates forum, with a majority of 60 percent needed to win. 

Longtime Berkeley resident Kitty McLean said the endorsement is about more than just money and official support. Word-of-mouth support from the powerfully connected women present can mean a lot to local candidates. 

Even though the NWPC doesn't endorse men anymore, “the men keep coming,” she noted. “At least they can hope we won’t endorse their opponents.” 

Education was the issue of the evening, and nearly every candidate listed it as a 


The evening began with what is perhaps the most important race this election season – the primary for the 14th District State Assembly seat being vacated by term-limited Assemblymember Dion Aroner. (Since the district is overwhelmingly Democrat, the March primary is considered the key election.) 

Candidates Loni Hancock and Dave Brown both spoke to the gathering; attorney and West Contra Costa School Board member Charles Ramsey did not attend.  

It was no surprise that Hancock, longtime local leader and Berkeley mayor from 1986 - 1994, received the endorsement. A founding and current member of the local NWPC chapter, Hancock lost no time highlighting her 15 years in local politics, and pointing out that she’d already worked with a number of people in the room on other issues. 

Hancock stressed the importance of early childhood education and of college counseling to middle and high school students, especially in low-income areas. 

Candidate Dave Brown, the young former chief of staff for Oakland City Councilmember Alice Lai-Bitker, was the underdog of the evening. Brown emphasized his roots in the 14th District, and involvement in Democratic Party campaigns, including Assemblymember Wilma Chan’s supervisoral campaign. He also placed education at the top of his priority list, and said that his experience teaching in Richmond means he knows what works to improve underperforming schools. His highest priority in education is to ensure all students learn to read before they leave elementary school. 

Also featured was the race for the Alameda County Superior Court judgeship being vacated by Judge Judith Ford. G. Judson Scott Jr., Lise Pearlman, Michael Goldstein and Trina Thompson Stanley addressed the gathering Monday night; the endorsement went to Stanley. Voters countywide participate in electing a judge to this post. 

Stanley, presently a juvenile court commissioner, talked of her extensive trial experience, experience as a public defender, and her decision to mentor a local college student every year.  

“With me you get someone who has a great deal of dimension, a lot of diversity, and a very quick study,” she said to resounding applause. 

The contest between Jacki Fox Ruby and incumbent Jerome Wiggins for the Alameda 

County Board of Education, District 1 seat is shaping up to be one of the hotter races of this election. District 1 includes the cities of Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, and Piedmont and portions of Oakland. Though both parties were civil during the event, some mudslinging has already been going on in the campaign literature. No endorsement was made in this race. 

Wiggins, a board member since 1992, stressed his expertise in budgets and economics, his concern over recent deficits and budget problems, and his strengths in collaboration and compromise. 

Ruby, a longtime Berkeley resident and teacher for over 35 years, called for new leadership on the board.  

Also endorsed Monday night were incumbent Sheila Jordan for Alameda County 

Superintendent of Schools, Alice Lai-Bitker for Alameda County Supervisor, District 3, 

Desley Brooks for Oakland City Council District 6 and Susanne Lea for Oakland School 

Board District 4. 

No endorsement was made in the Oakland City Council District 4 race between David 

Stein, Melanie Sweeney-Griffith, Nedir Bey, and Jean Quan. 

Dan Siegel, incumbent for Oakland School Board District 6, addressed the forum as did Danny Wan, unopposed candidate for Oakland City Council District 2.