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Hancock to Vie for Senate Seat

By Judith Scherr
Friday December 22, 2006

With the November 2006 elections recently certified, candidates are already pushing at the gate for 2008. 

State Assemblymember Loni Hancock is a likely candidate for the State Senate seat (probably) to be vacated by Sen. Don Perata. Hancock called a few friends and supporters to alert them of her possible decision before leaving for vacation in India with her spouse, Mayor Tom Bates. 

“Over the course of a few months, many people have urged her to run for the seat,” said Hancock spokesperson Hans Hemann.  

Hancock’s possible run for office, yet to be verified by the candidate herself, has sparked the dawn of an early 2008 election season that carries local ramifications. 

Speculation is that if Hancock, 66, does not head off into the sunset for her retirement, Bates, 68, won’t give up public office either. In November, the mayor won a seat set for a one-time two-year rather than four-year term, designed to align Berkeley’s vote for mayor with presidential elections. 

“The mayor is considering running for another term,” confirmed Bates’ chief-of-staff Cisco de Vries. “He will make that decision down the road.” 

Councilmember Linda Maio said Hancock “called a few of us” and left a message saying she was considering the senate race. “It takes so long for someone to get a foothold [in state office] then it’s over,” Maio said of term limits. “I’m pleased to learn she is considering it.” 

As for Bates’ future, Maio, perhaps his strongest ally on the council, said: “I think he’ll consider running again. They make a great team.”  

Wilma Chan, who on Jan. 1 becomes legislator-in-residence at UC Berkeley’s Center on Politics, has long made it known that she will run for the State Senate seat to be most likely to be vacated by Sen. Don Perata due to term limits. Chan, who already has a web site announcing her candidacy, did not return Daily Planet calls. 

There is some speculation, however, that Perata, pro-tem president of the Senate—under investigation for corruption by a federal grand jury—is maneuvering to change the term-limit law to keep his seat. Perata spokesperson Alicia Trost told the Daily Planet that Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez is working on the question; Nuñez’ office did not confirm that by deadline. 

“He would like to keep his job,” Trost said. 

If Bates looks like he’s in the run for another term as mayor, opponents will likely declare their candidacy early. Asked if she planned another run, 2006 mayoral challenger Zelda Bronstein quipped, “I’m not planning to run for the Assembly.” She added, “I don’t know what I’ll do in two years.” 

And there could be some local rearranging of the council chairs, as Councilmember Darryl Moore may have his sights set on the State Assembly, for which Hancock is termed out. Moore said he’s in the exploratory stage. “I’m gathering people in January,” he said. “I would like the opportunity to run if people think it is a good idea.” 

Asked if it isn’t too early to make the decision, Moore said, “It takes at least two years.” It’s the fundraising that takes time, Moore said, pointing out that Hancock raised $300,000 for her initial assembly race. 

It is widely believed that Nancy Skinner, who just won the seat she was appointed to on the East Bay Regional Parks District, will run for the assembly post. Skinner, close to longtime political allies Hancock, Bates and Rep. Barbara Lee, did not return Daily Planet calls. 

Another person looking at the Assembly race is Richmond City Councilmember Tony Thurmond, just elected by the voters to the council seat to which he had been appointed in July 2005 

“If the truth be told, I’m not going to say no,” Thurmond said, when asked if he were running. “I love public service.” Thurmond is executive director of a non-profit agency serving youth coming out of foster care. 

When asked to confirm the rumor that he is considering a run for the Assembly seat, former Albany Mayor Robert Cheasty would neither confirm nor deny it, underscoring that his focus is on Solano Avenue and the shoreline. 

Former Assemblymember Dion Aroner confirmed that she is not planning a race for the State Senate. In 1998, Perata beat Aroner for the seat, filling the unexpired term of then State Sen. Barbara Lee. “I’m excited about Loni running,” she said, adding, “The senate will be well-served by either of them.”