Skinner Joins Crowded East Bay Assembly Race

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday January 29, 2008

It had been commonly believed—at least by Assembly District 14 candidates Richmond Councilmember Tony Thurmond, Berkeley Councilmember Kriss Worthington, and Berkeley resident Dr. Phil Polakoff—that East Bay Parks District member and former Berkeley City Councilmember Nancy Skinner had decided not to run for the Assembly seat now occupied by Loni Hancock. 

“I never announced such a thing,” Skinner told the Planet last week. “I’ve never been out of the race.” 

Skinner said she had been waiting until after the Feb. 5 election to start her campaign. If voters approve Prop. 93, Sen. Don Perata will stay in his present job as state senator and Hancock, hoping to win Perata’s seat if it’s vacant, will run for another term in the Assembly. 

A fundraising e-mail from Skinner to supporters last week said: “I had hoped to wait until the term limit issue is settled to activate my Assembly campaign, but politics, like nature, abhors suspense. So I’m writing to let you know my campaign has begun.” 

Neither Worthington, Polakoff, Thurmond nor Skinner plans to face Hancock if she runs again for the Assembly seat.  

If Prop. 93 fails, Hancock will run against Wilma Chan, a former assemblymember and former county supervisor, for the Senate seat Perata now occupies. 

Skinner is a long-time political ally of Hancock and her husband Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, assemblymember for 20 years before Hancock was elected.  

Skinner, who recently left her job as U.S. director of the Climate Change Group—an organization that works with Fortune 500 businesses and government leadership on climate change issues—told the Planet she will focus on “how do we move to a low carbon economy that would include maximizing jobs and economic opportunity” in the field of greenhouse gas reduction. 

All three other candidates say Skinner is beatable.  

While Skinner’s track record in the environmental movement will stand her in good stead with global warming wary folk, Worthington points out that he has a strong environmental track record, notably in shoreline protection and transportation issues and is past chair of the local Sierra Club. 

He also points to his record supporting labor, gay and women’s rights, racial justice and more. Worthington said he’s not only sponsored progressive legislation such as the city’s Living Wage, Equal Benefits, Zero Waste and Precautionary Principle ordinances, he’s walked picket lines for striking workers and sat in at the governor’s office to support the rights of disabled people. 

“It’s unfortunate that she will split the progressive vote by jumping in at such a late date,” Worthington said. 

Polakoff, who ran for mayor against Hancock, said Worthington and Skinner are too closely tied to Berkeley to win the election. “I’m not pigeon-holed,” he told the Planet. “I can talk to everyone—people in the hills and the flats.” 

Polakoff said he’ll be the choice for folks east of the Berkeley Hills. The 14th Assembly District extends through Lamorinda to parts of Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill. He’s endorsed by former Mayor Shirley Dean, Councilmember Gordon Wozniak and former Sheriff Charles Plummer. 

Polakoff said his activism has been outside the political arena, working on health care policy on the state and local levels and working on neighborhood issues as past president of the Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Association. 

Richmond Councilmember Tony Thurmond says it’s a myth that the 14th Assembly District belongs to someone from Berkeley. 

“If you believe what people say, a Richmond resident cannot win,” Thurmond told the Planet. “But my decision to run is not based on what people think.” He says he can provide the best leadership for the entire district. 

In the Assembly, he would focus particularly on addressing violence reduction. “It’s important in the entire district—in Richmond, Oakland and Berkeley,” he said, noting that he would reestablish the I-80 corridor group to attack the problem among cities from Oakland to Richmond. “No one city can solve the problem alone,” he said. 

Thurmond’s supporters include California State Assemblymember Mervyn M. Dymally from Compton, former Alameda County Supervisor John Knox and SF Mayor Gavin Newsom. 



Candidates’ websites are: www.TonyThurmond.com, www.drphilforassembly.com and www.krissworthington.com. Skinner can be reached at nancyskinner@dslextreme.com.