OAKLAND — Alameda Unified School District Board of Education President Mia Bonta is in a runoff in the 18th Assembly District to succeed her husband, Rob Bonta, who was appointed state attorney general.
The district includes the cities of Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro, all in Alameda County. Rob Bonta, a Democrat, was first elected in December 2012 and served until last April, when he assumed his new post. He was the first Filipino American to serve in the California Legislature.
In the June 29 primary, Mia Bonta received 22,551 votes (38.2 percent) to fellow Democrat and social justice attorney Janani Ramachandran’s 14,030 (23.7 percent). Since no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, the runoff will be held on Aug. 31.
The other candidates included Alameda City Councilmember Malia Vella (D), 10,049 (17.0 percent); electrical engineer Stephen Slauson (R), 5,723 (9.7 percent); San Leandro Vice Mayor Victor Aguilar (D), 3,934 (6.7 percent); James Aguilar (D) of the San Leandro Board of Education, 1,038 (1.8 percent); public health professional Eugene Canson (D), 1,027 (1.7 percent); and retail worker Joel Britton (Independent), 749 (1.3 percent).
Vella was the only Filipino American candidate. Bonta said in an interview, “I am a Black Latina, daughter of activists, and the mother of three Filipino children. I have a strong affinity for, and responsibility for allyship with the Filipino community.”
Ramachandran, the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants from India, serves on the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs. If elected, she would be the first South Asian and first LGBTQ API woman in the State Assembly.
Bonta, who was elected to the school board in 2018, said that if elected one of her priorities will be education and she will use her experience in managing the reopening of public schools in Alameda this year.
She released the following statement from her campaign headquarters in Oakland: “I’m honored and humbled by the outpouring of support from the diverse coalition we built over the course of this primary campaign. While we did not reach the 50 percent threshold tonight, momentum is on our side and I know we are ready to continue reaching out to earn every single vote to win in August. We have the infrastructure and momentum to win this runoff on Aug. 31, and I’m confident that we will do so.
“At a young age, public service became my dream. My parents were activists in their youth, and they would protest outside the halls of power, trying to make their voices heard. But they instilled in me the understanding that in order to truly create change, we had to be inside those halls of power. We had to be sitting there at the table and offering our voice so that people who looked like me and had shared lived experiences would not be ignored.
“I want to thank the entire AD 18 community — thank you to my family, friends, supporters, volunteers, and everyone who got involved in this special election. Our community is one step closer to having a seat at the table. I am ready to get to work.
“The pandemic laid bare the striking inequities in the systems throughout our state. I am ready to take on these inequities in Sacramento. We are going to address the root causes of homelessness through increased funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. We are going to ensure our students have the resources they need to succeed in school regardless of their ZIP code, family life, or immigration status. And, we are finally going to create more affordable housing for both low- and middle-income families so all members of our community can afford to stay in the East Bay.
“I am going to Sacramento to represent all residents of the East Bay and will make myself accessible to YOU. I will lift up this community as it has always lifted me up.
“I am energized and motivated to take on the challenges that lie ahead. Thank you all again for your support. Tonight we celebrate our primary victory, and tomorrow we get back to work!”
Bonta’s endorsers include Sen. Alex Padilla, Reps. Barbara Lee and Jimmy Gomez, Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber, State Treasurer Fiona Ma, Oakland City Councilmember Sheng Thao, California Teachers Association, SEIU California, California Legislative Black Caucus, Oakland NAACP, and Pilipino American Los Angeles Democrats.
Ramachandran said that working as a home-visiting case manager at a community health clinic, serving immigrant mothers experiencing domestic violence and homelessness, motivated her to make a difference as a lawyer.
“I want to thank each and every one of you who believed in me when the odds were stacked against us,” she said in a statement. “Thank you for believing that our grassroots movement for justice is winnable, because fearless progressive change is what our district wants and deserves.
“I entered this race because I was tired of waiting for politicians to make the change we need. We need to make the change we need – starting with a $22/hr living wage, Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, stronger tenant protections, and true criminal justice reform.
“While there are still many votes to count, the early results show voters agree we need a fearless progressive fighting for us in Sacramento, not another corporate Democrat.
“The corporate special interests have already poured nearly a million dollars into this race trying to elect another corporate Democrat. We were dramatically outspent. But voters saw through it. They saw the gambling interests and private health insurance lobby opposed to Medicare for All trying to buy this election – and said ‘No – not this time. Not our district.’
“The outside money will continue to pour in – but we have set the stage for District 18 to lead the fight against corporate money and for the fundamental changes we need. Voters showed they are ready for change – and we are ready to make that change a reality.”
Ramachandran’s endorsers include Rep. Ro Khanna, Assemblymember Alex Lee, former San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim, former Assembly candidates Victor Aguilar and James Aguilar, Equality California, ILWU Northern California District Council, Oakland Tenants Union, Indivisible East Bay, and Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club.