Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta announced July 18 that he will be a candidate for the 16th Assembly District next year. The seat is currently held by Sandre Swanson (D-Oakland), who was elected in 2006 and cannot seek reelection because of California's term limits law. To date, three other people — Abel Guillen, Joel B. Young and Kathy Neal — have also announced themselves as candidates for the Democratic nomination in the 16th.
Bonta is a deputy city attorney for the City of San Francisco. He was elected to the Alameda City Council in November, 2010.
Alameda Patch asked him about was he is running, what he feels are the most important issues facing California, and how he would feel about vacating his city council seat if elected to the Assembly. Here are his answers.
You announced your run for the 16th Assembly District seat last week. What motivates you?
On a personal level, my parents taught me the value and responsibility of public service. That is what motivates me in my professional life and in my service as an elected official. From the standpoint of being an advocate for and resident of Alameda, I am discouraged by the harm education, safety net and other cuts have inflicted on our community. That is the key issue on Alamedans’ minds and I feel I have the energy and skills to offer voters next June when they go to select their next Assemblymember.
What issues are most important to you on the state level?
Education and funding for services to our seniors, disabled and those in need of health care. All-cuts budgeting is doing real damage to real people and I believe it is unnecessary. Politicians in Sacramento who claim they are protecting taxpayers are actually harming job growth by inflicting a double whammy on Californians: draconian cuts on investing in people and a failure to fix the structural problems in our budget process. These are the issues that must be addressed and represent the reasons for my candidacy.
Why do you think you can make a difference?
I believe the most effective leaders in Sacramento are the folks who come to the legislature with a lot at stake. As a husband, father of school-age children and homeowner here in Alameda, I have no interest in playing it safe. Parents, retired people and those facing hardships are hurting and they are paying their fair share for these budget deficits. My wife and I feel it personally as well. I believe I can make a difference because I have no choice but to succeed for my children and my community of Alameda.
If you could change one thing about politics, or today’s political climate, what would it be?
I would certainly do more to change the partisan fights between Republicans and Democrats. I am a proud Democrat, but that doesn't mean I can't work with a Republican who understands that there has to be willingness to compromise on both sides if we are really going to ease the burden of this economy on the people of this state.
You were just elected to city council last November. If elected to the Assembly you’ll vacate your seat two years into your term. Some might criticize that. What do you say?
First, I would say that I am not seeking a career in politics, but rather a resolution to the conflicts in Sacramento that make us all so frustrated. I view my candidacy as an offer to voters. I have strong beliefs about what Alameda needs from the legislature and I believe I have the abilities necessary to get things done for Alamedans. The priorities I would have in the Assembly are the same priorities I have demonstrated a commitment to in Alameda: supporting education, protecting working families, defending safety net services, exercising fiscal responsibility, fostering economic development.
Having a champion in Sacramento is critical if Alameda is to make needed progress in these areas. Serving in the Assembly would provide a unique opportunity to deepen and strengthen my commitment to the City and the greater region through representation at the state level. Ultimately, Alamedans get to decide if I am of better use to them as their advocate in Sacramento.
I will maintain my fullest commitment to my City Council responsibilities throughout the campaign, and if another candidate is elected to the Assembly, nothing changes. In the event I am elected, there is no shortage of passionate and qualified leaders here in Alameda who would make very effective council members. I think Alameda is unique in the number and quality of its civic-minded residents.
Anything more you’d like people to know about you and/or your candidacy?
I am excited about talking with voters about the issues. I am also gratified by the early support and encouragement I've received by so many Alamedans, including Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore, Alameda City Council Members Beverly Johnson and Lena Tam, Alameda School Board Members Mike McMahon, Ron Mooney, Margie Sherratt and Niel Tam, and Alameda Hospital Board Members Jordan Battani, Stewart Chen, D.C., Robert Deutsch, M.D., and J. Michael McCormick.