Following the adoption of new district maps to take into account population changes reflected in the most recent census data, four candidates are campaigning for the open seat representing the redesigned Assembly District 20, which now includes a part of West Dublin and Pleasanton.
With incumbent Bill Quirk not in this year’s race, his seat is expected to be filled by one of four candidates during a term that begins early next year. The candidates consist of three Democrats – Dublin City Councilor Shawn Kumagai, Jennifer Esteen and Liz Ortega – plus Republican Joseph Grcar.
The top two finishers in the June 7 primary, regardless of party, will qualify for a runoff in the November general election.
Quirk, a Democrat who has held the position since being elected in 2012, announced he would not run again last year amid the redistricting process, with candidates announcing their candidacies after new district lines were adopted on 20 december.
The new district maps mean that not only will some voters in Dublin and Pleasanton vote in this year’s race for the Assembly seat centered in Hayward, but also that candidates who live in the new District 20 are eligible to participate in this year’s race.
This is the case of Shawn Kumagai, who was elected to Dublin City Council in 2018.
Kumagai announced his run on January 11, following the adoption of new district maps which saw his Dublin home placed in the new District 20, making him eligible to run for the soon-to-be vacant seat of Quirk.
As a council member, Kumagai has been a supporter and advocate for affordable housing, supporting small businesses, and representing veterans and the LGBTQ+ community as a member of both groups.
“Issues such as fully funding education, the housing affordability crisis, health care and child care, criminal justice reform and helping local businesses recover from the COVID-19, I have worked on these issues as a council member and policy adviser to the California Legislature,” Kumagai said in the Jan. 11 announcement.
Kumagai, the first openly gay member elected to Dublin City Council, would also be the first openly gay member of the District 20 Assembly. As well as representing LGBTQ+ voters, Kumagai has expressed the need to address violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, with increasingly widespread and prominent examples of the problem since the start of the pandemic.
As well as serving on Dublin City Council, Kumagai has been District Manager of Assembly Member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan’s office since 2019.
“I am the only Democrat in the race who was trusted by voters in the district and elected and the only candidate who is proud to be a member of the LGBTQ+ and AAPI communities,” Kumagai said. “And as District Director of Democratic Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, I know how Sacramento works and how to deliver results for East Bay families.”
With the new assembly districts in effect for this year’s election, the next assembly member from District 20 will be elected and will represent small parts of Dublin and Pleasanton that currently sit in Bauer District 16 -Kahan, who represented the entire Tri-Valley. of Sunol before the redistribution. Bauer-Kahan is challenged by Republican Joseph Rubay in this year’s race for District 16, but both candidates will automatically advance to the second round after the primary.
Kumagai’s two Democratic rivals, Esteen and Ortega, are both in the throes of their first bids for public office, with Republican Grcar leading a failed campaign to unseat Quirk in 2018.
Esteen, who lives in Ashland with his wife and children and works as a registered nurse in San Francisco, cites her background in public health and the working class as experiences that would motivate her work in Sacramento if elected.
“As a nurse, working mother and community leader who was once a single mother on the verge of homelessness, I know firsthand that our community does not have the representation it deserves in Sacramento,” Esten said on his campaign page.
“Representation means more to me than just skin color, gender or sexual identity,” said Esteen, who may also be District 20’s first openly LGBTQ+ representative. with me in Sacramento. I am running for Assembly because working families need a champion who can make sure all Californians have what we need to thrive.”
Esteen pointed to her nursing and public health work during the pandemic as motivations for launching a campaign on a platform aimed at addressing long-standing issues that came to light at the start of COVID-19.
“We face so many crises – housing, homelessness, health care, economic stability, climate change, education and more,” Esteen said. “The pandemic hasn’t caused all of these problems, but it has brought to light the challenges our community has faced for decades.”
In addition to her work on the front lines during a tipping point in the public health sector, Esteen cites her background as a labor organizer for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as motivation to “stand up to these special interest groups and lead the fight for big, bold progressive policies that will truly keep our communities safe and healthy. »
Like Esteen, Ortega is also running for public office for the first time and cites her background as a labor organizer as motivation for her candidacy that would serve her and her constituents in Sacramento.
San Leandro resident and statewide political director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union, and treasurer-elect of the Alameda Labor Council, Ortega leads a campaign to increase housing and employment opportunities and address environmental justice issues.
Ortega also cited her background as the daughter of an undocumented mother who came to the United States in search of greener pastures as motivation for her run.
“My family fought to achieve our American Dream through hard work, community support, and the belief that we could have a better life,” Ortega said on his campaign page. “Unfortunately, for many in our communities, this American dream is becoming increasingly out of reach. I am running for the Assembly to level the playing field so that every family has a chance to achieve this dream.”
Grcar, the only Republican candidate, is seeking the Assembly seat for the second time, after his previous efforts to unseat Quirk.
A resident of Castro Valley, Grcar has a background in computational mathematics and energy science, as well as computer science. She serves on the executive committee of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Sierra Club for its Tri-Valley group and is a member of the League of Women Voters of the Eden Area and the Alameda Taxpayers Association, according to VotersEdge.
Grcar’s priorities are to “make the Alameda County GOP even better through county activities and candidate events,” according to VotersEdge, as well as “reform the central committee through proportional district representation based on number of Republican voters in each,” and to “prevent PACs from laundering campaign contributions through the unauthorized use of the county’s party name.”
Although his 2018 run against Quirk fell through, it led to Grcar’s current seat on the Republican Party’s Alameda County Central Committee as an ex-officio member, a status the organization extends to area candidates. who ran for partisan office in the current term.