Mia Bonta is leading the race to succeed her husband to the state legislature. Until more ballots are counted in the Aug.31 run-off for East Bay’s 18th District Assembly seat Janani Ramachandran, who would be the first queer lawmaker if she wins.
Rob Bonta resigned earlier this year when Gov. Gavin Newsom swore him in as state attorney general. This led to the special election to fill its seat, which includes Alameda, San Leandro and part of Oakland.
Mia Bonta, 49, a black Latina, was seen as the first in the race, with a host of Democratic Party leaders and interest groups lining up to support her and fund her campaign. She easily took first place Tuesday night with 55% of the vote, according to unofficial returns, for a total of 25,712 votes.
Ramachandran, 29, a social justice lawyer who also identifies as a lesbian, received 21,103 votes for 45% of the total ballots counted so far based on preliminary results on Wednesday morning. The Alameda County Registrar of Electors has yet to announce the number of remaining ballots to be counted and will post an update online before 5 p.m. Thursday.
Bonta, president of the Alameda Unified School Board, did not get the more than 50% of the votes she needed to win the seat in the June 29 special election. Ramachandran, a political newcomer, surprised many political insiders by taking second place. and forcing Bonta to participate in the second round of elections this week.
“Are we going to make sure workers are taken care of? Bonta asked the crowd on his election night. “Are we going to make sure that we as people, as people of color, are seen, heard and believed? “
Ramachandran is said to be East Bay’s first LGBTQ state lawmaker. The Oakland resident of South Indian descent is also said to be API’s first female lawmaker and California’s first South Asian MP.
She tapped into a network of family and friends to raise funds and received tremendous support from her progressive colleagues, such as bisexual State Assembly Member Alex Lee (D- San Jose) and Congressman Ro Khanna (D-San Jose). She also garnered support from two unrelated gay men who did not survive the June election: James Aguilar, a member of the San Leandro Unified School District school board, and San Leandro city councilor Victor Aguilar. Jr.
“Running a campaign without a business isn’t easy, but you all made it so much easier with your activism, dedication and willingness to challenge business as usual. So tonight we celebrate you,” Ramachandran tweeted Tuesday night.
The East Bay Times only endorsed Ramachandran, as did the Bay Area Reporter. State-wide LGBTQ rights organization Equality California has endorsed both Ramachandran and Bonta, with one set to become the fifth female member of the Bay Area legislative delegation .
In recent weeks, the state’s quartet of local lawmakers have endorsed Bonta – Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Women in the Assembly Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), Buffy Wicks (D- Oakland) and Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D- Orinda) – representing the districts of North East Bay. Men hold the remainder of the 23 legislative seats that surround the region, from the coastal towns of North Bay in San Francisco and the peninsula in the south to the burgeoning suburbs below San Jose.
Whoever wins is expected to be sworn in and will have to run for a full two-year term next year.
Help the Bay Area Reporter keep going through these trying times. To support local, independent and LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.