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California ’22 Election: Black Candidates Running for Statewide Office

There are four Black candidates running for state public office: Shirley Weber, Tony Thurmond, Malia Cohen and Angela Underwood Jacobs.

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There are four Black candidates running for state public office. The three Democrats are: Shirley Weber, incumbent Secretary of State; Tony Thurmond, incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction; Malia Cohen is seeking the state controller position. Angela Underwood Jacobs, a Republican, is vying to be the first Black woman to serve as lieutenant governor of California. Photos courtesy of official web sites of the candidates.
There are four Black candidates running for state public office. The three Democrats are: Shirley Weber, incumbent Secretary of State; Tony Thurmond, incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction; Malia Cohen is seeking the state controller position. Angela Underwood Jacobs, a Republican, is vying to be the first Black woman to serve as lieutenant governor of California. Photos courtesy of official web sites of the candidates.

By Solomon O. Smith | California Black Media

There are four Black candidates running for statewide office in California. Three are contenders to win as they fight it out with their opponents in the final days of the election.

Dr. Shirley Nash Weber (D), the incumbent Secretary of State (SOS), is the front-runner in her race against Robert Bernosky (R). Weber was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in December 2020. She is California’s first Black Secretary of State and only the fifth African American to serve as a state constitutional officer in California’s 170-year history.

Since her appointment, Weber has led successful public information campaigns resulting in more Californians going to the polls. She conducted a tour of state schools and local communities as part of an ongoing initiative by her office. SOS is the third-highest office in California and is responsible for establishing and implementing voting rules as well as the logistics of bringing the vote to a little over 20 million voters.

In Weber’s race, she has a lengthy list of supporters and endorsements including: Gov. Gavin Newsom, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, State Treasurer Fiona Ma, Controller Betty Yee, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, Attorney Gen. Rob Bonta, and Chair of the California State Board of Equalization Malia Cohen. In addition, several newspapers like the Los Angeles Sentinel, the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union Tribune have also endorsed her candidacy.

Her opponent has a bit of a different opinion on the vote, as per his platform which lists “cleaning up” California’s voter rolls as No. 3 on his to-do list. Many claimed that illegal immigrants were scattered throughout the voting rolls of Western states, all of which has been debunked by fact checkers like PolitiFact.

Tony Thurmond, a student of the public education system and a graduate of the foster youth system, is running for a second term as Superintendent for Public Instruction (SPI). Thurmond attributes the lag in the performance of Californian students to insufficient funding, an opinion which the teachers’ unions support.

“I’m honored to be supported by teachers. I’m in a race where I am supported by teachers and my opponent is supported by billionaires,” Thurmond said.

Although Thurmond is a favorite to retain his office, he has gotten some criticisms about how he handled public schools during the pandemic. Those angry about the school closures blame Thurmond and some studies show that children may have been held back academically by the shutdowns, particularly children of color.

Thurmond’s opponent, Lance Christensen, works for a California Policy Center, a right-leaning think tank. Christensen’s push for more control for parents and local communities is in line with Republican policies. SPI is a non-partisan elected position.

Christensen has called out teachers for “indoctrinating” children and has endorsed many right-wing views. “I’m a religious person, I’m a conservative, I don’t make any bones about that,” he said. “I don’t try to excuse it. I don’t hide it.”

Thurmond says that he wants to invest more in education, at least an amount that is commensurate with California’s standing as the fifth-wealthiest economy in the world. His opponent is focused on removing bad teachers and giving parents more control.

Although Thurmond is the favorite and garnered a larger share of the vote during the June primary, Christensen appeals to some parents and his right-leaning language about school choice could make Thurmond’s race more difficult in some conservative areas.

The race for state controller is a bit more complicated. The previous occupant of the position, Betty Yee, a Democrat has termed out of her position. Malia Cohen is the Democratic choice to replace Yee. Cohen has dedicated her career in public service focused on making public dollars work for all Californians, her campaign says.

Her opponent Lanhee Chen (R) is a self-described “conservative in the vein of Mitt Romney.”

In the primary, Cohen placed second, behind Republican Yee, 36.9% to 26.8%. However, the electorate favors Cohen in November. In the electorate, 46.8% of voters are registered Democrats while just 23.9 % of voters are registered Republican. The LA Times refers to this as the only open race this year.

Chen has been an aggressive underdog in the race attacking Cohen on several issues. To date, Cohen has yet to directly debate Chen, who taunted her on Twitter with images of herself, alone, on the debate stage.

Angela Underwood Jacobs is vying to be the first Black woman to serve as Lt. Gov of California. She is a Republican.

Underwood’s experience includes service as deputy mayor of Lancaster where she was the first Black woman on the City Council. Jacobs received 19.9% of the vote in the primaries, a distant second to incumbent Eleni Kounalakis’ 52.7%. Her platform includes many of the conventional Republican issues like smaller government and less regulation, but there are also some differences.

Her brother Dave Patrick Underwood, a federal security officer in Oakland, was shot and killed by a member of a far-right extremist group called the Bugaloo Bois — some members of the organization reportedly participated in the January 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol. Jacobs sued Facebook for promoting and facilitating the activities of these types of groups.

Jacobs’ “Make California Gold Again” motto, is emblematic of her mildly Trumpian platform.

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U.S. Rep. Kamlager-Dove Leads Discussion on Improving Black Student Learning, Test Scores

Kamlager-Dove, who represents a district that covers parts of Los Angeles County, hopes that ideas shared at the event can be incorporated into models that can impact other regions across California, where Black students continue to fall behind their peers of other races and ethnicities.

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Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove (CA-37) moderates a panel including Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education during Roundtable on Equity in Education for Los Angeles Unified School District (R to L) beside Kamlager-Dove Dr. Robert Whitman, Educational Transformation Officer, Los Angeles USD; Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education; Keith Linton, Founder, Boys to Gentlemen, Dr. Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and LAUSD student Jonathan McGee. Photo by Lila Brown (CBM).
Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove (CA-37) moderates a panel including Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education during Roundtable on Equity in Education for Los Angeles Unified School District (R to L) beside Kamlager-Dove Dr. Robert Whitman, Educational Transformation Officer, Los Angeles USD; Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education; Keith Linton, Founder, Boys to Gentlemen, Dr. Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and LAUSD student Jonathan McGee. Photo by Lila Brown (CBM).

By Lila Brown, California Black Media

On April 8, U.S. Congressmember Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-CA-37) moderated a roundtable focused on Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) strategies to improve Black student performance in classrooms.

Kamlager-Dove, who represents a district that covers parts of Los Angeles County, hopes that ideas shared at the event can be incorporated into models that can impact other regions across California, where Black students continue to fall behind their peers of other races and ethnicities.

Discussions at the event centered on LAUSD’s Black Student Achievement Plan (BSAP) and other educational initiatives aimed at enhancing learning and boosting test scores.

“The Black Student Achievement Plan is unique in that it takes a community-centered approach to uplifting Black students,” said Kamlager-Dove during the event held at John Muir Middle School in Los Angeles.

“We must implement culturally responsive education in the classroom to challenge our students academically while giving them a sense of purpose,” she continued.

In 2023, nearly 70% of Black children in California fell below a passing mark on the state standardized English Language Arts exam, and only about 20% of those students were performing at grade level based on their scores on the math assessment test.

A variety of public education experts joined Kamlager on the panel, including Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education; Dr. Robert Whitman, Educational Transformation Officer at LAUSD; Dr. Pedro Noguera, Professor and Dean at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education; and Keith Linton, founder of the non-profit Boys to Gentlemen. 

Jonathan McGee, a student who sits on the BSAP Student Advisory Council, also spoke during the panel.

The BSAP was approved by the LAUSD Board of Education in February of the 2020-21 school year. Funds have been earmarked to address the longstanding disparities in educational outcomes between Black students and their non-Black peers. Dating back to the landmark case, Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared that segregated schools were unconstitutional, positive outcomes for Black students continue to lag behind district and national averages for their non-Black counterparts.

Edogun-Ticey spoke about broader investments the federal government is making in education that directly impact Black students through The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans.

‘This administration did not shy away from the idea that we need resources for support which means billions of dollars in investment for HBCUs,” she explained.

BSAP strategies include partnering with Black families and local community; supporting the implementation of culturally and linguistically responsive and anti-racist practices; offering wrap-around support structures; and highlighting experiences that uplift the contributions of the Black community as motivation and models to develop positive Black student identity. Additionally, the BSAP provides increased staffing to support Black students’ academic and social-emotional needs.

“School districts across the country must push back against attacks on marginalized students by implementing programs like the BSAP, which should serve as a model for future initiatives,” Kamlager said.

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Legislature Advances, Renumbers, Sen. Bradford’s Reparation Freedmen’s Agency Bill

The bill, formerly entitled SB 490, moves on to the Committee on Governmental Organization.  SB 1403 would create a new state agency responsible for the administration and oversight of reparations as determined by the Legislature and Governor. 

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Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) and Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore (right), the chairperson of the task force during its two-year study.
Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) and Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore (right), the chairperson of the task force during its two-year study.

By California Black Media

On April 9, the California Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-1 to advance Sen. Steven Bradford’s reparation legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 1403, or the “California American Freedman Affairs Agency” bill.

The bill, formerly entitled SB 490, moves on to the Committee on Governmental Organization.  SB 1403 would create a new state agency responsible for the administration and oversight of reparations as determined by the Legislature and Governor.

Creation of the agency is one of more than 115  recommendations the nine-member California reparations task force included in its final report. The bill would require the agency to determine how an individual’s status as a descendant of an enslaved person in the United States would be confirmed.

SB 1403 would require proof of an “individual’s descendant status” to be a qualifying criterion for benefits authorized by the state for descendants, as stated in the bill’s language. To reach these goals, SB 1403 would mandate the agency to be comprised of a Genealogy Office and an Office of Legal Affairs.

In 2020, California established the first-in-the-nation task force to study reparations for African Americans.

Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore, the chairperson of the task force during its two-year study, was at the State Capitol to address the members of the Judiciary Committee as an expert witness. The attorney and scholar said the bill aims to serve individuals based on lineage rather than race.

“Today, I advocate with a sense of urgency and purpose for the passage of SB 1403, a groundbreaking bill poised to establish the California American Freedmen’s Agency,” Moore told the panel. “This agency symbolizes a crucial stride towards reparative justice, particularly for those whose lineages trace back to enslaved ancestors.”

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Oakland Post: Week of June 5 – 11, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of June 5 – 11, 2024

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