State Senate, District 7

State Senate, District 7

Top two candidates advance to general election.

Jesse Arreguín (D)32.1%
61,837 votes
Jovanka Beckles (D)17.6%
34,025 votes
Dan Kalb (D)14.9%
28,842 votes

Race called at 5:58 PM PT on March 15, 2024
100% of votes countedAssociated Press
This percentage is an Associated Press estimate of how much of the vote in an election has been counted. It is informed by turnout in recent elections, details on votes cast in advance and – after polls close – early returns. The estimate may fluctuate as election officials report additional results and AP learns more about how many voters have cast a ballot.

Why does this race matter? 

The winner of this hotly contested race will replace termed-out state Sen. Nancy Skinner, whose progressive record on criminal justice and the environment made her a local favorite in this deeply progressive East Bay district. Housing development, public safety, and climate change are key issues for local voters. 

What does a state senator do? 

State senators represent communities at the California Legislature in Sacramento. The 40 members of the state Senate write and vote on state bills, serve on policy committees and vote on the annual state budget. The top two finishers in this primary election, regardless of party, will face off in the November election. The winner will serve a four-year term. 

Key Candidates

This list represents the most notable candidates running for the seat.
Jesse Arreguín
Jesse ArreguínMayor, BerkeleyDemocrat
Dan Kalb
Dan KalbCity Council Member, OaklandDemocrat
Kathryn Lybarger
Kathryn LybargerPresident, California Labor FederationDemocrat
Jovanka Beckles
Jovanka BecklesBoard of Directors, AC Transit Democrat
Sandré Swanson
Sandré SwansonFormer Assembly MemberDemocrat

Key Supporters

This list represents notable organizations and individuals who have taken a position on the ballot measure or candidate, or who are funding campaigns in support or opposition. This list is not exhaustive, and may be updated.

For Arreguín

  • State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO
  • YIMBY Action
  • California Young Democrats
  • Buffy Wicks, state Assembly member 
  • Yesenia Sanchez, sheriff, Alameda County

For Kalb 

  • California Environmental Voters
  • California Legislative Jewish Caucus
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595
  • Sheng Thao, mayor, Oakland
  • Tessa Rudnick, mayor pro tem, El Cerrito

For Lybarger

  • California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
  • American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Local 3299 
  • Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action
  • California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus
  • California Federation of Teachers

For Beckles

  • California Conference Board Amalgamated Transit Union
  • East Bay Democratic Socialists of America
  • Richmond Progressive Alliance
  • Pamela Price, district attorney, Alameda County
  • California Democratic Renters Council

For Swanson

  • California Legislative Black Caucus 
  • Peace Officers Research Association of California PAC
  • Jim Levine, CEO, Montezuma Wetlands LLC
  • California Association of Highway Patrolmen PAC
  • Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce

Positions on Key Issues
Candidate summaries are based on interviews with the candidates, questionnaires, statements made at debates and public events, and past news coverage.

If elected, what policies would you push for in the state Senate to make housing more affordable for East Bay residents?

Arreguín says he would focus on making it easier and faster to build new housing. He points to his track record as Berkeley’s mayor during the city’s biggest housing boom in decades. He says he supports developing more government-owned housing to create affordable options for residents. And he vows to fight for stronger rent control and eviction protections, noting he is the only renter running for this seat.
Kalb says that as an Oakland City Council member, he helped establish one of the country’s longest COVID-related eviction moratoriums. In the state Senate, he says he would continue working to prevent tenant displacement, and would seek reforms to state laws that limit tenant protections. He believes building more housing is essential to ending the state housing crisis.
Lybarger says she would make housing more accessible by raising wages, increasing access to well-paying unionized jobs and bumping up enforcement of labor laws. She wants the state to stop investing in market-rate housing and instead invest in housing owned and managed by the government.
Beckles says she believes the state is investing too heavily in market-rate housing and should instead build more affordable housing. She thinks it’s unrealistic to rely on private developers to take this on, and would instead propose a “multibillion-dollar housing bond” to fund it. Beckles also touts her work on Richmond's strong tenants protection law, and vows to continue to be a vocal tenant advocate.
Swanson says he would push to rebuild redevelopment funds. He says it was a mistake for the state to get rid of the 400-plus local redevelopment agencies in 2011. The agencies’ urban renewal programs have been criticized for their role in displacing communities of color in the Bay Area, but Swanson says those agencies also gave cities the resources to build housing for seniors, people experiencing homelessness and other lower-income residents.

Amid growing concern over retail and property theft, do you think Proposition 47, which lowers penalties for some types of non-violent crimes, should be reformed? What other steps would you push for to reduce property crime in the East Bay?

Arreguín says he supports Newsom’s plan to alter the language of Prop. 47 to allow harsher penalties for ‘professional thieves’ who resell stolen goods. “By pursuing targeted laws and strategies we can address the growing problem of retail theft, without throwing out needed reforms to reduce our prison population and promote rehabilitation,” he says.
Kalb says he would not push for major changes to Prop. 47. Instead, he would invest more in community-focused policing including theft prevention and intervention. He emphasizes the need to fund expanded diversion and rehabilitation programs for people caught stealing, which he says the state has overpromised on and under-delivered. He also supports improving local law enforcement’s ability to catch people who commit these crimes — including asking for investigative assistance from the FBI.
Lybarger says the growing push to change Prop. 47 isn’t based on “real data,” and points to other states with similar laws that haven’t experienced the same uptick in retail theft. She says, “the cost of housing, mental health conditions, and the number of people without a home in California” are the more likely culprits. She notes that Prop. 47 also includes funding for anti-recidivism programs that would be lost if the measure was scrapped.
Beckles says she supports Prop. 47 as is and is “not interested in contributing to right-wing fearmongering about the Bay Area or racialized panics about retail and business closures.” She says she would push for crime-reduction policies focused on root causes of crime. She says that includes increasing social services, raising wages, expanding rent control and reducing employment barriers for people leaving prison.
Swanson says he believes the “provisions in Prop. 47 are feeding our crime wave,” and would work to overturn the law. He says harsh penalties are a deterrent to crime, and argues that when the state passes laws “reducing its penalties or consequences of arrest, criminals use it for the recruitment of the young.

What actions would you take in the Senate to help the East Bay better respond to the increasing risk of flooding, fires and other climate change-related impacts?

Arreguín says he would push the state to update zoning laws, provide grants to homeowners to encourage “home hardening,” and work with insurers to underwrite policies in fire zones. He also says he would advocate for the state to pursue more effective stormwater management strategies in flood zones. He notes that under his leadership, Berkeley adopted home hardening standards to reduce damage caused by potential wildfires.
Kalb says cities should not be developing new buildings along the shoreline at, or below, sea level. He says he would advocate for more nature-based solutions, like the redevelopment of Bay Area wetlands, as an effective way to combat sea-level rise. He would also require California cities to create specific plans for how to address equity in their climate-change response strategies.
Lybarger says she would push the state to create green union jobs and “grow the public sector’s workforce to be able to capably respond to disasters.” She supports the idea of investing in “resilience hubs” — community centers designed to coordinate how resources are distributed before, during and after increasingly common hazardous events like poor air quality or flooding. She says that should go hand in hand with continued efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
Beckles says her political life “has been focused in large part around preventing and reversing policies of environmental racism,” and notes her experience facing off with the Chevron refinery in Richmond. She would push the state to better support fossil fuel workers and work closely with unions as more industries transition to renewable energy.
Swanson says tackling climate change requires a global move away from fossil fuels, while being mindful of employment impacts. He notes that, while in the Assembly, he pushed the state to create more green jobs and training opportunities. To mitigate flood risk in the Bay Area, he would push for the “building of coastal defenses, restoring natural coastal ecosystems, and implementing land-use planning to reduce vulnerability to rising sea levels.”

We’ve seen a dramatic increase in labor strikes in industries like health care and education. What would you do to ensure workers in these essential sectors receive the pay and support they need to be able to live in the East Bay?

Arreguín says he would work to raise the state minimum wage, expand worker protections and increase funding for public education and public sector employees. He notes that when he was on Berkeley City Council, he helped raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to one of the highest in the state ($18.07/hour). He argues the cost of housing in the district is out of reach for most working-class families and says he would push to produce more permanently affordable housing units.
Kalb says he would push to reform Prop. 13’s restrictions on taxing commercial properties — which he calls essential to increasing public school funding, including raising teacher salaries. He also would seek to build more affordable housing for teachers in high-cost districts. He also supports a statewide single-payer health care system, and says, “We must pay our health care workers decent wages and provide good working conditions.”
Lybarger says she will fight to raise essential workers' pay to meet the cost of living, and touts her current efforts to secure a $25/hour minimum wage for all University of California employees. She would push for the development of government housing for public employees and work to expand first-time homeownership opportunities for low-wage workers.
Beckles says she believes strong unions are essential to improving the pay and working conditions of the state’s essential workers. She’s currently a rank-and-file member of the Teamsters Local Union 856 and says she will continue the push to force businesses to provide pay to striking workers, remove strike prohibitions in work contracts and make union organizing easier.
Swanson touts his legislative track record protecting working families. As the former chair of the Assembly’s Labor and Employment Committee, he says he pushed to protect state pensions and supported workers’ collective bargaining rights, and later sponsored a bill to crack down on wage theft. If elected, he would continue to advocate for stronger labor protections.

Last June, a state task force released a historic statewide plan to provide reparations to the Black descendants of enslaved Americans living in California. Where do you stand on that proposal?

Arreguín says he strongly “supports reparations and believes that monetary payments cannot be the only restitution.” He would support the repeal of Prop. 209, which bans the consideration of race in government decisions, push to amend the state constitution to end involuntary servitude in the prison system and eliminate Article 34, which makes it harder to approve the construction of low-income housing.
Kalb says he would likely “support virtually all of the task force recommendations over time.” First and most importantly, he says, the state should do more to educate Californians about the history of racism in this state. He notes that some of the report’s suggestions come with a hefty price tag, and says he would “support identifying those funds (present and future) over the next two to five years.”
Lybarger says figuring out some of the trickier details, “like who should pay for direct cash payments,” means it will take a while to implement reparations. In the meantime, she would focus on ending ongoing harms by banning involuntary servitude in prison, giving Black residents first access to affordable housing in communities where displacement has occurred, and offering free treatment for sickle cell anemia — a disease that disproportionately affects Black Americans.
Beckles says she participated in two focus groups run by the task force, in which she shared her perspective as a Black immigrant (born in Panama City, Panama). She says she has read and supports every element of the proposal, and would push the state to first offer a formal apology to the descendants of enslaved Americans. She thinks the task force’s calculation of reparations payments is likely low and would “support a plan to revise it upwards.”
Swanson says he is a descendant of enslaved Americans. He is still making his way through the task force’s recommendations, but says he would push to make the proposal available in audio formats so it is more accessible for the visually impaired. He says he has “no major objections” to recommendations and is particularly interested in programs that support homeownership and access to health care in California’s Black communities.

Additional Candidates

Jeanne Solnordal
Jeanne SolnordalReal Estate InvestorRepublican. Solnordal previously ran for state Assembly in the 15th District, finishing third out of three candidates in the 2020 primary.

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100% of votes countedAssociated Press
This percentage is an Associated Press estimate of how much of the vote in an election has been counted. It is informed by turnout in recent elections, details on votes cast in advance and – after polls close – early returns. The estimate may fluctuate as election officials report additional results and AP learns more about how many voters have cast a ballot.