His 1999 mayoral challenge to incumbent Willie Brown marked a tectonic shift in local politics, galvanizing the left and leading the way to the district-election victories that brought Aaron Peskin, Matt Gonzalez, Jake McGoldrick, Chris Daly, and Gerardo Sandoval to office in 2000.
It's hard to imagine the San Francisco left without him.
Ammiano will do a fine job in Sacramento, and will continue to use his influence to push the progressive agenda back home.
State Assembly, District 14
This is another tough one. The race to replace Loni Hancock, one of the most progressive and effective legislators in the state, has drawn two solid, experienced, and well-qualified candidates: Berkeley City Council member Kriss Worthington and former council member Nancy Skinner. We like Skinner, and she would make an excellent assemblymember. But all things considered, we're going with Worthington.
Skinner was on the Berkeley council from 1984 to 1992 and was part of a progressive majority in the 1980s that redefined how the left could run a city. That council promoted some of the best tenant protection and rent control laws in history, created some of the best local environmental initiatives, and fought to build affordable housing and fund human services. Skinner was responsible for the first local law in the United States to ban Styrofoam containers a measure that caused McDonald's to change its food-packaging policies nationwide. She went on to found a nonprofit that helps cities establish sustainable environmental policies.
Skinner told us that California has "gutted our commitment to education," and she vowed to look for creative new ways to raise revenue to pay for better schools. She's in touch with the best economic thinkers in Sacramento, has the endorsement of Hancock (and much of the rest of the East Bay Democratic Party establishment), and would hit the ground running in the legislature.
Worthington, Berkeley's only openly gay council member, has been the voice and conscience of the city's progressive community for the past decade. He's also been one of the hardest-working politicians in the city a recent study by a group of UC Berkeley students found that he had written more city council measures than anyone else currently on the council and had won approval for 98 percent of them.
Worthington has been the driving force for a more effective sunshine law in Berkeley, and has been unafraid to challenge the liberal mayor, Tom Bates, and other leading Democrats. His campaign slogan "a Democrat with a backbone" has infuriated some of the party hierarchy with its clear (and intended) implication that a lot of other Democrats lack a spine.
"All of the Democrats in the assembly voted for 50,000 more prison beds," he told us. "We needed a Barbara Lee [who cast Congress' lone vote against George W. Bush's first war resolution] to stand up and say, 'this is wrong and I won't go along.'"
That's one of the things we like best about Worthington: on just about every issue and front, he's willing to push the envelope and demand that other Democrats, even other progressive Democrats, stand up and be counted.