Officials To Seek Assembly Position

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Even though the election is more than two years away, the list of candidates who hope to fill California state Assemblyperson Dion Aroner's seat continues to grow.

Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean and City Councilmember Linda Maio may face competition from Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, who announced yesterday that he too is considering running for the state Assembly.

"I am very interested in this position," Carson said. "Decisions are made in Sacramento and carried out in the local area. I know where the players are. I am there in Sacramento every week. I am ready to be at the head of the table and make decisions."

Carson also said his connections to Berkeley make him an ideal candidate.

"I was born in Berkeley and went to school in Berkeley and have all the ties," he said.

Carson added that his seven years as county supervisor have given him experience working with education, health care and transportation. He said this experience will help him promote an agenda.

"Transportation, jobs, education and housing all need to be talked about in the same sentence," Carson said. "People move to a place where their jobs are, where their schools are. We need to address these issues in a comprehensive way, not in a compartmental way. These are problems that are bigger than Berkeley and Oakland. They affect regions, and you need not just a localized approach. Those kinds of things happen in Sacramento."

Dean, who will decide in the next few months whether she will be running for the Assembly or for a third term as mayor, said that she was aware of Carson's interest in the race and that she was still looking into it herself, although there were many weighty factors to consider.

"I like working on the city level," Dean said. "I have always said that in my mind the downside in working in Sacramento is the fact that you are somewhat removed from the actual people. I think it is very exciting to be mayor of the city of Berkeley and to have that face-to-face contact. I like having my phone number in the phone book."

Dean added, however, that she has a very strong and detailed agenda of what she would like to accomplish at the state level, including plans for a more interconnected transportation system, more funds for after-school programs for youth and returning money from the state to local government.

"Before I make up my mind I would like to sit down and talk with (Carson)," Dean said. "I think he has done a wonderful job as supervisor and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him."

Carson said he would be willing to talk to Dean as long as they keep their constituents' best interest in mind.

"I work with Dean and Maio on a lot of issues because our county works very closely with the cities," Carson said. "I have good relations with Dean and Maio. We want to make sure that we are not talking about personal interests, but providing for the residents and constituents of the Assembly district."

Maio, a city council member since 1992, has also expressed interest in the Assembly seat.

"I am glad to hear that Keith is interested," Maio said. "There aren't very many people to step into these leadership positions because of term limits. These term limits mean that a lot of good qualified people are being cycled out of office. Dion Aroner has done a wonderful job in office but will have to leave in 2002."

Maio said she supports Carson's making a bid for the Assembly, and although she has not yet made a decision about running herself, she will definitely not serve on the Berkeley City Council for another term.

"The two offices I would be interested in would be Assembly or mayor," Maio said. "I have been asked to run again (for City Council), but at this point in time, I am not inclined to. I think it is important to give other qualified people the opportunity."


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