An incumbent assemblymember in California’s East Bay has announced that he won’t seek reelection next year, leaving room for an historic change in leadership. Jennifer Esteen is now running unopposed for Alameda County's 20th Assembly District seat, which has been held by 75-year-old Assemblyman Bill Quirk since 2012. Should Esteen be elected, she would become the first openly gay Black member of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus.
The 41-year-old Esteen’s election would also be historic due to the fact that despite the area being comprised of 33% Asian, 29% Latinx, and 9% African-American residents, the district has only ever had white elected representation.
Esteen is excited about the possibility of changing that. She spoke exclusively with BET saying, “I am proud to be running to represent the communities of AD 20. Not only because I will be the first openly gay, Black, Jewish legislator (in the US) or the first Black representative of AD 20, but also because I will get there and on day one begin to fight for the people of my district over special interests.”
Esteen has earned the endorsement of the major players in the area including endorsements from Black Lives Matter co-founder, Alicia Garza, the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, and numerous other San Francisco Bay area organizations and individuals. In addition to potentially becoming the first ever Black person to serve that district, Esteen would also become the first woman since 1998 to represent the area.
A former psychiatric nurse in the San Francisco General Hospital Psychiatric Emergency Room, Esteen now serves as vice president of organizing for the Service Employees International Union Local 1021. Esteen lives with her wife and children, and says she wants to make sure families such as her own are represented. She said in a statement, “I appreciate Assemblymember Quirk’s decades of public service and his commitment to the people of this district,” but continued, “Months ago when we decided to run this campaign, and challenge a sitting incumbent, it was because we knew our community needs bold new leadership centered from within the community.”
A labor leader by profession, Esteen’s campaign has been a grassroots effort from the time she officially entered the race in August. She has campaigned on the promise that she will serve beholden only to her constituents, who she says have historically been left behind. She wrote, “That’s why from day one, I committed to reject corporate contributions including those from oil and gas companies, police associations, or real estate developers. That way I can truly say the only interests I am bringing with me to Sacramento are those of the people in my district and the people of California.”
Esteen's platform is explained at Jenniferesteen.com.
The primary election will be held in June 2022.