Mia Bonta and Janani Ramachandran
Mia Bonta (left) and Janani Ramachandran. Credit: Courtesy of Mia Bonta and Janani Ramachandran

Updated on September 2: Mia Bonta declared victory with 35,501 of 63,685 ballots counted, or 56% of the vote. Janani Ramachandran received 27,740 votes, or 44%.

Mia Bonta, who took an early lead over Janani Ramachandran in Tuesday’s special election for an East Bay state Assembly seat, declared victory Thursday evening. 

Bonta, president of the Alameda Unified School District Board, received about 56% of the votes. Ramachandran, a social justice attorney, received about 44%.

On Wednesday morning, Bonta’s campaign was not prepared to declare victory but did so after the Alameda County Registrar’s Office posted the latest vote total and it showed she lead Ramachandran by roughly 7,760 votes.

“I am honored and grateful that you have put your trust in me to represent our community in Sacramento,” Bonta said in a statement. 

All registered voters in the 18th Assembly District were sent a mail ballot, and most of the votes tallied since Tuesday were vote-by-mail ballots. The 63,685 ballots tallied, up from 47,163 ballots on election night, represent about 22% of total registered voters in the district.

Bonta and Ramachandran finished first and second, respectively, in the June primary election, triggering a runoff election because no candidate earned more than 50% of the vote. 

The seat was left open when Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Rob Bonta, who is married to Mia Bonta, to the position of state Attorney General. 

“Rob and I chose to build our life here in the East Bay because we knew this community was special,” Mia Bonta said in a statement. “This is a unique pocket of the world where we celebrate our diversity, where we welcome folks of different backgrounds, where folks are free to speak their mind and stand up against injustice. It is that special East Bay spirit that I plan to represent in the Assembly.”

Bonta and Ramachandran, both Democrats, had vied to represent one of the most liberal districts in the state. The district represents 500,000 people who live in Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro.

Bonta, the CEO of the nonprofit Oakland Promise, raised more than $1 million and racked up key endorsements from labor leaders and local, state, and national elected officials, including Congresswoman Barbara Lee and U.S. Senator Alex Padilla.

Ramachandran, a first-time candidate, promoted herself as the “corporate free” candidate and criticized Bonta for accepting donations from special interest groups and large developers. Bonta responded that her opponent lacks the political experience needed to get things done in Sacramento. 

Both candidates support eliminating exclusionary single-family zoning and repealing the Costa-Hawkins Act, which prevents cities from instituting stronger rent control laws. 

Ramachandran opposes the Oakland A’s proposal to build a ballpark, housing, and commercial and office space at Howard Terminal, while Bonta supports the project, saying it could create jobs and benefit the community if done right. 

Ramachandran, an Oakland resident, supports a $22-per-hour minimum wage and wants to extend California’s moratorium on evictions, which is set to expire on Oct. 1. She would be one of only three state legislators who rent their home. 

Bonta, a resident of Alameda, wants to look at whether the state should create additional incentives for more swiftly building affordable housing projects. Bonta also promises to advocate in Sacramento to ensure assistance is provided to residents struggling with unemployment during the pandemic.

David DeBolt reported on City Hall and policing for The Oaklandside. He spent 12 years working for daily newspapers in the Bay Area, including on the Peninsula and Solano County. He joined the Bay Area News Group in 2012 where he covered a variety of beats, most recently as a senior breaking news reporter. During his time at BANG, DeBolt covered Oakland City Hall, the Raiders stadium saga and the A’s search for a new ballpark, as well as the Oakland Police Department and police reform efforts. He was part of the East Bay Times staff honored with the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News for coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.