Nancy Skinner, who represents El Cerrito and Kensington among several other East Bay cities in the state Assembly, is holding an "Iron Chef" contest as a fundraiser for her re-election campaign, in which she is running unopposed.
The event is being held tonight in Berkeley with two pairs of chefs competing in the cook-off, which will be judged by six attendees chosen by raffle. Tickets range from $100 to $2,500. (Details at the bottom of the article.)
Asked why she's raising funds for her re-election campaign if she has no opponents, Skinner said she wants to begin communicating with new constituents who are being added to her district under redistricting and that she also would like to help fellow Democrats retain and gain seats in other Assembly races in the state.
Skinner's current District 14 includes El Cerrito and Kensington, which will remain with her Berkeley-to-Richmond base in the new District 15. The district will see some signficant changes, with its eastern boundaries receding (losing Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda), its northern boundary expanding (up to Hercules) and its southern boundary expanding (pulling in Piedmont and more of Oakland). The new district is 65 percent Democrat and 9 percent Republican.
"I need to communicate with them (constituents in the areas being added to her district)," Skinner said. "Regardless of whether I have an opponent, I think it's important for constituents to know who their representative is."
She said she must use campaign funds to pay for such communication. State funds allocated to her office that can be used to pay for communication with constituents can be used only for constituents in her current district, she said. (The new districts take effect after winners of the November election take office.)
Asked whether she could wait until after the election and then use her office funds to communicate with new constituents, Skinner cited the short two-year term of office for Assemblymembers, saying, "Our time is short – we have only two years. Both my constituents and I can benefit from knowledge about each other in advance so we can hit the ground running."
She also noted that she's co-chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus campaign committee and that the Democrats are seeking two additional seats in the Assembly to attain the 54-seat two-thirds majority needed to pass new revenue measures. She said constituents have expressed strong opposition to cuts in education and to health and human services but that Assembly Republicans have blocked revenue measures needed to avert cuts.
If she can raise enough campaign funds beyond that needed to communicate with future constituents, she would like her campaign to contribute to the campaigns of other Democrats in holding onto or gaining Assembly seats, she said.
This is the second year for Skinner's Iron Chef event.
"It's a light-hearted Iron Chef," said Cynthia Brantly Pierce, a fundraising consultant helping to stage the event for the Nancy Skinnner for Assembly 2012 campaign. "It's really fun. People enjoy it because it is so different from regular political events."
It's being held tonight, March 29, 5:30-7 p.m. at Rocket Restaurant Resource and the new Kitchen on Fire, 2940 7th St., in Berkeley. The competing chefs are Banks White of Hotel Shattuck Plaza with Michael Binder versus Yihshyong "Shy" Leong, formerly of Trader Vic's, and Rich Clemens.
Ticket/donations are $2,500 Executive Chef, $1,000 Chef de Cuisine, $250 Foodie and $100 Friend. Raffle prizes include a bottle of California wine. Those who'd like to RSVP or donate can go to https://secure.actblue.com/page/2012ironchef or call 510-704-1657.