BART Director Lateefah Simon, who has served on BART's board for seven years, has higher political aspirations, and this week she's made it official that she will be running to replace longtime Oakland House Rep. Barbara Lee in 2024.
Three current House members have announced their campaigns to replace Senator Dianne Feinstein in the Senate: Orange County Rep. Katie Porter, Los Angeles-area Rep. Adam Schiff, and Lee. And while one or more of them may decide to drop out and run again as an incumbent for the House, they can't effectively run for both jobs in 2024, which means other candidates are lining up to take their turns in the House. As the Los Angeles Times reported a few weeks ago, Simon was already one of several people being discussed to take Lee's seat.
Feinstein officially announced her retirement plans two weeks ago. Simon waited until a week after Congresswoman Lee made her Senate candidacy official to announce that she will seek election to Lee's seat next year.
Raised by a single mother in San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood and becoming a teen mother herself, Simon says in an announcement she would bring a unique voice to Congress.
"There needs to be a voice of someone who was a teen mom, who has been housing insecure and was in the juvenile justice system," Simon said. She added, "I’ve spent my life fighting for those folks, and I will work to take our shared stories and experiences to the halls of Congress so I can continue our fight. That’s how we make change on a national level. And that’s why I’m running for this seat."
Simon has been active in local politics from a young age, and was personally tapped by then SF District Attorney Kamala Harris to lead an anti-recidivism program for SF youths. Also, at age 26, in 2003, she became a recipient of a MacArthur "genius" grant, while serving as executive director of the Center for Young Women’s Development (CYWD) in San Francisco.
Now a resident of the East Bay, Simon, 46, was elected to represent BART's District 7 in 2016. Early last year she was embroiled in some brouhaha after BART officials suggested she had moved out of her district and was therefore no longer legally allowed to hold her seat — a conflict that highlighted the fact that she was BART's only Black board member, and she claimed she was assured by BART employees that her new home was inside her district. But the conflict was resolved, she held on to her seat, and she had to move again to Emeryville last June to resolve the issue.
She had originally moved from Richmond to a transit-oriented development at MacArthur BART station in order to escape death threats and other harassment relating to her support for police reform.
In her congressional run, as Bay Area News Group reports, she has quickly garnered support from Assemblymember Mia Bonta and state Senator Nancy Skinner, the latter of whom issued a statement saying, "There are few people in this country more qualified to lead on racial justice, women’s issues, and criminal justice reform than Lateefah Simon. I cannot wait to see what she accomplishes for this community, and for all Americans, once she’s in Congress."
Bonta, who had reportedly been considering her own run for Lee's seat, tells the Chronicle she is now endorsing Simon, adding, "I cannot think of a better person than Lateefah Simon to continue the legacy of Barbara Lee and [her predecessor in the House] Ron Dellums."
In addition to work at BART, Simon serves on the board of the Akonadi Foundation, whose mission is to eliminate structural racism through support of social movements, and end the criminalization of Black youth and youth of color in Oakland. And, per the Chronicle, she serves as president of the MeadowFund, "a donor-advised fund started by social justice advocate, film producer and philanthropist Patricia Quillin, the wife of Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings."