An East Bay professor and Oakland resident is the latest candidate in what is becoming a crowded race for U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee’s seat in Congress.

Jennifer Tran is a professor at California State University East Bay in Hayward and is running to support working families and end systemic East Bay problems such as, among others, safety.

Tran was born and raised in Oakland, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, and said problems such as safety and homelessness must be solved at the federal level.

“Our communities can’t wait,” Tran said in an interview Thursday. “We are in crisis.” She said East Bay communities need a leader at the federal level with experience on the ground. She said if elected, she will work to ensure residents are safe, supported and have opportunities to flourish.

Tran is up against BART board member Lateefah Simon and three others, including Alameda Vice Mayor Tony Daysog, Denard Ingram, chair of Oakland’s Housing, Residential Rent and Relocation Board, and Tim Sanchez, who has been an entrepreneur, small business owner, active-duty service member and financial services professional.

Five people have so far declared their candidacy for the 12th District congressional seat currently held by Barbara Lee, D-Oakland. Clockwise from upper left are: Denard Ingram, Jennifer Tran, Lateefah Simon, Tim Sanchez, and Tony Daysog. (Courtesy photos)

All of the candidates, including Tran, are running for Lee’s seat as Democrats. Lee, D-Oakland, is running to fill the U.S. Senate seat held by Dianne Feinstein, who has said she will not seek re-election in 2024.

Simon announced her candidacy in February. Ingram said by email that he will launch his campaign June 1.

Simon described herself as a 25-year veteran organizer and as an advocate for civil rights and social justice, saying she will work in Congress for “folks with no voice.”

Somewhat like Simon, Tran said she is someone who has had a career organizing for diverse communities.

What sets her apart is her experience navigating different systems. She understands the power structures and institutions that communities must navigate to solve East Bay problems such as housing and health care as well as safety and homelessness. When asked, Tran said she supports universal health care.

Tran went to public school in Oakland and to Bishop O’Dowd High School. She earned degrees in urban studies and planning and ethnic studies at University of California at San Diego and her doctorate degree from the University of Southern California.

As president of the Oakland Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce, she helped secure money during the pandemic to provide language assistance, mental health support, and culturally sensitive assistance to community members and East Bay small businesses led by immigrants, minorities and women.

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.