By David Mundstock
1. November Beats April (1982).
The April 1981 loss of all four City Council candidates left BCA shocked and comatose, unable to act. Only one person knew what to do in response.
Marty Schiffenbauer personally drafted and collected nearly all the signatures for an Initiative Charter Amendment to move Berkeley’s general municipal election from April to November of even-numbered years, when it would be consolidated with the state general election. This change would increase the turnout of students, tenants, Democrats, and low-income voters, also
minimize Republican influence, giving BCA candidates a major advantage over ABC/BDC. It also shortened the terms of BCA incumbents elected in April 1979 and reduced election costs. The dramatic impact of Marty’s initiative was not well understood by the leadership of either side.
The election date change was approved by the voters in June 1982 with BCA support and relatively mild conservative opposition. In November 1982, this new municipal election date immediately produced the desired results. Gus Newport was re-elected Mayor over Shirley Dean and BCA won 3 of 4 Council seats, coming very close to a sweep. The conservatives only elected one candidate, but that was enough to retain a 5-4 Council majority.
In the November 1984 Presidential election (Mondale vs. Reagan), BCA endorsed Walter Mondale, ran a perfect November slate campaign, and swept ABC/BDC. Two November elections, and BCA candidates held 8 out of 9 City Council seats. The Council majority now consisted of Mayor Gus Newport, plus Councilmembers John Denton, Veronika Fukson, Wesley Hester, Maudelle Shirek, Don Jelinek, Ann Chandler, and Nancy Skinner (a U.C. graduate student who was victorious thirteen years after the first attempts to elect a student had failed.)
2. District Elections (1986)
The new BCA Berkeley City Council majority was not particularly charitable to its opponents. Neighborhood people from the flatlands who were against the Council’s low-income housing projects felt insulted by some BCA Councilmembers. Their anger led to an Initiative Charter Amendment under which eight Councilmembers would be elected by district instead of at large. Their terms were cut from four years to two years. Only the Mayor would continue to run at large for a four-year term. The initiative also established run-off elections whenever the leading candidate failed to receive a majority of all votes cast. (Run-offs had previously been proposed twice before by the conservatives and defeated both times by Berkeley voters. District elections themselves were traditionally seen as progressive, especially in San Francisco, where conservatives opposed them.)
But here district elections became a weapon for BDC/ABC to essentially recall their enemies, BCA Councilmembers who had won because of larger turnout from two November elections in 1982 and 1984.
The 1986 Berkeley District Elections Initiative gerrymandered the campus community into several districts so as to make election of a student highly unlikely. It was a purely partisan measure strongly backed by hill supporters of the conservative coalition, who felt un-represented after two consecutive defeats. In June 1986, only the Berkeley hills voted for district elections. But that was enough for the measure to pass, given low turnout in the campus area and west Berkeley. Student precincts would have defeated district elections, but for the University having switched the academic year from quarters to semesters. So most students were gone when district elections narrowly passed in the June 1986 primary election. The era of slate politics was over and neither side could realistically hope for more than five or six seats.
With district elections, city-wide political organizations, especially BCA, became significantly weaker. Candidates generated their own organizations and campaigns. Yet the two-party system survived. A pair of independent candidates were actually elected, by district, only to later be defeated by party stalwarts running to their left and right, respectively. Loni Hancock returned to Berkeley politics and was elected Mayor in 1986 and 1990 (after a very close run-off including litigation over disputed late absentee ballots). Loni helped BCA maintain a very thin, unstable progressive majority into the 90s. Hoping to create a stronger new coalition, she publicly called for BCA to disband, which the organization refused to do. Instead it slowly melted away over many years. (Republicans were dying off, while the Berkeley Democratic Club survived.)
Councilmembers from both sides became entrenched in favorable districts, leaving relatively few competitive races, and a closely divided, weaker Council. With district Councilmembers now serving four year terms, a Berkeley voter currently makes two Council selections every four years instead of the traditional nine.
Shirley Dean’s election as Mayor in 1994 gave BDC its first majority in eight years. Dean actually lost in November 1994 to her BCA opponent, former Councilmember Don Jelinek. But due to minor candidate vote-splitters on the left fringe, Jelinek failed to receive a majority. Dean then won the December run-off with a much lower turnout. (Best example of why progressives always opposed run-off elections.) Then in 1996, BCA candidate Margaret Breland defeated BDC incumbent Mary Wainwright in Southwest Berkeley (District 2). The resulting nominal 5-4 BCA majority continued to co-exist unhappily with Mayor Dean, who won her own November 1998 race for re-election in a re-match with Don Jelinek.
March 5, 2002 Democratic Primary
Background: This Assembly seat had first been won by Democrat Ken Meade in 1970, defeating the Republican incumbent Don Mulford. Tom Bates, who had been Meade’s campaign manager, was first elected in 1976, when Meade retired. Bates then served for 20 years, and also married Loni Hancock who was twice elected Berkeley’s Mayor. Term limits prevented him from seeking re-election to the Assembly in 1996. Dion Aroner, Bates’ Chief Aide, won a contested primary and was twice re-elected until term limits ended her tenure at 6 years in 2002.
The Candidate: The hunt was on for a strong progressive candidate to follow in the Meade-Bates-Aroner tradition. Well-funded, center right Democrats were expected to run in a district which now included large sections of Contra Costa County. It was anticipated to be a difficult race for anyone from Berkeley. After much behind-the-scenes persuasion, Loni Hancock announced that she would run for the Assembly. Loni was the perfect candidate, having been elected four times to the Berkeley City Council, twice as Mayor, while also serving in the Carter and Clinton administrations. Now Loni, making a second political comeback, would be running for her husband’s former office.
November 5, 2002 General Election
The Campaign: Loni Hancock’s major opponent was Charles Ramsey of Richmond, son of former Berkeley City Councilmember Henry Ramsey. He was supported by most of the Berkeley moderate/conservative coalition, led by Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean. Dean’s backing was prominently featured on Ramsey literature. The Hancock campaign made a strong effort in Contra Costa County, including mailers that featured her endorsement by the Sierra Club and her work with the Department of Education under President Clinton. Loni ‘s experience in government dwarfed Ramsey’s, as even the San Francisco Chronicle noted in its editorial favoring Hancock. The result was a Loni Hancock landslide victory, winning a plurality in Contra Costa County and overwhelming Ramsey in Berkeley plus the other Alameda County portions of the district. With no opponents on the November ballot, Loni’s Democratic Party nomination meant she had won the office her husband Tom Bates held for 20 years.
The Tom Bates Draft: Loni’s victory for Assembly produced an odd result, even for Berkeley. All potential candidates for Mayor, including progressive Councilmembers such as Kriss Worthington and Linda Maio, declared that they would rather have Loni’s husband, former Assemblyman Tom Bates, run for Berkeley Mayor as the strongest progressive candidate against incumbent Shirley Dean. A public draft Bates Movement was then conducted in the media, and through phonecalls plus e-mails to Tom. There was such motivation to defeat Mayor Dean that factionalism on the left gave way to complete unity behind Bates. The only question was whether he would run. An organization was formed, the November Coalition for a New Mayor, with the sole purpose of creating a Bates candidacy. It held a well-attended, boisterous nominating convention on May 4, 2002, at which Tom Bates won 87% of the vote, prior to Tom even arriving and declaring his intentions. After the vote, Tom Bates did appear to announce that he really was running for Mayor of Berkeley, the office formerly held by his wife, Loni Hancock. In 2002, Loni and Tom would each be seeking the position previously held by the other.
The Candidates. Tom Bates, never having lost an election, served in public office from 1972-1996. He was one of the most liberal Democrats in the California State Assembly, but also very successful in passing legislation. Shirley Dean was first elected to the Berkeley City Council in 1975 on the conservative coalition slate. She failed in a November 1982 challenge to Mayor Gus Newport, returning to the Council four years later in 1986 under district elections. Dean then won a low turnout December 1994 run-off for Mayor against progressive former Councilmember Don Jelinek, notable for her smear tactics and the fact that Jelinek had outpolled Dean in November. Dean won a clear majority in a 1998 rematch with Jelinek. Mayor Dean used her power as presiding member to control the agenda and frustrate the progressive Council majority at every turn. (Dean’s tactics became so notorious they were the main target of a city art festival-sponsored satirical, mock City Council, in which actors took over the Council Chambers and ridiculed Berkeley’s elected officials.) Dean may still be best remembered for having posed as Councilmember Worthington’s aunt to try and dig up dirt on Kriss by improperly getting access to his undergraduate college files. Mayor Dean also repeatedly takes credit for proposals from others that she originally opposed and was the most divisive member of the City Council.
Both Tom Bates and Shirley Dean had strong support among their respective political bases. The race was to be won in the Berkeley center, among liberal voters who supported both Bates and Dean in the past, plus the votes cast by new residents and people unfamiliar with the actual differences between the city’s two coalitions. The election was expected to be very close.
Results: Tom Bates was elected Berkeley Mayor in a landslide with 55% of the vote, 22,240 to 17,238. Progressives have been able to defeat Shirley Dean once every 20 years. The last time was November 1982.
November 7, 2006 General Election
Tom Bates was re-elected Mayor with over 62% of the vote. Shirley Dean having declined a rematch, Tom had no conservative opposition. Instead his challenger, Zelda Bronstein, came from the left, over a complicated set of land use issues involving the appropriate level/location of development, height and bulk of buildings, plus a dispute over amending the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
Mayor Bates will serve a two year term, the City Charter having been amended so that races for Mayor will now be held to coincide with Presidential elections, thus maximizing turnout. The next contest for Mayor is going to be in November 2008.
The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce entered the 2006 election fray by trying to defeat the two most progressive Councilmembers, Kriss Worthington and Donna Spring. Worthington faced and defeated a multi-millionaire opponent who broke all records for campaign spending in a district election. In the closest race, Kriss Worthington prevailed by a little over 200 votes. Donna Spring destroyed her Chamber of Commerce challenger, receiving 71% of the vote. After losing, he moved out of Berkeley. All City Council incumbents won re-election in November 2006.
Loni Hancock was overwhelmingly re-elected to her third and final term in the Assembly. Under term limits, she cannot run for the Assembly again in 2008. Loni ran for the open State Senate seat in a contested June 3, 2008 Democratic primary. For more information click on the link immediately below.
June 3, 2008 Democratic Party Primary and November 5, 2008 General Election
June 3, 2008 Democratic Party Primary
On Tuesday, June 3, 2008, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock won nomination for State Senator in the Democratic Party primary. Loni’s opponent was Wilma Chan, former member of the Assembly from a district south of Berkeley. Term limits prevented both of them from remaining in the Assembly. Loni defeated Chan by approximately 10,000 votes. It wasn’t even close, despite huge expenditures against Loni, including Chan smears in mailings and TV ads. An Indian tribe, upset with Loni’s opposition to their urban casino, tried to punish her with more lies, and they failed along with Chan.
As the clear progressive choice, Loni was endorsed by, among others, Representative Barbara Lee, the Sierra Club, the California Teachers Association, the California Nurses Association, and Loni is the officially endorsed candidate of the California Democratic Party. The San Francisco Chronicle even endorsed Loni. Former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, representing what remains of the conservative coalition, made robot phone calls supporting Chan. Loni still carried nearly every single Berkeley precinct.
Loni’s Assembly work in the areas of education, health care, and the environment now will continue in the State Senate, since her primary victory equates to election; there being too few Republicans capable of mounting any challenge in November 2008. Under term limits, Loni can run only once for re-election, in 2012.
Nancy Skinner for Assembly
The second contested Democratic primary on June 3, 2008 completed a comeback for Nancy Skinner, elected to the Berkeley City Council as its first student and first environmentalist back in 1984. See Page 4 of this site. After a lengthy retirement from local politics, in which she played a national and international role organizing against global warming, Nancy had resisted efforts to run for numerous offices. She was appointed to a vacancy on the East Bay Regional Parks Board, later winning that seat in the November 2006 election. With an endorsement from Loni and her own impressive qualifications, Nancy Skinner defeated three opponents by wide margins to win the Democratic nomination for Assembly as Loni’s successor. Again, nomination equates to election. Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner will be able to twice run for re-election, serving a total of three terms, six years under term limits now in effect.
This is the Assembly seat first won by Ken Meade in November 1970, defeating conservative Republican Incumbent Don Mulford. Tom Bates then served in the Assembly for twenty years, from 1976 to 1996, before being forced out by the term limits initiative. Six years then followed for Assemblywomen Dion Aroner and Loni Hancock. Nancy Skinner becomes the fifth progressive Democrat in a row to represent the Assembly district that includes Berkeley.
November 5, 2008 General Election
As Barak Obama swept Berkeley and the nation, the Race for Mayor was an altered re-run of six years earlier, Tom Bates, this time the incumbent, vs. challenger Shirley Dean, making her fifth try for Mayor.
Bates had defeated Dean with 55% of the vote back in November 2002, and been re-elected in November 2006 with 62%, carrying every precinct against a neighborhood-oriented candidate running to his left. That was for a two-year term, as subsequent elections for Mayor, starting with this one, would now be consolidated with the race for President rather than Governor.
By 2008 Tom Bates still faced opposition on his left over land use and planning issues, primarily the density and height of larger buildings which Bates tended to support. He was often accused of voting just like Shirley Dean during her terms as Mayor, far too pro-developer. However, environmental groups such as the Sierra Club were proponents of “Smart Growth” in cities like Berkeley, new, dense, buildings in the central core, close to public transit. The Bates approach was viewed by “Smart Growth” proponents as a desirable alternative to urban sprawl.
Shirley Dean now offered herself as the neighborhood candidate who opposed greater density, appealing to many Bates opponents on his left, while also seeking support in her traditional moderate-conservative Berkeley hills base.
It was not a case of them trading places, since Tom Bates retained much of his liberal/progressive/environmentalist/Democratic Party support plus momentum from the June victories of his wife Loni Hancock for State Senate and Nancy Skinner for Assembly. Mayor Bates had also enlarged his base into former Dean territory.
On election day Dean carried only five of the most conservative hill precincts, losing everywhere else. Bates received 61% of the vote, nearly identical to his victory in 2006 against an unknown candidate, and 6% above the mark he achieved defeating Mayor Dean in 2002. Tom Bates remained unbeaten as a candidate, and with a new four year term would become Berkeley’s longest serving Mayor of the modern era. Dean fell to 2 wins and 3 losses in her races for Mayor dating back to 1982.
A re-written Landmarks Preservation Ordinance passed by Mayor Bates and his Council majority, challenged by preservationists as pro-developer in a referendum, was on the ballot: Measure LL. It went down to defeat, a victory for opponents of the City Council’s land use policies.
There was a similar result in City Council District 4. Long time progressive Councilmember Dona Spring, who fought hard for every cause she believed in, while confined to a wheelchair, died in office on July 13, 2008 at the age of 55. Once a leader in the 2002 effort at drafting Tom Bates to run for Mayor against Dean, Spring had become the most vocal anti-Bates Councilmember over land use and many other issues.
The remaining two years of Dona Spring’s District 4 term became a contest over whether someone closer to her positions or to those of Mayor Bates would be elected. The winner, Jesse Arreguin, had pledged to continue in the Dona Spring tradition, and was supported by most of Spring’s closest allies, especially District 7 Councilmember Kriss Worthington. Arreguin also was helped by the appearance of something I never expected to see again, a Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA) election day slate doorhanger, just for District 4, supporting Jesse Arreguin .
November 2, 2010 General Election
Nancy Skinner, elected in 2008, joined the California Assembly, and with her long record of work on behalf of the environment, became Chair of the Natural Resources Committee.
She was no ordinary freshman, part of Assembly leadership from the beginning of her term, introducing legislation on behalf of conservation and alternative energy. Also named Rookie of the Year.
Easily re-elected in 2010, she now becomes Chair of the more powerful Assembly Rules Committee and part of the Assembly Speaker’s official leadership team.
YES ON 25 MAJORITY RULE
State Senator Loni Hancock was an original sponsor of legislation that became Proposition 25, allowing passage of the state budget by majority vote, rather than 2/3, which had given Republicans veto power. Its passage was a vital first step towards solving California’s serious budget problems.
Back at the Berkeley City Council, relations between the Council majority, led by Mayor Tom Bates, usually six or seven votes strong, had completely broken down with the minority of two, Kriss Worthington and his ally Jesse Arreguin. The main issue once again was land use, especially a much disputed Downtown Plan.
The Council majority adopted a Downtown Plan which the minority felt called for excessive density and height, lacking provisions for affordable housing, while really serving developers.
Worthington and Arreguin backed a successful referendum which gathered enough signatures to block the Mayor’s Downtown Plan, causing it to be repealed. (A new allegation was harassment of referendum petition circulators by Council majority supporters.)
This was the second successful referendum by Council majority opponents, after repulsing pro-developer amendments to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (Measure LL) in November 2008.
In 2010 the Council majority reacted by attempting to defeat Kriss Worthington in District 7, which covers much of the south campus area, (the main event), and Jesse Arreguin in District 4, downtown and central Berkeley. Kriss and Jesse worked as a team, sharing the same campaign office.
Kriss was first elected in 1996, a 14-year progressive Council veteran, who spent his initial six years battling Mayor Shirley Dean. Kriss was a strong supporter of Tom Bates in 2002, when Tom defeated Dean in a classic progressive vs. conservative showdown. Kriss and Tom worked closely together for a period that failed to last. By 2006, neither endorsed the other for re-election, part of a widening gap over land use issues.
Jesse Arreguin, youngest Councilmember, had been elected in 2008 to fill out the last two years of the late Donna Spring’s term. Like Donna, Jesse became part of the 2-vote Council minority. He was now running for re-election to a full 4-year term.
Mayor Bates and five other Councilmembers generally loyal to Tom endorsed Worthington’s leading opponent George Beier, who was making his third try at beating Kriss. Beier’s main advantage was personal wealth, allowing him to greatly outspend Worthington. Beier was also endorsed by former Mayor Shirley Dean, a long-time enemy of Worthington .
I note that Max Anderson, a City Councilmember who votes with both sides, depending on the issue, supported Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin.
On the night of November 2, it became clear that Kriss Worthington would defeat Beier by a greater margin than four years earlier, over 600 votes.
Ranked choice voting, also known as instant run-offs, was being used for the first time. Voters could cast ballots for their second and third (or more) choices, which would all be counted, the person in last place dropped, until a candidate won with over 50% of the vote.
That might have mattered, as Worthington hovered so near a majority, perhaps eventually reaching it without need for second choice votes from ballots cast for write-ins. Yet it was that second round, 8 more votes for Kriss, which had been wasted upon write-ins as a first choice, officially putting him over the top, sparing Worthington any risk of a run-off against Beier.
It was important that run-off elections were eliminated in Berkeley, real progress, because lower, more conservative turnout in run-offs always made them less democratic.
Jesse Arreguin won an even more convincing victory, a first ballot majority exceeding 1,000 votes, despite also being outspent by his leading opponent.
Mayor Tom Bates lost in both of these district Council races, but passed Downtown Plan Measure R, primarily an advisory measure to the Council. “R” backed the Mayor’s ideas for an environmentally friendly pattern of development, but contained provisions which caused Worthington and Arreguin to oppose it.
Measure R won with an overwhelming 64% of the vote, and allies of Mayor Bates were also easily re-elected in
two Council districts, victory for all incumbents. Both
the Council majority and minority could feel vindicated by this mixture of wins and losses.
Sierra Club endorsements seemed pivotal, in a city like Berkeley which is so environmentally friendly. Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguin, and Measure R all prominently displayed their Sierra Club backing. This was a bit odd for Yes on “R” mailings funded by developers.
Yet to be determined is whether the two Council factions, which used to be allied, can work together on a mutually acceptable Downtown Plan.
Both sides label themselves as “progressive”, although Worthington and Arreguin insist they are the “real progressives”. Opponents call them NIMBYs, a pejorative term for people whose view of development is Not In My Back Yard.
Meanwhile little remains of the old conservative coalition that always backed Shirley Dean in her first four races for Mayor, two of those successful. Dean’s contradictory, clumsy, and unsuccessful efforts at appealing to the Worthington/Arreguin constituency ended up with Mayor Bates inheriting most of her former supporters by default.
June 2012 Election
California State Senate and the Sandre Swanson Problem
Since 1970 there has been an informal Berkeley-Oakland progressive alliance/coalition first centered upon the two offices won that year, Congress and the Berkeley/Oakland Assembly District, plus organizational and individual supporters. (Detractors called it “the Dellums Machine”). In reality neither Congressman Dellums nor anyone else controlled how people behaved in this Coalition.
Initial electoral goals were obvious: defeating Republicans and conservative Democrats, picking up additional offices over the years. That was followed by general unity on behalf of a progressive agenda, plus making new allies beyond Berkeley and Oakland.
For 20 years (1976-1996) Assemblyman Tom Bates was one coalition pillar, along with Congressman Dellums, who served from 1971 until resigning in 1997. His logical protege and successor, State Senator Barbara Lee, won and replaced Dellums.
Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA) and the people it elected, especially Loni Hancock, winning as Councilmember in 1971 and 1975, later Mayor in 1986 and 1990, were a key part of this coalition for decades on the Berkeley side. The marriage of Loni Hancock and Tom Bates was an event that went beyond coalition politics.
Term limits, a conservative state initiative, passed, and had a severe effect upon members of the California State Assembly and State Senate. Tom Bates was termed out, followed for six years by his chief of staff, Dion Aroner. (1996-2002). After she was termed out, Loni Hancock served in the Assembly, 2002-2008. Loni, termed out for the Assembly, was then elected to the State Senate in 2008, and her re-election in 2012 was considered routine, after which she would be termed out yet again.
Sandre Swanson was a “lifer” for 30 years in the Ron Dellums/Barbara Lee Congressional office, rising to District Director and Chief of Staff. After being defeated for elective office more than once, he finally won the Assembly district south of Berkeley in 2006. Sandre, termed out in 2012, did the unthinkable: declaring his candidacy against Loni Hancock for her State Senate seat.
Among Loni supporters in Berkeley, this suggested that Sandre Swanson had lost his mind. One essential element of coalition politics was for progressives not to run against each other, something Sandre ought to have learned long ago. We were disgusted with him. (No incumbent within the coalition had ever been challenged by another coalition person until Sandre’s candidacy.)
Both locally and among California Democratic Party leaders, it became a priority to achieve Swanson’s withdrawal. Democrats were successfully aiming at vulnerable Republicans in the Legislature, and did not want any money wasted on an avoidable fight between Loni and Swanson. (Another idiotic state initiative had abolished party primaries, so this wasteful race would be conducted in both June and November, making things even worse.) And Loni was nearly certain to win, with rock solid Democratic Party support plus personal popularity, one more reason for Swanson to quit.
So negotiations were conducted over what ransom Sandre Swanson wanted to receive in exchange for his withdrawal. Turned out that Swanson settled for Loni’s endorsement in 2016, when he could run for an open State Senate seat. That deal became public, Swanson dropped out, and Loni was easily re-elected. Sandre Swanson ended up with a job as Deputy Mayor of Oakland, appointed by Mayor Jean Quan. So he’s not unemployed while waiting for 2016.
The only “loser” was Loni’s successor in the Assembly, Nancy Skinner, her obvious successor for the State Senate as well. Nancy will be termed out in 2014 after her 2012 re-election. Even without an endorsement from Loni she expected and deserved, Nancy Skinner may run for the State Senate in 2016 against Sandre Swanson and others. (This happened previously for State Senate as an open seat, two coalition people splitting the progressive vote, and thus electing Don Perata, the most conservative candidate.)
A term limits revision has passed, allowing newly elected members of the California Legislature to spend more time in either the Assembly or State Senate. This reduced threat of being termed out might eliminate the new Assembly members replacing both Sandre Swanson and Nancy Skinner from running for the State Senate in 2016.
It should be noted that against Loni, many supporters of the Berkeley City Council minority would likely have embraced Sandre Swanson. They stand outside the traditional coalition, opposing not just Mayor Tom Bates and his council allies, but also rejecting both Loni Hancock and Nancy Skinner for their connections to the Mayor. What I still consider to be a civil war was fought on many fronts in November 2012.
November 6, 2012 General Election
Races for Mayor, City Council, and Contested Ballot Measures
The Berkeley City Council Majority and Minority clashed once again, each side scoring victories and absorbing defeats. There were no fundamental changes, with the Council Majority, led by Major Tom Bates, still in control. Small efforts at reconciliation between these former progressive allies failed once again.
When Mayor Tom Bates, having already served for 10 years, announced his candidacy for another 4-year term, it first appeared he would not have any serious opponents.
Then Councilmember Kriss Worthington, leader of the Council minority, entered the race, opposing the Mayor, his Council allies, and two Council majority ballot measures.
Jacquelyn McCormick, active in the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association, was another relevant candidate, whose extensive critique of Mayor Bates differed little from that put forward by Kriss. They both charged Tom with having sold out to developers on land use issues.
With ranked choice voting, (instant run-off), applied in the Mayor’s race, Worthington and McCormick were not vote splitters. If Bates failed to receive a majority on the first ballot, second and third choice selections could, in theory, produce a winner among his opponents. (This happened in Oakland, where candidates opposing Don Perata for Mayor, strongly urged supporters to use their remaining choices for others who were part of an “Anyone But Perata” group. The result was Jean Quan elected Mayor, despite Perata being ahead, with less than a majority, on the first ballot. The response from Perata allies was a failed attempt to repeal Oakland’s ranked choice voting.)
In Berkeley campaign literature, McCormick and Worthington declined to mutually endorse each other as second choices, but an election day Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA) door hanger had Kriss Worthington, followed by McCormick, ranked first and second. BCA, long a supporter of Tom Bates, Loni Hancock (a BCA founder), and Nancy Skinner, became the Council minority’s organization in 2012 without a fight, after many years of being nearly comatose. In 2012 BCA refused to support Loni and Nancy because of their connections to Tom, as reflected in many pro-Council majority endorsements from both of them. The Council minority had a Community Campaign Office, with literature and activity supporting all opponents of the Council majority.
The main event at every level was still land use. Berkeley’s infill development, also known as “smart growth”, retained support from some environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, which viewed this as a desirable alternative to urban sprawl into pristine areas.
Large new buildings, retail at street level, residential for the next several stories, were being constructed in commercial zones under Mayor Bates at a more rapid pace than previously, popping up everywhere. There were also a series of office buildings, two of them named for Berkeley heroes in environmental protection and disability rights. Several of these structures featured advanced conservation measures to make them “green”.
It seemed that city planning staff and the Council majority, plus its appointees, approved nearly anything, despite strong neighborhood opposition that many such developments were massively intrusive upon nearby residential areas with adverse impacts such as traffic increases. Opponents also claimed lip service was being given to affordable housing. The Council minority generally voted with opponents of such development, an ever-growing source of new converts to their side.
The Sierra Club had already endorsed Mayor Bates for re-election before Kriss Worthington became a candidate against him. Another Sierra Club endorsement went to District 5’s Laurie Capitelli, a strong Bates ally with a serious challenger. The Green Party, having virtually no influence compared to the Sierra Club, supported all Council minority candidates. Official Democratic Party endorsements were reserved for the Council majority, whose base of operations was, among other things, the Berkeley Obama for President Office.
The irony of Berkeley Citizens Action rejecting Bates, Hancock, and Skinner was mirrored by a similar reversal at the Berkeley Democratic Club (BDC). BDC was for decades the base of moderate to conservative establishment Democrats, representing the hills, who opposed BCA candidates and measures, such as rent control. It had always supported Shirley Dean, helping elect her to the Council in 1975 and 1979, then backing Dean for Mayor in 1982 (a loss), her district elections return to the Council (1986, 1990), then her two victories for Mayor (1994 & 1998); finally the last traditional showdown of progressives vs. the conservative coalition, BDC endorsing Dean for a third term as Mayor in 2002, when Tom Bates defeated her. That is Eight BDC endorsements for Dean.
Established patterns were were about to change dramatically. BDC had already endorsed Tom Bates many times for the Assembly, where he was always the Democratic Party candidate. In 2006 opponents of Mayor Bates on land use issues formed a new, short lived organization, which nominated a weak candidate who ran against Tom to his left. That year both the Berkeley Democratic Club and Berkeley Citizens Action endorsed Tom for re-election, a unique outcome not to be repeated. Bates was easily re-elected Mayor for a 2-year term in 2006, so that future mayorality elections would subsequently take place concurrent with Presidential elections and their greater turnout.
More than any other single factor, I believe it was Shirley Dean’s erratic behavior, when she tried running for Mayor to the left and right of Tom Bates in 2008, that altered perceptions at the Berkeley Democratic Club. I find no record of the BDC endorsing anyone for Mayor in that election, which would have been the first time Dean failed to receive their support. And she lost badly to Tom Bates, worse than in 2002, also losing much of her former constituency.
Concurrently, supporters of the Council minority successfully prevented Berkeley Citizens Action from endorsing Tom Bates for re-election in 2008, the first time that had ever happened.
By November 2012 re-allignment was complete, and polarization between former allies from 2002 at maximum. The Council minority controlled BCA, while BDC supported all Council majority candidates and ballot measure positions.
Results: Tom Bates 28,635 (54%)
Kriss Worthington 11,507 (22%)
Jacquelyn McCormick 6,011 (11%)
(minor candidates excluded)
Mayor Bates won re-election on the first ballot with an absolute majority, so ranked choice voting played no part. Tom’s percentage of the vote was little changed from his 55% in defeating Dean a decade earlier. A detailed precinct analysis, which I did not perform, would show that Kriss Worthington made inroads among voters in precincts where Tom Bates used to run strongest, before there was a Council majority and minority. But Tom also picked up an equivalent percentage of support from elsewhere, while maintaining much of his original base.
Both the Council majority and minority attempted to defeat opponents in several districts. They failed, with repercussions that are uncertain.
In the most contested race, a District 5 a re-match, Laurie Capitelli, a realtor, who always votes with Tom Bates and the Council majority, again defeated Sophie Hahn, this time by a 700 vote margin. District 5 earlier belonged to Shirley Dean, and dominated by the hills,
it’s record of voting for the more conservative candidate remained unblemished.
The Council minority’s lack of viable organization was further displayed by having no strong opponent to Darryl Moore in District 6, covering west and southwest Berkeley. Moore, another Council majority loyalist, won with nearly 59% of the vote against two challengers.
Most interesting to me was District 3, home to Councilmember Max Anderson, whose independence was unique. Normally part of the Council majority, Anderson would also vote with the minority, depending upon each specific issue. He had endorsed Kriss Worthington for re-election in 2010, when every other member of the Council majority supported one or more rival candidates defeated by Kriss.
In November 2012 Max Anderson was targeted for elimination by the Council majority, due to his crime of being independent. Anderson’s opponent, Dmitri Belser, was endorsed by Mayor Bates, Councilmembers Capitelli, Wozniak, and Wengraf, plus the Berkeley Democratic Club. Two other members of the Council majority may have remained neutral. It appeared to me that Belser’s essential argument for votes was greater loyalty to the Council majority than Max Anderson’s record.
Anderson was still walking a tightrope between the two sides, endorsing both Tom Bates and Kriss Worthington for Mayor. But it was the Council minority that embraced Anderson and distributed BCA doorhangers for a ticket of Worthington and Anderson. District 3 was not fertile ground for the Council Majority in 2012, it having repeatedly elected BCA’s anchor of the left, Maudelle Shirek.
Max Anderson defeated Belser, totaling over 60%, a margin of victory exceeding 1,000 votes. What remains to be seen is whether Max Anderson responds to his Council majority opponents by openly joining the Council minority, which would then increase to three votes. (Councilmembers have switched sides in the past for lesser reasons.) Time will tell.
It can once again safely be said that no district election incumbents lost, this time in 2012.
The Council placed three measures on the November ballot that generated the most contoversy.
MEASURE S (Making Sitting On the Sidewalk a Crime)
Many Berkeley merchants, especially those downtown and on Telegraph Avenue, believe that street people (homeless people) sitting/lying/panhandling on the sidewalks discourage customers from shopping in Berkeley. This was nothing new. A comparable Council measure, passed by the voters in November 1994, and most associated with Shirley Dean, had banned panhandling. Endorsers then included Tom Bates and Loni Hancock. It never went into effect after court challenges.
Now the Council majority, supported by Mayor Tom Bates and State Senator Loni Hancock, tried a new measure to discourage street people from sitting and lying on sidewalks by making this behavior criminal. It was supposed to promote treatment for violators. (Measure S may have been what caused Kriss Worthington to run for Mayor, opposing it).
The “Yes on S” campaign produced several mailers, greatly outspending opponents. But unlike the 1994 result, “S” was defeated.
MEASURE T (West Berkeley Development)
Measure T renewed a decades-long debate over how/whether West Berkeley should be intensely developed, rather than left under current land use plans. This was the Council Majority’s opening salvo into changing the existing West Berkeley Plan and Zoning Ordinance in favor of far greater new development than presently allowed.
It applied to a limited number of sites, whose owners financed a campaign of “Yes” mailers. Opponents, existing West Berkeley residents, including artists, and small manufacturers/business people, could not compete by spending money.
Yet Measure T was beaten by a small margin, rejection of Council Majority plans for new West Berkeley development. It was perhaps the most significicant defeat the Council majority suffered in November 2012.
MEASURE R (Reapportionment)
District elections came to Berkeley in a successful June 1986 Initiative Charter Amendment, Measure C. The initiative locked in eight council districts, whole lines were explicitly drawn as part of Measure C. After a new census every ten years, district lines could only be changed to equalize population, preserving the basic formation of each district. That had been the status quo ever since.
Back in 1986 Measure C included punishment for U.C. student support of BCA candidates and progressive ballot measures over the prior decade. This was done by gerrymandering the areas where students lived into about five separate districts. The anti-student gerrymander was so obvious that Measure C lost heavily in the campus community. But the Academic Calendar, recently changed from quarters to semesters, meant that most students were gone by election day in June 1986. Had there been a normal student vote, district elections would certainly have lost. Instead Measure C managed to pass, due to strong anti-BCA sentiment in the hills, a backlash against BCA “at large” victories in November 1982 and November 1984.
Thus divided by Measure C’s gerrymander, it had proven impossible to elect a student to the City Council in either of the two districts where it was tried, most recently in District 8. Councilmembers from District 7, which had the largest student constituency, such as Carla Woodworth and now Kriss Worthington, tried their best to represent students, Kriss appointing more students to boards and commissions than anyone else, perhaps more than all members of the Council majority put together.
After the 2010 census there were student demands for a City Council district of their own.
The Council seemed receptive, deferring reapportionment and placing Measure R on the ballot as a Charter Amendment. Councilmembers did not wish to appear anti-student.
Measure R gutted all of the eight district lines established by Measure C back in June 1986.
Instead the City Council, under Measure R, would have virtually unlimited power to draw new district lines of their choice, by adoption of an ordinance. Although Measure R never mentioned students, it had the benefit of a presumption that a student district would be created. The City Council majority strongly supported “R”, while the 2-member Council minority was essentially silent, and/or nominally in favor.
Measure R’s opponents argued that it provided the Council with new, dangerous powers over reapportionment that the majority would use for its own political purposes to create future gerrymanders. The anti-R grouping included original backers of Measure C from 1986, former Mayor Shirley Dean, and supporters of the Council minority, likely targets of any gerrymander. BCA doorhangers slated No On “R” “S” & “T”. But Measure R appeared on the ballot as a good-government measure, passing easily.
Depending upon districts yet to be adopted by the City Council, Measure R may prove to be a game changer in 2014, when both members of the Council minority, Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin will be up for re-election in these new districts.
Much Ado About Districts, Part 1
Following the 2010 census, the City Council had to draw new district lines for eight of the nine seats. (Only the mayor is elected at large.) Under Measure R, this subject was deferred from 2012 for political reasons, primarily creation of a “Student District”.
After more than 25 years, there were student demands to reverse the original June 1986 Measure C gerrymander, which split the student community into at least four districts. Back in 1986 this was conservative punishment for student support of progressive Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA) council candidates over many elections.
Now Measure R opened up re-districting for multiple, conflicting agendas in 2014, centered upon lines for a proper “Student District”.
The Council majority intended to use its power under Measure R against the Council minority. Mayor Bates wished new “Student District” lines for District 7 that would result in defeating his former ally, now worst enemy, Kriss Worthington, leader of the Council minority.
From the ASUC Student Senate came a new set of lines for District 7, intended to create a “Student District”. These lines were immediately attacked as yet another gerrymander, including all the sororities and fraternities, but not the more liberal northside Co-ops. The Co-ops were angered by their exclusion from an alleged “Student District”. The result was a political and legal war.
Other lines were offered that created a “Student District” including the Co-ops. But the Council majority preferred the Student Senate lines, adopted by a 6-3 vote on December 17, 2013. (By this time Councilmember Max Anderson had joined the Council minority, after being unsuccessfully targeted for defeat in 2012 by Mayor Tom Bates.) Third member of the Council minority, Jesse Arreguin, was running unopposed in 2014.
The new District 7 lines reached out to where Kriss Worthington lived, as required by Measure R, but otherwise excluded much of the former District 7. These lines were viewed as intolerable by opponents of the Council majority.
The Council minority’s predictable response was a referendum against the ordinance establishing the new district lines. It qualified for the ballot, raising the question of which ballot, June or November of 2014. The Council minority was relying upon Section 93 of the Berkeley City Charter, which specified that a successful referendum caused the targeted ordinance to “be suspended from going into operation”. The Council minority thought its referendum could force November use of the old lines, same ballot on which the Council majority lines would be voted up or down.
Berkeley City Clerk Mark Numainville, with City Manager support, provided the Council with the only two proper options at its February 25, 2014 meeting: either repeal the challenged district lines ordinance or place it on the June 3, 2014 statewide primary ballot. (Berkeley City Charter Section 93.) The Council did neither.
What the Council minority still desired at this time was consideration of alternative lines for a “Student District”. Slight interest in changing the lines from Councilmember Linda Maio was enough for the Council minority to postpone the item, a motion that carried. Thus no votes were taken on the City Clerk’s options. Nor were alternative lines ever seriously considered by the Council majority. The deadline for placing this referendum on the June 3, 2014 ballot passed, leaving it to the November 4 ballot as the only remaining choice.
Unexpected consequences from Council majority/minority choices and multiple Berkeley City Charter violations by the City Attorney will be covered later in this history. But carrying the item over to March 11 cannot be blamed on the Council majority.
June 3, 2014
The Assembly: Echols vs. Thurmond
What was now the 15th Assembly District had been in the hands of a Berkeley-Oakland progressive coalition ever since Ken Meade defeated a Republican incumbent back in 1970. This seat was subsequently held by Tom Bates, Dion Aroner, Loni Hancock and Nancy Skinner. Term limits knocked out everyone after Ken Meade.
Although each new census added more of Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, it was still considered “our seat” by Berkeley-Oakland progressives, some of whom, like me, had supported every Assemblymember from Ken Meade to Nancy Skinner.
Elizabeth Echols, a senior advisor to President Obama on clean energy, was the candidate intended to hold this seat for Berkeley-Oakland. She had never run for public office before.
Her only relevant opponent was Tony Thurmond, a former Richmond City Councilmember with impressive Contra Costa County endorsements. Thurmond lost a prior Democratic Party primary for this Assembly seat, but was back for another try.
A successful California “Top Two” initiative eliminated party primaries as we had known them. Under “Top Two” the pair of candidates finishing first and second moved on to the November election, regardless of party. Receiving a majority of all votes cast in June still meant “Top Two” on the November ballot.
The result here was obvious, Echols and Thurmond having their real contest on the November 2014 ballot. Echols won a solid plurality in June with very low turnout.
The vote was:
Elizabeth Echols 21,664 (31%)
Tony Thurmond 16,963 (24%)
Note that the Berkeley City Council minority (Worthington, Arreguin, Anderson) and most of their voters supported Thurmond, believing that Echols would make endorsements favoring the City Council majority, which was solidly on her side. Otherwise geography was a very important factor, Echols having this June lead from winning Alameda County.
November 4, 2014 General Election
Much Ado About Districts, Part 2
City Council meetings on February 25 and then March 11, 2014 mentioned a lawsuit over redistricting at the latter meeting. It would ultimately both violate the Berkeley City Charter and nullify the Council minority’s intent to use the old district lines for November.
The Council minority felt secure that its referendum prevented the Council majority’s new district lines from being applied for the November election. The new lines included a “student district” for District 7, intended by Mayor Tom Bates to defeat Kriss Worthington, his enemy. A large number of redistricting alternatives were presented to the Council, several from George Beier, who had previously lost to Kriss Worthington.
But the Council majority already had adopted the lines it wanted for November. People with different lines were ignored.
Kriss Worthington best represented Council minority views on this subject when he asked a “rhetorical” question about who would ever sue the City of Berkeley over the referendum compelling use of the old districts. To his surprise Mayor Bates loudly answered “I would.”
Kriss Worthington appeared shocked. The March 11 motion to place the referendum on the November 4 ballot was amended by Mayor Bates and his Council majority to include a future Executive Session, passing 6-3. The Council minority was opposed to an Executive Session, because that’s how the Council, meeting privately with the City Attorney and a few other staff, makes decisions regarding lawsuits. But there was nothing wrong about the motion itself. The Council then adjourned.
Regardless of what some people think, that Executive Session Never Took Place.
This is all on videotape for February 25 and March 11, 2014 Council meetings at:
With the video, you need to find where the referendum is on each agenda and then jump to those discussions.
The City of Berkeley’s Illegal Lawsuit
Berkeley City Charter Section 113, Conduct of Legal Proceedings, states:
“… the Council shall have control of all litigation of the City and may employ other attorneys to take charge of any litigation or to assist the City Attorney therein.”
Despite the Council not authorizing any lawsuit against the referendum and its supporters, City Attorney Zach Cowan nevertheless ignored both the Charter and the Municipal Code to file the lawsuit he had been planning for some time.
And Cohan had already hired an outside law firm, without City Council approval, another violation of City Charter Section 113. The chosen firm was Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, leading specialists in California election law. They seemed to have already drafted everything needed to win, working under an illegal contract dated January 30, 2014. One later contract for $30,000 with that firm, dated February 26, 2014, includes a totally false justification: “Legal Advice re Redistricting Ordinance adopted by Council Feb. 25, 2014”. (The prior contract is attached.)
Of course that redistricting ordinance had been adopted in December 2013, leading to the referendum. Council took no referendum action of any kind on February 25, 2014, putting the entire matter over to March 11. All contracts between the City of Berkeley and Remcho, Johansen & Purcell violated the City Charter. But with the City Attorney’s blessing, the City Manager, Auditor and others in city staff went along with such lawless activity.
The City of Berkeley’s contract with Remcho, Johansen & Purcell was later amended on April 24, 2014 to add another $110,000 for a total of $140,000. This contract not only violated Berkeley City Charter Section 113, but the amount exceeded a clear $50,000 limit under Municipal Code Section 7.18.010A: “expenditures [contracts] … which exceed the amount of $50,000 shall require Council approval.” I do not believe any such required approval ever took place, more lawlessness.
A source for documents from links, which I have relied upon, is at: http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2014-10-24/article/42627
Otherwise I do not support many of the opinions expressed in that article.
The City Attorney’s chosen law firm sued official sponsors of the referendum on April 3, 2014, making defendants in court out of people exercising their First Amendment Constitutional rights to petition the government for a redress of grievances. This had never happened before in Berkeley, although it was standard procedure for Remcho, Johansen & Purcell.
The firm’s late founder, Joe Remcho, had done this successfully decades earlier. The claim then and now was that old district lines failed to comply with latest census data, a denial of Constitutional rights to people in under-represented districts. The old Berkeley district lines were based on the 2000 census, while the Council majority’s new lines utilized the 2010 census. It would prove to be a winning argument.
I believe it is inherently unfair when the City of Berkeley, with unlimited resources to hire the best law firm, sues citizens and forces them into court at a tremendous disadvantage. All three members of the Council minority became defendants, but they were no better off than other ordinary citizen sponsors of the referendum against Council majority district lines. They lacked attorneys, although the Council minority really needed legal help much earlier, when planning their strategy against the new district lines. Now they were all in trouble and had no unified strategy.
To eliminate inherent unfairness, plaintiffs should have been Berkeley voters, making the case that old district lines discriminated against them. Then the City of Berkeley would have defended its referendum provisions under Charter Section 93, which called for use of the old district lines. I admit this “fairer” scenario is pure fantasy on my part. But note that only in this political case was the City of Berkeley a plaintiff. In all other such cases the City has been the defendant, far as I can recall.
(The City is plaintiff in a lawsuit to prevent sale of the main Post Office, but with 9-0 Council support, it’s unrelated to contesed Berkeley politics in my opinion. You can be sure this case, with an outside attorney, was conducted as specified in Charter Section 113.
While totally illegal under the Berkeley City Charter and Municipal Code, the city’s anti-referendum lawsuit made a valid argument on the merits. The California Supreme Court, with Rose Bird as Chief Justice, held decades ago that the need for fair and equal districts took precedence over a referendum. (Assembly v. Deukmejian, 30 Cal. 3d 638 (1982). Chief Justice Bird wrote:
“Maintaining the old election districts for the upcoming election would raise troubling questions about the future of reapportionment in our state. It would create a serious risk that every reapportionment plan would be delayed at least two years before it could be implemented.”
One lead attorney winning that 1982 case, for Democrats against a Republican referendum, was Joe Remcho, as in Remcho, Johansen & Purcell.
Among Berkeley referendum defendants only Kriss Worthington went into debt hiring a law firm. Jesse Arreguin chose to represent himself, while most of the other referendum sponsors did little or nothing, far as I know.
To demonstrate how bad things were, I believe it was the law firm hired by Councilman Worthington who wrote an April 4, 2014 letter to the City Attorney which mistakenly accepted fiction that the City Council had voted to hire outside counsel for filing the lawsuit on March 11, 2014. Such imagination led to claims in the letter that the Brown Act (public meeting/agenda requirements) had been violated. Yet the Council had done nothing of the sort regarding outside counsel and a lawsuit, other than call for an Executive Session never held.
I want to again refute one popular fiction: The Berkeley City Council never authorized either hiring an outside law firm or filing a lawsuit. Lack of action cannot be a violation of the Brown Act. It was the Berkeley City Charter and Municipal Code that were violated by the City Attorney.
In Alameda County Superior Court, the matter was decided by a judge who ruled for the City of Berkeley that the City Council’s new district lines must be used for the November 4 election. That was the law, as established by former California Chief Justice Rose Bird, later deprived of her position by conservative Republicans who denied Bird confirmation .
The Referendum, now virtually meaningless, became ballot measure “S”, in which the Council Majority’s lines were approved by the voters. Although not in court, I believe that at least Councilman Arreguin tried to raise the fundamental illegality of this lawsuit, perhaps supported by the attorney for Councilman Worthington. But the judge had no interest in that subject, preferring to rule on the merits of old districts vs. new districts.
So Kriss Worthington would have to seek re-election with the District 7 lines Mayor Bates thought would finally beat him. The Council minority’s referendum was futile. It would all be up to voters in the new District 7, referred to as the “Student District”.
One aspect of Berkeley politics always means placing blame on someone for undesirable results. I believe Mayor Bates was correctly informed early on by an attorney, not necessarily the City Attorney, that no referendum would prevent the Council majority’s district lines from being used on November 4. There is little doubt that Mayor Bates communicated to the Council minority how they were wasting time on the referendum, since a judge would order use the Council majority’s lines. So the only real surprise was how the lawsuit would be conducted.
The Council minority ignored both the Bates warning and an opportunity to place the referendum on the June 2014 ballot, which was their best option on February 25, as indicated by the City Clerk. The Council minority’s lack of legal counsel at all times, until it was too late, left them at a disadvantage. After the Mayor’s warning, the Council minority needed a lawyer, who might have informed them that no referendum on the November ballot was likely to prevent use of the Council majority’s new district lines. There were better choices for the Council minority, such as an initiative or referendum for the June ballot.
It’s reasonable to also blame the Council majority for doing nothing. This provided the City Attorney with a clear path to violating both the City Charter and the Berkeley Municipal Code.
Mayor Bates attached an Executive Session to the motion that carried on March 11, 2014. He should have insisted upon holding that Executive Session. Then 5 or 6 Council majority votes would have provided legal authority for the lawsuit and the outside firm. While lack of 5 votes, highly unlikely, killed the lawsuit. But that would have been legally proper either way. Instead Mayor Bates ignored his own amendment to the March 11, 2014 motion that announced/required a future Executive Session. I do not know his reasons and can only speculate.
Many City Attorneys, not just Zach Cowan, are experts at manipulating the Berkeley City Council. It’s a very sad part of Berkeley political history that I have written about at length. The Council majority must be blamed for hiring Zach, on a 7-2 vote, when a far more qualified, professional city attorney was rejected without even being interviewed. The City Council’s failure to exercise its powers under the Berkeley City Charter, instead deferring to staff, is a continuing problem.
Now it appears that the Council majority trusts Zach, even when he’s totally wrong.
With no attorney on the City Council for many years, this has been an opportunity for abuse by both the current City Attorney and his predecessor.
It’s impossible to establish whether Mayor Bates or anyone else on the Council majority side knew that the City Attorney was violating the Berkeley City Charter and Municipal Code. Zach Cohan must have said that an Executive Session was unnecessary. If believed by Mayor Bates and the Council majority, it suggests they either lacked copies of the City Charter or never were aware of Charter Section 113. So they share a portion of blame with the City Attorney.
It really was City Attorney Zach Cohan who had the most to lose at an Executive Session called by Mayor Bates. Cohan had already violated City Charter Section 113 by hiring the outside firm without required Council approval. An Executive Session might have exposed illegal contracts with Remcho, Johansen & Purcell. So I believe the City Attorney wanted no possible Council interference with the plans he had already set in motion. And he succeeded; with no Executive Session held.
District 7: The “Student District”
No student candidate ran in District 7, an irony considering all the efforts both for and against the new district’s configuration.
Instead Mayor Bates and his Council majority endorsed Sean Barry, a former student, as their hope to finally defeat Kriss Worthington.
The Worthington campaign was run by students, presenting him as the Councilmember who had always been representing students, appointing many of them to boards and commissions.
When the votes were counted Kriss Worthington had won again with low turnout:
Kriss Worthington 832 (55%)
Sean Barry 662 (44%)
This was the last try for Mayor Bates to defeat Kriss Worthington, a final failure. Now Councilman Worthington would serve four more years, until 2018, while Mayor Bates intended to retire in 2016. The Council minority had successfully defended its most endangered member.
Ranked Choice Voting
November 4, 2014
District 8, my district, offered the greatest potential for unexpected consequences, with new lines, four candidates, and ranked choice voting (instant run-off).
Ranked choice voting, relevant here for the first time in Berkeley, meant we could vote for three candidates in each voter’s chosen order of preference. As the last place candidate is eliminated, those votes are transferred to the voter’s second choice, then if necessary the third choice. This done until one candidate wins with a majority, the certain result after only two candidates remain
So I was able to choose between:
George, defeated multiple times by Kriss Worthington in District 7, now lived in the new District 8. The district had moved, not George. Student precincts that rarely mattered in conservative District 8 had been replaced by a large number of former District 7 precincts. The people there were more liberal and did vote.
For George this meant he already had a strong base of supporters and opponents from the precincts switched out of District 7 to District 8. And the new District 8 was no longer a sure bet for any Council majority candidate. But George was not running this time as the Council majority’s choice, unlike in prior losses against Kriss Worthington. George had offended the Council majority, especially Mayor Bates, with his alternative redistricting lines, and was now basically an independent.
His voter handbook endorsements still included Susan Wengraf and Daryl Moore from the Council majority, also Assemblymember Nancy Skinner. Of course multiple endorsements could and would be made in District 8.
Lori told me her goal was to bring the Council majority and minority closer
together, a difficult task. She had connections with both sides, appointed to at least one commission by Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, a 100% Council majority loyalist.
Sexual orientation is usually irrelevant in Berkeley, such as in prior District 7 elections with Kriss Worthington vs. George Beier, both of whom are gay. However, Kriss Worthington, as the first openly gay man elected to the Berkeley City Council, had to notice favorably that Lori Droste would be the Council’s first lesbian. Her literature prominently included a family portrait of two moms and a pair of young children. (Worthington made no District 8 endorsement.)
Lori’s sincerity about her desire to bring “a fresh perspective” to the Council won her the Democratic Party endorsement, and support from Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, also Councilmembers Capitelli and Linda Maio from the Council majority. Yet Capitelli, Maio and Skinner were actually undercutting the real Council majority candidate: Mike Alvarez Cohen.
Mike Alvarez Cohen
In the old District 8, dominated by hill precincts, it was easy for a retiring incumbent to successfully anoint his or her chosen successor. Hoping to do that again, Gordon Wozniak, after 12 years representing District 8, made Mike Alvarez Cohen his only endorsement. Same for Mayor Bates, Alvarez Cohen also his single District 8 choice. But District 8 had changed with inclusion of so many precincts from the former District 7.
There was no question that Alvarez Cohen ran as the Council majority candidate. (He also was endorsed by Councilmember Capitelli, for him a double endorsement that included Lori Droste.)
Council majority supporters would vote for Alvarez Cohen as their first choice.
A prior loser, for Mayor in 2012 and in 2010 for District 8 (finishing third), McCormick ran as the “left” candidate, endorsed by Jesse Arreguin and Max Anderson of the Council minority. The latest reincarnation of former conservative coalition Mayor Shirley Dean, defeated by Tom Bates in 2002, also endorsed McCormick. Dean no longer had much of a following.
The first choice of Council minority supporters would be McCormick. It was also a consensus of election analysts that she would finish last, her votes distributed to the remaining three candidates under ranked choice voting.
It was a clean campaign, literature I received stayed positive from all four candidates. None of them suggested anyone else for second choice votes.
First Ballot Results
Lori Droste 1,318 (29%)
George Beier 1,198 (26.5%)
Mike Alvarez Cohen 1,165 (26%)
Jacquelyn McCormick 837 (18.5%)
McCormick was eliminated, her second choice votes primarily going to Lori Droste and George Beier with ranked choice voting, less to Alvarez Cohen.
Second Ballot Results
Lori Droste 1,614 (37%)
George Beier 1,473 (34%)
Mike Alvarez Cohen 1,300 (29%)
With Alvarez Cohen remaining in third place, he was eliminated, transferable votes carried over to Lori Droste and George Beier. Councilmember Wozniak and Mayor Bates would not elect their chosen Council majority District 8 candidate.
Uncounted Absentee Votes
At this point comes the inevitable California problem of a million or so absentee ballots statewide not yet tallied, many dropped off at polling places, others received in election day mail. They get counted over several days, often changing results or leaving them uncertain.
In District 8 George Beier became the new leader, receiving 125 more votes from Alvarez Cohen than Droste. Beier’s margin over Lori Droste was reduced each day from absentees until she regained first place. Final results elected Lori Droste by only 16 votes. George Beier conceded without requesting a recount. Speculation was that George felt Lori deserved victory after defeating him on the first ballot.
Third and Final Ballot Results
Lori Droste 2,072 (50.19%)
George Beier 2,056 (49.81%)
I have included all this detail in hope of making ranked choice voting more
understandable. It’s a great improvement over runoff elections with smaller
turnout. I commend the entire Berkeley City Council for having instituted this
vital reform. (Had ranked choice voting been used in 1994, Don Jelinek would likely have defeated Shirley Dean for Mayor, greatly changing Berkeley political history. Instead there was a low turnout runoff election that elect Dean.)
The Tax on Distribution of Sugar Sweetened Beverages
This really was Berkeley at its best, passing the first tax on un-healthy sugar sweetened beverages. The Council was unanimous in favor of Measure D.
The beverage industry probably broke all prior records with its massive campaign expenditures urging a “No” vote. But their money was wasted, Measure B winning by 29,500 Yes to 9,243 No.
Berkeley, when united, can still set precedents which the rest of the nation will hopefully follow. Already this victory was mentioned on the PBS Newshour.
Measure R – Downtown Rezoning
Measure R was the Council minority’s first attempt at an initiative. It resulted from Councilman Jesse Arreguin of the minority reaching a deadlock with Mayor Tom Bates over proper zoning requirements which new downtown buildings, especially large and dense developments, would have to meet. Previously Arreguin and Bates seemed to have reached agreement, with Jesse making a serious effort two yearsago at reconciliation. But now it was war again.
Both sides claimed that they wanted energy efficient (green) buildings with money provided for low income housing. Measure R mandated stricter requirements in these areas, also lower heights for new downtown buildings.
Measure R supporters had little money to spend in favor of the initiative. Besides the Council majority, Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, was opposed, signing the ballot argument against Measure R. Developers poured in funds for a huge “No on R” campaign that was highly successful. Measure R went down:
Yes: 9,345, No: 26,726.
The Assembly: Echols vs. Thurmond
This 15th District race between a pair of Democrats, (under Top Two), would be won by Echols, if she had a large majority in Alameda County. Thurmond, from Richmond in Contra Costa County, needed to win big there.
The mail I received generally reflected a positive campaign by both Echols and Thurmond. Mailings for Thurmond were better designed and greater in number than mail from Echols.
Echols charged Thurmond with being backed by corporate special interests, including Big Oil and Frackers plus Big Tobacco, spending $350,000 to elect Thurmond. Much of Thurmond’s literature did come from “the Alliance for California’s Tomorrow, a California Business Coalition” based in Sacramento. So the Echols claim seemed accurate. Mailings from this big business group gave Thurmond a strong advantage he lacked in the June primary, when Echols came in first.
It wasn’t very close, as Thurmond won with a large Contra Costa County majority, also narrowly ahead in both Berkeley and Alameda County:
Elizabeth Echols Tony Thurmond Alameda County 38,299 (49.5%) 39,031 (50.5%) Contra Costa County 17,772 (39%) 27,630 (61%) Totals 56,071 (45.7%) 66,661 (54.3%)
Tony Thurmond took this Assembly seat away from the progressive Berkeley-Oakland coalition that held it from 1970-2014.
Summing Up 2014
Thurmond’s win was a huge victory for the Berkeley City Council minority.
Already new Assemblyman Tony Thurmond will be featured at a fundraiser for
Jesse Arreguin. The Council minority hopes for endorsements from Thurmond in 2016.
Back in Berkeley the Council minority again failed to defeat a Council majority incumbent, Linda Maio re-elected in District 1. So the Council minority makes no gain beyond its three votes.
Not for a long time will it be clear whether Lori Droste votes primarily with the
Council majority, the minority, or is more independently minded. This uncertainty also applies to her board and commission appointments. Lori is sending out a very informative District 8 Newsletter.
On December 16, 2014 the City Council winners were inaugurated, but not in the usual way. The oath of office was taken with Kriss Worthington standing next to his life partner and Lori Droste with her family, an unprecedented gay/lesbian statement.
JUNE 2016 ELECTION
Nancy Skinner vs. Sandre Swanson
State Senate: Round 1
This no longer could be called a primary, since ballots cast on June 7, 2016 would decide nothing. “Top Two” meant disposal of minor candidates, while former Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner and Sandre Swanson, a pair of Democrats, would contest the real election on November 8, 2016. A more detailed discussion of the term limits and Top Two situation from 2012 is above under June 2012 Election.
Sandre Swanson was “termed out” in 2012 after six years in the Assembly; Nancy Skinner similarly termed out in 2014. Skinner was the first U.C. student elected to the Berkeley City Council way back in 1984. She received the most votes of any candidate in a Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA) sweep, the last election to have slates. Skinner later won re-election in District 1 before retiring in 1992.
Nancy Skinner’s major comeback was in 2008, replacing Loni Hancock in the Assembly. Now with Loni termed out of the State Senate after two terms, Skinner intended to replace her again. Skinner had the strongest credentials as an environmentalist of any candidate to emerge from Berkeley. She had been holding fundraisers for this State Senate race starting with her last Assembly campaign in 2012. One of her many advantages would be the ability to greatly outspend Sandre Swanson.
Swanson benefited from Representative Barbara Lee’s strong support, and that of other black elected officials such as Assemblyman Tony Thurmond. He also had State Senator Loni Hancock’s endorsement, achieved in 2012, the price paid for Swanson not running against her. (also discussed on Page 8, the above link.) The Berkeley City Council minority supported Swanson because of Nancy Skinner’s connections to Tom Bates, Loni Hancock and the Council majority, including her pro-Council majority endorsements.
The June 7, 2016 results were hardly a surprise:
Nancy Skinner 116,710 (48%)
Sandre Swanson 74,365 (30%)
Nancy Skinner would remain the heavy favorite moving on to November.
Democratic Presidential Primary
Bernie Sanders v. Hillary Clinton
This one did count, in terms of delegates to the Democratic National Convention. There was a great deal of enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders in the campus area and other progressive neighborhoods. Bernie would have done a great deal better, but for the semester over on election day, and a much lower student vote.
Hillary Clinton did best in the hills, a very old Berkeley election pattern, the hills more conservative/moderate than the city as a whole.
Berkeley results were:
Bernie Sanders 22,993 (54%)
Hillary Clinton 19,120 (45%)
November 8, 2016
(The Times They Are a-Changin’)
Berkeley City Council
By now it had become obvious to many Berkeley voters that there was little difference between the Council majority, Council majority appointees, city staff, and developers. The number of large, market rate new buildings had spread in commercial zones all over the city. In the wake of these approvals, an ever growing number of neighborhood opponents and landmark preservationists felt their views were totally ignored by the Council majority.
Parking lots continued to disappear, choice building sites which made them an endangered species. Lack of parking downtown would have created a negative impression in the hills. Rental housing, tenants gone, could be seen boarded up; to be replaced by more market rate massive buildings. This threat to rent control was a worry for tenants
Otherwise the Council majority was still in complete control, with 6 out of 9 votes. Newly elected Councilmember Lori Droste from District 8 became a loyal Council majority vote, little different from her predecessor, Gordon Wozniak.
The Council minority remained at 3 votes, Councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguin, and Max Anderson; far from the 5 votes they needed for control.
That Tom Bates was retiring in 2016 after serving as Mayor since 2002, a longevity record, was the only certainty. Loni Hancock, also retiring from the State Senate, meant the end of an era during which this couple had been elected to multiple offices, beginning in the 1970s.
It was never a secret that Laurie Capitelli, a realtor and District 5 Councilmember, would be the Council majority’s candidate for Mayor. He had been extremely loyal to Mayor Bates, and could count upon support from the entire Council majority and its allies, including State Senator Loni Hancock and Nancy Skinner, running for State Senate.
Whether Berkeley would elect a realtor as Mayor was unknown. But District 5 now became an open seat, Capitelli vacating it to run for Mayor.
After 8 years on the City Council representing District 4, part of the Council minority, Jesse Arreguin believed 2016 was his time to step forward, defeat Capitelli, and (hopefully) create enough progressive momentum in other districts so there would be a new Council majority.
Jesse Arreguin made it clear that if elected he would not represent developers, in contrast to the current Council majority. He also supported building more affordable housing. Youth might be against him, Arreguin being only 32. If elected there would be a vacancy in District 4, requiring a special election to fill it.
Kriss Worthington was the senior member and leader of the Council minority. First elected in 1996 from District 7, he had 20 years of Council experience. Worthington fought then Mayor Shirley Dean over her deference to developers and other issues; supported Tom Bates who defeated Dean in 2002; only to end up in the minority again over land use issues that became a chasm separating him from Mayor Bates and his pro-development Council majority.
Worthington survived multiple attempts by Mayor Bates to defeat him. Worthington had also lost for both Mayor and the Assembly. He did have name recognition.
Jesse Arreguin was Kriss Worthington’s protege. But now Arreguin was out on his own running for Mayor, a race Worthington doubted Jesse could win by himself.
Kriss Worthington decided early-on that he should also run for Mayor, intending to take votes away from Capitelli that would then go to Arreguin under ranked choice voting. (Or it might work the reverse way.)
Jesse Arreguin never wanted a Worthington candidacy, preferring a one-on-one showdown with Capitelli. Making the best of it, Arreguin was the first name listed in the Voter’s Handbook as endorsing Worthington. And Kriss Worthington was similarly high up in the Voter’s Handbook as an endorser of Arreguin.
There had not been a viable Berkeley progressive electoral campaign group since passage of district elections in 1986. Three small organizations, Berkeley Citizens Action, the Berkeley Tenants Union, and the Berkeley Progressive Alliance joined forces on April 30, 2016 to make endorsements that granted legitimacy to candidates representing the Council minority.
About 100 ballots were cast, and Kriss Worthington got nowhere suggesting a double endorsement for Mayor.
Support went solely to Jesse Arreguin, an early indication that only he would be running a serious campaign to win. Jesse Arreguin opened an office, had many volunteers, a Campaign Manager (Jacquelyn McCormick), yard signs, a website, literature, mailers, and all the tools of a real candidate. Kriss Worthington had few if any of these, but did appear at candidate forums.
With the help of former Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport, Jesse Arreguin received the endorsement of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Bernie’s campaign for President had made him extremely popular among progressives, so this was the best possible endorsement for Arreguin.
Capitelli countered with support from Robert Reich, probably the most popular professor at Cal, very progressive, President Clinton’s Secretary of Labor.
Arreguin had the benefit of endorsements from the Sierra Club, the Democratic Party, and several unions.
The greatest irony of this campaign was former Mayor Shirley Dean’s endorsement of Jesse Arreguin. It was Mayor Dean, as leader of the moderate-conservative coalition, whose ouster only seemed possible by drafting Tom Bates to defeat her back in 2002. (Gus Newport also beat her for Mayor in 1982, but now they were on the same side.)
Shirley Dean wrote for the October 14, 2016 Berkeley Daily Planet a most thoughtful column attacking Capitelli and the Council majority for their goal of endlessly “constructing faceless buildings … until there is no community left”.
She also credited Arreguin with bringing herself and former Mayor Gus Newport together. They made the ultimate odd couple.
Capitelli’s literature seemed to stick on the question of whether Berkeley ought to elect a “Realtor” as its next mayor. Capitelli admitted to the charge of being a realtor. Hard fact to avoid when the National Association of Realtors sent out mailers for Capitelli. These probably hurt him among tenants and generally failed to help.
I believe there was also an enthusiasm gap. Berkeley people wanted to change the Council majority, and that meant electing Jesse Arreguin, rather than more of the same (or worse) with Capitelli.
The Results for Mayor
With so many absentee voters compared to decades ago, early returns tend to reflect Berkeley as a whole. Jesse Arreguin was quickly way ahead of Capitelli, but just short of the absolute majority needed to win.
Under “Ranked Choice Voting”, also known as “Instant Run-Off”, the lowest candidate is eliminated in every round, and each voter’s second choice candidate (or 3rd choice, etc.) receives those added votes, until someone goes over 50%.
Three minor candidates for Mayor went out, leading to Jesse Arreguin’s election at Round 5:
Jesse Arreguin 29,499 (50.39%)
Laurie Capitelli 19,401 (33%)
Kriss Worthington 5,299 (9%)
(two other minor candidates omitted)
First observation is that Laurie Capitelli proved to be a very weak candidate. He needed to carry the hills by large majorities (the way Shirley Dean used to), but instead won hill precincts by too few votes. And Capitelli was clobbered by Arreguin nearly everywhere else. Arreguin emerged as a powerful candidate.
Kriss Worthington’s “insurance policy” for Jesse, over 5,000 votes, turned out to be unnecessary; those votes never counted as to their second choices. But assuming most would have gone to Arreguin, his landslide victory over Capitelli becomes even greater.
To learn whether this was a city wide pattern we go to the districts. Takes 5 votes for a City Council majority.
City Council Districts
The Council majority was defending three seats, the Council minority only one. And there would be a special election in March to fill the District 4 seat vacated by Arreguin’s election as Mayor.
District 2 – Southwest Berkeley
Darryl Moore the Council Majority Incumbent
Darryl Moore had once been an aide to Kriss Worthington, leader of the Council minority. But after election to the City Council in 2004 Moore was among the most loyal members of the Council Majority under Mayor Tom Bates.
With his 12 years of experience Moore seemed to take little notice of his two lesser known opponents, Nanci Armstrong-Temple and Cheryl Davila. Both were campaigning as progressives against Moore and against the Council majority.
The coalition of progressive groups had endorsed Armstrong-Temple, but this was the only district contest where ranked choice voting meant everything.
So it was clearly communicated by Jesse Arreguin supporters that a vote for either woman as first choice required a vote for the other as second choice. And that’s exactly how it worked to elect Cheryl Davila.
Darryl Moore was ahead at the start with nearly 40% of the vote, well short of the majority he needed to win. When Armstrong-Temple went out, she transferred 1,236 votes to Davila, but only 446 to Moore. Final results were:
Cheryl Davila 3,451 (51.25%)
Darryl Moore 3,283 (48.75%)
Very close, which is often normal for districts, but the Council majority had lost an incumbent, which is rare, and other results would show this to be part of a decisive trend.
District 3 – South Berkeley
Max Anderson (Council Minority) Retiring
The progressive candidate to replace Max Anderson was Ben Bartlett, endorsed at the coalition meeting on April 30, 2016. His Council majority opponent, endorsed by the Berkeley Democratic Club (BDC), was Deborah Matthews. BDC was the traditional moderate-conservative opponent of Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA), in the days before districts. BDC was also Shirley Dean’s historic political home, before she changed sides.
District 3 was among the three most progressive districts in Berkeley. So it was no contest. Ben Bartlett easily held this seat by winning with 57% out of the gate. Another win for the Council minority that was starting to look like it might be the new Council Majority.
District 5 – Northwest Berkeley
Laurie Capitelli (Council Majority) Running for Mayor
In Laurie Capitelli’s home district, the progressive candidate, who almost beat Capitelli before, was Sophie Hahn. The Council majority/Berkeley Democratic Club/Capitelli candidate was Stephen Murphy. If the Council majority could not hold this seat, then with all the other results against them, that side would subsequently turn into the new Council minority.
District 5 was not known as any kind of progressive bastion, based upon its history. But it did manage in November 2016 to put an exclamation point on what turned out to be a nearly citywide repudiation of the former Council majority and its candidates.
Sophie Hahn defeated Stephen Murphy by a landslide, as she received 62% of the vote, winning 5,821 to 3,502.
With the gain of this seat, newly-elected Mayor Jesse Arreguin would have a Council majority of at least five votes, likely to become six, after the March 2017 Special Election needed to fill Arreguin’s unexpired District 4 term.
District 6 – Northwest Berkeley
Susan Wengraf the Council Majority Incumbent
In arguably Berkeley’s least progressive, most moderate-conservative district, incumbent Susan Wengraf easily defeated Fred Dodsworth in the first round, with 58% of the vote to his 29%, the rest going to a minor candidate.
This was the former Council majority’s only City Council victory on November 8, 2016.
President of the United States .
Just as a reference point to show that Berkeley is not typical, and that political terms I use are relevant to Berkeley, but not the rest of the country, here is the Berkeley vote for President:
Hillary Clinton (Democrat) 57,750 (88%)
Jill Stein (Green) 2,947 (4.5%)
Donald Trump (Republican) 2,031 (3%)
After this brief interruption I will return to Berkeley politics and other matters not yet covered.
There is a history of intentionally confusing Berkeley ballot measures, although the voters usually are able to distinguish between ones that are progressive, vs. their more conservative imitators.
Raising the Minimum Wage
Measures BB & CC
A nation-wide movement has been trying to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, one city at a time. The Berkeley City Council’s first stab at this was divisive along normal lines.
Pro-labor forces, led by unions, qualified a more generous initiative for the ballot, Measure BB.
The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce and other employer forces countered with a less generous rival initiative, Measure CC.
Differences were primarily about the timing and amount of minimum wage increases.
It took a real Berkeley legislator to try and bring all parties together. Fortunately, Nancy Skinner, a City Council/State Assembly veteran running for State Senate, decided to create order out of chaos.
Nancy, in a demonstration of why she should be elected State Senator, mediated among the various sides until there was a minimum wage ordinance which the Berkeley City Council could adopt as an acceptable substitute for both measures BB and CC. (She needed to bring Laurie Capitelli on board, since he could deliver both the Council majority and the Chamber of Commerce in these negotiations.)
Thanks primarily to Nancy Skinner, the following occurred: Berkeley City Council unanimous passage of the agreed upon compromise ordinance to raise the minimum wage; and, (since it was too late for ballot removal), ballot arguments and literature by both sides against Measures BB and CC. (Really was unusual that the two major candidates for Mayor, Laurie Capitelli and Jesse Arreguin, signed the ballot arguments opposing this pair of abandoned initiatives.
Hardly a surprise that BB and CC went down by large margins.
Rental Business License Tax
Measures U1 and DD
Here was a division between the City Council and landlords, an indication of how Mayor Tom Bates and his Council majority were often pro-tenant and anti-landlord. The Council unanimously adopted a business license tax increase on landlords with more than five units, the money to go for affordable housing. By placing this on the ballot, as Measure U1, it was a challenge to landlords.
The landlords responded with their own initiative, Measure DD, which greatly reduced the tax, and led to a landlord campaign for “No on U1” and “Yes on DD”.
The task for tenants and progressive voters was to cast ballots against large landlords, which meant “Yes on U1” and “No on DD”. (The Capitelli campaign offered some help, urging “Yes on U1”, while ignoring Measure DD.
Berkeley voters have often proven they are difficult to fool on ballot measures. As election day approached landlords placed “No on U1, Yes on DD” yardsigns in front of their apartment buildings, and did comparable mailings. Among door hangers I liked in November 2016 was an official one from the California Democratic Party, used by Jesse Arreguin’s campaign, despite some major disagreements on City Council endorsements. It said, in Berkeley language:
“U1: Unanimous Council measure funds affordable housing: YES
DD: Phony landlord ploy to kill U1: NO”
U1 easily passed while DD went down to defeat, as the landlords lost on both measures, despite a huge spending advantage for the landlords.
Measure U1 (City Council)
YES 43,014 (75%)
NO 14,389 (25%)
Measure DD (Landlords)
YES 16,328 (29%)
NO 39,874 (71%)
The Capitelli for Mayor campaign imitated this door hanger, falsely claiming that it contained official Democratic Party endorsements. This was an ancient abuse by the Berkeley Democratic Club (BDC).
The California Democratic Party had officially endorsed Jesse Arreguin for Mayor, while Capitelli’s fake doorhanger purported that he was the Democratic candidate for Berkeley Mayor and used the Democratic Party symbol without permission. All these deceptions failed to help Capitelli, and might have led to a complaint against him with the Democratic Party.
Nancy Skinner vs. Sandre Swanson
State Senate: Final Round
Nancy Skinner continued to have all the advantages over Sandre Swanson earlier discussed for the June Primary, which you can read at the June 2016 Election.
Nancy’s mailers featured endorsements from her work on legislation in the State Assembly, such as Planned Parenthood, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, plus the Sierra Club and National Organization for Women, among many others. She piled up support from elected officials/organizations in both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, seeming to cover all parts of huge State Senate District 9.
Sandre Swanson lacked the money to compete with her, essentially he had less of everything. Sandre did receive Jesse Arreguin’s endorsement, but the Arreguin campaign put little or no effort into helping Sandre. Similarly the other way, Capitelli’s endorsement of Skinner added a name to her list, but that was all.
I got the impression that Nancy Skinner’s campaign wished to float above all the divisions caused by Berkeley Council Majority vs. the Council Minority.
Predictable landslide district results:
Nancy Skinner 236,133 (62%)
Sandre Swanson 143,573 (38%)
Nancy Skinner carried both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. She won Contra Costa by over
2 to 1; Sandre Swanson doing better in Alameda County, since he came from and had represented Oakland. But Swanson was generally crushed, even losing Oakland.
Nancy Skinner won Berkeley impressively:
Nancy Skinner 39,365 (69%)
Sandre Swanson 7,696 (31%)
With nearly 10,000 more votes than Mayor Arreguin received, and 20,000 more than Capitelli, Nancy Skinner had overcome the limitations of being connected to the former Council majority. She won while they lost.
What benefits Berkeley in my opinion would be political fence mending between State Senator Skinner and Mayor Arreguin. Nancy needs to work closely with Jesse and his Council majority to insure that Berkeley is properly represented in Sacramento. It’s no time for holding on to old grudges from an era that has passed away.
There was one more election left to complete this season, since the new Berkeley City Council convened with only 8 members and a vacant seat.
March 7, 2017 Special Election By Mail
District 4 – Central Berkeley
Open Seat to Complete the Term of Jesse Arreguin, Elected Mayor
This was the first special election ever under a 40 year old City Charter provision I had worked on as a member of the Charter Review Committee.
Fortunately with districts and “Vote By Mail” the cost was greatly reduced, unlike it being city-wide with normal precincts on election day.
Mayor Arreguin had already picked his candidate:
Kate Harrison. She was extremely well qualified, and if elected, would increase Mayor Arreguin’s City Council majority from 5 to 6. She was also the favorite, District 4 being very progressive.
One could have hoped to avoid a replay of the two factions going at one another yet again. Instead Ben Gould ran with the Berkeley Democratic Club endorsement, also support from Councilmembers Droste and Weingraf, plus State Senator Nancy Skinner. Gould was a U.C. Berkeley graduate student and a minor candidate for mayor in the prior election. Now he represented the former Council majority, seeking to continue the old fight.
It was not very close, Kate Harrison winning with 1,607 votes (62%) to Ben Gould’s 992 (38%).
The Council was back to full strength with the addition of Kate Harrison.
City policies will change, especially on land use, in accordance with the new Council majority’s support for more affordable housing and a great deal less deference to developers.
There will be some growing pains, going from minority to majority with four brand new Councilmembers and a leadership change. As Mayor, Jesse Arreguin will be expected to lead. For Kriss Worthington his seniority makes him a partner with Jesse Arreguin but not the leader.
Viability of the former Council majority is unclear. Their policies were clearly repudiated by the voters. And being in the majority was the glue holding that group of six together. Doesn’t work when at best only three remain.
Both sides had identical origins in the politics of Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA), Berkeley’s progressive electoral organization from 1975 until it slowly melted away after district elections in 1986. There was no recovery when Shirley Dean defeated the late Don Jelinek for Mayor in 1994 and 1998. (In those days she was sometimes called “Shirley Mean”.
Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Kriss Worthington were on the same side for about two years after Bates defeated incumbent Mayor Shirley Dean in 2002, with Worthington’s support.
Then developed what I still call a civil war among my friends. I wish it were over now, with all 9 Councilmembers working together cooperatively; no Council majority and no Council minority. Wishful thinking, of course, but no one knows how this new City Council will evolve over the next two years.
June 5, 2018 Primary Election
15th Assembly District
Shortly after being re-elected for a second term Assemblymember Tony Thurmond surprisingly announced his candidacy in 2018 for California Superintendent of Public Instruction. He would become the heavy favorite to be elected statewide
Thurmond left behind him an open Assembly seat, what looked to progressive Democratic elected officials in both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties as a chance to move up. Six of them would be on the ballot:
Judy Appel – Berkeley School Board. She would be be the strongest Berkeley candidate, with endorsers such as former Mayor/State Senator Loni Hancock.
Dan Kalb – Oakland City Council. Only Oakland elected official running; a strong contender. Endorsed by the Sierra Club.
Andy Katz – EBMUD Board Member. Environmentalist background, Berkeley attorney.
Jovanka Beckles – Richmond City Council. Part of the Richmond Progressive Alliance that fights Chevron. Likely to do well in Contra Costa County.
Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto – El Cerrito City Council. Tony Thurmond’s choice as his successor.
Ben Bartlett – Berkeley City Council (District 3). The third Berkeley candidate, with less than two years on the Council.
In a normal year these six would be competing to finish first or second, under the “Top Two” system, which replaced normal party primaries. The Top Two, regardless of party, move on to the November ballot and a final showdown.
2018 would not be normal, thanks to an outsider.
When “Buffy Wicks for Assembly” signs first started appearing in large numbers, I had absolutely no idea who she was. Few local people did, except for those who went to her extensive number of house parties; over 100 she asserted. A ton of Wicks mailers later gained her more name recognition than any other candidate.
Wicks, newly arrived in Oakland, had worked for the Obama Campaign and Administration. Her literature prominently displayed pictures of Wicks with President Obama, while claiming a major role in helping elect him and pass the Affordable Care Act. She ran as a strong anti-Trump progressive.
Clearly from Washington, D.C., likely a campaign consultant, her major endorsers were notable for their high offices: U.S. Senator Kamala Harris and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (a sure bet to become Governor). Wicks’ occupation was somewhat in question, as she listed “Community Organizer”. Never having held elective office, she lacked a voting record of any kind. Compared to the others, Buffy Wicks was a mystery candidate.
But no one could argue with the massive, unprecedented amount of money being spent on the Buffy Wicks campaign, dwarfing her rivals. There would not be a level playing field.
It soon became obvious that Wicks, regardless of her actual political views and intentions, was certain to finish first. Under Top Two, that left her opponents to compete for second place, and a chance to take on Wicks and her money in November. They chose a positive campaign, with none of the mailers I saw attacking Wicks. Some local papers in print and online expressed concerns over what special interests were financing Wicks.
THE JUNE 5, 2018 15TH ASSEMBLY DISTRICT RESULTS
Buffy Wicks 37,141 (31%) TOP TWO ON NOVEMBER BALLOT
Jovanka Beckles 18,733 (16%) TOP TWO ON NOVEMBER BALLOT
Dan Kalb18,007 (15%)
Judy Appel 13,591 (11%)
Pranav Jandhyala 6,946(6%)
Andy Katz 6,209 (5%)
Ben Bartlett 3,949 (3%)
Wicks easily carried both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
In this case Top Two prevented Buffy Wicks from winning the Democratic nomination and ending the Assembly race; a benefit for progressives who grew ever more suspicious about where all that Wicks money came from.
Finishing second, Richmond City Councilmember Jovanka Beckles ran to the left of her Democratic rivals. She relied upon labor union endorsements and support from the Bernie Sanders organization. Beckles was second in Contra Costa County, and third in Alameda County, trailing Dan Kalb. Kalb’s loss resulted from a poor Contra Costa showing.
Speculation over who would have been the strongest challenger to Wicks ended. The top four Democrats Beckles defeated all quickly endorsed her, forming a united front against Buffy Wicks. But Wicks picked up the most important single endorsement after the primary, despite literature falsely giving voters the impression Wicks already had it. President Obama formally endorsed Buffy Wicks for Assembly on August 3, 2018, along with 80 other candidates nationwide.
CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS TO CANDIDATES
Grand Total / Individual Donors / Independent Expenditures
Buffy Wicks $1,318,483 / $ 725,669 / $ 592,814
Judy Appel 305,813 / 286,161 / 19,652
Dan Kalb 254,190 / 254,190 / 0
Jovanka Beckles 196,110 / 196,110 / 0
In addition to contributions of $725,000 from individuals, Wicks was the beneficiary of another $593,000 from two independent Political Action Committees (PACS). The Govern for California Action Committee spent the most, followed by the California Dental Association.
All of this money raised the question whether Wicks was the candidate of special interests, rather than the progressive crusader she claimed to be. The Govern California PAC was labeled a champion of charter schools, which Wicks strongly denied on her website. Meanwhile that PAC did radio ads, internet ads, and mass mailings for her. It was suspected by Wicks opponents that she was supported by developers, large landlords and other corporate interests. Wicks also denied having worked as a campaign fundraiser. Yet all that money rolled in, relatively little of it from the district, fueling a flood of Wicks mailers hailing her progressive politics and opposition to Trump.
Jovanka Beckles getting to the November ballot was unexpected, on a meager $196,000 in contributions. Dan Kalb received $254,000 and Judy Appel even more at nearly $306,000. Those were trivial amounts compared to the Buffy Wicks grand total of over 1.3 million dollars, counting the PACs. Wicks by far paid the most per vote received, Beckles the least, in this comparison limited to the top four candidates.
Now Beckles has a difficult task ahead of her, and is starting with house parties in cities like Berkeley to become better known. Wicks major vulnerability appears to be her hefty support from the Govern for California PAC, an organization reporters are likely to investigate as part of their November election coverage.
1935 – 2018
The election of Ron Dellums to Congress in 1970 as an anti-Vietnam War candidate began an era in which Berkeley progressives finally stopped losing.
He was the inspiration for coalition politics that fundamentally changed both the Berkeley and Oakland City Councils. (Detractors falsely called it the Dellums machine.)
Free to speak and vote his principles Dellums became known as the Conscience of the Congress. His lonely efforts at sanctions against apartheid South Africa eventually became American policy.
Nelson Mandela held a huge rally in the Oakland Colosseum to thank Dellums for helping to set him and all of South Africa free.
Congressman Dellums served in the House from 1971 until resigning in 1997. Representative Barbara Lee is his able successor.
Since I first got into Berkeley politics registering voters to support Ron Dellums for Congress, this is a fitting point point for me to end this history of local elections. The website will not be further updated, but it remains to tell the story, along with “Berkeley In the 70s“.
A Few Pictures
Here is a famous campaign photograph from the November 1976 election that represents our progressive coalition. Walking door to door in Oakland are, left to right, Congressman Ron Dellums, Alameda County Supervisor John George (running for this office), United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez (in support of Proposition 14), and Assemblymember Tom Bates (seeking his first term in the Assembly).
(Photo taken by Richard Bermack, courtesy of Pamela George.)
60 Minutes Comes to Berkeley (1971)
I mentioned in Chapter 2 how national media descended upon us after the “apparent” April 6, 1971 April Coalition victory. There were print journalists from papers such as the New York Times and Washington Post. 60 Minutes coming to Berkeley meant we were in the big leagues now. I still remember having lunch with Mike Wallace, alongside Jeff Gordon and Peter Birdsall. Together we comprised the student electoral leadership, a trio interviewed twice by 60 Minutes, ending up on the cutting room floor.
The Mike Wallace Berkeley segment was broadcast by 60 Minutes on November 2, 1971, entitled “Go Fight City Hall.” It features interviews with Councilmembers Loni Hancock, D’Army Bailey, and Tom McClaren. This time capsule, warts and all, takes people directly back to 1971. I ordered and received the DVD from CBS News Archives years ago.
To order CBS News footage, a written request should be sent via email to: email@example.com or call 212-975-6441.