Chapter 4 – The Bailey Recall
Note: This history was written by David Mundstock and republished here with his permission. The opinions in this piece are his and do not necessarily reflect the positions of BCA members. For original link go to http://www.berkeleyinthe70s.homestead.com.
The Bailey Recall – August l973
Official Papers and Signature Collection
After spending over one year talking about recall, primarily in the Berkeley Gazette, Vice Mayor, Wilmont Sweeney, leader or the Bailey Recall Committee, finally filed a Notice of Intent to Recall D’Army Bailey on February l2, l973. The majority of the recall notice’s signers were black.
The formal notice contained the official list of charges against Bailey, including:
staging “wild, obscene outbursts in City Council meetings”;
“he has consistently voted and acted against the interests of black people. In addition, he has continuously tried to politically emasculate and destroy Berkeley black leadership.”
he “has continuously advocated racism, is reviving race hatred in the City of Berkeley, and has engaged in a practice of vilification and attack designed to force competent and trained City personnel to resign and to thereby further disrupt the functioning of City business.”
In a separate press statement, Sweeney was more specific, attacking Bailey for:
living “in an expensive, semi-exclusive section of town”;
driving “a $l2,000 – $l4,000 foreign automobile, which was built by a company with one of its principal plants located in South Africa.”;
“paying over $3,000 per month to maintain his City Council staff and office (with a Councilman’s salary of $300 per month for staff assistance, travel and other city expense)”;
having “no visible employment responsibilities,” and
at the time of Sue Hone’s appointment to the Council, unleashing “an attack of profanity and abuse personally upon our (black) Mayor,” including calling Widener “The Chief Pig of Berkeley”, and moving that the Council fire the black Acting City Manager.
Bailey’s official Answer to the charges, printed together with the Notice of Intent, on each recall petition, was a vigorous, affirmative listing of his accomplishments:
“…I promised that my first priority would be the needs and interests of the Black community. …I fought for and obtained the inclusion of minority hiring commitments in contracts and leases of those seeking special legislation from the city. …In July l972 I was instrumental in the introduction and passage of the strongest and most comprehensive minority hiring program of any city in the country. In the two years I have been on the Council, and due largely to my efforts, the city has hired more minority police and firemen than the total number hired in the ten years before my election.”
“Against this backdrop, I reject the contention that the city is stagnant or in chaos. Certain city administrators have resigned during my term. I am proud that because of these resignations, we now have a Black City Manager and City Attorney and that Blacks and other minorities for the first time moved into the higher echelons of city government.”
“Change does not come easily. In some instances, we have achieved changes on the Council through pressures and manipulations of parliamentary process. The changes outlined have grown out of relentless and unending pursuit against strong odds and determined opponents. I think these changes have been beneficial for all segments of Berkeley. I intend to continue in my commitment for even greater changes.
Bailey’s political organization, the Coordinating Committee for Political Action, also issued a statement, which concluded:
“We further submit to you that the real forces behind this malicious recall effort are the same people who sought to deprive the Black community of their political voice in the effort to pass the Runoff Election amendment in November, and who seem to never tire in their efforts to devise blatant mechanisms to silence the voices of the Black community, as it was effectively silenced prior to the Bailey years.”
“D’Army Bailey has refused to yield to the pressures of the reactionary forces in the city of Berkeley — the same forces who wish to bring this new era of progressive, vigorous action to a halt by whatever means necessary. We intend to blunt the knife aimed at the heart of the Black community by exposing the recall movement for what it is.”
The Bailey Recall Committee initially had two months to collect signatures amounting to 25% of Berkeley’s registered voters at the time the signatures were filed. This extremely stringent signature requirement was placed in the Charter to make recalls more difficult after the Republicans made the ballot but failed to recall the pro-integration, Democratic Caucus School Board members in l964. In l973 the Bailey Recall Committee needed approximately l9,000 valid signatures to put the recall on the ballot.
Signature gathering took place quietly while the April l973 campaign raged. Pro-recall literature urged people to sign the petition by reprinting Gazette attacks such as the July l2, l972 confrontation between Bailey and Acting City Manager Williamson. Under the headline, “Chaos Kills Council Session”, the article read in part:
“The Bailey-Williamson exchange exploded when Bailey asked Acting City Attorney Cherie Gaines a complicated question on Roberts Rules of Order.
Williamson interjected that he had “strong feelings” on the question.
“I don’t want my staff – city employees – treated like animals,” Williamson said, his deep voice rising.
“If you want service, ask for it,” Williamson added.
Bailey began yelling at Williamson, his words unintelligible, and Williamson began yelling back: “Don’t pull that on me, Bailey. Don’t pull that on me.”
THE COUNCILMAN then rather calmly said: “I move we fire the city manager.””
Other articles on the same piece of literature included the now outdated call by Sweeney to recall Hancock and Simmons as well as Bailey. Bailey maintained a relatively low profile while signatures were being gathered, trying not to do or say anything which would help the recall.
On April 30, l973, the Bailey Recall Committee submitted l9,000 signatures, of which only l5,660 turned out to be valid. This was 3,2ll names short of the required 25% of Berkeley’s registered voters. City Charter provisions allowed recall supporters an additional l5 days to file a supplemental petition. During this period, after the April l7, l973 election, the Bailey Recall Committee attempted to obtain signatures from the campus community by mailing petitions and by setting up a table at Sather Gate. The effort included new pro-recall literature attacking Bailey as a traitor to “his main constituency”, the progressive community.
A May 7, l973 Bailey Recall Committee letter to campus precincts charged:
“He has repeatedly attacked in the crudest terms those who supported him in l97l, and heaped especial vilification on Coalition Councilwoman Loni Hancock. He even split with the Black Caucus, which originally supported his candidacy, and his l97l campaign manager has denounced him as a charlatan.”
Loni Hancock issued a statement protesting the Recall Committee’s references to her:
“These mailings are exploiting my name in a completely cynical way,” Ms. Hancock said. “The same people who now use my name against D’Army Bailey in these recall mailings did everything possible to connect me with Bailey during the recent election campaign.”
“The people behind the recall have no interest in the progressive programs or the open political process that I advocate,” said Ms. Hancock.
“I ask the Bailey Recall Committee to remove my name from their literature,” said Ms. Hancock, “as I wish to totally disassociate myself from their efforts. Although I have had fundamental disagreements with Mr. Bailey on the Council–both on issues and on the way Councilmembers treat each other–I oppose the recall effort and the way
it has been conducted.”
The August 2l, l973 Recall Election
The supplemental recall petition of 4,296 names was filed on May 30, l973, and on June 7, l973, City Clerk Edythe Campbell formally notified the Council that the signatures “have proved sufficient” by a margin of only 84 signers. The City Charter required a special recall election within 60-75 days. A Bailey lawsuit to block the recall on the grounds that invalid signatures were accepted proved unsuccessful. Efforts to delay the election until a court ruling on its legality, a motion supported by Councilmembers Simmons, Kelley, and Hancock, was defeated by the Berkeley Four majority, Bailey not participating.
On June l2, l973, the Berkeley Four majority chose August 2l, l973 for the recall election. It would be the third municipal election of l973 (Rent Board in January, City Council in April), and the second special election. The Council decided to fund the full complement of l89 voting precincts for a total election cost of $75,000. The cost became a focus of attacks by recall opponents.
I knew that Bailey was doomed if the recall made the ballot. In a summer election over recalling D’Army Bailey, the campus community would be both absent and divided, making it impossible for the massive pro-recall vote in the hills to be overcome.
Bailey faced a choice between various political strategies, none of which offered any chance of survival. He could try and fight the recall citywide, seeking to reduce the hill margin against him and/or somehow motivate the progressive white community to come to his rescue. Instead Bailey decided to fight the recall with great intensity, while concentrating his campaign within the black community. Anti-recall efforts were light in the greater campus community while Bailey totally ignored the hills and Claremont. Councilman Kallgren, a recall supporter from Clarement, therefore concluded that “Bailey, curiously enough, did not put up a vigorous defense.” (Experiment and Change in Berkeley, Kallgren essay, page 433.) Kallgren never knew about that vigorous defense because Bailey’s chosen battlefield was restricted to the black community, primarily southwest and west Berkeley.
Bailey’s strategy made sense only in the narrow context of exposing the political hypocrisy upon which the recall was based. The Bailey Recall Committee’s official leadership was black and its public line was that Bailey had so offended the black community by his irresponsible Council actions that the black community was now spearheading the recall effort.
In reality, there was no evidence that Bailey ever offended a majority of the rank and file black community. Bailey did challenge, offend, and/or vilify nearly every black leader, Vice Mayor Wilmont Sweeney foremost among them. Bailey would insult Sweeney to his face, publicly, at Council meetings, where Sweeney always responded calmly and with dignity. In the private executive sessions of the Council, Sweeney would return the insults to Bailey with interest to the point that Loni feared physical violence would break out between them. Sweeney’s ultimate revenge on Bailey was both personal and political: the Bailey recall.
The hypocrisy came when Sweeney claimed to be acting on behalf of the black community. Sweeney acted on his own behalf and the Bailey Recall Committee was really leading a movement of hill voters who truly despised Bailey’s tactics and politics, passionately wanting him off the City Council.
Thus, by concentrating on defeating the recall in southwest and west Berkeley, Bailey sought to demonstrate that regardless of how the city voted as a whole, black people supported Bailey, approved of his work on the Council, and wanted to keep him in office. If Bailey ever thought he could defeat the recall once it made the ballot, he deluded himself. I believe Bailey tried for victory over the official rationale behind the recall, rather than victory over the recall itself. If he lost, Bailey wanted to go out as a fighter and a black political martyr.
The Berkeley City Charter specifies that a recall election is framed on the ballot in two distinct parts. Voters would first choose “YES” or “NO” on the recall itself, the ballot’s top line. Then voters could select a candidate to replace Bailey should the recall pass with a majority. If the recall won, the candidate on the bottom line with the most votes would take Bailey’s Council seat. If the recall was defeated, the candidate portion of the ballot became irrelevant as Bailey stayed in office.
The Bailey Recall Committee’s replacement candidate was William (Bill or Billy) Rumford, Jr., son of Berkeley’s (and California’s) first black Assemblyman, Byron Rumford, Sr.. Bill Rumford, BART’s Assistant Police Chief, later promoted to Chief, appeared to be even more conservative than Vice Mayor Sweeney, the recall leader. Rumford, a nominal Democrat, had been a spokesman for the June l972 campaign against rent control and had prominently worked for Yes on M and No on Public Ownership of PG&E. He also supported the Republican candidate, Hannaford, against Congressman Dellums in November l972. In the recall election, Rumford campaigned as a responsible, independent moderate, even a liberal. His platform was entitled “Programs for Progress”. The Bailey Recall Committee ran a well financed slate effort for both the recall and Rumford.
Allen Wilson opposed Rumford on the second portion of the ballot. Already a two-time City Council loser with the Black Caucus (l969) and the Democratic Caucus (l97l), Wilson’s third candidacy was highly opportunistic. Wilson took no position on the recall itself, while attacking Rumford as unqualified and too conservative. Wilson hoped to beat Rumford with a combination of most anti-recall votes plus a portion of the votes from recall supporters. His campaign had support from elements of the Berkeley Four associated with Mayor Widener, such as Councilman Henry Ramsey.
Widener, of course, also took no position on the recall. Wilson’s effort was met with scorn from Bailey who wanted his supporters to oppose the recall and not vote for any replacement candidate, certainly not for Wilson, a black opponent Bailey had already defeated in l97l. The Bailey Recall Committee totally ignored Wilson, content to link Rumford and the recall so completely that few recall supporters would even consider voting for someone else.
All this placed the progressive community in an isolated position. On the second part of the ballot, the pro-recall right wing would have Rumford and the center could support Allen Wilson. People on the left also wanted someone to vote for should the recall succeed, a progressive rival to Rumford and Wilson on the bottom section of the ballot.
Ann Fagin Ginger Wood came forward as an anti-recall candidate to oppose Rumford and Wilson. Ms. Wood, an attorney, author, and teacher, was chairperson of the ACLU’s Berkeley-Albany Chapter, and founder of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Library. A pillar of the progressive legal community, she had friendship ties to both factions of the April Coalition, although she had previously stayed out of Berkeley politics. Her organizational background included the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the National Lawyers’ Guild.
Urged to run by recall opponents as their candidate against the frontrunner, Rumford, Ms. Wood had no way of knowing in advance the degree to which D’Army Bailey would perceive her as a direct threat to him. Bailey viewed Ms. Wood as legitimizing the recall by offering a respectable, white, female alternative to his staying in office. Thus, instead of encouraging anti-recall voters to turnout as Ms. Wood hoped to do, Bailey thought her candidacy would augment the pro-recall vote because white progressives could not resist preferring Wood to be on the Council instead of Bailey.
Bailey was well aware that, second only to hill people and conservatives, the group he had most offended were rank and file April Coalition voters who had supported him in l97l and felt betrayed by his anti-coalition record. Many of these people might stay home on election day. Wood felt she could mobilize them to support her and vote against the recall. Bailey wanted progressive white voters to have no choice except keeping him in office. He therefore had to eliminate Ann Fagin Ginger Wood from the race.
Accusing Ms. Wood of dividing the left and functioning as tool of pro-recall racists, Bailey applied vigorous public and private pressure to get her to withdraw. The Bailey-induced bombardment of Ms. Wood brought quick results. She withdrew after little more than a week in the race, citing confusion as to her stand on the recall as her reason. Ms. Wood has never again been a City Council candidate. Wood’s withdrawal was the last time D’Army Bailey had things his way in Berkeley.
The Bailey Campaign
“BERKELEY NEEDS BAILEY” read the literature, posters, and bumperstickers. This slogan epitomized Bailey’s entire anti-recall campaign. Bailey acknowledged no mistakes and did relatively little to actively court the votes of people who disagreed with his record on the Council. The exception was one mailer to the campus area by Independent Voters Against the Recall. That piece claimed Bailey was the victim of a Nixon “Enemies List” mentality and attacked the recall as more divisive than anything Bailey had ever done.
Predominantly, Bailey sought support and anti-recall votes on the basis of his record as the “most aggressive representative of Berkeley’s Black community in the city’s history.” Bailey obtained endorsements against the recall from national civil rights figures such as Julian Bond, Ramsey Clark, and Mrs. Medger Evers, plus black Mayors Charles Evers of Fayette, Mississippi and Richard Hatcher of Gary, Indiana. Jesse Jackson came to Berkeley as the featured speaker at a church rally to praise Bailey and denounce the recall. The Berkeley Black Caucus, the April Coalition, and Congressman Dellums also endorsed against the recall, and Dellums was prominently featured on Bailey’s literature.
Loni Hancock, together with Ying Kelley and a majority of the School Board, issued a written statement opposing the recall on the grounds that:
“It is neither legal nor moral to recall a person because of political disagreements. The appropriate time to decide whether or not to retain elected officials is at regularly scheduled elections.”
This principled opposition to a “political” recall remains philosophically entrenched within the progressive community, as the White Panthers were to find out in l980 when they tried to recall Berkeley-Albany Municipal Court Judge Mario Barsotti.
While publicly condemning the recall, Loni never authorized Bailey to use her name. Since Bailey’s campaign was an affirmation of his work on the Council, Loni wanted no part of it. She could not stomach being listed as an endorser of literature which proclaimed “Berkeley Needs Bailey”. That would have felt like April l97l all over again.
Nevertheless, Bailey’s literature used an uncaptioned picture of Loni and D’Army together.
The Summer Election Issue
Recall organizers claimed that the mid-summer election was inadvertent. Yet such a summer election would inevitably decimate the student vote.
The summer election outraged the campus community’s political leadership because it set a precedent under which students were disenfranchised and no progressive Councilmember could ever be safe. (Shades of November l972’s Measure M which also “inadvertently” would have held elections during finals week.)
Bailey mattered less to students than the issue of trying to prevent future summer elections. I made the prohibition of summer elections one of my major goals on the Charter Review Committee.
Recall Election Day
I remember the sense of political lethargy in the campus community on the day of the recall election, August 2l, l973. A little over two years earlier, D’Army Bailey had been the leading candidate in the campus area with hundreds of April 6th Movement volunteers behind him. Now there seemed to be only the voice of Dan Siegel in a sound car, trying to get out the anti-recall vote. I remember it as a very lonely voice, truly crying in a political wilderness of absent and apathetic voters.
For once, an election’s outcome was entirely predictable.
The August 2l, l973 results: 30,ll7 voters
FOR the Recall of D’Army Bailey l8,569(62%) Recalled
AGAINST the Recall of D’Army Bailey ll,548(38%)
Elected William Rumford, Jr. l7,l02(73%
Allen Wilson 6,344(27%)
Over 7,000 voters abstained on the Rumford vs. Wilson race, 22% of the total. Presumably they were mostly Bailey supporters. Rumford’s vote works out to 92% of those who supported the recall. The August 2lst pro-recall vote of l8,569 was actually smaller than the l8,955 valid signatures turned in on the recall petition. The total of 30,893 people voting was almost identical to the number that turned out for the January l973 Rent Board special election, however the distribution of recall voters by community differed from the Rent Board election pattern.
The hill precincts turned out about as many voters for the recall as they had in the rent control special election. In west and southwest Berkeley, where turnout had been lightest for the Rent Board, recall turnout showed about a 50% increase in actual voters.
Campus area precincts had a meager turnout in the recall compared to elections held during the school year. Recall turnout in the campus area was but a fraction of that in April l973, falling far short even of rent control special election levels. In the most extreme case, one U.C. dormitory precinct had only 6 voters in the recall election. In April l973, that same precinct produced 302 voters; in the rent control election l46 voters. Some precincts in the south campus area with a small student population had turnout that was much closer to that of the Rent Board special election.
The hills voted in favor of the recall by overwhelming margins. In one fairly typical precinct by the Tilden Park Golf Course, the vote was 230 for the recall, 23 against, a margin of 207 votes, l0 to l.
In the campus area with its small turnout, the recall generally lost. But the margins were not significant due to the lack of voters. The recall carried in several campus area precincts. Again the margins were small. Because of the summer-induced low turnout, the greater campus area had a rather minor impact on the election.
In southwest and west Berkeley the recall was convincingly defeated. Approximately 20 predominantly black precincts which had been carried by Sweeney and Ramsey in the April l973 election voted against the recall. Nearly all of the l5 west and southwest Berkeley precincts carried by Margot Dashiell and the Coalition candidates also voted down the recall.
Bailey had his moral victory. The majority of the black community wanted him to stay in office.
Yet while Bailey lost the hill precincts by margins of 4 to l up to l4 to l, Bailey’s victories in west and southwest Berkeley were by margins of 2 to l at best. The number of black community voters was, as always, significantly less than the number of hill voters. As with the Rent Board and April l973 elections, the hills were dominant and Bailey never had a chance.
D’Army Bailey soon left Berkeley and went home to Memphis, Tennessee, where he again became active in politics. He returned to Berkeley in l977 to campaign for his political heir, Mark Allen of the Communist Party.
Bailey’s l983 candidacy for Mayor of Memphis attracted widespread Bay Area press attention as reporters revived decade old stories about his tumultuous 2 and l/2 year Berkeley political career. It must have been embarrassing to the local papers when the Memphis election results showed Bailey to be only a minor candidate.
The August l973 recall gave the Conservative Coalition an extra seat for a six vote Council majority. Ira Simmons finished his Council term, but with limited attendance and interest. He did run for re-election as a minor candidate in l975, but no one paid him very much attention.
In the long run, I believe the conservatives hurt themselves politically by recalling Bailey. Tactically, Bailey was much more valuable to the right wing on the City Council as an enemy against whom the conservatives could unite and win votes while D’Army divided the left. This was especially true because the right wing’s April l973 victory had already protected their five vote majority so they did not need an extra seat.
Yet if Bailey had been on the Council in l974 and l975, he would probably have prevented Berkeley Citizens Action from getting off the ground. Certainly a Bailey and Simmons re-election campaign in l975 would have disastrously split the progressive community. With Bailey gone and the conservatives complacent, the left had a chance to re-group and make a comeback.