Chapter 8 – The April 1975 Campaign, Kelley vs. Widener for Mayor

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

The April l975 Campaign

The Fair Representation Ordinance (Measure 2)

For two years, Sue Hone and her Council majority had monopolized board and commission appointments, trying to freeze the BCA constituency out of city government. Now our challenge to this practice, the Fair Representation Ordinance (FRO), providing for individual appointments by each Councilmember, would be put before the voters in a low-key campaign.

If BCA failed to win a Council majority, passage of the FRO would still be a major breakthrough. Simply getting our appointees on every board and commission would make a difference because progressive people tended to be more motivated than the Council majority’s appointees.

Jack Kent and I worked on an FRO ballot argument that would present a non-partisan call for fair and equal appointments. Hone’s

greedy monopolization of appointments violated a decade-old tradition of sharing power. To demonstrate that history was on our side, the Fair Representation Ordinance needed Republican support.

Jack Kent thought Alameda County Supervisor Joseph Bort might sign the ballot argument. Kent and Bort had served on the Berkeley City Council together a dozen years before. Bort was now the last Berkeley Republican still holding a high office. Back in the l960’s, Jack Kent’s Democratic Caucus Council majority had always allowed Bort’s Republican minority to make a share of the board and commission appointments. After editing the ballot argument to tone it down and eliminate all of my angry words, Supervisor Bort signed it. With Bort’s name joining those of Ron Dellums, Jack Kent, and Loni Hancock, our pro-FRO sponsors, with their Council terms listed, spanned an l8 year period. The ballot argument accurately proclaimed:



In opposition, Councilmembers Ramsey and Kallgren, plus Leo Bach, then President of the Human Relations and Welfare Commission, submitted a ballot argument claiming that the FRO would “destroy the independence” of Berkeley’s boards and commissions. They further asserted that appointees during the last two years were representative of the city, with “political beliefs (that) span the partisan spectrum”. The Council majority still refused to recognize Loni’s and Ying’s constituency as a part of their city.

After our Joe Bort coup, the Council majority seemed to lose their early cockiness that the FRO could be beaten. We continued trying to get support for the FRO from the right wing. Our next goal was obtaining the Gazette’s endorsement. The Gazette’s new editor, Terry Sellards, was not a strident reactionary like his predecessor, Mike Culbert. Sellards wished to strike a moderate tone. Jack Kent and Joe Bort urged Sellards to endorse the FRO on its non-partisan merits. When the Berkeley Gazette, the voice of conservatism, came out urging a “yes” vote on our initiative, we knew that the battle had been won.

To climax this repudiation of the Council majority’s exclusionary appointments policy, Councilman Billy Rumford endorsed the FRO. Sue Hone must have been depriving him of appointments too. Rumford’s support for the FRO amounted to his declaration of political independence from the Council majority’s leadership, Widener and Hone.

The role of ASUC politics

It should be noted that the Council majority’s appointees to boards and commissions during the l973-74 period did include a significant number of U.C. students, starting with Paul Joannides, Neil Mayer’s replacement on the Planning Commission (see page __). Lacking a political base in the campus community, Sue Hone needed a source who could supply her with a stream of appropriate student appointees. That source was Leigh Steinberg, now the famous sports super-agent. At this time, Leigh was attending Boalt Hall School of Law and commanding his own Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) political party, called Unity. Unity stood to the political right of its main rivals, Jeff Gordon’s left of center Campus Coalition party and Tom Accinelli’s far left grouping, best remembered under the name Berkeley Liberation Front (BLF). (Unity and the Coalition merged in mid l973 but retained separate identities.)

Leigh and Sue Hone were politically compatible and formed a partnership. Leigh’s influence expanded as his student followers were appointed to many commissions. There were even rumors about Leigh running for City Council himself. These Unity Party types didn’t seem to have any real politics, but they allowed Sue Hone to brag about how many students she was appointing. Leigh, who had earlier been on the left, explained to me that “One has to reach an accommodation with the powers that be.”

The Steinberg connection highlighted a strong linkage between Berkeley politics and ASUC politics during this era. Four dominant, skillful, and highly ambitious ASUC politicians – Dan Siegel, Jeff Gordon, Tom Accinelli, and Leigh Steinberg, each sought to expand their student government role into Berkeley government. All four of them had run for ASUC President, Accinelli losing more than once. The other three were all elected ASUC President, only to be thrown out of office, Dan Siegel for his Peoples’ Park Speech (l969, see page __); Leigh Steinberg for having a substitute take his French exam (l970); and Jeff Gordon for not being enrolled as a student (l972).

Except for Siegel, who was an early retiree from student politics, the other three were contemporary rivals who collectively brought ASUC party agendas and ASUC electoral goals into Berkeley politics, a linkage that unnecessarily divided students. The fights over who should be the student candidate, Rick Brown v. Craig Murphy in l97l, and especially Lenny Goldberg v. Peter Birdsall in l973 were at least somewhat attributable to ASUC partisanship. Leigh Steinberg’s alliance with Sue Hone was an extension into municipal politics of Leigh’s ASUC party. I always wanted student unity in Berkeley elections, but ASUC politics tended to get in the way.

Fortunately, no one ever asked the April Coalition to endorse in ASUC elections. Such an organizational endorsement would have been impossible. But Ying Kelley endorsed Asian candidates for the ASUC Senate and in the late l970’s, BCA supported entire ASUC slates, actions I strongly disagreed with.

ASUC politics both bores and fragments students, who cannot afford to be apathetic or divided if they are to be an effective Berkeley voting block.

One of the reasons for my long-term opposition to district elections in Berkeley is the fear that student districts would become battlefields for the ASUC political parties. That would mean permanent disintegration of the student vote.

For the record, after passage of the Fair Representation Ordinance, few if any of the Leigh Steinberg-recommended students were re-appointed. With her power to appoint finally limited, Sue Hone discarded students in favor of her own constituency. Following the l975 election, BCA Councilmembers have been the leaders in appointing students to Berkeley’s boards and commissions.

Ira Simmons

When two Council incumbents failed to file for re-election (Ed Kallgren and Ira Simmons), City Clerk Edythe Campbell declared the candidate filing deadline extended as provided in state general law. Except the City Charter now contained the candidate deadline date for the express purpose of establishing certainty and eliminating such extensions. (see page ___.)

Claiming to have forgotten about this new addition to the Charter, the City Clerk now asserted that it was too late to reject the candidates who had filed in reliance upon her illegal extension of the deadline.

The major latecomer to the race was incumbent Councilman Ira Simmons, D’Army Bailey’s running mate from four years earlier. This time candidate Simmons made news by attacking BCA for allegedly excluding him from participation in the nomination process. The truth was that Simmons and BCA had simply ignored each other. Ira’s charge about being excluded was totally false as Don Hopkins explained in a February ll, l975 letter in the Gazette.

But while some blacks voluntarily boycotted BCA, it was still fashionable to attack us for having excluded them. CP took the same line in their anti-BCA leaflet. Now, thanks to Edythe Campbell’s Charter violation, Ira Simmons was again a Council candidate. In l975 he had neither a campaign nor a constituency, ending up with fewer votes than any modern incumbent running for re-election.

BCA’s First City Council Campaign
l975 was like a relaxed holiday compared to the two previous wrenching campaigns. Internal conflict was minimal, nothing more than a disagreement over how vigorously we should attack our opponents. Loni wanted a positive campaign, stressing our programs, devoid of anger or bitterness towards BDC. She would accept low-key, tasteful references to the Council majority’s hostile actions. Many of us, myself included, wanted to aggressively attack the Conservative Coalition, especially Warren “Benedict Arnold” Widener. We had in mind a Harry Truman style campaign effort.

April1975slateLThe problem was solved by the efforts of Mal Warwick, who volunteered to coordinate BCA’s literature. Aveteran
writer and political worker, Mal had recently operated his own alternative press service specializing in syndicated features. Having avoided the April Coalition period, Mal returned to local politics just when BCA needed him. Now he designed beautiful literature that reflected Loni’s affirmative tone while simultaneously criticizing the Council majority. Mal’s major piece began:

For an alternative to rising rent, unemployment,

the deteriorating environment & broken campaign promises:

a PROGRESSIVE majority on our City Council

BCA’s literature stressed:

* Housing preservation and continued opposition to the West Berkeley Industrial Park.

* Re-establishing rent control.

* Creating jobs through a city housing rehabilitation program.

* Affirmative action hiring in city employment.

* Working to eliminate racism and sexism in the police department.

* Open government with citizens allowed to speak to the Council and decisions made publicly without backroom budgets or the

Midnight Special.

* Support for the Fair Representation Ordinance.

Veronika Fukson became the overall campaign coordinator. Will Lightbourne, who worked for Catholic Social Services in San Francisco, was a significant new addition to BCA. With a cross-cultural, politically and ethnically diverse background all his own, Will was an experienced publicist, organizer, and campaign operator. Ying’s running for Mayor had attracted him to BCA.

Meanwhile Jeff Rudolph organized a solid campus campaign that emphasized support for the BCA slate rather than his own student candidacy.

People didn’t realize it, but BCA was gaining strength everywhere. Jeff recruited student leaders for the future, including Dave Poindexter, who became the chief campus organizer for the next two years and Nancy Skinner, student candidate in l98l and l984. In addition to candidates, our Sproul Steps rallies now featured musical entertainment, courtesy of Florence’s son, Country Joe McDonald, leader of the l960’s band Country Joe and the Fish. His famous anti-Vietnam War song, the “Fixin to Die Rag”, closed our rallies, providing instant 60’s nostalgia.

After some delay, Congressman Dellums endorsed the entire BCA slate, including Ying for Mayor. The Congressman rejected advice that he support no one for Mayor in deference to Widener’s popularity in the black community. Dellums explained his position in a detailed letter, part of which stated:

My commitment to human values and progressive politics dictates that I take this position of supporting Ying Lee Kelley-a stand that will no doubt generate considerable criticism in certain parts of the community because the incumbent Mayor is black. …The l973 elections in the City of Berkeley focused very clearly the issue of direction in politics. Two major slates of candidates emerged characterizing two different political movements. One political direction was characterized by a liberal-moderate to conservative, or in other terms, status quo politics. The other was liberal to progressive–persons committed to the politics of change.

Mayor Widener strongly supported the former, while I supported the latter.

It is very important to me for all people of the community to realize that my position in the Mayor’s race is not dictated by the politics of power, or the politics of personality. Rather it is that status quo politics conflicts with the politics to which I have devoted my life; it contradicts all that I stand for as a public person.

Therefore, it is principle that dictates that I endorse persons and encourage political processes that advocate change, and that promise to accelerate the realization of a better way of life for all the people of our society, and our community.

Ms. Ying Lee Kelley is and has been committed to these ideals. I seek to be part of making a new consensus around these ideals, and therefore strongly endorse her for Mayor of Berkeley.

Dellums’ endorsement helped greatly to reduce the opposition to Ying which had been reflected in the black boycott of BCA. Following the Congressman’s lead, even Mark Allen now endorsed her. She was no longer “racist”. Ying’s campaign, helped by strong Asian support, was picking up momentum. About the only thing Ying failed to do was attract visible supporters whose primary orientation was helping her become Berkeley’s first elected woman Mayor. Ying’s primary appeal remained based on her progressive politics, not the fact that she was a woman.

Meanwhile, Ying was more than willing to imitate Harry Truman and try to give Widener hell. She challenged the Mayor to debate her and Widener accepted. These unique Kelley/Widener debates were the campaign highpoint, beginning April 2, l975 at the Ephesian Church in South Berkeley. We compiled a list of Widener’s multiple betrayals, and Ying really tore into the Mayor on the basis of his fraudulent campaign promises. In her genuine outrage at Widener’s actions, Ying dynamically represented the April Coalition/BCA constituency. Here is how she opened the debate:

Four years ago, I joined with Congressman Dellums, Assemblyman Meade, and thousands of other Berkeley citizens in supporting Warren Widener for Mayor.I campaigned for Warren Widener in l97l because I agreed with his positions on the issues, especially his positions on housing, rent control, and responsive government.

Four years of broken campaign promises later, I am running for Mayor of Berkeley, with the support of Congressman Dellums, Assemblyman Meade, and thousands of other former Widener backers.

The issues have not changed, but Mayor Widener’s positions on the issues have changed a great deal.

(Examples: Widener’s votes to defeat rent control, and continue the West Berkeley Industrial Park).

As Mayor, I will be accountable to the people of Berkeley. I am not interested in maximizing my political power at the expense of the ordinary people in our community.

I will keep my campaign promises and I will do my best

to work with all of you for a better city.

Ying put Widener on the defensive and inspired BCA’s campaign

workers for the final push.

In addition to our slate campaign, each of our six candidates

developed their own personal literature, another example of BCA flexibility compared to the April Coalition. Loni’s piece was the most upbeat, without a single negative word for anyone. Florence McDonald hit upon a unique campaign promise that both reflected her radical politics and guaranteed near-permanent popular support:


I will cut the auditor’s salary to no more than that of the highest-paid worker in the department. I am committed to closing the gap between the lowest and highest paid workers everywhere.

And Florence McDonald never says anything unless she means it.

Before the campaign ended, BCA endorsed Louise Stoll for re-election to the Berkeley School Board. This was yet another significant example of how much things had changed on the left since l97l. After being thrown out of the April Coalition convention because of her opposition to Community Control of Police, Louise Stoll was now the first BCA-endorsed School Board candidate. However, in recognition of her alleged unpopularity in the black community and BCA’s City Council focus, Louise’s name did not appear on our literature or the election day doorhanger.

While Stoll’s second term, as part of a new, all white, hills oriented School Board majority, proved to be far more controversial than her first term, BCA’s endorsement of her was an important attempt to correct past wrongs. School Board still remained alien territory about which the organization knew relatively little. We therefore had no capacity to generate our own Board of Education

candidates. (See page ___.)

The Two-Year Council Seat

Mark Allen openly campaigned as a Communist, but received relatively little attention from the media or BDC. Carole Davis ignored him as she ran on Widener’s coattails. Allen was endorsed by Grassroots, the Bay Guardian, and the Daily Californian, all of whom also supported the BCA slate. Election day doorhangers were produced by an offshoot of the Allen campaign, the Committee for a Progressive Majority, which added Mark Allen to the BCA Council ticket.

The Charter Review Committee’s Last Hurrah

Joel Rubenzahl, Sandy Martin, and Portia Shapiro, three of Loni Hancock’s appointees to the Charter Review Committee, had spent a vast amount of time developing plans for district elections of City Councilmembers. Joel was especially influenced by Jack Kent’s formal proposal for a Parliamentary form of government, featuring a large, (60 to 80 members), partisan Council, primarily elected from small districts.

Being a Kallgren appointee in l972-73 did not stop Jack Kent from presenting this truly radical plan to the committee. Although used in European cities, the Parliamentary form of government seemed a wild experiment to nearly everyone on the Charter Review Committee except for Jack Kent and Joel. Following the l973 election and his endorsement of the losing April Coalition slate, Jack Kent resigned from the Charter Review Committee on the grounds that he had switched parties and could no longer serve in good faith as a Kallgren appointee.

While Jack’s resignation adhered to the principles of the Parliamentary form of government, it also made certain that the most far reaching Charter review proposal would never even be put to a vote.

Loni’s appointees decided on something a great deal more modest, l0-l5 Councilmembers elected by district. They started drawing various sets of specific district lines. I never wanted Councilmembers to be elected by district because of my abhorrence of gerrymandering. With its distinct hill, campus, and black communities, Berkeley is a gerrymanderer’s dream, and whoever could draw the lines would probably dictate the outcome. The prime detriment to gerrymandering would be a large number of very tiny districts, as in Jack Kent’s proposal. If the districts are tiny enough, they will stay within neighborhood lines and essentially become immune to a gerrymander. However, everyone would laugh at a large Berkeley City Council of 40 or more members elected by district.

Thus, the compromise l5 district proposal was labored on and actually put to a vote on February 4, l974, losing 6 to l4. The center and right wing of the Charter Review Committee wanted no part of any change so drastic as districts, which were also attacked as racist because they were likely to reduce the percentage of black Councilmembers to less than the then current majority. I voted “yes” in a spirit of unity with my fellow Hancock appointees and because of all the hard work put in by Sandy, Portia, and Joel. The Charter Review Committee later voted l4 to 7 on June 3, l974 to maintain at large elections in preference over every alternative, including districts and proportional representation.

That was the end of district elections for the decade. I continue to oppose district elections for the major additional reason that they would mean the end of city-wide coalitions, leading to massive vote splitting and run-off elections. In a Berkeley City Council district election, huge numbers of candidates would run, destroying city-wide organizations and fragmenting the progressive (and probably the conservative) vote in each district. As occurred with district elections in San Francisco, winners would be decided by tiny margins and turnout could drop. As in San Francisco, runoff elections probably become mandatory, creating increased costs and burdens for everyone.

I think a two-party system with Councilmembers running at large is far more likely than district elections to produce a progressive Council majority capable of running the city. Under the current Berkeley system, representatives of the different communities are continually forced to try and form coalitions. With district elections, I envision permanent fragmentation and no Council majority at all, unless one is artificially produced through gerrymandering. Additionally, Berkeley would be better off to avoid a multi-year political struggle over whether to have district elections.

In San Francisco, a city seven times our size, where districts make a great deal more sense than in Berkeley, the issue was incredibly divisive between the progressive and conservative communities. In four separate contested elections over several years, districts lost, then won twice, and finally lost again in a special election.

Now San Francisco Supervisors are again chosen at large, except the elections are consolidated with the November state-wide general elections in even-numbered years. Berkeley has an identical consolidation thanks to Marty Schiffenbauer’s Measure A from June l972. (See page ___) The system of consolidated elections is popular and guarantees higher turnout and lower costs without any of the detriments associated with districts (endless controversy, gerrymandering, political fragmentation, lower turnout, mobs of candidates, and run-offs). District elections will not serve a constructive purpose in Berkeley.

The Charter Review Committee also rejected any consideration of the Strong Mayor form of government. This system generally envisions a Mayor with some or all of the following: full-time responsibilities with an appropriate full-time salary; broad powers over appointments of city staff and boards and commissions; administrative authority over city staff, and veto power over Council actions. The essence of Strong Mayor is a shift of powers from the City Manager and the City Council to the elected Mayor.

The chief, and usually only proponent of the Strong Mayor form of government is the current Berkeley Mayor, regardless of that person’s politics. Warren Widener and Gus Newport both preferred to be paid a great deal more than $600 per month and to have greater official responsibilities than just presiding over Council meetings.

However, the Charter Review Committee did not wish to replace one all powerful figure (the City Manager) with another (the Mayor). We opposed centralizing power in one person, whether appointed or elected, because no single individual can properly be responsive to Berkeley’s diversity. The Strong Mayor form scared people of all political shades because we believed that power corrupts. Thus, in our minds, the Strong Mayor form was intrinsically linked to arrogance and abuse of power, regardless of who may hold the office.

The Charter Review Committee always preferred to strengthen the powers of the City Council as a whole by transferring the City Manager’s powers. Thus the Committee made its ill-fated November l974 attempt to establish a variation on the Strong Council form of government (unsuccessful Charter Amendments R, S, T, U & V). After that defeat, primarily credited to opposition ballot arguments by the League of Women Voters, the Charter Review Committee had just about exhausted its potential. All we could possibly do for the April l975 election was reintroduce a modified, less controversial version of the defeated measures.

The result was a pair of new, compromise Charter Amendments, measures B and E, which the Council placed on the ballot on February ll, l975. Measure B reduced the number of City Council votes needed to fire the City Manager from 6 (a 2/3 vote) to 5 (a simple majority). This basic reform had been favorably discussed for years. Almost everyone seemed to agree that no City Manager should remain in office against the will of a Council majority. The 6 vote provision gave the Manager so much protection from the Council that the Manager could literally ignore the city’s elected officials. Allowing the removal of a City Manager by 5 votes would establish the City Council’s primacy.

Measure E went still further by requiring Council confirmation of all department head nominations made by the Manager. Rumford and Kallgren voted against even placing it on the ballot. Under E, no longer would the City Manager be able to suddenly announce to the Council that here was a total stranger who would be their new City Attorney or Police Chief, like it or not. Measure E also allowed the Council to establish a probation period for the Manager and all department heads. At the end of such probation period, the City Manager or department head would be retained only upon the Council’s affirmative vote. Measure E thus established that the City Manager and the department heads worked for the Council and were not a government onto themselves. To make this even more explicit, I added to Measure E a specific statement of the City Manager’s purpose: “The City Manager shall be responsible to the Council for the implementation of Council policy …”.

I helped develop Measures B and E through negotiations with representatives of the Council majority, primarily Craig Oren, then a Boalt Hall law student who worked closely with Councilwoman Hone. Craig is now a law professor at Rutgers University. Measures B and E were intended to go as far towards strengthening the City Council’s powers as the League of Women Voters would allow. The Charter Amendments met this test, and Marilyn Couch, President of the Berkeley League, signed the ballot arguments in favor of both B and E.

Former City Councilmember Zack Brown, President of the Berkeley Democratic Club, filed a ballot argument against Measure B, and Councilman Kallgren filed an anti-E argument, both on the grounds that the City Manager must be protected from Council interference. Once again there would be no real campaign outside of the voters’ handbook. By getting the League of Women Voters on our side, we had done all that was politically practical at the time to weaken the City Manager form of government.

The City Council also placed three other Charter Review Committee proposals on the April l975 ballot. Charter Amendment A established an independent Citizens Assistant (ombudsman) with broad powers to help the public by handling complaints and conducting investigations.

This amendment resulted from years of work by Charter Review Committee member Ilse Brieger. She insisted that already having a Citizens Assistant (his name was Ezra “Kit” Parrot) was insufficient. To Ilse, the position had to be in the Charter so that the Citizens Assistant could be fully independent from the Manager. Measure A passed and the City Council appointed Kit Parrot to the upgraded position. Charter status didn’t seem to make a difference, and after Parrot left, Ilse Brieger’s Charter Amendment was entirely repealed in l982.

The Charter Review Committee’s final two amendments, C and D, were clean up measures. Charter Amendment C brought clarity to a horribly muddled section on subpoenas. It established that subpoena power rested with the Council. New language was needed after Councilman D’Army Bailey filed an unsuccessful lawsuit in l97l seeking to subpoena a Berkeley police officer who Bailey felt had been spying on his press conference with a concealed tape recorder. Charter Amendment D eliminated gender-bias from the Charter. For example, “Councilmen” became “Councilmembers”. No ballot arguments were offered against C and D so they passed easily.

The BDC Campaign

To make their money go further under the Election Reform Act’s slate penalty, each of the Council majority’s candidates ran an independent campaign with their own individual mailers. With separate pieces of literature, they generally avoided the problem of having to find endorsers for the entire slate. It was so much easier to establish lists of individual endorsers. Even the BDC’s own slate mailer used six separate groups of endorsers, one for each candidate.

Not a tightly packaged slate like the Berkeley Four, the BDC was more an alliance of convenience between individuals who had little sense of team unity. Lacking a group theme, the candidates presented differing images. Widener boasted of his ability to attract Federal funds to Berkeley. He carried Carole Davis on his literature and signs, for a mini-slate of two.

Billy Rumford asserted that “Bloc voting discourages independent thinking on issues.” He campaigned as open minded, a familiar claim for the Council majority, but in l975 Rumford emphasized it more than anyone else. His running mates tended to avoid Rumford because of his conservative image. The other BDC candidates feared the electoral effects of Rumford’s right-wing taint. On a personal level, Rumford related far better to the departed Wilmont Sweeney than to his current running mates. Billy certainly had some surprises in store for the Council majority over the next four years.

Shirley Dean, a tiny, energetic woman with a great capacity for detail, campaigned as a neighborhood conservationist. In fact she had helped lead the anti-Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance forces in l973. Hers was the most fraudulent campaign because she successfully created a false image for herself as a creative, responsive, pro-neighborhood land use person. Shirley Dean fooled a great many people in this campaign.

Paul Maier stressed his legal background and over-all professional qualifications. Candidate Harry Weininger is best remembered for a curious campaign poster by Berkeley’s most famous printer/artist, David Lance Goines. The poster showed a man’s head (Weininger’s??) with Berkeley City Hall growing out of it. I thought this was a bad poster, artistically and politically, but I later became friends with Harry.

What all the BDC candidates had in common was their upbeat, positive approach to the campaign, actually quite similar to Loni’s. BDC literature did not attack BCA. Except for Widener, the BDC candidates declined to defend the current Council majority. All six essentially put themselves forward on their individual merits, minimizing the role of slates, and ignoring the fact that they were seeking to preserve a controlling six vote majority on the City Council.

It appears the Republicans provided reliable, low-key support to the BDC ticket. One GOP mailer was from former Councilman Tom McLaren. It used the standard phrasing: “Unless all Republicans vote for responsive candidates, there is great risk that the radicals will obtain control of the Council.” McLaren’s letter then made a special pitch for Paul Maier “because he is reasonable, responsible and practical (and) will listen to and represent all people.”

BDC also endorsed incumbent Auditor Myrna Ashley for re-election, but she was a minuscule part of their campaign. Margaret Watson, the third candidate in the race, had the same hills constituency as Ashley. They were splitting the center/right vote exactly as predicted, all to the benefit of Florence McDonald.

Final Endorsements

Newspaper endorsements for City Council were predictable, although the editorial frenzy of the last two campaigns was noticeably absent. The Berkeley Gazette calmly endorsed the entire BDC slate, while the Daily Cal supported BCA plus Mark Allen.

Election Day
The price for a pleasant, low-key campaign would inevitably be less voter interest and a much lower turnout than in l97l and l973. I was badly frightened that the drop in turnout might be so severe as to allow the hills to control the election as they had so many times in the past before students started voting in large numbers. But BCA did an excellent get-out-the-vote effort and our constituency held its own.

The April l5, l975 results: 35,885 voters


elected Warren Widener 17,310(50%) Berkeley Democratic Club, Incumbent

Ying Lee Kelley 16,607(48%) Berkeley Citizens Action

Carl Finamore 586( 2%) Socialist Workers Party

City Council

(4-Year Seats)

elected Loni Hancock 17,018(47%) Berkeley Citizens Action, Incumbent

elected John Denton 14,846(41%) Berkeley Citizens Action

elected Bill Rumford 14,519(40%) Berkeley Democratic Club, Incumbent

elected Shirley Dean 13,863(39%) Berkeley Democratic Club

Paul Maier 13,249(37%) Berkeley Democratic Club

Vivian Gales 12,473(35%) Berkeley Citizens Action

Harry Weininger 11,727(33%) Berkeley Democratic Club

Jeff Rudolph 11,032(31%) Berkeley Citizens Action

Valarie Brown 2,581( 7%) Independent

Ira Simmons 2,256( 6%) Independent, Incumbent

Martha Nicoloff 1,909( 5%) Independent

James Peterson 1,634( 5%) Independent

(2-Year Seat)

elected Carole Davis 15,013(52%) Berkeley Democratic Club

Mark Allen 10,288(35%) Independent, Communist Party

Velma Bradley 3,874(13%) Independent


elected Florence McDonald 13,407(42%) Berkeley Citizens Action

Myrna Ashley 12,014(37%) Berkeley Democratic Club, Incumbent

Margaret Watson 6,609(21%) Independent

Ballot Measures

The Fair Representation Ordinance (2) YES 16,829(59%) PASSED

(Initiative) NO 11,638(41%)

Reducing the Votes to Fire the City Manager YES 18,448(63%) PASSED

from 6 to 5, Charter Amendment (B) NO 10,757(37%)

Requiring City Council Confirmation of YES 15,231(55%) PASSED

Department Heads, Charter Amendment (E) NO 12,290(45%)

Turnout and Summary

l4,000 fewer people voted in l975 than had two years earlier, in spite of the fact that the l975 election, unlike l973, featured a race for Mayor. More people voted in April l967 (when voters had to be at least 2l years old) than went to the polls in l975 (with the l8 year old vote).

The era of passionate, high turnout April elections was gone for good, but it didn’t matter. The hills and the campus virtually tied in the numbers of actual voters, but BCA was shockingly competitive at this reduced turnout level thanks to solid support in our south campus, central and north central Berkeley strongholds (the greater campus community).

On the whole, the electorate was less polarized than in l973, the slates not as powerful. The overall result was objectively a draw, perhaps the least decisive election in two decades. The Berkeley Democratic Club retained the 6-vote Council majority it had prior to Sweeney’s resignation. But BCA was successful enough to psychologically erase the l973 defeat and feel like a winner.


Ying Kelley almost knocked off Warren Widener, after she led in the vote count throughout most of the evening. Ultimately, Widener put together a winning combination of the hills, the absentee vote, and the black community, beating Ying by better than 2 to l in each area. Ying swamped Widener by nearly 3 to l in the greater campus community, a more than sufficient margin to cancel out the hills. But it was not enough to overcome Widener’s decisive 2,000 vote lead in the black community.

Ying carried nearly every single precinct that had voted for Widener four years earlier, and received a 5% increase over Widener’s l97l percentage of the vote. Widener’s l975 majorities came in only the conservative and black precincts he had lost to Wilmont Sweeney in l97l. Thus, Warren Widener successfully executed a complete switch of constituencies, the only Councilmember within memory to perform that trick and get re-elected.

Berkeley’s voters were perfectly consistent in their politics and simply treated the l975 edition of Warren Widener as if he had become Wilmont Sweeney, a very perceptive assessment. In other words, Widener did not really fool the voters a second time. Ying still lost, but considering how close she came against the united center/right Conservative Coalition, it felt like a moral victory.

City Council (4-Year Seats)

For City Council, Loni Hancock and John Denton became the first progressives to ever lead the entire City Council field. Loni’s 47% of the vote was the highest percentage ever received by one of our candidates, 5% higher than Ying’s l973 vote, 10% more than Loni received when she was first elected in l97l, a 14% increase over Loni’s initial race in l969. Loni’s support was city-wide, including l/3 of the hills vote and 2/3 of the campus community. John Denton did nearly as well in the same areas.

But the BCA City Council slate campaign did not succeed as a whole. There was a record l6% gap between our candidates with Loni in first (47%) and Jeff Rudolph in eighth place (3l%). Thus, while Loni had finally won over the political center, Jeff and Vivian Gales (33%) lost ground, both of them dropping below the percentage levels of the entire l973 April Coalition slate.

This was partially explainable on the basis of age. The three slate candidates on the bottom were the youngest and least experienced from each ticket. It was the same in l973 when the three youngest candidates, all white males, had also trailed among the slate field. Many voters clearly practiced age discrimination, dropping the younger candidates from both parties.

As a very young, white, male student, Jeff did poorly enough citywide, (especially in the hills and the black community), that the task of getting BCA to nominate another student would be much more difficult in the future. Even electoral people failed to appreciate how much Jeff’s presence on the ticket and his organizational work had helped us among student voters.

Vivian Gales did not do very well, either, running behind Margot Dashiell’s percentages in all parts of the city.

The BDC Council slate was lucky to elect Rumford and Dean, the third and fourth place finishers. While their candidates ran closely together, (only a 7% gap between best and worst), the entire slate received a lower percentage of the vote than had Joe Garrett, the Berkeley Four loser from two years earlier. Everywhere in the city BDC support dropped significantly from l973 levels. Instead of winning the black community as in l973, this time BDC was held to less than a tie. The leaders in most black precincts were Rumford, Hancock, and Gales, with black independent Valerie Brown often making the top four.

Shirley Dean’s election, by 600 votes (2%) over her running mate Paul Maier, can be credited to both the advantages of being a woman and Shirley’s carefully cultivated neighborhood, environmentalist image.

City Council (2-Year Seat)

Carole Davis had a comfortable victory, becoming the first black woman ever elected to the Berkeley City Council. She defeated Mark Allen by a landslide in the hills (up to l0 to l), while Davis also won in the black community, the only part of town where Velma Bradley received a sizeable vote. Mark Allen ran quite well in the traditional BCA strongholds, beating Davis by large margins (up to 5 to l) in the most progressive campus precincts. On the whole, Mark Allen’s city-wide vote was equivalent to that of a very, very weak BCA candidate. Mark received 700 votes less than Jeff Rudolph, who did poorly enough to imperil future student candidates. Yet the Communist Party saw the results as a mandate for a second Mark Allen candidacy in l977.


Margaret Watson took enough votes away from Myrna Ashley, especially in the hills where they both were strongest, so that Florence won exactly as planned. With that vote split, it was l97l all over again. Florence beat Ashley by nearly 3 to l in the greater campus area. That was enough to overcome both Ashley’s hill margin and the incumbent’s small advantage in the black community.

Ballot Measures

The Fair Representation Ordinance repeated our by now standard pattern for a highly successful measure. It came close in the hills while still losing, won by 3 to l in the progressive community, and also carried west and southwest Berkeley. Loni, Ying, and John were going to have a lot of appointments to make.

The Charter Review Committee’s measures ran similarly to the FRO. Measure B (5 votes instead of 6 to fire the City Manager) actually carried many hill precincts, while winning big everywhere else. Measure E (requiring Council confirmation of department heads), was soundly beaten in the hills. It won on the basis of a very strong campus community, vote plus majorities in nearly all the west and southwest Berkeley precincts, that combined to cancel out the hills.

The voters having passed all the Charter Amendments placed on the April l975 ballot, the Charter Review Committee felt it had nothing else left to offer. The Committee was dissolved by the Council at our own request, and further Charter revision has not been seriously considered during the ensuing decade.