Elections in 1990s
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.
1. District 5, November 1990 Election
Since District Elections were often dull, it took someone special to liven them up.
Wavy Gravy, Berkeley’s best known clown, ran against Shirley Dean for her District 5 City Council seat in the November 1990 election.
His campaign slogan was: “Let’s elect a real clown for a change.”
Wavy Gravy’s flamingo poster/lawn sign was probably the best campaign art of the District Elections era. Wavy also gave away clown noses to supporters instead of buttons.
A child of the 60s, Wavy Gravy is perhaps most famous for being on stage as master of ceremonies at the original Woodstock in 1969. He’s also a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor, world humanitarian, and runs a children’s summer camp. For more, check out the Wavy Gravy website.
Whether Shirley Dean felt insulted by having a clown as her opponent is unclear. BCA had helped to send in the clown, but could not offer any real support in such a conservative district.
District 5 voters remained unamused, and Shirley Dean was easily re-elected over Wavy Gravy on November 6, 1990.
A decade later, the City of Berkeley did proclaim May 15, 2001 as “Wavy Gravy Day” to help celebrate his 65th birthday.
2. 1994 & 1998 Races for Mayor
1994: Don Jelinek vs. Shirley Dean for Mayor of Berkeley with control of the City Council at stake.
Folowing Loni Hancock’s departure to work for the Clinton Administration, Don Jelinek hoped to extend BCA’s string of victories in the race for Mayor to five in a row, while also protecting a 5-4 progressive Council majority.
Shirley Dean, a loser to Gus Newport in 1982, was making her second race for Mayor. A Dean victory would mean the first hill-based, conservative coalition majority in ten years.
Since each side had four district Council seats, to the winner of the 1994 race for Mayor went the majority.
Just before election day in November 1994, Dean’s campaign stooped to one of the lowest blows within memory. Literature was circulated in African-American precincts falsely claiming there was no proof Jelinek had worked as a civil rights attorney in the South thirty years earlier, when Don represented Martin Luther King, Jr., among other leaders. The smear was answered, but Dean’s big lie tactic may have worked.
On election day, November 8, 1994, Jelinek finished with more votes than Dean, but short of a majority. This required a December run-off under the District Elections initiative passed in 1986. With a greatly reduced turnout, plus University policies that hampered student voting, Dean won the December 1994 run-off. To the progressive community, Dean’s election as Mayor lacked legitimacy.
It had proven unfortunate that Berkeley elects its Mayor in the same year as the California race for Governor, The turnout, especially among Democrats and tenants, is much higher in Presidential election years.
Shirley Dean (subsequently called Shirley Mean by some) now had five votes and City Council control. Mayor Dean used this power to withdraw city funding from community groups suspected of being allied with BCA.
(This was also an unusual period when all nine Berkeley City Council seats were held by women. What a change from 1971, when Loni Hancock had been the only woman on the Council.)
November 1996, a Presidential election year (Dole vs. Clinton), and advantage could be taken of the higher turnout.
In Southwest Berkeley’s District 2, the only non-hills district to elect a conservative, BCA had repeatedly tried and failed to defeat Councilmember Mary Wainwright, a strong Shirley Dean ally.
On November 5, 1996, BCA candidate Margaret Breland finally beat Wainwright, and progressives regained a 5-4 Council majority over Mayor Dean. Don Jelinek had been involved in this race and a second victory that day by a Jelinek ally, Kriss Worthington. He defeated Councilmember Carla Woodworth, a District 7 independent. It looked encouraging for Jelinek in his anticipated rematch with Dean.
However, on November 3, 1998, Dean won the rematch with Jelinek, obtaining a clear majority without need for a run-off.