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.
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:
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.
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
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
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 Droste2,072 (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.)
Sugar Sweetened Beverages Tax, Measure D
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 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.
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 EcholsTony Thurmond
Alameda County38,299 (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.
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.
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 on Page 8.
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.
Nancy Skinner vs. Sandre Swanson
State Senate: Round 1
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 Sanders22,993 (54%)
Hillary Clinton 19,120 (45%)
November 8, 2016
(The Times They Are a-Changin’)
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 Worthingtonwasthe 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.
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.
TheCouncil 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 Davila3,451 (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%)
Measure DD (Landlords) YES 16,328 (29%)
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 go to at Page 13 .
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 Skinner236,133 (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 Skinner39,365 (69%)
Sandre Swanson 17,696 (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.