Elections in 2010s
- November 2, 2010 General Election
Nancy Skinner, elected in 2008, joined the California Assembly, and with her long record of work on behalf of the environment, became Chair of the Natural Resources Committee.
She was no ordinary freshman, part of Assembly leadership from the beginning of her term, introducing legislation on behalf of conservation and alternative energy. Also named Rookie of the Year.
Easily re-elected in 2010, she now becomes Chair of the more powerful Assembly Rules Committee and part of the Assembly Speaker’s official leadership team.
Back at the Berkeley City Council relations between the
Council majority, led by Mayor Tom Bates, usually six or seven votes strong, had completely broken down with the minority of two, Kriss Worthington and his ally Jesse Arreguin. The main issue once again was land use, especially a much disputed Downtown Plan.
The Council majority adopted a Downtown Plan which the minority felt called for excessive density and height, lacking provisions for affordable housing, while really serving developers.
Worthington and Arreguin backed a successful referendum which gathered enough signatures to block the Mayor’s Downtown Plan, causing it to be repealed. (A new allegation was harassment of referendum petition circulators by Council majority supporters.)
This was the second successful referendum by Council majority opponents, after repulsing pro-developer amendments to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (Measure LL) in November 2008.
In 2010 the Council majority reacted by attempting to defeat Kriss Worthington in District 7, which covers much of the south campus area, (the main event), and Jesse Arreguin in District 4, downtown and central Berkeley. Kriss and Jesse worked as a team, sharing the same campaign office.
Kriss was first elected in 1996, a 14-year progressive Council veteran, who spent his initial six years battling Mayor Shirley Dean. Kriss was a strong supporter of Tom Bates in 2002, when Tom defeated Dean in a classic progressive vs. conservative showdown. Kriss and Tom worked closely together for a period that failed to last. By 2006, neither endorsed the other for re-election, part of a widening gap over land use issues.
Jesse Arreguin, youngest Councilmember, had been elected in 2008 to fill out the last two years of the late Donna Spring’s term. Like Donna, Jesse became part of the 2-vote Council minority. He was now running for re-election to a full 4-year term.
Mayor Bates and five other Councilmembers generally loyal to Tom endorsed Worthington’s leading opponent George Beier, who was making his third try at beating Kriss. Beier’s main advantage was personal wealth, allowing him to greatly outspend Worthington. Beier was also endorsed by former Mayor Shirley Dean, a long-time enemy of Worthington .
I note that Max Anderson, a City Councilmember who votes with both sides, depending on the issue, supported Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin.
On the night of November 2, it became clear that Kriss Worthington would defeat Beier by a greater margin than four years earlier, over 600 votes.
Ranked choice voting, also known as instant run-offs, was being used for the first time. Voters could cast ballots for their second and third (or more) choices, which would all be counted, the person in last place dropped, until a candidate won with over 50% of the vote.
That might have mattered, as Worthington hovered so near a majority, perhaps eventually reaching it without need for second choice votes from ballots cast for write-ins. Yet it was that second round, 8 more votes for Kriss, which had been wasted upon write-ins as a first choice, officially putting him over the top, sparing Worthington any risk of a run-off against Beier.
It was important that run-off elections were eliminated in Berkeley, real progress, because lower, more conservative turnout in run-offs always made them less democratic.
Jesse Arreguin won an even more convincing victory, a first ballot majority exceeding 1,000 votes, despite also being outspent by his leading opponent.
Mayor Tom Bates lost in both of these district Council races, but passed Downtown Plan Measure R, primarily an advisory measure to the Council. “R” backed the Mayor’s ideas for an environmentally friendly pattern of development, but contained provisions which caused Worthington and Arreguin to oppose it.
Measure R won with an overwhelming 64% of the vote, and allies of Mayor Bates were also easily re-elected in
two Council districts, victory for all incumbents. Both
the Council majority and minority could feel vindicated by this mixture of wins and losses.
Sierra Club endorsements seemed pivotal, in a city like Berkeley which is so environmentally friendly. Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguin, and Measure R all prominently displayed their Sierra Club backing. This was a bit odd for Yes on “R” mailings funded by developers.
Yet to be determined is whether the two Council factions, which used to be allied, can work together on a mutually acceptable Downtown Plan.
Both sides label themselves as “progressive”, although Worthington and Arreguin insist they are the “real progressives”. Opponents call them NIMBYs, a pejorative term for people whose view of development is Not In My Back Yard.
Meanwhile little remains of the old conservative coalition that always backed Shirley Dean in her first four races for Mayor, two of those successful. Dean’s contradictory, clumsy, and unsuccessful efforts at appealing to the Worthington/Arreguin constituency ended up with Mayor Bates inheriting most of her former supporters by default.
2. June 2012 Election
California State Senate and the Sandre Swanson Problem.
Since 1970 there has been an informal Berkeley-Oakland progressive alliance/coalition first centered upon the two offices won that year, Congress and the Berkeley/Oakland Assembly District, plus organizational and individual supporters. (Detractors called it “the Dellums Machine”). In reality neither Congressman Dellums nor anyone else controlled how people behaved in this Coalition.
Initial electoral goals were obvious: defeating Republicans and conservative Democrats, picking up additional offices over the years. That was followed by general unity on behalf of a progressive agenda, plus making new allies beyond Berkeley and Oakland.
For 20 years (1976-1996) Assemblyman Tom Bates was one coalition pillar, along with Congressman Dellums, who served from 1971 until resigning in 1997. His logical protege and successor, State Senator Barbara Lee, won and replaced Dellums.
Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA) and the people it elected, especially Loni Hancock, winning as Councilmember in 1971 and 1975, later Mayor in 1986 and 1990, were a key part of this coalition for decades on the Berkeley side. The marriage of Loni Hancock and Tom Bates was an event that went beyond coalition politics.
Term limits, a conservative state initiative, passed, and had a severe effect upon members of the California State Assembly and State Senate. Tom Bates was termed out, followed for six years by his chief of staff, Dion Aroner. (1996-2002). After she was termed out, Loni Hancock served in the Assembly, 2002-2008. Loni, termed out for the Assembly, was then elected to the State Senate in 2008, and her re-election in 2012 was considered routine, after which she would be termed out yet again.
Sandre Swanson was a “lifer” for 30 years in the Ron Dellums/Barbara Lee Congressional office, rising to District Director and Chief of Staff. After being defeated for elective office more than once, he finally won the Assembly district south of Berkeley in 2006. Sandre, termed out in 2012, did the unthinkable: declaring his candidacy against Loni Hancock for her State Senate seat.
Among Loni supporters in Berkeley, this suggested that Sandre Swanson had lost his mind. One essential element of coalition politics was for progressives not to run against each other, something Sandre ought to have learned long ago. We were disgusted with him. (No incumbent within the coalition had ever been challenged by another coalition person until Sandre’s candidacy.)
Both locally and among California Democratic Party leaders, it became a priority to achieve Swanson’s withdrawal. Democrats were successfully aiming at vulnerable Republicans in the Legislature, and did not want any money wasted on an avoidable fight between Loni and Swanson. (Another idiotic state initiative had abolished party primaries, so this wasteful race would be conducted in both June and November, making things even worse.) And Loni was nearly certain to win, with rock solid Democratic Party support plus personal popularity, one more reason for Swanson to quit.
So negotiations were conducted over what ransom Sandre Swanson wanted to receive in exchange for his withdrawal. Turned out that Swanson settled for Loni’s endorsement in 2016, when he could run for an open State Senate seat. That deal became public, Swanson dropped out, and Loni was easily re-elected. Sandre Swanson ended up with a job as Deputy Mayor of Oakland, appointed by Mayor Jean Quan. So he’s not unemployed while waiting for 2016.
The only “loser” was Loni’s successor in the Assembly, Nancy Skinner, her obvious successor for the State Senate as well. Nancy will be termed out in 2014 after her 2012 re-election. Even without an endorsement from Loni she expected and deserved, Nancy Skinner may run for the State Senate in 2016 against Sandre Swanson and others. (This happened previously for State Senate as an open seat, two coalition people splitting the progressive vote, and thus electing Don Perata, the most conservative candidate.)
A term limits revision has passed, allowing newly elected members of the California Legislature to spend more time in either the Assembly or State Senate. This reduced threat of being termed out might eliminate the new Assembly members replacing both Sandre Swanson and Nancy Skinner from running for the State Senate in 2016.
It should be noted that against Loni, many supporters of the Berkeley City Council minority would likely have embraced Sandre Swanson. They stand outside the traditional coalition, opposing not just Mayor Tom Bates and his council allies, but also rejecting both Loni Hancock and Nancy Skinner for their connections to the Mayor. What I still consider to be a civil war was fought on many fronts in November 2012.
3. November 6, 2012 General Election
Races for Mayor, City Council, and Contested Ballot Measures
The Berkeley City Council Majority and Minority clashed once again, each side scoring victories and absorbing defeats. There were no fundamental changes, with the Council Majority, led by Major Tom Bates, still in control. Small efforts at reconciliation between these former progressive allies failed once again.
When Mayor Tom Bates, having already served for 10 years, announced his candidacy for another 4-year term, it first appeared he would not have any serious opponents.
Then Councilmember Kriss Worthington, leader of the Council minority, entered the race, opposing the Mayor, his Council allies, and two Council majority ballot measures.
Jacquelyn McCormick, active in the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association, was another relevant candidate, whose extensive critique of Mayor Bates differed little from that put forward by Kriss. They both charged Tom with having sold out to developers on land use issues.
With ranked choice voting, (instant run-off), applied in the Mayor’s race, Worthington and McCormick were not vote splitters. If Bates failed to receive a majority on the first ballot, second and third choice selections could, in theory, produce a winner among his opponents. (This happened in Oakland, where candidates opposing Don Perata for Mayor, strongly urged supporters to use their remaining choices for others who were part of an “Anyone But Perata” group. The result was Jean Quan elected Mayor, despite Perata being ahead, with less than a majority, on the first ballot. The response from Perata allies was a failed attempt to repeal Oakland’s ranked choice voting.)
In Berkeley campaign literature, McCormick and Worthington declined to mutually endorse each other as second choices, but an election day Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA) door hanger had Kriss Worthington, followed by McCormick, ranked first and second. BCA, long a supporter of Tom Bates, Loni Hancock (a BCA founder), and Nancy Skinner, became the Council minority’s organization in 2012 without a fight, after many years of being nearly comatose. In 2012 BCA refused to support Loni and Nancy because of their connections to Tom, as reflected in many pro-Council majority endorsements from both of them. The Council minority had a Community Campaign Office, with literature and activity supporting all opponents of the Council majority.
The main event at every level was still land use. Berkeley’s infill development, also known as “smart growth”, retained support from some environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, which viewed this as a desirable alternative to urban sprawl into pristine areas.
Large new buildings, retail at street level, residential for the next several stories, were being constructed in commercial zones under Mayor Bates at a more rapid pace than previously, popping up everywhere. There were also a series of office buildings, two of them named for Berkeley heroes in environmental protection and disability rights. Several of these structures featured advanced conservation measures to make them “green”.
It seemed that city planning staff and the Council majority, plus its appointees, approved nearly anything, despite strong neighborhood opposition that many such developments were massively intrusive upon nearby residential areas with adverse impacts such as traffic increases. Opponents also claimed lip service was being given to affordable housing. The Council minority generally voted with opponents of such development, an ever-growing source of new converts to their side.
The Sierra Club had already endorsed Mayor Bates for re-election before Kriss Worthington became a candidate against him. Another Sierra Club endorsement went to District 5’s Laurie Capitelli, a strong Bates ally with a serious challenger. The Green Party, having virtually no influence compared to the Sierra Club, supported all Council minority candidates. Official Democratic Party endorsements were reserved for the Council majority, whose base of operations was, among other things, the Berkeley Obama for President Office.
The irony of Berkeley Citizens Action rejecting Bates, Hancock, and Skinner was mirrored by a similar reversal at the Berkeley Democratic Club (BDC). BDC was for decades the base of moderate to conservative establishment Democrats, representing the hills, who opposed BCA candidates and measures, such as rent control. It had always supported Shirley Dean, helping elect her to the Council in 1975 and 1979, then backing Dean for Mayor in 1982 (a loss), her district elections return to the Council (1986, 1990), then her two victories for Mayor (1994 & 1998); finally the last traditional showdown of progressives vs. the conservative coalition, BDC endorsing Dean for a third term as Mayor in 2002, when Tom Bates defeated her. That is Eight BDC endorsements for Dean.
Established patterns were were about to change dramatically. BDC had already endorsed Tom Bates many times for the Assembly, where he was always the Democratic Party candidate. In 2006 opponents of Mayor Bates on land use issues formed a new, short lived organization, which nominated a weak candidate who ran against Tom to his left. That year both the Berkeley Democratic Club and Berkeley Citizens Action endorsed Tom for re-election, a unique outcome not to be repeated. Bates was easily re-elected Mayor for a 2-year term in 2006, so that future mayorality elections would subsequently take place concurrent with Presidential elections and their greater turnout.
More than any other single factor, I believe it was Shirley Dean’s erratic behavior, when she tried running for Mayor to the left and right of Tom Bates in 2008, that altered perceptions at the Berkeley Democratic Club. I find no record of the BDC endorsing anyone for Mayor in that election, which would have been the first time Dean failed to receive their support. And she lost badly to Tom Bates, worse than in 2002, also losing much of her former constituency.
Concurrently, supporters of the Council minority successfully prevented Berkeley Citizens Action from endorsing Tom Bates for re-election in 2008, the first time that had ever happened.
By November 2012 re-allignment was complete, and polarization between former allies from 2002 at maximum. The Council minority controlled BCA, while BDC supported all Council majority candidates and ballot measure positions.
Tom Bates 28,635 (54%)
Kriss Worthington 11,507 (22%)
Jacquelyn McCormick 6,011 (11%)
(minor candidates excluded)
Mayor Bates won re-election on the first ballot with an absolute majority, so ranked choice voting played no part. Tom’s percentage of the vote was little changed from his 55% in defeating Dean a decade earlier. A detailed precinct analysis, which I did not perform, would show that Kriss Worthington made inroads among voters in precincts where Tom Bates used to run strongest, before there was a Council majority and minority. But Tom also picked up an equivalent percentage of support from elsewhere, while maintaining much of his original base.
Both the Council majority and minority attempted to defeat opponents in several districts. They failed, with repercussions that are uncertain.
In the most contested race, a District 5 a re-match, Laurie Capitelli, a realtor, who always votes with Tom Bates and the Council majority, again defeated Sophie Hahn, this time by a 700 vote margin. District 5 earlier belonged to Shirley Dean, and dominated by the hills,
it’s record of voting for the more conservative candidate remained unblemished.
The Council minority’s lack of viable organization was further displayed by having no strong opponent to Darryl Moore in District 6, covering west and southwest Berkeley. Moore, another Council majority loyalist, won with nearly 59% of the vote against two challengers.
Most interesting to me was District 3, home to Councilmember Max Anderson, whose independence was unique. Normally part of the Council majority, Anderson would also vote with the minority, depending upon each specific issue. He had endorsed Kriss Worthington for re-election in 2010, when every other member of the Council majority supported one or more rival candidates defeated by Kriss.
In November 2012 Max Anderson was targeted for elimination by the Council majority, due to his crime of being independent. Anderson’s opponent, Dmitri Belser, was endorsed by Mayor Bates, Councilmembers Capitelli, Wozniak, and Wengraf, plus the Berkeley Democratic Club. Two other members of the Council majority may have remained neutral. It appeared to me that Belser’s essential argument for votes was greater loyalty to the Council majority than Max Anderson’s record.
Anderson was still walking a tightrope between the two sides, endorsing both Tom Bates and Kriss Worthington for Mayor. But it was the Council minority that embraced Anderson and distributed BCA doorhangers for a ticket of Worthington and Anderson. District 3 was not fertile ground for the Council Majority in 2012, it having repeatedly elected BCA’s anchor of the left, Maudelle Shirek.
Max Anderson defeated Belser, totaling over 60%, a margin of victory exceeding 1,000 votes. What remains to be seen is whether Max Anderson responds to his Council majority opponents by openly joining the Council minority, which would then increase to three votes. (Councilmembers have switched sides in the past for lesser reasons.) Time will tell.
It can once again safely be said that no district election incumbents lost, this time in 2012.
The Council placed three measures on the November ballot that generated the most contoversy.
MEASURE S (Making Sitting On the Sidewalk a Crime)
Many Berkeley merchants, especially those downtown and on Telegraph Avenue, believe that street people (homeless people) sitting/lying/panhandling on the sidewalks discourage customers from shopping in Berkeley. This was nothing new. A comparable Council measure, passed by the voters in November 1994, and most associated with Shirley Dean, had banned panhandling. Endorsers then included Tom Bates and Loni Hancock. It never went into effect after court challenges.
Now the Council majority, supported by Mayor Tom Bates and State Senator Loni Hancock, tried a new measure to discourage street people from sitting and lying on sidewalks by making this behavior criminal. It was supposed to promote treatment for violators. (Measure S may have been what caused Kriss Worthington to run for Mayor, opposing it).
The “Yes on S” campaign produced several mailers, greatly outspending opponents. But unlike the 1994 result, “S” was defeated.
MEASURE T (West Berkeley Development)
Measure T renewed a decades-long debate over how/whether West Berkeley should be intensely developed, rather than left under current land use plans. This was the Council Majority’s opening salvo into changing the existing West Berkeley Plan and Zoning Ordinance in favor of far greater new development than presently allowed.
It applied to a limited number of sites, whose owners financed a campaign of “Yes” mailers. Opponents, existing West Berkeley residents, including artists, and small manufacturers/business people, could not compete by spending money.
Yet Measure T was beaten by a small margin, rejection of Council Majority plans for new West Berkeley development. It was perhaps the most significicant defeat the Council majority suffered in November 2012.
MEASURE R (Reapportionment)
District elections came to Berkeley in a successful June 1986 Initiative Charter Amendment, Measure C. The initiative locked in eight council districts, whole lines were explicitly drawn as part of Measure C. After a new census every ten years, district lines could only be changed to equalize population, preserving the basic formation of each district. That had been the status quo ever since.
Back in 1986 Measure C included punishment for U.C. student support of BCA candidates and progressive ballot measures over the prior decade. This was done by gerrymandering the areas where students lived into about five separate districts. The anti-student gerrymander was so obvious that Measure C lost heavily in the campus community. But the Academic Calendar, recently changed from quarters to semesters, meant that most students were gone by election day in June 1986. Had there been a normal student vote, district elections would certainly have lost. Instead Measure C managed to pass, due to strong anti-BCA sentiment in the hills, a backlash against BCA “at large” victories in November 1982 and November 1984.
Thus divided by Measure C’s gerrymander, it had proven impossible to elect a student to the City Council in either of the two districts where it was tried, most recently in District 8. Councilmembers from District 7, which had the largest student constituency, such as Carla Woodworth and now Kriss Worthington, tried their best to represent students, Kriss appointing more students to boards and commissions than anyone else, perhaps more than all members of the Council majority put together.
After the 2010 census there were student demands for a City Council district of their own.
The Council seemed receptive, deferring reapportionment and placing Measure R on the ballot as a Charter Amendment. Councilmembers did not wish to appear anti-student.
Measure R gutted all of the eight district lines established by Measure C back in June 1986.
Instead the City Council, under Measure R, would have virtually unlimited power to draw new district lines of their choice, by adoption of an ordinance. Although Measure R never mentioned students, it had the benefit of a presumption that a student district would be created. The City Council majority strongly supported “R”, while the 2-member Council minority was essentially silent, and/or nominally in favor.
Measure R’s opponents argued that it provided the Council with new, dangerous powers over reapportionment that the majority would use for its own political purposes to create future gerrymanders. The anti-R grouping included original backers of Measure C from 1986, former Mayor Shirley Dean, and supporters of the Council minority, likely targets of any gerrymander. BCA doorhangers slated No On “R” “S” & “T”. But Measure R appeared on the ballot as a good-government measure, passing easily.
Depending upon districts yet to be adopted by the City Council, Measure R may prove to be a game changer in 2014, when both members of the Council minority, Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin will be up for re-election in these new districts.