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 Student precincts that rarely mattered in conservative District 8 had been replaced by a large number of former District 7 precincts.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.)
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 years ago 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 County 38,299 (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.