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.

Results: 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.