Berkeley’s progressive political faction appeared on course to win at least three of four City Council races and the mayor’s race late Tuesday night, solidifying its control over local politics.
Incumbent councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Dona Spring and Linda Maio, all progressives, led by significant margins after midnight and former state Assemblyman Tom Bates, also a progressive, had declared victory over moderate Mayor Shirley Dean.
Moderate Planning Commissioner Gordon Wozniak held a solid lead in a four-way race for the empty 8th District City Council seat. If he wins, Wozniak would succeed retiring moderate Polly Armstrong.
But, just after midnight, with 80 percent of precincts counted, Wozniak had not reached the 45 percent threshold required to avoid a run-off. Wozniak held a 43 to 35 percent edge over his closest competitor, progressive-backed UC Berkeley student Andy Katz.
If neither candidate wins 45 percent, the city will mail ballots to 8th District voters for a Wozniak-Katz runoff. The votes would be tallied Dec. 3.
The Berkeley City Council consists of eight councilmembers and the mayor. Before Tuesday, progressives held a 5-4 edge on the panel. A Bates victory, coupled with the re-election of Worthington, Spring and Maio, would increase the progressive majority to 6-3. A Katz victory would mean a 7-2 edge.
Four of Berkeley’s eight council members – moderates Betty Olds and Miriam Hawley, and progressives Margaret Breland and Maudelle Shirek – did not face re-election this year.
A 6-3 or 7-2 re-alignment, progressives said, would lead to greater harmony on a council that has been sharply divided by partisan bickering.
“We will have a completely different environment and tenor on the council,” said an exuberant Maio, late Tuesday night. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Worthington was reluctant to declare victory in his own race, despite a late 60 to 38 percent lead over UC Berkeley student Micki Weinberg, but rejoiced in Bates’ apparent win.
Still, Worthington played down the idea of a new progressive super-majority on the council and said Bates will work with both progressives and moderates.
The 8th District race for an empty seat was the most competitive City Council contest this year. Moderates lined up behind Wozniak, while progressives backed Katz, who hopes to be the first student elected to City Council since 1984. Human rights consultant Anne Wagley and air conditioning mechanic Carlos Estradaran outside Berkeley’s two dominant political factions.