There were no big surprises in the way that Berkeley voters cast their votes this year. As usual, Berkeley led the state in opposition to Republican candidates while showing continued support for abortion rights, public education, the environment and affordable housing.
Though easily winning re-election in November’s election, Governor Arnold Schwarzen-egger got only 16 percent of the votes cast in Berkeley. This was the smallest percentage he received in cities with a population of 100,000 or more.
Schwarzenegger got 20 percent of the vote in Oakland and almost 30 percent in liberal San Francisco.
The 16 percent he got in Berkeley was actually an im-provement over the 2003 recall election that brought him into office when he garnered only 8.7 percent of the vote, coming in third behind Democrat Cruz Bustamante (74 percent) and Green Party candidate Peter Camejo (8.8 percent). 89 percent of Berkeley’s votes had voted against the recall of Democratic Governor Gray Davis.
Democratic candidate Phil Angelides got 72 percent of the vote in this year’s election and Camejo, running again as the Green Party candidate, got 10 percent.
Among cities with at least 100,000 people, Angelides got a higher percentage of votes only in Inglewood and South Gate, both located in Los Angeles County. Over 90 percent of the residents of South Gate are Latino and over 90 percent of those living in Inglewood are African-American or Latino.
Among California cities with majority white populations, Berkeley continues to lead in the percentage of votes cast for Democratic candidates. At the same time, it also leads in votes cast for Green Party candidates. Camejo did better only in two smaller cities, Santa Cruz and Arcata, with 10 percent and 16 percent of the vote respectively.
Success for both Democrats and Greens is bad news for Republicans. All the other Republicans running for statewide office this year got less than 8 percent of the vote in Berkeley. In most cases, Republican candidates came in third, running behind Green Party candidates.
The most popular Democratic candidate for statewide office this year was Debra Bowen, who got 83 percent of Berkeley’s vote for Secretary of State.
Propositions and Measures
In Berkeley, 46,166 ballots were cast and 39,265 of the voters who cast them voted against Proposition 85, which would have amended the California constitution to require a waiting period and notification of parents when a minor seeks an abortion. This was the largest number of votes cast for or against any candidate or measure on the ballot.
Besides upholding abortion rights, Berkeley voters showed strong support for environmental initiatives. Proposition 87, which would have taxed oil produced in California to reduce petroleum consumption through funding of incentives for alternatives, got 83 percent of the vote.
Local Berkeley Measure G, which sets a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, got 82 percent of the vote.
Besides taxing oil, Berkeley voters were also in favor of a big increase in the cigarette tax to fund healthcare. 74 percent voted for Proposition 86. Statewide both the oil tax and the cigarette tax failed, with 45 percent and 48 percent of the vote respectively.
Besides favoring the two new state taxes, Berkeley voters approved all the statewide bond measures by big margins. The two that garnered the most support were 1D for public education facilities (83 percent yes) and 1C for affordable housing (81 percent yes).
At the local level, voters continued parcel tax support for Berkeley’s public schools by passing Measure A with 80 percent of the vote.
Locally, voters also rejected Measure I, which would have made it far easier to convert rental housing to condominiums. Measure I was defeated in every precinct in Berkeley, with 74 percent voting no.
Variation in the margin of defeat followed the traditional pattern of Berkeley politics. It generally varied by altitude. Measure I topped 40 percent of the vote only in four hills precincts. It got less than a quarter of the vote in a large majority of the flatlands precincts of Districts 1, 2, 3 and 4.
After expending considerable funds to get Measure I on the ballot, supporters did not follow through by waging a campaign for the measure. The absence of a campaign in support certainly contributed to the large margin of the measure’s defeat.
Supporters may have decided to throw in the towel when they failed to obtain the endorsement of the moderate Berkeley Democratic Club. The Berkeley Property Owners Association, which represents the city’s more conservative anti-rent control landlords, certainly had the resources to wage a fight for the measure had they chosen to do so.
In addition, no one on the City Council was willing to sign the ballot statement for Measure I and councilmembers Capitelli and Wozniak joined progressives on the Council in opposing the measure. The most prominent Measure I ballot statement signer was former mayor Shirley Dean, who doesn’t seem to carry much weight in Berkeley politics these days.
Mayor and City Council
The Daily Planet devoted a lot of coverage to the mayoral and council races, looking at campaign contributions and the role of the Chamber of Commerce PAC hit pieces directed at incumbents Kriss Worthington and Dona Spring.
To supplement that coverage, a few observations about where the candidates got their votes might be in order.
Incumbent mayor Tom Bates was easily re-elected. His challenger, former Planning Commission chair Zelda Bronstein, failed to win a plurality or majority in any precinct. She lost to Bates by a margin of 63 percent to 31 percent margin.
Zachary Running Wolf, who since the election has spent time trying to save oak trees near the UC stadium, got 5 percent; Christian Pecaut got 1 percent
Compared to the 2002 election, Bates lost some ground in Districts 3, 4 and 7, but still won by comfortable margins. His biggest drop in support came in some precincts near Ashby BART; one of these precincts immediately east of the station was the only one in the city where he got less than 50 percent of the vote.
Opposition to the planned development of Asbhy BART may have been a factor, though in the absence of exit poll or survey data, it’s only possible to speculate about why people voted the way they did.
Bates support grew enormously in the hills, where he won, by large margins, every precinct where Shirely Dean had beaten him in 2002. Endorsement by the moderate Berkeley Democrat Club, which opposed Bates in 2002, probably contributed to Bates’ strong support in the hills.
Zelda Bronstein also failed to win the endorsement of any member of the City Council, while Bates was endorsed by five councilmembers, including Laurie Capitelli and Gordon Wozniak, who represent districts carried by Shirely in 2002.
While Bronstein criticized Bates for the settlement agreement with UC Berkeley, the issue either didn’t carry much weight or worked to Bates’ benefit in several areas most affected by UC expansion and traffic.
Bates’ support increased in areas north and southeast of the UC campus. Comparied to 2002, he lost support in a precinct east of campus near the proposed UC stadium expansion site and in precincts in the Willard and LeConte neighborhoods south of campus.
Incumbents easily won all the Council races. Since district elections were enacted in 1986, only four incumbents have ever been defeated.
Elections in the two districts with large student populations, District 7 and District 8, attracted most of the interest and campaign contributions this year.
In District 8 in southeast Berkeley, student candidate Jason Overman, backed by Berkeley’s progressives, won the precincts in the north of District 8 with dorms, fraternities and sororities. But overwhelming support for Gordon Wozniak in the affluent homeowner areas south of Derby Street easily offset Overman’s support among student voters.
In the hills above Claremont Avenue, Overman got less than 15 percent of the vote. Turnout, as has historically been the case, was also substantially higher outside student areas. Previous progressive District 8 council candidates Andy Katz and Chris Kavanagh also lost because their support in the northern part of District 8 was not great enough to overcome their opponent’s support in the southern and hills portion of the district.
In District 7, challenger George Beier won a majority of the vote in the three high-rise UC dorm precincts and won two out of three Willard neighborhood precincts with 55 percent of the vote. Worthington’s last opponent, student Micky Weinberg, who ran in 2002, had also won in the dorm precincts.
When Worthington was first elected in 1996, he won the vote in student areas by a large margin, while losing most of the neighborhoods south of Dwight Way to the incumbent, Carla Woodworth.
This time around he won a narrow majority of the vote in student areas as the vote of students living in apartments and student coops, who have generally lived in Berkeley longer, offset his loss in the highrise dorms, which house many freshmen.
Overall, Worthington won by a 53 percent-47 percent margin, with most of his margin coming from the LeConte and Halcyon neighborhoods west of Telegraph.
Progressive Linda Maio won easily in District 1 in northwest Berkeley; her opponent did not report any campaign contributions.
Progressive Dona Spring also won easily over Raudel Wilson, despite (or perhaps because of) the support he received from the Chamber of Commerce PAC. Her support throughout District 4 ranged from a bit less than two-thirds of the vote in one precinct to a bit more than three-quarters of the vote in her best precinct (the MAAGNA neighborhood).
(Rob Wrenn makes no claims to being an impartial observer of Berkeley politics. He actively supported Kriss Worthington’s campaign for council and serves as Worthington’s appointee on the Transportation Commission. He also did a little campaign work for the No on I campaign this fall)
How Berkeley Voted : What Got the Most Votes
Proposition 85 abortion No: 39,265 89 percent
Proposition 87 oil tax Yes: 36,857 83 percent
State Bond 1D education Yes: 35,510 83 percent
State Bond 1C housing Yes: 34,587 81 percent
Measure G greenhouse gas Yes: 33,293 82 percent
Measure A school parcel tax Yes: 33,264 80 percent
Note: a total of 46,166 votes were cast in Berkeley