Page One

Berkeley Mayoral Elections—the Backstory; Candidates Exposed (News Analysis)

By Ted Friedman
Friday November 16, 2012 - 03:37:00 PM

Written from behind the scenes, this is the backstory of the recent "battle for the soul of Berkeley"—the Berkeley election that was to set the course for "Berkeley at the crossroads." Exposés to follow.

When Kriss Worthington teamed up with Jacquelyn McCormick, and Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi three months before the election, it seemed there was at least a ghost of a chance to unseat the popular incumbent mayor, who sat at the wheel of a highly tuned political machine— a Ferrari racing against soap-boxes.

But the ghost of a chance was a ghost. 

Among those who consider themselves Berkeley's true progressives (the Worthington ticket), there were high hopes that this was the year to dump Bates, whom the opposition saw as a conservative in a progressive’s clothes. 

Among anti-Bates, anti-S and anti-T forces, there was a palpable pre-election optimism that Bates would lose to Worthington, who didn't even come close. As the early results were received at coalition headquarters after the polls closed, pre-election optimism was losing. 

Street pursuits yielded to voting on Telegraph. Southside homeless, like Hate Man, Ace Backwards, two homeless voters, who voted when I did, and other street kids, like Sonia, who huddles day and night alongside Peet's—they voted too. 

According to a young woman getting out the vote at Telegraph and Dwight as the polls closed, scores of Telegraph street kids voted. You don't need to have an address to vote. I gave a rabble-rousing speech on the balcony of the Med trying to get a homeless friend of mine to vote. "You need a soap box," he said, resisting. 


But a funny thing happened on the way to an upset, as ranked-choice voting, which might have worked against Bates, didn't work against Bates because he got a majority on the first count, avoiding a ranked-choice run-off. 

Bates had exuded a breezy confidence throughout six (at least) mayoral forums. The only time Bates seemed winded was at an early forum on September 28, in which it seemed he was on hostile ground at the North Berkeley Senior Center, a Grey Panthers-sponsored forum. 

Bates ducked out early from every mayor's forum. 

From that point on, Bates emerged as a confident self-assured candidate, although admitting to me that if he "awoke Wednesday to learn I'd lost, I'd be kicking myself for supporting ranked-choice voting." 

Bates’ financing was two and three times more, respectively, than Worthington's or McCormick's. 

In the face of a highly emotional campaign, voters in Berkeley, like voters in the Bay Area, turned out in significantly smaller numbers than in 2008, when Obama-fever swept the nation and buoyed the vote. 

Zachary Running Wolf, a dark-horse candidate, thought, towards campaign's end, that McCormick would drop out and throw her support (which turned out to amount to nothing) to him, but because Bates won outright, without the necessity of a ranked-choice run-off, none of this mattered. 

A local reporter told me that Running Wolf's hopes regarding McCormick were "delusional." 

Josh Wolf, McCormick’s campaign manager, explained that she was only endorsing two of Running Wolf's proposals, not Running Wolf's candidacy. McCormick wanted to work with all the candidates, Wolf said. 

Then what about Running Wolf's medicine pouch, which she wore at the Daily Cal mayoral forum? 

"She couldn't not take the gift," he said. "That would have been rude." 

Running Wolf was beaten substantially in the also-ran category by Bernt Wahl, 

an aspiring motivational speaker who claimed to have a glacier range in Scandinavia named after his progenitors. Saying he had connections, Wahl claimed he owned the name The affable Wahl beat Jacobs-Fantauzzi, the third member of the dump Bates faction. 

McCormick might have preferred Running Wolf in Fantaouzzi's spot on the Worthington ticket, but that is just hearsay, based on her campaign manager's off-the-record comments. 

It would be tempting to call Wahl a charming phony, except that although he repeatedly implied he was a U.C. Berkeley faculty member (Engineering), often alluding to his position at U.C., he, in fact, was a lecturer there, 2002-2005, according to a university spokesperson. 

The moderator at Cal's mayor-forum, repeatedly addressed Wahl as "professor." 

To say this was any more than resumé enhancement would be defamatory. 

Bullshit artist might fit. At any rate the bullshit artist/motivational speaker was the third highest vote getter after Bates, Worthington, and McCormick. 

But what do the also-ran votes mean in an election in which voter turnout was substantially down from 2008? 

Worthington has reportedly been saddened by the election results, even though he will return to a highly successful sixteen year career (with more than hundreds of successful adopted proposals to improve Berkeley), and live to challenge Bates on the city council in perpetuity, as the two former allies battle for the progressive brand. 

Jacquelyn McCormick (third-place) seemed her usual upbeat self when I spoke with her by cell when an after-election party was underway at campaign headquarters on Nov. 6. She was displeased with Worthington's early concession, and his low-mood. 

She is looking forward to a Berkeley future of cooperation among opposing factions. "This campaign shows we can work together," she has told the press. 

You could, if you listened to the mayoral forums, hear the candidates re-imagining Berkeley and fine tuning city-council meetings to give each Berkeleyan a chance to be heard. 

McCormick emerged in the campaign as the fiscal-fixer, who can esplain us the Berkeley City Budget, an inscrutable phone-book written by the Tower of Babel. 

It will be worth noting whether McCormick finds a role in, or on the periphery of city government. The city manager could do worse than appoint her to the position of public budget esplaner, a city fiscal ombudswoman. 


Respond to Ted Friedman at