Councilman Kriss Worthington, District 7, believes mayoral challengers like him helped stop a drift to the right in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates may have won re-election Tuesday, but his challengers say their campaigns still made a difference.

Councilman Kriss Worthington, second place finisher, said he knew the odds were daunting.

“I knew that running against an incumbent with a lot of money who had been in office for 34 years was not a cake walk,” he said. “But I also knew that allowing it to be a coronation where he got 70% or 75% of the votes would mean the drift to the right might continue.”

Worthington had garnered 21.2% of the vote as of Wednesday evening, with perhaps as many as 20,000 ballots still to be counted.

Jacquelyn McCormick, who had 11.3% of the votes by yesterday, and came in third in the mayoral race, said she felt the re-election of Mayor Bates spelled bad news for Berkeley. Reading Mayor Bates’ comments in Berkeleyside yesterday, she said, it was “hard to take his arrogance.” “We need change. [Bates] is pushing an agenda on the backs of everyone who lives in this city.”

Jacquelyn McCormick: “It’s hard to take Mayor Bates’ arrogance.” Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Jacquelyn McCormick: “It’s hard to take Mayor Bates’ arrogance.” Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Worthington said he’d already noticed a policy shift to the left on the council since he embarked on his campaign, citing recent “key votes” on affordable housing and immigration issues that had previously been delayed.

“I feel like the policies have already gotten better,” said Worthington. “Being in the election pressure cooker, (other candidates) came out leaning more liberally than they had been in the last two years.”

He said it also was notable that Measure S and Measure T appeared to have been, as of Wednesday evening, defeated. [This may change for Measure T, which, as of Wednesday’s count was down to a 26 gap between the yes votes and the no votes.] Whatever the final outcome, said Worthington, the close races were a sign that many Berkeley voters support a more humane approach to responding to homelessness, along with a more measured method for planning development in West Berkeley.

“I think that the Berkeley voters have seemingly generally sided with progressive policies on the issues that they got to vote on,” he said. “The more that people look at these things, the more they start to question. So I think the entire campaign gave people a chance to think and ask questions. Certainly the voters are really questioning the policy direction.”

Worthington said the vote on the measures was an indication the Bates may need to rethink his approach going forward: “A whole bunch of people have fond memories of Tom Bates from his 34 years in office, but they didn’t endorse his controversial current hot-button issues. That’s really what we’re up against, all those people who remembered him from the past.”

McCormick said she didn’t regret the decision to run. “We are very proud of what we accomplished. We pushed and pushed. I wore my feet out on the campaign trail. Am I disappointed? Yes. But we got some great coalitions built and forged great connections. We don’t have to face a Measure S again in the city.”

She stressed how the re-election of Bates shed light on what she referred to as “the power of the political machine.” “With Loni [Hancock, Mayor Bates’ wife and a State Senator], it goes beyond local politics. They were able to raise double or triple the amount of money and they had leverage.”

But McCormick added: “If there’s a political machine as part of the regime, then we will have to build our own political machine.”

Worthington said, going forward, he’d like to see Bates take a more serious look at his appointees to city bodies to ensure that there’s greater diversity among them.

“The public can’t vote down his appointments,” he said. “We need to keep the pressure on him to be fair to all the groups in the city, including the students. He needs to give everybody a chance.”

As for McCormick, she ran against Councilman Gordon Wozniak for his District 8 seat in 2010. Asked if she might consider doing so again when the position is up for grabs in two years’ time, she said it’s a maybe. “I don’t know what life events will happen between then and now. But it’s not outside the realm of possibility.”

Measure T gap narrows to 26 votes [11.07.12]
Mayor Bates hails election as harbinger of change [11.07.12]
Remaining Berkeley votes could change close contests [11.07.12]
Live blogging the Berkeley elections: all the final results [11.06.12]
Measure T: Will it enhance or ruin West Berkeley? [10.29.12]

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