Ty Alper (second from left) on the campaign trail in September. Photo Ty Alper for School Board
Ty Alper (second from left) on the campaign trail in September. Photo: Ty Alper for School Board

Ty Alper, a challenger, has won a seat on the Berkeley School Board with the most votes – so far — in a close race, while incumbent Josh Daniels received the second-to-most votes.

The race for the third board seat, between incumbents Karen Hemphill and Julie Sinai is so close — about a half of a percent — that it is too close to call, according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters office. Vote-by-mail ballots dropped off at the polls on Election Day are still uncounted.

More information may be available by Thursday evening, but the registrar has 28 days to tally the results.

See Berkeleyside’s live election night blog for the latest vote tallies.

Alper was reached while cleaning his house today.

“Campaign HQ was my living room, and I had promised the family I would put it back to normal,” Alper said. “I’m sure we’ll celebrate, but I want to wait to see how these last votes come in before really celebrating.”

Josh Daniels
Josh Daniels

Whatever the outcome, Alper said, “The other candidates are really exceptional people who are so dedicated to the public schools. I’m so excited to work with them and Dr. Evans.” That would be BUSD Superintendent Donald Evans.

Daniels is currently the board president and won re-election. He has 25% of the vote as of today, compared to Alper’s 26%.

Neck-and-neck for the third board seat are incumbents Hemphill with 21.77% of the vote and Sinai with 21.15%. Sinai, a former chief of staff for Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, was appointed, not elected, to the board following the resignation of Leah Wilson in March 2013. It’s not yet known whether there are enough uncounted vote-by-mail ballots to change the vote.

Alper, 40, a graduate of Berkeley public schools, is a professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Law.  On his website he describes himself and his wife as “social justice lawyers,” and says he teaches and trains students in the defense of death row inmates.

Karen Hemphill
Karen Hemphill
Julie Sinai
Julie Sinai

Since his daughter entered kindergarten eight years ago, he has served on numerous committees in the school district including the Parent Advisory Committee; the Berkeley Schools Excellence Project (BSEP) Planning and Oversight Committee; and the governance councils at Rosa Parks Elementary and Longfellow Middle School.

Alper launched his campaign 14 months ago, raising funds and getting endorsements. He and his volunteers knocked on 5,000 doors, called 4,000-5,000 people, and hand-addressed 14,000 letters, he said.

According to Guy Ashley, spokesman for the Registrar of Voters, there were an estimated 100,000 vote-by-mail ballots turned in at polling places throughout the county Tuesday – far more than usual. He said that the registrar’s office is sorting those ballots by precinct and preparing them for scanning. He expected to know by Thursday evening how many uncounted ballots Berkeley has, and whether that could tip any races.

Read more Berkeleyside coverage related to Berkeley schools.

On election night, Hemphill said she went to bed in fourth place, and would have lost her seat on the board. Overnight she moved up to third place. Asked how she was Wednesday morning, she said, “Better than when I went to bed!”

Sinai, on the other hand, stayed up until 1:30 a.m., finding out that she was in fourth place. It remains to be seen whether that changes again.

Berkeley School Board: 3 seats contested by 5 candidates (10.22.14)

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Mary Flaherty is a freelance reporter who has lived in the Berkeley area for since 1994. She earned a masters in journalism from UC Berkeley, and has reported for several local papers and copyedited for...