Berkeley councilmember Kriss Worthington
Berkeley councilmember Kriss Worthington

City Councilman Kriss Worthington has decided to run for mayor, a move intended to use try to use the ranked-choice voting system to install a progressive as mayor.

Worthington said he decided to run after long discussions with City Councilman Jesse Arreguín, one of the council’s three progressive members (along with Worthington and Max Anderson) who declared his candidacy for mayor in October. Worthington and Arreguín intend to ask their supporters to vote for both of them – which they hope will deny City Councilman Laurie Capitelli a majority of the votes.

“Numerous people have been asking me to run for many, many months,” said Worthington. “I have wanted to defer to Councilman Arreguín, who has been actively campaigning. He recognized that my being a candidate would be a positive thing.”

Ranked choice voting has an immediate run-off system to ensure that a candidate will be selected in that electoral cycle. If no-one gets a 50% + 1 majority, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated. The #2 and #3 votes from that candidate are re-tabulated. The process continues until a winner emerges.

Other candidates have bonded together to squeeze out a potential rival in the past. In 2010, in the first year of ranked-choice voting in Alameda County, many people expected long-time legislator Don Perata to be elected mayor of Oakland. But City Councilwomen Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan formed an alliance and asked their supporters to vote for both of them. Perata did not capture a majority of the vote, and Quan eventually won the mayor’s race.

Worthington said he was not jumping into the race to defeat Capitelli, but to put someone more liberal in charge of the city. Worthington and Arreguín, as well as Anderson, have often been in the council minority; with Capitelli, Mayor Bates, Linda Maio, Darryl Moore, Susan Wengraf, and Lori Droste in the majority.

Arreguín confirmed that he has created a coalition with Worthington and he was explicit that it was intended to defeat Capitelli.

“By working in collaboration, it maximizes the ability to elect a progressive mayor and defeat Capitelli,” he said.

Berkeleyside could not reach Capitelli  for comment.

While  he and Worthington often vote the same way at city council, they have different life experiences and different sets of supporters, although there is some overlap, said Arreguín. By banding together, the pair hopes to excite a larger group of voters, he said.

Unlike Worthington, Arreguín is telling his supporters to rank him first with Worthington second.

Worthington has not yet taken out papers from the City Clerk’s office, nor does he have a website or active Facebook page yet. He was not planning to announce his candidacy until next week, but The Bay Area Reporter broke the news Thursday that he was running. Worthington said he ran into one of their reporters at a party, which is how the news got out.

If elected mayor, Worthington said on the first day he would take steps to clean up the “circus” that is City Council meetings. He would cut down on their length — they routinely run from 7 p.m. to past 11:00 p.m. — by scheduling a special meeting whenever there is an item that might draw 50 to 100 public comments.

“It’s rude to the public to stick big controversial items in the middle of a meeting,” said Worthington, who added that Bates did this repeatedly. “Sometimes we don’t get to an item until 9 or 10 p.m. Just calling a special meeting alone will cut in half the absurdity of the circus.”

Worthington also said he would push for a “profound transformation” of the planning process. Currently, the system is overly complicated, both for people who want to construct buildings and people who want to oppose their construction. The “deeply flawed” system must be simplified, he said. The could include having the city reexamine zoning codes for contradictions and inconsistencies.

There are now nine people running for mayor. In addition to Arreguín, Capitelli, and Worthington, the other candidates include Stephen P. Fligo, Ben Gould, Guy “Mike” Lee, Naomi D. Pete, Zachary Running Wolf, and Bernt Wahl, according to the City Clerk’s office.

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Jesse Arreguín formally announces run for mayor (10.22.15)

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...