Incumbent Councilmember Rashi Kersarwani holds an election viewing party at Cornerstone in Downtown Berkeley on Nov. 8, 2022. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Updated Nov. 18, 8:30 p.m. Incumbent Rashi Kesarwani declared victory for the City Council District 1 seat after the Alameda County registrar’s office released completed results Friday night.

Kesarwani had 53% of the ranked-choice votes to defeat challengers Elisa Mikiten and Tamar Michai Freeman.

Kesarwani won 50% of the first-choice votes, compared to Mikiten’s 42% and Freeman’s 8%.

Updated, Nov. 10, 5 p.m. Early election results show a close race to represent Northwest Berkeley’s City Council District 1, and attorney Mark Humbert well ahead in District 8.

Updated vote counts released Thursday afternoon showed District 1 Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani had a narrow lead in first-choice votes in her bid for re-election, with Planning Commission Chair Elisa Mikiten a few points behind. Holistic health and disability advocate Tamar Michai Freeman was a distant third.

Berkeley uses a ranked-choice system for City Council elections, which could come into play if the race stays close. The first round of ranked-choice tabulations showed Kesarwani’s lead shrank, but didn’t disappear, once Freeman voters’ second choices were included.

As of Thursday afternoon county officials had tallied about 2,500 total votes in the District 1 race, where more than 8,000 votes were cast in 2018.

In Southeast Berkeley’s District 8, supporters congratulated Humbert on Wednesday, as results showed he was more than doubling the vote total of his main competitor, Rent Board Commissioner Mari Mendonca.

There are five candidates on the ballot to replace outgoing Councilmember Lori Droste, who represented the district for two terms before declining to seek re-election this year, but only Humbert and Mendonca have raised money or collected endorsements.

Meanwhile two incumbent councilmembers — Kate Harrison, who represents Central Berkeley’s District 4, and Rigel Robinson, who represents student-dominated neighborhoods that make up District 7 — cruised unopposed into new four-year terms.

On Tuesday night, Humbert said he was “cautiously optimistic” after seeing the first round of results. He and Kesarwani attended an election watch party at Cornerstone in downtown Berkeley, where supporters followed national races on televisions tuned to CNN and checked their phones for local results.

“I feel really proud of the campaign that we ran,” Kesarwani said, “and now we just have to wait for all the ballots to be counted.”

Mikiten had a different take on the Election Night party: there wasn’t a TV in sight at Cafe Leila, where her supporters gathered, and the candidate was intentionally avoiding seeing any results.

“Ballots are going to come in for a week, right?” Mikiten said. “So, why stress out?”

Elisa Mikiten mingles with family and volunteers at the party to celebrate her campaign, held at Cafe Leila on Nov. 8, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

City Council District 1

City Council District 8

The races can be seen as a test of Berkeley voters' attitudes about the current City Council's embrace of efforts to ramp up construction of dense new housing as a means to ease the Bay Area's affordability crisis.

Mikiten has made her opposition to high-rise apartments at the North Berkeley BART station, which lies within District 1, a dominant theme in her campaign to represent the area, while Freeman says the city's current approach to development doesn't respect the input of existing residents. Mendonca has said she opposes efforts to increase housing density in District 8.

Kesarwani, meanwhile, was elected four years ago with the support of Yes In My Backyard groups, and has helped drive the City Council's work to loosen restrictions on new housing. Humbert has said he plans to carry on the pro-density work that Droste, who has endorsed him, advanced during her time on the council.

The campaign to represent District 1 has been the most expensive council race of the year. Both Kesarwani and Mikiten had topped $60,000 in total fundraising as of the most recent deadline for campaign finance disclosure forms, including the maximum $47,000 contribution from Berkeley's public financing program. Kesarwani had the edge in contributions, raising $20,247 as of the Oct. 22 deadline, compared to Mikiten's $15,821; Freeman trailed them with less than $2,000 from donors.

Humbert opened up a significant fundraising lead over Mendonca, raising $10,725 from donors compared to her $4,244 as of Oct. 22. When combined with public financing, Humbert's campaign had $57,725, while Mendonca's had $25,316.

Mark Humbert, a City Council District 8 candidate, chats with current Councilmember Lori Droste, who opted out of running for a third term, during an election watch party at the Cornerstone in Downtown Berkeley on Nov. 8, 2022. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

City Council District 4

City Council District 7

Check back for updates to this breaking news story.

The deadline to register to vote online or by mail in Alameda County is Oct. 24, and the election is Tuesday, Nov. 8. We put together a guide to the essentials of how to register and vote, what’s on the ballot, voters’ rights and more.

Here are some other helpful election resources:

See complete 2022 election coverage on Berkeleyside.

Nico Savidge joined Berkeleyside in 2021 as a senior reporter covering city hall. Born and raised in Berkeley, he got his start in journalism at Youth Radio as a high-schooler in the mid-2000s. Since then,...