by Will Harper
In an unexpectedly close race, Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington edged out challenger George Beier by only 131 votes in the district south of the UC Berkeley campus. Beier ran with the backing of the Chamber of Commerce and spent nearly three times as much as Worthington, but barely missed knocking off the 10-year incumbent. It's worth pointing out that Mayor Tom Bates, who cruised to re-election, remained neutral on the District 7 race, although he and Worthington are, shall we say, not always simpatico. Could things have gone differently for Beier if Bates gave him a ride on his coattails? Roland Peterson, president of the Berkeley Chamber, says he thinks Bates' backing would have put Beier over the top.
Worthington pointed out that Beier had actually not won more votes than his previous opponents, but attacks by the Chamber and Beier did stop past Worthington supporters from voting for him this time. In 2004, Worthington says he received 2,398 votes; this time he got only 1,464 votes (not including remaining uncounted absentees and provisional ballots).
So, in other words, Beier dissuaded people from voting for Worthington, but he didn't win over converts. An endorsement from Bates could have gone a long way in helping win some.
Worthington said Bates dared not endorse his opponent because doing so would have infuriated the mayor's progressive base.
Bates told the Express earlier this year that he didn't want to risk poisoning his working relationship with Worthington by backing Beier. Still, considering that this is probably Bates' last hurrah before he retires, what did the guy have to lose in the long run? Even with a Worthington win, he'd still have a working majority.
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