Lost among the frenzy surrounding the Oakland mayor's race was one of the most interesting and underreported political stories in the East Bay. For decades, Chevron Corporation has wielded considerable influence over Richmond politics. But in recent years, the oil giant's political juice has diminished. So this year, it sought to re-exert its dominance by pumping an unprecedented $1 million into an effort to help three Richmond politicians who have carried its water over the years.
It was easily the most cash spent by a single entity in an East Bay race. And it was money wasted. All three of Chevron's favored candidates lost to candidates who have repeatedly stood up to the oil giant. But Chevron's defeat wasn't just about Richmond voters retaking control of their city. It also had to do with a mega, Las Vegas-style casino proposed for Richmond's waterfront.
East Bay card clubs, which feared that an Indian-run casino at Point Molate would put them out of business, poured more than a quarter of a million dollars into trying to defeat it — and to elect politicians and candidates who opposed it, too. Coincidentally, the same candidates who didn't want the casino also didn't like Chevron much either
The flashpoint was the mayor's race. Chevron spent heavily trying on Nat Bates, a casino supporter and long-time Chevron pal. The card clubs put their money on Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, a staunch casino opponent and Chevron nemesis. McLaughlin beat Bates 40.4 percent to 36.5 percent.
Chevron's two candidates for city council, Councilwomen Myrna Lopez and Maria Viramontes also lost, coming in fourth and fifth place in a contest in which only three spots were available. The winners were Councilman Jim Rogers and candidates Jovanka Beckels and Corky Boozé. All three have opposed the oil company over the years. And all are expected to respect the wishes of the voters who soundly rejected the casino proposal, 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent. In short, Richmond is no longer a company town.
Other Local Races
Another underreported East Bay story took place in Berkeley. Voters there finally put an end to years of debate between NIMBYs who wanted to block downtown development and a coalition of environmentalists, labor, and businesses who want taller buildings and greater downtown density in order to boost the economy and fight climate change.
The battle lines were drawn over Measure R, a blueprint for a denser downtown Berkeley, and it won in a landslide, 64 percent to 36 percent. But Berkeley wouldn't be Berkeley without head-scratching contradictions. The two city councilmembers who opposed Measure R, Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington, both won reelection. But then Councilmembers Linda Maio and Gordon Wozniak, who both backed Measure R, won reelection by huge margins.
Alameda had a wild election season but, in the end, residents pretty much voted for the status quo. Councilwoman Marie Gilmore is the city's new mayor, and outgoing mayor Beverly Johnson appears to have won a seat on the council. Councilwoman Lena Tam also appears to have won reelection. The only change: Councilman Frank Matarrese gave up his seat to run for mayor and will be replaced on the council by Rob Bonta.
San Leandro voters, however, may have selected a new mayor. Challenger Stephen Cassidy was leading incumbent Tony Santos, 51 percent to 49 percent after the initial round of ranked-choice voting results posted last Friday. Cassidy gets a boost when third-place finisher Joyce Starosciak is eliminated in the ranked-choice tabulations.
In Oakland, Libby Schaaf, a former aid to Jerry Brown, won the contest to replace Councilwoman Jean Quan in Oakland's District Four, which includes the Montclair, Dimond, and Laurel neighborhoods. Candidates Jill Broadhurst and Daniel Swafford came in second and third. In addition, Councilwomen Pat Kernighan and Desley Brooks both easily won reelection.
Oakland voters also approved Measure BB, the so-called Measure Y fix. The parcel tax received 70 percent of the vote and city officials said it, along with attrition in the police department, should allow the city to avoid laying off another 120 cops in January. The measure also allows the department to reassign officers back to community policing duties. Voters also approved Measure V, the cannabis tax-increase initiative. But they rejected Measure W, a phone-line tax, and Measure X, a giant parcel tax earmarked for police.
The Republican wave completely missed California. Democrats Jerry Brown, Barbara Boxer, and Gavin Newsom all trounced their GOP opponents. Brown beat Meg Whitman in the governor's race, 53 percent to 42 percent, and Barbara Boxer defeated Carly Fiorina, 52 percent to 43 percent, in the race for US Senate. Newsom is the new lieutenant governor, beating Abel Maldonado, 50 percent to 40 percent. ... Prop 19, the pot legalization measure, lost. So did Prop 21, which would have generating funding for ailing state parks. On the other hand, Prop 23, which would have rolled back California's landmark climate-change law, also lost. But Prop 20 won and Prop 27 lost, meaning the state's independent redistricting commission will now draw Congressional boundary lines. Prop 25, which allows the Legislature to pass a budget with a simple majority, won as well. But Prop 26, which makes it tougher for cities and the state to raise revenues, also won. ... Locally, Mark Peterson is the new district attorney of Contra Costa County. And in Alameda County, the race for superior court judge between Victoria Kolakowski and John Creighton is still too close to call.