City Council, mayoral races heat up in Berkeley as Election Day looms

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Goldia Kiteck/Staff

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With elections fast approaching in November, candidates have been seeking to persuade constituents of their platforms’ merits.

Four district seats and the mayor’s office are up for grabs this year, and more than 20 Berkeley residents have filed to run — including nine mayoral hopefuls. Three incumbents have chosen not to re-run for their positions, guaranteeing that 2017 will see a number of new faces on the council. Prominent issues this election include infrastructure improvement, the minimum wage and affordable housing, which has become a buzzword for many students in Berkeley.

District 2

Incumbent Darryl Moore has represented District 2 since 2004 and is the first openly gay, Black City Council member. While in office, Moore pushed for the implementation of body-worn cameras for police officers and worked on housing issues.

Moore appointed Cheryl Davila, now one of his opponents in the race, to the Human Welfare and Community Action Commission, though he removed Davila in September 2015 after she authorized an Israel divestment proposal. Davila was reappointed to the commission in March as an elected representative of the poor.

The third candidate in the running, Nanci Armstrong-Temple, runs a dance program in Berkeley and was endorsed by a group of progressive voters that includes the Berkeley Progressive Alliance.

District 3

Candidates running for the District 3 seat seek to replace Councilmember Max Anderson, who is stepping down after 12 years on City Council. The council member’s preferred replacement is Ben Bartlett, who currently sits on the Planning Commission and used to serve on the Police Review Commission. If elected, Bartlett wants to tackle the city’s affordable housing crisis and better prepare for the impending closure of Alta Bates Hospital. But he is not the only candidate: Mark Coplan, Deborah Matthews, Dylan McCall and Al Murray are also competing for the seat.

Coplan, who in June retired as spokesperson for the Berkeley Unified School District, has been involved with the district for more than 20 years and hopes to continue focusing on education if elected. Murray is the chair of the Berkeley personnel board. Matthews is the vice chair of the city’s Planning Commission, having previously served as chair of the Housing Commission and Zoning Adjustments Board. All in all, the wealth of city experience claimed by many of the candidates forecasts a competitive race.

District 5

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli’s decision to run for mayor leaves his seat in District 5 wide open, with Stephen Murphy and Sophie Hahn vying for the position.

Planning Commission chair Murphy, an attorney who has worked on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault for more than a decade, also serves on the Commission on the Status of Women.

Hahn has run for the seat against Capitelli in several past elections, including in 2008 and 2012. She currently sits on the Zoning Adjustments Board and plans to use her candidacy to address issues of sustainability and affordable housing.

District 6

Incumbent Susan Wengraf faces a challenge from Fred Dodsworth and Isabelle Gaston in the race for the District 6 City Council seat. Wengraf, who has held office since 2008, lists her experience with education as a reason she is qualified for re-election. In 2014, she drew some criticism from the community after co-introducing a proposal to implement a security camera database that would aid police investigations.

Both of her opponents hope to convince voters that they can bring a fresh perspective to the council. Dodsworth, who has been endorsed by a coalition of progressive groups, is a publisher, journalist and poet who sees the issue of out-of-town developers as one of the most pressing ones facing residents. The president of the North East Berkeley Association, Gaston plans primarily to address city infrastructure woes.

Mayor

After almost 14 years as mayor, Tom Bates has finally announced his intent to step down in 2016. The empty seat has drawn the attention of many, with nine vying for the position, making it a hotly contested race. The two front-runners, Jesse Arreguin and Laurie Capitelli, have very different political leanings for Berkeley politicians, though they both hope to tackle issues such as affordable housing and raising the minimum wage if elected.

Capitelli hails from the “council majority,” which includes members such as Bates and Councilmember Linda Maio, and he generally falls to the right of the more progressive minority, which generally comprises Arreguin, Anderson and Kriss Worthington. Worthington has also thrown his hat into the ring, seeking to take advantage of the city’s ranked-choice voting system. He and Arreguin have presented themselves as a coalition and are encouraging voters to rank the two candidates as their top choices.

Less traditional candidates for mayor — who have not previously sat on the council — include community activists Zachary RunningWolf and Guy “Mike” Lee. RunningWolf, who has run for mayor in the past, is well known for his involvement in Berkeley tree sit-ins to protest environmental issues. Lee, a homeless advocate, portrays himself as an anti-establishment candidate who plans to fight for UC Berkeley students.

Also in the running, Ben Gould hopes to be the first student ever elected Berkeley mayor. The campus graduate student currently chairs the city’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission and was born and raised in Berkeley. He faces another campus-affiliated contender in Bernt Wahl, a former UC Berkeley faculty member who has studied big data and cites a background in math and engineering as distinguishing him from his opponents. Rounding out the field are Stephen Fligo and Naomi Pete, who have filed to run as nonpartisan and Republican candidates, respectively.

Elections will take place Nov. 8.

Contact Katy Abbott at [email protected].

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