After long campaigns, candidates make final push for voter turnout

Ethan Epstein/Senior Staff

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Sleepless nights, door-to-door canvassing and relentless phone banking are common themes for Berkeley mayoral and City Council candidates as they vie for residents’ votes in the election season’s last days.

Win or lose, Tuesday night will bring relief to all. But for most candidates, the election — regardless of its outcome — will not spell an end to their involvement in local politics.

Mayoral candidates soldier forward

Mayoral candidate frontrunner Laurie Capitelli’s campaign distributed door hangers with text implying that he was endorsed by the Democratic Party over the weekend, according to his main competitor in the race, Jesse Arreguin. Arreguin’s campaign quickly went to work to clarify what he saw as misconceptions spread by the fliers.

The fliers, which encourage voters to “vote democratic,” include photos of Capitelli next to pictures of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris, a candidate for the U.S. Senate who is endorsed by the California Democratic Party.

Capitelli is endorsed by the Berkeley Democratic Club, a group chartered by the Alameda County Democratic Party. The club’s endorsement, however, does not constitute an endorsement from the Democratic Party itself — Arreguin is the only mayoral candidate endorsed by the Alameda County Democratic Party.

Capitelli could not be reached for comment regarding the door hangers, but he said Friday he hopes to have contacted 10,000 more voters before Tuesday. Capitelli said his campaign has focused on getting his supporters to the polls in the last few days leading up to the election.

Arreguin said he’s humbled and grateful for all the support he’s received. He believes his endorsements, including one from Sen. Bernie Sanders, have helped tremendously.

“Our message of electing a progressive mayor … is really resonating with voters out in the community,” Arreguin said. “We think this race is going to be very close, but we think it’s winnable. I’m going to be working my heart out.”

Ben Gould, another mayoral candidate — who would be Berkeley’s first student-mayor, if elected — is already looking to future elections. He said he hopes not to think too much about this election while it all wraps up and that he’s ready to let things fall where they will.

“I’m not likely to win this election, but I’m looking forward to the next one,” Gould said, adding that he expects Arreguin to win. “I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.”

City Council candidate gunning to drive voter turnout

Current District 3 Councilmember Max Anderson’s decision not to run for reelection after 12 years on the council opened the seat for new leadership to emerge and seek the district’s votes. The four candidates — Ben Bartlett, Deborah Matthews, Mark Coplan and Al Murray — all said their focus was reaching out to voters.

Murray said he’d be walking through District 3, putting up signs and talking to voters.

Coplan said he had personally knocked on more than 7,000 doors and is offering rides to District 3 residents who are having difficulty getting to the polls.

Matthews, too, is working to reach voters directly. She said she was focusing on her own campaign rather than worrying about her opponents.

“All of us, we sort of made a pact with each other to not be negative. … We basically all understand what the issues of a district are or what the city of Berkeley needs,” Murray said. “I think that all of us will do a good job if we’re elected to the position.”

Bartlett is focusing on getting young people to the polls, including students and recent graduates. Calling for younger generations to be more involved in local politics, Bartlett expressed confidence that he will win if students come to the polls in droves.

Bartlett, whose father died in the last week of October, said his father’s passing has motivated him to work harder than ever to bring the progressive values his father taught him to City Council.

“My father trained me to be a soldier. I hear his voice in my head telling me, ‘Keep it moving, man, you gotta win this,’ ” Bartlett said on Friday. “It’s bigger than me, it’s bigger than my grief. I got the next 50 years to grieve, and I got the next four days to make a difference.”

Susan Wengraf and Fred Dodsworth, both District 6 candidates, said they would also be knocking on constituents’ doors to promote their platforms and drive turnout. Isabelle Gaston is also a District 6 candidate but could not be reached for comment.

Wengraf, who is running for reelection in District 6, said she is also shifting her focus to the presidential election and campaigning for Hillary Clinton over the weekend.

“My constituents know me pretty well, so I’m feeling pretty confident,” said Wengraf, who called voters in swing states from the Berkeley-Albany Clinton campaign’s headquarters over the weekend. “Yes, the Berkeley City Council is important, but trust me — on a national level, who wins the presidential race is much more important.”

Like many of her counterparts, District 5 candidate Sophie Hahn is continuing her canvassing efforts. Hahn said she and her volunteers have knocked on 5,500 doors in her district several times, totaling more than 17,000 visits.

Several low-profile candidates expressed satisfaction at having influenced policy debates despite their slim chances of being elected. Bernt Wahl, a mayoral candidate who campaigned little last month because he was traveling and lecturing in Europe, said his main focus was proposing creative solutions to Berkeley’s problems.

Although he will likely not be elected, Wahl — who expressed confidence that Capitelli would be elected — hopes his unorthodox policy proposals will be considered by the new mayor.

“A lot of times, politics gets in the way of solutions,” Wahl said. “I’m running more to voice ideas and getting a pulpit to do that. … I live here, I’m part of the community, I want to help to do what’s best.”

Contact Edward Booth and Simon Greenhill at [email protected].