Berkeley candidates reflect on election, national outcomes

Karen Chow/File

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In contrast to an unexpected national election outcome, Berkeley’s local elections resulted in a victory for the progressive agenda.

Jesse Arreguin, who branded himself as the most progressive candidate, won the mayoral race with 52 percent of the vote in the seventh round, with main challenger Laurie Capitelli coming in second.

Cheryl Davila won District 2 by a margin of 1.16 percent, leading contenders Nanci Armstrong-Temple and incumbent Darryl Moore. Davila, who has never held an elected office before, said she felt “so honored and humbled” by the outcome of the election.

“It’s just amazing to me,” Davila said. “I’m going to do the best I can do, listen to the constituents and try to unite the city. We really need to be united right now.”

Moore led after all precincts reported with 40 percent of the District 2 vote. Berkeley, however, uses ranked choice voting, and since Moore did not surpass 50 percent of the vote in the first round, the District 2 election moved on to the second round.

In the second round, most of Armstrong-Temple’s votes were redistributed to Davila, giving her the majority in the third and final round.

Armstrong-Temple said she was waiting to see what the final results of the election were before releasing an open letter to District 2 by the end of Wednesday.

In regard to the national election, Armstrong-Temple noted that people often consider national elections to be “harder to change,” while local elections seem to make little difference. She stressed the importance of electing leaders who are accountable and focused on justice.

“We are not at a time when people can play it safe,” Armstrong-Temple said. “We really have to go all out for justice.”

In District 3, Ben Bartlett pulled ahead of contenders Mark Coplan and Deborah Matthews with approximately 57 percent of the vote in the first round. Bartlett said he was surprised by the large margin of his win but felt gratified that the campaign’s hard work paid off.

Bartlett said he felt that Berkeley has a chance to come up with new solutions as a result of a Donald Trump presidency.

“It’s no surprise that the progressives won in Berkeley at the same time the right wing won in D.C. It’s happened before, it’s our pattern,” Bartlett said. “Each time, when this pattern presents itself, Berkeley really flexes its values and creates some innovative policies.”

Coplan said he would work to improve campaign reform at the local and national level. Although he acknowledged that Berkeley had some “great successes” this election cycle, Coplan stated that these wins were “really irrelevant” in comparison to the national and global situation.

“I had more direct contact with voters than anyone in this city,” Coplan said. “It was enriching, it was invaluable. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to do it.”

District 5 saw Sophie Hahn victorious with approximately 62 percent of the vote over opponent Stephen Murphy. Hahn stated that her campaign was entirely a grassroots movement, as she had no institutionalized support or political action committee funding.

“I think it’s really exciting to show that a candidate can still present herself and win purely as a community candidate,” Hahn said. “I feel that I am going to be free to really represent the people of Berkeley, which is a wonderful feeling.”

Hahn said she hopes to show the rest of the country that “inclusive, progressive democracy really works.”

Murphy could not be reached for comment.

Incumbent Susan Wengraf was re-elected to District 6, leading competitor Fred Dodsworth by almost 34 percent. Wengraf was first elected to City Council in 2008 and won her second term in 2012.

Wengraf stated that she was “honored to serve the residents of District 6,” but she acknowledged that she did not feel like celebrating due to the national outcome.

“It’s very hard to feel happy,” Wengraf said. “It seems like the world has gone mad.”

Dodsworth, a strong proponent of ending homelessness, said although he did not win, he was thrilled with the results in other districts. In a Facebook post, he referenced the other progressive candidates who won seats in City Council, calling them a “ragtag band of progressive renegades” that is challenging the “entrenched political machine.”

“The national position is awful, but once again, Berkeley is (at) the forefront and this is kind of exciting,” Dodsworth said. “We’re a national leader.”

Additionally, Dodsworth emphasized the importance of youth political engagement, in light of the outcome of the national election.

“Don’t mourn, organize,” Dodsworth said. “This is the message for your generation. … You gotta organize, you gotta fight back. You cannot let them win.”

Contact Revati Thatte at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @revati_thatte.