Kate Harrison wins District 4 Berkeley City Council seat

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Updated 03/12/17: This article has been updated to reflect the election’s official results. 

Kate Harrison has won the District 4 council seat in the Berkeley City Council special election with about 62 percent of the vote, according to official results from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters released Friday.

The election of Harrison marks the addition of another candidate with aggressive progressive policies to the council. Candidates endorsed by the Berkeley Progressive Alliance — an organization co-founded by Harrison that promotes far-left policies swept the November elections in what the group called “the biggest progressive electoral victory in many years.”

“I’m delighted by the results. The people have spoken,” Harrison said. “I think we need to shift focus and work with citizens and constituents to solve this range of local issues.”

During her campaign, Harrison’s platform primarily emphasized addressing the city’s affordable housing crisis. Harrison has suggested the development of more transit-centered housing and wants to streamline permitting processes for developments with at least 50 percent affordable units.

The mail-only District 4 election was arranged after former District 4 City Council member Jesse Arreguín was elected mayor in November. Mail-in voting began Feb. 6.

“Because there was a likelihood that I would be mayor, I had to think long and hard about who would represent District 4 if I was elected, and Kate was at the top of the list,” Arreguín said. “So last fall, I reached out to her and strongly encouraged her to consider running.”

Harrison has been lauded by her supporters for her vast range of political experience, with Arreguín previously calling her “overqualified.”

As a public sector consultant for the past 16 years, she has worked in eight states and 14 countries working to improve legal systems. In Berkeley, she has served on the city’s Parks and Waterfront Commission and the Housing Advisory Commission.

Along with Arreguín, other well-established political figures and organizations endorsed Harrison, including California State Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, the Alameda County Democratic Party, the Sierra Club and the Alameda County Labor Council. With about $30,000 in campaign contributions, Harrison received nearly triple the amount of donations as her opponent Ben Gould.

Gould, a campus graduate student, received about 38 percent of the vote. He garnered strong student support, receiving endorsements from all of the executive members of the ASUC and Graduate Assembly, excluding the nonpartisan Student Advocate Selina Lao.

Gould said he was proud of everything that he accomplished considering the disparities in funding and age between him and his opponent. He added that he plans to stay involved in Berkeley’s city government as an aide to Councilmember Lori Droste.

Supporters of Harrison’s campaign, such as Rent Stabilization Board commissioner James Chang, are hopeful that her election will make Berkeley a more accessible community and will help to stop displacement.

“I think the main focus (of Harrison’s campaign) is affordability in general,” Chang said, who volunteered for Harrison’s campaign. “It’s about the fact that we can’t afford to live here as students, we can’t afford to live here as young professionals, and we can’t afford to live here as families.”

Staff writers Bobby Lee and Malini Ramaiyer contributed to this report.

Jessica Lynn is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessicailynn.