|More Richmond Election Recap
November 4, 2004
Based on the total number of votes cast for measure Q (which slightly exceeded Measure R), there were at least 23,754 Richmond voters participating in the November 2 election. Although not verified, this is an all-time record, far exceeding the 13,667 votes cast in 2001.
Following are news clips from the San Francisco Chronicle and West County Times:
Richmond re-elects 3 incumbents, 2 new council members
Richmond voters returned three incumbents to the City Council on Tuesday, plus former councilman John Marquez and newcomer Gayle McLaughlin.
Councilman Tom Butt was the top vote-getter, capturing 10,194 votes or 10.6 percent of the total cast, according to the Contra Costa County elections office figures available Wednesday morning.
Close behind was John Marquez, who was turned out of office three years ago, with 10.2 percent of the vote.
McLaughlin, an ardent Green Party supporter who ran a mostly grassroots campaign, won 10 percent.
Councilwoman Mindell Penn and Councilman Nat Bates filled out the five open seats in a field of 15 candidates, with 9.5 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively.
Community activist Andres Soto finished about 1,000 votes behind Bates.
Voters turned Councilman Gary Bell out of office. He won 6.6 percent of the vote, or 6,369 votes.
Rounding out the field were Deborah Preston Stewart, 6.6 percent; Tony Thurmond, 5.9 percent; Kathy Scharff, 5.5 percent; Eddrick Osborne, 5.5 percent; Courtland "Corky" Booze, 5.3 percent; Arnie Kasendorf, 4.5 percent; Bill Idzerda, 2.1 percent; and Herman Blackwell, 1.8 percent.
There's never any guessing where Councilman Tom Butt stands, and voters appeared to like it that way. The outspoken environmentalist led a pack of 15 contenders in early election results.
A deficit of $35 million, discovered and announced in March, was the major player in the campaign.
Butt, an architect with a penchant for candid reasoning and sharp critiques of council colleagues and city staff members, was one of three incumbents who appeared headed toward another term on the council.
The evening's early surprise was ardent Green Party supporter Gayle McLaughlin, who was fast on Butt's heels.
McLaughlin, who has never held elective office, conducted a grassroots campaign. She accepted no corporate donations and campaigned largely through house parties and community-based events. She was endorsed by environmental and progressive groups, including the Sierra Club.
Former Councilman John Marquez also factored into the top five vote-getters. Marquez picked up the backing of public safety and all the area's trade unions.
Incumbent Mindell Penn, who held onto fourth place throughout the evening, introduced the idea of hiring an independent auditor. Penn is a former Pacific Gas & Electric executive. She has worked in finance, government and community relations. She was one of the early critics of the city's computer accounting system, which she says works well in the private sector but has been a disaster for the city.
Council stalwart Nat Bates also appeared to be holding onto his seat at last count with first-time candidate Andres Soto close behind.
Bates, who has been a Richmond councilman for 25 years, engaged in an aggressive campaign, battering opponents in a war of mailers. Bates was endorsed by the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 188 and the Richmond Police Officers Association.
Butt urged the council to retain control of Point Molate at a time when its members were inclined to return the former naval fuel depot to the Navy. He also has called for pay-as-you-go measures that would charge those who deplete city resources, particularly in blight abatement. He also drew attention to the city's failure to charge regular increases in numerous fines and fees dating back to 1986, resulting in millions in lost revenue.
All 15 candidates said they would press for greater fiscal accountability in the wake of a $35 million deficit that emerged last March.
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
Cecilia M. Vega, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 3, 2004
Voters in cash-strapped Richmond seemed poised to retain their City Council on Tuesday, choosing to stand by politicians who now promise fiscal solvency.
Five of nine seats were contested, and early returns showed incumbents Tom Butt, Nat Bates and Mindell Lewis Penn, and challengers John Marquez and Gayle McLaughlin, leading the crowded field of 15 candidates. Incumbent Gary Bell was trailing.
In a city where financial mismanagement and a proposal to build a Las Vegas-style casino at Point Molate top residents' concerns, even a few changes to the council could bring a fundamental change to Richmond.
"I think we're heading for a new day in Richmond," said Marquez, who spent 14 years on the council and lost his seat in 2001 during an unsuccessful run for mayor. "We may be in the position to bring accountability back to Richmond."
With 20 of 57 precincts reporting, voters also were leaning toward approving a measure to reduce the size of the City Council to seven members beginning in 2008 and passing a measure for a half-cent sales tax increase to help finance a wide range of services, including police and fire protection.
The diverse field of council candidates ranged from career city politicians to a man whose campaign statement said he was "simply a follower of Jesus Christ" and a woman whose nickname is Storm. The final weeks of the race were plagued by political mudslinging and hit-piece mailers bashing some candidates.
But ensuring that Richmond avoids another $35 million budget shortfall like the one it endured this year was one issue all candidates could agree on.
The deficit prompted hundreds of layoffs, closed libraries and community centers, and left residents firing off charges of fiscal mismanagement at the City Council.
Butt, however, said even a council made up of incumbents would mean change for Richmond.
"Our City Council has received a lot of the blame for the problems. (Council members) weren't doing their jobs because they were just yes people for the city staff," he said. "But over the last few months, people have toughened up and learned their lessons."
Another challenge facing the council will be whether to sell the former naval depot on Richmond's peninsula to a casino developer, Upstream Development, or to Chevron, which wants to convert the land to open space.
Both challengers and incumbents have been vague about the issue.
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SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
A dark horse Green Party candidate with no name recognition, little money and a grassroots campaign led by friends and fellow environmentalists surprised nearly everyone -- including herself -- by winning a seat on the Richmond City Council.
Gayle McLaughlin, a first-grade teacher whose previous political experience consisted of picketing Chevron, made her first bid for public office and became one of the first Green Party members ever to win a seat on a city council in Contra Costa County.
Another Green Party member, Lynda Deschambault, won a seat on the Moraga Town Council.
"This is all new to me," a still-giddy McLaughlin said Wednesday. "I had no idea how it would play out, how much at the top I would be."
She was the only newcomer chosen by Richmond voters, who opted to re- elect three incumbents and a onetime councilman from a crowded field of 15 candidates.
Incumbents Tom Butt, Mindell Lewis Penn and Nat Bates and challenger John Marquez, who spent 14 years on the council and lost his seat in 2001 during an unsuccessful mayoral run, also will serve on the nine-member panel.
McLaughlin, a 52-year-old Chicago native who moved to Richmond four years ago, has spoken out against the city's plans to bring a Las Vegas-style casino to Point Molate. She also has criticized city staff and the City Council for the $35 million budget deficit Richmond endured last year.
She did not accept corporate donations in her campaign, leaving her trailing behind other candidates who amassed tens of thousands of dollars in support from political action committees and unions representing police and firefighters. According to her most recent campaign statement filed Oct. 28, she received $11,475 in contributions and spent $11,207.
But McLaughlin launched her campaign a year ago, regularly walked precincts with a small army of supporters and earned endorsements from the Sierra Club and Service Employees International Union Local 790. With that, she arose victorious and unscathed in a race plagued by political mudslinging.
"I will be but one voice, but I'm part of a much larger movement," said McLaughlin. "I will continue to take a stand whether Chevron likes it or not."
She opposes selling Point Molate to casino developer Upstream Development or to competing bidder Chevron and wants the city to retain ownership of the former naval depot and preserve it as open space.
But she attracted little attention during the campaign, leaving opponents baffled by her victory.
"I had no idea that Gayle McLaughlin would do so well. She was sort of a wild card," said Lewis Penn. "She is an environmentalist, and that's appealing (to voters) in light of the fact that we have Chevron in our city."
Observers say McLaughlin's success points to a desire for change among voters in the cash-strapped city. Though they re-elected three incumbents, the majority of votes cast went to the long list of challengers.
Nearly 70 percent of voters approved a measure to cut the size of the City Council to seven members beginning in 2008. About 60 percent of voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase to fund a range of services, including police and fire protection.
Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia, whose district includes Richmond, said it remained to be seen whether the change voters seemed to favor would actually occur.
"There's no doubt to me there's a clear message from the voters," he said. "I think the council has heard that ... the jury is still out until we see their policies."
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Richmond incumbents return
Votes scattered among a broad field of candidates may have disguised a strong will for change in Richmond.
While three out of four incumbents -- Tom Butt, Mindell Penn and Nat Bates -- retained their seats, voters cast 61,350 votes for the 11 challengers -- more than twice as many as the incumbents garnered.
City voters also passed a change to the city's charter that cuts the council's size from nine to seven seats in 2008.
The results made for a disjointed picture. A 25-year council veteran who is a favorite of developers was joined by a political newcomer who refused corporate donations.
It also meant that the most financially minded of the incumbents, Gary Bell, failed to get enough votes to place.
"I gave up trying to figure out Richmond voters a long time ago," said Butt, the top vote-getter. "An electorate that would send Nat Bates and Gayle McLaughlin to the same council is beyond figuring out."
If voters wanted change, they will get it, in varying degrees. Butt and Bell were frequently united in calling for stringent controls and following through on potential revenue sources.
"More than anyone else on the council, Gary had a good record of waving the red flag long before the city came crashing down," Butt said. "I thought voters would recognize him as somebody who'd been struggling against the practices that got Richmond where it is and appreciate him for it."
Former Councilman John Marquez, the second highest vote-getter, was buoyed by a wide base of support, including all the area trade unions, veterans groups and the growing Latino community, which he cultivated aggressively.
"I was overwhelmed," Marquez said Wednesday. "To see the results was stunning. I was just hoping to get on the council."
The come-from-behind surprise in Tuesday's election was McLaughlin, a Green Party supporter who crafted a voter base through low-key community events and frequent precinct walks to place third.
Her success drew a startled but positive response from the incumbents, who were frequent victims of McLaughlin's tongue-lashings about their failure to protect the environment, and for cutting jobs and services when a surprise $35 million deficit emerged in March.
"I was really impressed with what Gayle was able to do," said Marquez, who, like McLaughlin, galvanized supporters to walk precincts, distribute door-hangers and call potential voters. Butt said he looked forward to working with McLaughlin on environmental and planning issues.
Penn, like Bell, was endorsed by business groups.
"People have questioned me for getting support from developers, but we need a mix of things in Richmond, including development," Penn said. "We need economic development and jobs."
Bates held onto his seat, coming in fifth after a rancorous campaign that included a slugfest of attack mailers.
"Nat is the ultimate survivor, and he's as smart as a whip," Butt said. "He works at this stuff 52 weeks a year. Sometimes, it goes to the guy who wants it that much. He sleeps, eats and breathes this stuff."
While the city's traditional power base, spearheaded by political consultant Darrell Reese and the firefighters union, helped return Bates to the council, its two other candidates, Arnie Kasendorf and Kathy Scharff, fell toward the end of the pack. The sheer volume of candidates reduced the number of votes any one contender needed to win.
"It's hard to distinguish yourself from a field of 15," Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia said. "You need a distinct message."
Activist Andres Soto, who came in sixth, was targeted by a series of attack ads mailed to voters by the police and firefighter unions in the last days of the campaign, including a poster-sized placard that derided Soto as "a radical" on one side and promoted Bates on the other.