Status Quo for Emeryville Voters as No Challengers File for Council Race; Two File for Three School Board Seats

5 mins read

The nomination period for the upcoming general election closed on August 7 and Emeryville voters will once again have little choice in our local races. No challengers have filed to oppose the three city council incumbents and only two candidates have filed for the three available Emery Unified School Board seats. All seats are 4-year terms.

Incumbents Go Unchallenged in Council Race

Like our last general election in 2018, no new challengers have emerged from Emeryville’s political landscape (Ken Bukowski, a longtime former councilmember, ran a fairly minimal, unfunded campaign).

Meanwhile, the City of Berkeley had eight candidates file for their mayoral election and none of the combined nine council elections in neighboring Oakland or Berkeley will go unchallenged. Emeryville on the other hand couldn’t muster a single challenger to its current political paradigm.

Emeryville’s cluster of councilmembers will remain concentrated within the Triangle and Park Avenue neighborhoods. Our small city is not broken up into districts.

Only Two File for School Board

The deadline for filing for the school board election was extended by one week when incumbent Cruz Vargas opted to not to file for reelection. Despite this extension, the School Board race only attracted two candidates for the available three seats.

John Van Geffen, who emerged as a council candidate in 2016, was appointed to the position last year when Sarah Nuyen moved from the area. Van Geffen, who has a young child entering the district, filed for one of the three 4-year terms.

Kimberly Solis, who just recently graduated from Emery High in 2018, added a bit of intrigue to this election by throwing her hat in the ring. Solis was a top student while attending Emery and garnered accolades including being named a Visionary Award finalist at the annual Urban Debate League. Solis is currently attending UC Berkeley on a Fiat Lux scholarship.

When these candidates are presumably elected, they, along with existing board members Susan Donaldson and Brynnda Collins, will need to appoint a fifth board member. Board members must reside in Emeryville despite the district being comprised of roughly half out-of-district transfers.

Browse the complete list of candidates on the Alameda County Website and view Emeryville candidates campaign statements and FPPC filings on Emeryville.org. Nominees for office will be listed in alphabetical order until ballot order is confirmed by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

8/27 Update: According to Emeryville City Clerk Sheri Hartz, there will not be any Emeryville City Council election on the November ballot. City Council voted 4-1 vote (Councilmember Donahue absent) at an August 19 Special Meeting to approve a resolution. “When there are only as many candidates as there are seats with expiring terms, Elections Code Section 10229 allows for a City Council to take action, if it so chooses, to not participate in the election, and to appoint the verified nominees.”

John Bauters, Ally Medina and Christian Patz will take office just as if they had been elected by the voters, and will begin their terms after the November election is certified.

Emeryville City Council Election

John J. Bauters

Emeryville City Councilmember / Justice Advocate

Candidate Statement: As your Councilmember, I have worked to make Emeryville a more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive community. I have been a progressive leader on important local issues, including affordable housing, active transportation, environmental stewardship, economic development, and social justice. I championed our local affordable housing bond to build homes for low-income seniors and working families who need an affordable place to live; partnered with Oakland to open a homeless shelter with wraparound services for families with children; have been a regional leader in addressing our climate crisis; introduced policies that have protected residential tenants and small businesses; spearheaded the effort to eliminate city contracts with companies sharing data with ICE; and held weekly town halls with the community. My commitment to creating a just and equitable community runs deep – I have over 15 years of combined professional experience as a legal aid attorney representing vulnerable populations and as an advocate fighting to replace the school-to-prison pipeline with investments in community-based education, health, and social services. With your support, I commit to continuing this work, advancing our shared values, and making people-centered decisions at city hall.

Ally Medina


Candidate Statement: It has been my pleasure to serve as a Councilmember for the City of Emeryville over the past four years. I have worked to uphold strong labor standards, bring affordable housing to Emeryville, and provide safe transportation options for our community. I am seeking another term to continue to make progress on those issues and to find ways to help those in our community who most need it during an unprecedented global pandemic.

I look forward to the opportunity to continue serving as a member of the City Council and humbly ask for your vote on November 3rd.

Christian Patz

Mayor, Educator

Candidate Statement: As your Mayor, I have collaborated with our community and fellow council members to help Emeryville navigate 2020. My experience and track record will help the city navigate the economic uncertainty we face in the next few years. I will continue to maintain the city’s balanced budget and ensure funds to cover liabilities.

My record includes defending the minimum wage to ensure that Emeryville workers are paid fairly, working with the voters to pass Emeryville’s Measures C and F, a $50 million affordable housing bond, and a sales tax for childcare and public safety. As a council, we passed an eviction moratorium and set aside funds for people impacted by the stay at home orders.

As Emeryville has grown, I have advocated for not only affordable housing but family-friendly development, not just more studios. My priorities continue to be housing, fair employment, community engagement and activities, environmental responsibility, and, responsive public safety.

It has been a privilege representing you on the City Council and look I forward to what we can accomplish next.

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Emery USD School Board Election

John T. Van Geffen

Appointed Incumbent / Emeryville Parent / Attorney for the Public Advocates Office at the California Public Utilities Commission

Candidate Statement: It has been a crazy year to say the very least.

Amid repeated COVID waves, raging forest fires and two full time working parents, my daughter starts kindergarten this 20/21 school year at Anna Yates.

Like many of you, I am struggling with being pulled in so many directions while simultaneously trying to provide a good childhood experience despite all the inherent dangers of growing up in today’s world.

Yet, despite facing the exact same issues, the ECCL staff, administration and teachers have been working day and night to confront the risks of opening school and developing workarounds for the inherent difficulties of providing a successful, engaging and supportive distance learning experience for our children.

If elected, my goal is simple, give teachers and staff the resources they need to do what they do best—i.e., teach our children, encourage their continued personal growth and keep them safe.

I do not come with a personal agenda, rather, I simply promise that I will listen to the concerns brought by our community, I will consider any and all ideas brought to the School Board, and I will do whatever is within my power to continue supporting our children.

Kimberly Solis

UC Berkeley Student/Double Major in Ethnic Studies and Political Science

Candidate Statement: I am a long time Emeryville resident and a current UC Berkeley student near completion of my Ethnic Studies and Political Science B.A. I have two years prior experience serving on the governing board as a Student Representative for Emery USD while attending Emery High School. As an alumna of the district, I am deeply committed to the improvement of Emery USD to provide the highest quality educational experience possible for students and their families. I am familiar with the needs of teachers and staff members and know my way around the district. Additionally, I have direct ties to the district as I have multiple family members who are currently students of Anna Yates and Emery High. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, I am committed to protecting the students of Emery USD by prioritizing their health and safety while still supporting the district in providing quality education. I will ensure to bridge any gaps in access to the technology and tools necessary for all students to engage in school.

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.



  2. One of the fantastic things about running a city into the ground is that your office becomes so disrespected that no one even wants it.

    Emeryville has been destroyed. Bury it next to the small businesses.

    • They brag about passing taxes for housing and hiring more public servants ... but not spending the proceeds says:

      Withhold your vote for these socialists. Do not write in names which can result in throwing away your ballot. The upcoming recall will succeed when we see the candidates received less than 50% of the ballots cast in Emeryville.

  3. Interesting that all of the board members are focused on a family friendly environment yet not a word about the encampment on Shellmound or the roving maniacs that inhabit it. We have to deal with a man walking naked and exposing himself daily down 66th/67th St.

    When the encampment was one or two unfortunate souls down on their luck it wasn’t an issue. Today its turned into something else and has descended into chaos and is affecting residents and businesses. I also read on 311 that another commentator was advised by his buildings insurers to collect evidence of the complaints to Emeryville and the open fires in the encampment.

  4. Actually it makes sense why the Shellmound St encampment has been allowed to grow and descend into the chaos it is today. None of the council members live anywhere near this area and probably never see what is going on. Out of sight, out of mind.

    • Steve, One way to get representation would be to go to a district election model (there are five precincts in emeryville). That way we can breakup the concentration of reps on the council.

  5. Accusations of political ‘money laundering’ is under investigation in Oakland

    Multiple members of the City Council received campaign contributions allegedly linked to a contractor seeking a favorable legal decision and a land deal.

    The investigation reaches beyond Oakland, and state investigators with the California Fair Political Practices Commission are on the case.

    • Has anyone written about the large donations from every officer of a particular cannabis company to one of our esteemed council members? It’s amazing what turns up under the rocks if you look.

      • No wonder zoning rules were changed on a whim. Withhold votes for the 3 incumbents this year.

  6. My Official Vote by Mail Ballot does not include spaces for any of the candidates profiled above. I cannot find them on the http://www.acvote.org website either. Did the council members consider re-election as a coup and therefore neglect to notify the county of the “race?” Emeryville doesn’t need 5 council members anyways – all of the current ones just agree with each other. If candidates receive zero votes hopefully they are not allowed to take office. Any cost of special mailing or special election should be deducted from the other two members paychecks.

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