While the turnout and focus of yesterday’s election was largely driven by national and state politics, our city held a local election with two council seats, three school board seats and a local measure on the ballot.
The reality of this election is that it was likely decided months ago when the local democratic party endorsements were made. In fact, for the third consecutive election, the winners mirrored those endorsed by the Alameda County Democratic Party.
Alameda County Democratic Party endorsements are a huge advantage especially on a lengthly ballot. Most voters don’t have the time or resources to understand all the candidates and the personal impact of their positions.
These endorsements are made by a ten person steering committee composed of Alameda County Democratic Party leaders that meet in private to interview the candidates. Dianne Martinez serves on this Central Committee.
Incumbents, barring involvement in anything scandalous or coordinated opposition, generally get the nod automatically as they are statistically more likely to win and this improves the credibility of these endorsements.
“We like our friends, so we endorse candidates that hang out in Democratic party circles.” noted Marga Lacabe who serves on the committee and is a self described “progressive troublemaker.” Lacabe has challenged the committee prior for its lack of transparency in its funding and decisions.
Steven Tavares, who writes the East Bay Citizen political website, described the process in this September piece as “behind the scenes” and involving “horse-trading.” Lacabe describes her take on the process in further detail on her blog.
Donahue – Last minute Party Switcheroo
Councilmember Scott Donahue, who made a statement by switching his party affiliation to the Green Party while serving his term as Mayor in 2017, stealthy switched back to the Democratic Party prior to the endorsement process.
A Green Party representative noted they did not have an official position on his switch and that it was not entirely uncommon in politics. “I would guess that most of our active members don’t particularly like it,” said Green Party volunteer Greg Jan when contacted.
Election day drama was afoot early in our city as two mysterious RV’s were parked immediately in front of at least two polling places with large signs for School Board Candidates Susan Donaldson, Sarah Nguyen and Brynnda Collins and City Council candidates Dianne Martinez & Scott Donahue.
The RV’s were determined to be owned by Donaldson and the one parked in front of City Hall was attended by her husband who provided free donuts and candidate post cards to voters.
According to Emeryville City Clerk Sheri Hartz, the RV in front of City Hall polling location was found to be in compliance but the one in front of the ECCL was found to be in violation. “The one parked at ECCL is just under the required 100 feet away, and the candidate has been notified,” said Hartz. Donaldson refuted the claim on a facebook post noting the polling inspector had validated the RV to be in compliance.
The violation in question is California Elections Code is Article 7. Electioneering, 18370 which states, “No person, on election day, or at any time that a voter may be casting a ballot, shall, within 100 feet of a polling place, a satellite location under Section 3018, or an elections official’s office.”
City Council Race
With mail-in votes still to be counted, the results of the council race looks to be decided with Martinez and Donahue coasting to an easy reelection. Martinez and Donahue pooled their resources and ran as a “slate” as they had prior in 2014.
From a political observer’s standpoint, the council race was a rather dull one as it failed to attract any fresh faces or spur the interest or debate of previous elections. “Western” Emeryville west of the railroad tracks, failed to put forth a candidate for either race and our entire Council and School board rest entirely in “East” Emeryville.
School Board Race
With mail-in votes still to be counted, Nguyen and Collins appear to have secured two of the three available seats. Donaldson holds a fairly commanding 127 vote advantage over Brown but it’s probably too early to call it definitively.
The School Board was a more interesting race as there were more qualified candidates than there were available seats. City Council members heavily lobbied for Nguyen, Collins and Donaldson through their platforms.
Brown did not appear to have any allies on council but did receive the endorsement of the Emery Teachers Association.
Former councilmember Ken Bukowski placed last in both races.
Measure S Easily Passes
Measure S, needing a simple majority, looks to have easily passed. The measure will establish a cannabis business license tax by adding a 6% tax to gross receipts to permitted Cannabis businesses in our city. Some municipalities are pursuing a higher rate thus the local Cannabis business community saw this as a compromise.
The results of other county, state measures and candidates can be viewed on The Secretary of State website.