A few dozen of the Island’s most serious Democrats gathered Monday night in the W.J. “Bill” Dal Cielo Conference Room at Alameda Hospital for the task of picking endorsements for a long list of races, most notably City Council.
After about an hour of arguments for and against state ballot propositions 4 (parental notification for abortions), 8 (gay marriage ban) and 11 (redistricting), a slugfest over bus contracts between incumbent AC Transit Board member Chris Peeples and “reform” challenger Joyce Roy and a solo performance by incumbent East Bay Municipal Utility District Board member Doug Linney (challenger Susi Ostlund was a no-show), the main event was set to begin.
Well, almost. Councilman Frank Matarrese and Vice Mayor Lena Tam made an unadvertised appearance on behalf of Measure P, which would more than double the city’s transfer tax on home sales, and a host of other measures that would clean up the city’s ancient charter (think requirements for city contracts to be in writing and for the city treasurer and auditor to have financial certifications).
Then candidates Tracy Jensen, Marie Gilmore, Justin Harrison and Doug deHaan took the makeshift dais.
Not surprisingly, the candidates all boasted big love for our Island and long track records of public service – even 26-year-old Harrison, who said he helped get a skate park built at age 14 and that he helped to rehab the former Woodstock Elementary into the high school and day care center that are there today. In addition, Jensen offered a long list of endorsements (we think she mentioned state Senate leader Don Perata) and Gilmore offered her almighty brainpower (she’s been through Stanford and Boalt Law, and she was the most articulate of the four candidates Monday).
Most pressing issue? All four listed the city’s finances. Would they put Measure A to a vote? Harrison said yes, deHaan and Gilmore, no; Jensen might if she felt the transportation issues additional growth would bring were addressed. Future political aspirations? We think deHaan summed it up for everyone: “I make it loud and clear: I am not a politician. I have no political aspirations outside Alameda.”
Shortly after 9, it was time to vote. Ballots were handed in and a group gathered around a table in the back of the room. In short order, they selected positions on the ballot propositions (no on 4 and 8, no position on 11 and yes on all the city ballot propositions), AC Transit (Peoples) and East Bay MUD (Linney). But the council vote proved much more difficult.
For the council race, the Democratic Club leadership opted to introduce ranked-choice voting to select the endorsees. For the lead candidate, this presented no problem: Marie Gilmore won her endorsement free and clear. But the choice of a second candidate proved more troubling.
Thirty minutes passed, and then an hour. The crowd in the conference room thinned as nervous council candidates circled. Harrison and deHaan were tied for the second endorsement, but neither had the requisite 60 percent to be selected. The Democratic club’s leaders scratched their heads and mumbled something about algorithms. Someone at the vote table had scrawled “FLA” in large block letters on a piece of paper.
By 10 p.m., no other endorsements had been reached.