Democratic Club Fails to Make Mayoral Endorsement

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At a packed meeting Thursday night, the Berkeley Democratic Club chose its endorsements for this November's election, but failed to make an endorsement for the mayoral race, which some said speaks to the closeness of the race.

The club requires a 60 percent majority in order to endorse a candidate. Mayoral incumbent Tom Bates received 56 percent of the vote while former mayor Shirley Dean received 36 percent.

The meeting was heavily attended, with many members standing. According to club co-president George Beier, a Bates supporter, the large turnout and the club's failure to make an endorsement speak to the excitement over what he believes will be a hotly contested race.

"I think people care a whole lot and I really think that it means that it's going to be a competitive race," he said. "I was surprised (Dean) didn't do better."

In an upset in 2002, the club endorsed Bates over Dean, who was the then-incumbent mayor and had traditionally been supported by the club.

Dean, Bates and candidates for City Council seats each spoke in front of the group last Thursday and participated in a question-and-answer session.

In her speech, Dean mentioned that she has been a member of the club for 37 years, but that in 2002, the club endorsed Bates. Dean said she was disappointed that she was denied the endorsement.

"Of course I'm disappointed, but I'm also glad that they didn't endorse my opponent," she said.

Although Bates did not stay long enough to hear the endorsements, he said before hearing the result that the best situation he could anticipate would be an endorsement of neither candidate.

"This is (Dean's) club. The best I can hope for is a 'no endorsement'," he said. "I don't think there's 60 percent in the room for anybody."

Bates, who is considered to be more moderate than Dean, spoke of his desires to continue providing for the homeless and to make Berkeley a greener city.

Meanwhile, Dean said she wanted to make city government more transparent and revitalize the Downtown area.

Dean also challenged Bates to a series of four debates, but Bates said he was unsure if he would accept.

City Council District 4 candidate L A Wood said the club's lack of endorsement in the mayoral race shows a moderate turn in Berkeley's political scene.

"Berkeley is generally becoming more moderate," he said. "It doesn't surprise me that both (Bates and Dean) are chasing the same endorsements; in this climate, it's more difficult to distinguish yourself."


Amy Brooks covers city government. Contact her at [email protected]

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