Fourteen Candidates Emerge in Race for Four City Council Seats

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With the new ranked-choice voting system, this year's Berkeley City Council elections are less predictable and by the end of the nomination period Friday, 14 candidates had stepped forward to run for the four council seats up for election.

Districts 1, 4, 7 and 8 - occupied by incumbents Linda Maio, Jesse Arreguin, Kriss Worthington and Gordon Wozniak, respectively - are up for the Nov. 2 elections, which for the first time will be decided by a series of votes.

Under the new system, voters rank up to three candidates who must receive a majority of votes in order to win. Once the first-choice votes are tallied, if no winner emerges, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated. The eliminated candidate's first-ranked votes then go to the second-choice candidate, and this may happen a second time if the condition to win is not met.

Maio, who has held the District 1 seat since 1992, said the number of candidates running in this election is higher than that of previous years, adding that the new ranked-choice voting system "had something to do with people throwing their hat in the ring."

In the 2006 elections, two candidates ran for each of four districts and all four incumbents prevailed, with Worthington narrowly beating George Beier - who is running in his third council election this year - by a margin of 200 votes.

"We all are sort of waiting to see how it will all work," said Maio, who potentially faces three opponents - Anthony DiDonato, Jasper Kingeter and Merrilie Mitchell.

Of the 14 candidates, four issued their nomination papers within the last week of the nomination period.

Jim Novosel, founder of Bay Architects and planning commissioner for District 1, said he finally decided last Monday to run for the District 4 seat after months of "sitting on the fence."

"I've been in public service for a long time and I just think this is the form I should get into now to be effective," said Novosel, who worked on the 1990 Downtown Area Plan.

The new voting system has changed the dynamic of Berkeley politics, allowing Mayor Tom Bates to endorse two different candidates running in District 4 - Novosel and Eric Panzer - and two in District 7 - Beier and Cecilia Rosales. Bates has also endorsed incumbents Wozniak and Maio, and told The Daily Californian in a July 23 interview that under the new system there is a "good chance" of unseating Worthington.

Councilmembers Wozniak, Laurie Capitelli, Darryl Moore and Susan Wengraf have also endorsed Beier for District 7 as well as Novosel and Panzer for District 4.

"Ranked-choice voting actually favors challengers," said Wozniak, who faces Jacquelyn McCormick and Stewart Jones in the District 8 election. "It means that in some ways it's more likely that ... the strongest challenger might pick up the votes of the weaker ones ... It's healthy for democracy to have a lot of challengers."


Stephanie Baer is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

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