Progressive Council Incumbents Victorious

Amanda Crater of The Daily Californian Staff contributed to this report

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Holding onto their slim majority in the Berkeley City Council, the progressive faction is keeping its foot in the door with two major wins yesterday.

Two City Council incumbents, Margaret Breland for District 2 and Maudelle Shirek for District 3, will continue to represent the flat lands of Berkeley with two strong victories - Breland garnering 56 percent and Shirek 73 percent of the votes.

In a warehouse on Sacramento Street, munching on goldfish crackers and tortilla chips and huddled around two tiny television sets watching the news, progressive officials congregated to await election results.

Upon news of Vice Mayor Shirek's victory, the room resonated with the sounds of loud cheers and claps.

"The people have spoken," Shirek said. "I will continue to work for the people."

Shirek, 89, has 16 years of experience on the council and has played witness to the best and worst of times in the city. With a long history of experience as an activist, she said that she is happy about her win, although all the elections are difficult and that "the road is going to be bumpy now for the people."

The candidate that posed the greatest threat to Shirek's reign, James Peterson, brought in only 19.1 percent of the votes. Peterson could not be reached for comment.

"(Shirek) crushed James Peterson," said Mike Berkowitz, Shirek's campaign manager. "He flew over Berkeley in a plane with a banner and we shot that plane down. We are still searching the wreckage for his body but haven't found it yet."

He added that no matter what else the rest of the country does, Berkeley will continue to be "a very progressive, humane place to live," that will fight against "the mayor and her cronies."

Early this morning, not all the votes were in for Breland but her aid Calvin Fong admitted that "it is looking pretty good."

Later on, the victorious Breland, said that she went tonight expecting to win, although she said she knew she "would have a little run for her money."

Breland supporters, such as Mel Martynn, who was sporting a blue sweatshirt with Breland's face pictured on the back, said that her win was symbolic for "progressive forces."

"It is a special comment that the voice of progressives in Berkeley is still very much alive," he said. "Breland's win is a defeat for Mayor Dean - now she will have to face at least four more years on the council where she will be a minority."

Breland said that she will continue to work on many of the issues she has undertaken in her past term, such as affordable housing. Despite opposition, Breland is going forward with plans to build an affordable housing complex on San Pablo Avenue.

"I was quite concerned that the council would turn conservative," said Marissa Shaw, a Breland appointee on the Commission on Disability. "This election could have changed the whole complexion of city politics and the City Council as we have known it in Berkeley."

According to Councilmember Kriss Worthington, also a progressive, things went well in general for the progressive camp.

Worthington said that although it was extremely depressing that Gov. George W. Bush may win the presidency, he remained optimistic about the political climate in Berkeley, where Democrats will "continue to fight every inch."

"Locally, things look great," he said.

Shirek and Breland said that for the most part that they were happy with the result of the local elections, although they did hold qualms over the success of several propositions.

With the passing of Proposition 36, which would require probation and counseling to treat drug abusers instead of incarceration, Shirek said it is a start, but there is not enough money to do what is needed.

Breland agreed, saying that "this way you can reach more people."

Shirek also hailed the enormous defeat of Proposition 38, which would have established state-subsidized private schoool vouchers.


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