Moderates Celebrate North Berkeley Races

Steve Sexton of The Daily Californian staff contributed to this report





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The moderate faction of the Berkeley City Council retained its four seats yesterday, as District 6 incumbent Betty Olds joined District 5 candidate Miriam Hawley in celebrating victory.

In a packed room at a local restaurant, moderate political leaders anxiously watched both local and national election results, going home early when it appeared that the presidential race was anything but decided.

The Hawley and Olds wins, however, will not give the moderates a majority on the council, which remains in the hands of the progressives.

As expected, Olds defended her moderate stronghold in the Berkeley Hills by handily defeating her opponents. Miriam Hawley, who was endorsed by both factions but leans toward the moderates, will probably not face Green Party candidate Tom Kelly in a run-off for the traditionally moderate District 5.

As late as 1:30 a.m. this morning, Hawley had 54.9 percent of the vote, only needing more than 45 percent to avoid a run-off. Kelly had 18.1 percent, the closest to Hawley.

Hawley declared herself the victor, staying with the moderates at the Santa Fe Bar and Grill on University Avenue till the party broke up by 12:30 a.m.

"I intend to vote issue by issue on the council," she said. "(But) my district is a moderate district and I intend to represent them."

In the five-way race without an incumbent, a rarity in Berkeley politics, Hawley's four opponents "bonded" together at the end, promising to defeat her one way or another, said candidate Carrie Olson.

"We all agree that she's not the best candidate," said Olson, who went to bed without the final Berkeley results. "We all agreed that we will work together for whoever (gets to fight Hawley for the run-off)."

Olson, who had 15.3 percent of the vote with 78.5 percent counted, said Hawley, who is an AC Transit director, ran a "single-issue" campaign focusing only on transportation. Hawley has said she supports a transit pass modeled after UC Berkeley's Class Pass for all city residents.

Benjamin Rodefer, another District 5 candidate, declined to comment to the press on election night, saying he planned to take his wife out to dinner and a movie and "go to bed."

Olds kept her seat in District 6 after bringing in more campaign contributions than any other City Council candidate. With 63.3 percent of the vote with 82.3 percent counted, she credited her success to her record.

"I work harder than any other of the council members - I go into the office more frequently," she said.

Still, Olds ran a tough three-way race and on election night said she was still quite nervous. Her campaign focused on bringing infrastructural repairs and a badly-needed fire station to her district.

Norine Smith, a suprisingly progressive candidate for District 6, claimed 22.3 percent of the votes and said she will probably run again next election.

"It was a good fight," she said from her home late last night. "I stood at the North Gate of campus and got a mostly enthusiastic response but I guess she got most of the old folks up here. At least we got our message across."

The message, she said,was about neighborhood preservation, keeping buildings low and appropriate. She also admitted that her support for Measure Y, which protects long-term tenants from some evictions, may have hurt her in a traditionally more conservative district.

Eleanor Pepples, the district's third major candidate, was unavailable for comment.

The messy District 6 race finished with bitter tones as all sides claimed political foul play. Berkeley police are investigating an incident in which a Pepples supporter allegedly bashed in the windshield of a Berkeley resident who was taking down Pepples's signs. While Pepples said her First Amendment rights have been violated by several sign scrappers, Smith has taken claim to an even more sordid sign-tampering story.

She said this week that she woke up Monday morning to find a dead squirrel in her driveway, with its fresh blood all over her front yard campaign sign.

Susan Wengraf, an aid to Olds, said that the incumbent has also been a target. Wengraf claimed a Pepples's supporter called Olds's supporters at 6 a.m. one morning to yell at them.

Mayor Shirley Dean, a moderate who has been battling against the progressive majority measure by measure for two years, said it looks like she will have to continue to do so in the future.

"My agenda has been slowed down (due to a progressive majority) but we're still getting things through - it just takes longer," she said.

The mayor said she had a wish list prepared for measures she would have liked to pass if the moderates regained the majority. She said the the retrofitting of the old City Hall and more mixed-income housing are among her priorities.

As they grooved to the soft jazz of a live band, the moderates of the Berkeley Democratic Club dined at the Santa Fe grill restaurant on a buffet of chips, salsa, bread and cheese. Regardless of their feelings on their own personal races, most fell into a depressed mood when it looked like Texas Gov. George W. Bush would win the presidency.

When it was originally announced on television, the moderates responded in confusion and disbelief.

"Brethren, shall we pray," said Betty Hicks, candidate for District 2.

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