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  Vorderbrueggen: Richmond Special Election is Worth the Money
January 27, 2013

Vorderbrueggen: Richmond special election is worth the money
By Lisa Vorderbrueggen Contra Costa Times
Posted:   01/26/2013 06:00:00 PM PST
Updated:   01/27/2013 06:27:30 AM PST

Richmond Councilman Jim Rogers had it exactly right when he said neither money nor bullies should dictate how the council fills its unfortunate vacancy.
As folks will recall, Councilman-elect Gary Bell was sadly unable to take office Jan. 8. He remains in a medically induced coma.
After November's election battle between warring factions, Richmond voters are understandably concerned about who will step into the seat.
The outcome could produce a third vote for Richmond Progressive Alliance allies Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles.
Or this individual could side with the unapologetically pro-Chevron councilmen Corky Booze and Nate Bates. Bell was widely viewed as a vote for the latter, given Chevron's financial support of his candidacy.
The progressives say it is only fair to appoint their man Eduardo Martinez, who finished fourth just behind Bell.
They call a special election a waste of money that will further polarize the voters and hand Chevron another opportunity to spread lies.
Even Councilman Tom Butt -- who has successfully planted a foot in each political camp -- supports Martinez.
With all due respect to Butt, these arguments leak like a Delta levee.
In city after city, year after year, when a vacancy pops up outside the election cycle, the guy or gal who finishes just out of the money cries, "The voters already chose me!"
If the council believes the fairest path to an appointment is to select the latest candidate who lost by the least number of votes, then it must apply that philosophy without regard for the individual's politics or it becomes an expedient and self-serving argument.
Second, why are regular election expenses appropriate and special elections a fiscal travesty?
The council didn't choose to have a vacancy. It's unclear when or if Bell will recover sufficiently to do the job. It needs seven members to avert tie votes and conduct business.
The $100,000 or $200,000 it would cost voters in a city of Richmond's size, complexity and intense political passions to unequivocally elect a council member is a bargain.
As for the idea that a special election is uniquely divisive and will lead to even greater campaign horrors, do the people who make these points advocate putting a stop to elections altogether in Richmond? Where have they been for the last 50 years?
Yes, elections in Richmond and everywhere are brutal.
It's unfortunate, but arguing that voters require protection from their own election system is absurd.
Money is an undeniable force but it offers no guarantees. Just ask Meg Whitman. And if negative campaigning offends voters, then voters should stop electing people who do it.
So, let the would-be council members come forward Feb. 4 and make their best pitches.
Maybe someone will dazzle the council and win four votes. If not, voters will step up and do the job.
And if either camp makes a bad call, that's the beauty of elections: Voters always have another chance to get it right.