At about 1:30 AM this morning, the unoffocial final election results were posted by the County, and the hard core of revelers at the Baltic Restaurant, where our election watch party was in full swing, let out a collective cheer for the results as we played the now famous “Arkansas Rattlesnake Song,” composed by Michael Husser and peformed by Jason, Michael, Stefanie and Josh at the Wavelength Studio.
I have to say I was genuinely surprised. The last time Nat Bates and I ran against each other was the 2012 City Council election. After an early surge in the mail-in ballots, Bates pulled past me by 1,377 votes at the end of Election Day. By the time all the votes were counted on December 3, 2012, Bates was 2,017 up on me. I figured this election could very well have been a replay of 2012, perhaps even worse because of the magnitude of the Chevron campaign.
What changed? First, I have to believe that the Chevron campaign and all of the negative (even national) publicity it attracted simply backfired. Not only did I finish ahead of Bates this time, but the entire Chevron slate tanked. I advised some of them early on to loudly and publicly tell Chevron “Thanks, but no tanks,” but no one really did that. They all just said one way or another that they had no involvement in securing Chevron’s support, had no idea why they were the beneficiaries and that Chevron money would not influence them. While that may have been entirely true, it apparently was also entirely unconvincing to the voters.
Second, the RPA slate, renamed “Team Richmond,” emerged from their 2012 loss after some soul searching with new resolve and new strategies that carried them all to victory. While running totally separate campaigns, we successfully collaborated to turn out those voters who were turned off by the Chevron campaign, impressed with the remarkable progress Richmond has made in the past several years and tired of the City Council meeting disruptions. I believe the voters were convinced that the widely publicized disruptions of the last three years were aimed at the RPA but not caused by the RPA.
Finally, I want to thank all of the many individuals and organizations who endorsed and campaigned for us. We had more volunteers doing more things than in any of the seven previous campaigns I have waged since 1993. You all clearly made the difference. My Campaign Coordinator Alex Knox, assisted at the end by Zack Wear, did an outstanding job.
The media has been asking me about what dramatic changes we are going to be making. I told them not to expect catasclysmic change. Five of seven council members will remain the same. We campaigned about building on our successes, not going off in some new, untried direction.
The vote analysis below was provided by Don Gosney.
Progressives capture City Hall and Council, fending off Chevron money
Tom Butt (center), with his wife and campaign manager, reacts as unofficial election results show him winning Richmond's mayoral seat. (Photo by Bonnie Chan)
By Richmond ConfidentialPosted November 5, 2014 1:51 am
In a surprise victory, Tom Butt was elected Richmond Mayor tonight after a multi-million dollar campaign by the Chevron Corporation failed to defeat Butt or elect a slate of candidates the giant oil company had supported.
According to tallies as of Wednesday morning, Butt received 51.43% of votes, beating his nearest opponent Nat Bates, whose was campaign supported by Chevron, by 16 points.
An ecstatic Butt, speaking from his headquarters, praised his campaign workers and marveled at the unexpected margin of victory: “I’ve never had such a bunch of people who are dedicated and worked so hard. It’s far away above anything that I’ve ever experienced.”
Butt’s election also helped bring victory to a slate of progressive candidates including Jovanka Beckles, Gayle McLaughlin and Eduardo Martinez , who each won a seat on the City Council.
The progressives’ sweep of city hall and the city council further means they’ll be able to fill Butt’s vacated council seat.
A number of observers said that Chevron’s aggressive spending may have backfired.
Uche Uwahemu, who ran third in the mayoral race, said,”The election was a referendum on Chevron and the people obviously made it clear they did not appreciate the unnecessary spending by Chevron so they took it out on the rest of the candidates.”
A cheer went up at Butt headquarters when his victory was announced and his supporters hugged and danced to Butt’s rallying song, “The Arkansas Rattlesnake.”
Butt and the other progressive candidates were considered underdogs in an aggressively fought campaign that involved hundred of thousands of dollars spent against them on billboards, flyers and even a mobile screen. Butt’s comparatively shoe-string campaign spent about $58,000. Chevron spending, which totaled over $3 million, attracted national attention to Richmond, a city of 107,000 people.
Turnout tonight was low with an estimated 11,000 people casting votes. Results are unofficial as more votes are being counted.
After the polls closed at 8pm Tuesday evening and results started coming in, Butt opened up a lead over Nat Bates and held that lead throughout the evening.
“It’s a bloodbath obviously,” said Bates after the fourth round of results were out. “I think citizens will eventually suffer.” Bates will retain his seat as a City Council member.
Butt’s campaign manager Alex Knox said: “I didn’t expect a full slate victory, but it’s a clear statement. I hope it means that this kind of money won’t be spent the same way again, that maybe it will change how corporations buy elections.”
Chevron’s outlay in the campaign amounted to about $281 per voter, based on tonight’s results.
Progressive candidates in Richmond have been gaining ground in recent years embarking on a series of progressive initiatives, including banning plastic bags, increasing bicycle lanes and green lighting marijuana dispensaries.
Asked about his priorities if elected as mayor, Butt said “my top priority is to continue the trend towards increasing the quality of life for all in Richmond, making it safer, cleaner, greener, healthier and more prosperous equitably.”
Butt wins hotly contested Richmond mayoral race
KTVU and Wires
RICHMOND, Calif. —
City Councilman Tom Butt appears to have won Richmond's highly contested mayor's race and all three Richmond Progressive Alliance candidates won City Council seats in a race that has drawn national attention, according to complete unofficial election results released early Wednesday.
Butt, who has served on Richmond's City Council for two decades, earned 51 of the vote compared to 35 percent for fellow City Councilman Nat Bates, another council fixture. Newcomer Uche Uwahemu garnered nearly 13 percent of the vote, according to the unofficial results.
Butt celebrated the win with family members and supporters at The Baltic restaurant in Point Richmond near his campaign headquarters.
"We feel excited," Butt said. "Frankly, I really didn't know how this was going to come out, I thought there was a good chance we might not win."
As mayor, Butt said he plans to continue on the path the city is on now, with both violent crime and property crimes declining and the realization of sustainable, environmentally friendly programs such as the city's linkage with Marin Clean Energy.
Bates was not immediately available to comment on the election results.
"To take on a campaign that's funded with $3 million and our modest campaign budget was about $50,000, but we had a lot of grassroots help and we pulled it off," Butt said, citing the $3 million Chevron funneled to the "Moving Forward" political action campaign in support of Bates's campaign and for campaigns to defeat Richmond Progressive Alliance candidates.
The overwhelming campaign funding from Chevron drew national media attention to the city of about 107,500 people.
The mayoral race between Butt, 70, and Bates, 82, has been tight since Butt announced his candidacy in August.
The two long-time colleagues differ on many issues, from their political leanings to their stance on spending for city parks and their attitudes toward Chevron, the city's largest employer.
The liberal-leaning Butt and conservative Bates have been involved in a heated, sometimes hostile race dominated by Chevron-funded advertising funded on Bates's side.
Bates has accused Butt of backstabbing his friend, Richmond Progressive Alliance campaign coordinator Mike Parker, after Butt announced he would run for mayor even though Parker had already filed to run.
He has also said Butt was more concerned with his own environmental agenda than the needs of Richmond citizens when he brokered a $90 community investment deal with Chevron earlier this year along with City Council members Jim Rogers and Jael Myrick.
Butt, meanwhile, has attacked Bates for his cozy relationship with the oil giant, saying he is "obsessed with pleasing Chevron."
He has also sharply criticized Bates's record of voting against parks funding and said he is too narrowly focused on business interests at the expense of quality of life issues.
Joining Butt on the City Council after the Tuesday election are current Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles and Planning Commissioner Eduardo Martinez, three members of the liberal group Richmond Progressive Alliance, as well as City Councilman Jael Myrick, who the group backed.
Former City Councilwoman Donna Powers, West Contra Costa County Unified School District board president Charles Ramsey and retired postmaster Al Martinez -- three candidates heavily backed by Chevron - fell short of winning seats.
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