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List of opponents for Mayor Dean dwindle

By Jamie Luck, Special to the Daily Planet
Monday April 15, 2002

The list of prospective challengers to Shirley Dean’s mayoral seat in this November’s election has diminished with the announcements by several potential candidates that they will not run against the two-term incumbent. Members of the progressive voting block of the city council, determined to unseat Dean, have seen their list of challengers shrink, and have responded to their lack of a candidate by organizing a convention for May 4 to determine who will run against the mayor. 

Berkeley councilmember Linda Maio, who was considering a run for mayor, has decided not to run against mayoral incumbent Shirley Dean in November’s election. “It’s really just not the right time for me,” says Maio. “For one thing, it is difficult to unseat an incumbent. It takes a lot of money, at least $200,000. I just don’t have access to the kind of funds [Mayor Dean] has, because she is tight with developers.”  

State assemblymember Dion Aroner , D-Berkeley,also flirted with running for mayor, but has instead decided to pursue the 9th district state senate seat in 2004, when Don Perata will be forced out of that seat due to term limits.  





This leaves Berkeley’s progressive group of politicians uncertain of who will represent them in the upcoming election, a determination they hope to make during the May 4th convention, the first of its kind held by the progressives in 20 years. Possible candidates range from progressive councilmembers Margaret Breland and Kriss Worthington to active politicos like Justice Commissioner Elliot Cohen, KPFA crusader Barbara Lubin and Planning Commission chairman Rob Wrenn. The convention may also be the first step in hammering out a platform for the mayor’s challenger, as neighborhood groups and activists are expected to appear and voice their issues and concerns. 


“I thought about attending the convention,” said Mayor Dean, “but I don’t think I’d be very welcome. I’m sure they’ll talk about me, and I’d like to hear what they have to say.” 

The mayor says she does not plan on altering her campaign due to convention results. “What I do is not going to be affected at all by what is happening now. I intend to run a hard campaign as I always do,” she says. 

Incumbent councilmembers may be reluctant to forfeit their seats to run for mayor, which will be required of those who declare themselves candidates. The progressives currently enjoy a narrow, 5-4 majority in the city council, that could be put at risk. “The possible loss of the majority on the council is certainly a concern,” said Maio. This may push the progressives to look for a candidate outside of council ranks.  

Another race to watch will be for the District 8 council seat, which is being relinquished by Polly Armstrong. “I’ve done this for eight years and I’ve done a good job,” says Armstrong, “but it’s important to know when to walk away from something.” Armstrong cites political infighting as one of her reasons for leaving. “There’s no joy left in the job due to the toxic atmosphere in council meetings among the councilmembers, so it’s time to go,” she says. “I am concerned that while it’s important to keep Berkeley as a city with room for all kinds of opinions and people, we are increasingly becoming a city of students and rich people, and that we’re going to lose our families and our working poor,” she adds. 

Armstrong has declared support for a successor to her seat and for the current mayor. “I am supporting Gordon Wosniak [for District 8], who’s running in my place,” she says. 

“And I think Shirley Dean will dominate the [mayoral] election regardless of who the progressives nominate. She’s done an excellent job and is the hardest working person who’s ever had the job.”  

Maio disagrees with her assessment of the mayor. “A change is important,” she says. “Dean is a person who works hard, but she’s out of step with what the city stands for and who we are.” 

While the mayor says it is too early to specify the exact content of her campaign, she does say that future development, affordable housing, education and transportation are all key issues. Dean says that another term is essential to “complete some of the things that I’ve started and been involved in that are really important. We’ve made good beginnings, but we need to bring them to fruition, and that’s why we need another term.” 

In addition to the mayoral seat, council seats for Districts 1, 4, 7, and 8 are all open for reelection. Candidates must declare by July.