Page One

Bates nomination ruffles opponents

By Kurtis Alexander Daily Planet Staff
Tuesday May 07, 2002

Jubilation from the weekend’s mayoral nomination of Tom Bates is being tempered by the critical reactions from political opponents. 

Centrists in Berkeley’s political community are criticizing Saturday’s nominating convention – held by a more progressive constituency – as combative, unnecessary and unproductive to city politics. 

“To start the campaign off the way they did is just disgusting,” said Councilmember Betty Olds. The centrist councilmember cited incriminating remarks made at the convention, labeling the mayor as “vicious” and “vindicative.” Olds called the tone of the meeting “wrong.” 

The progressives are setting the stage for an ugly race, she said. 

The nomination of Bates, a former state Assmeblyman, came Saturday with an overwelming majority of nominating ballots from the Coalition for a New Mayor. The decision ended a long and anxious search among progressives for a candidate who could run competively against eight-year incumbent Mayor Shirley Dean. 

Selection of the 20-year Sacramento vetaran not only prompted centrist opponents to take the defense this week, but instilled uncertainty as to whether the mayor would stack up against the long-time Assemblyman. 

“Certainly, Mayor Dean would have walked all over the other people who are being considered,” said Councilmember Polly Armstrong. Now it’s going to be a race, she said. 

Armstrong called Bates a “good man”, and acknowledged his experience as a state legislator, but said the long-time politician may not be be mainstream enough to defeat Dean in November. 

Dean, maintaining the alleged high ground of her colleagues, has refused to comment about her opponent, and said she would run a stong campaign regardless of the competition. 

But criticism emerged from the center about the Bates family having too much control over Berkeley politics. Bates is married to Loni Hancock, two-term Berkeley mayor and Democratic candidate for the District 14 state Assembly seat, Bate’s former position. 

“Do they want to look like the Clintons or what?” challenged Councilmember Olds. “I don’t think it’s right for one family to have all that power.” 

Political analyist Bruce Cain, director of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Government Studies, said family ties would likely work to Bate’s advantage this November. 

“Berkeley was a key base for Loni [in the Assembly race primary] and presumably a lot of the same people can be mobilized for the city race,” he said. 

Cain noted Bates is the “best shot” that the progressives have of unseating Dean in November. He said how Bates decides to position himself, in regard to the issues, will determine the strength of his appeal. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who has pledged the support of his large and vocal progressive following to Bates, stood by Saturday’s criticism of the mayor. 

“The reason we put together a convention [in the first place] is because there are hundreds of people who are eager to have a new attitude [in the mayor’s office],” he said. 

“And the incumbent’s negative campaigning has been going on week after week, month after month,” he added. 

Worthington noted that Bates did not attack his November rival at the convention, but merely stated his opposing viewpoints.