Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson made an official endorsement of Berkeley mayoral candidate Tom Bates at a rally Saturday. He told about 60 of the candidate’s supporters that he was endorsing the former state assemblyman because of their political like-mindedness and their long personal friendship.
Carson, who said he has had a productive working relationship with incumbent Mayor Shirley Dean, did not endorse a Berkeley mayoral candidate in the last two elections, which were both won by Dean.
“I didn’t have to give a second thought about supporting Tom Bates,” Carson said, citing their 20-year political and personal relationship. “Tom has focused in on the issues that affect people like affordable housing and the disparity of health care especially among people of color.”
Also attending the rally were city councilmembers Linda Maio, Kriss Worthington, Dona Spring and Bates’ wife, Loni Hancock. Hancock is running for the 14th District state Assembly seat, the same position her husband held for 20 years before he was forced out by term limits in 1996.
Carson joins a growing list of political incumbents who have endorsed Bates, including U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee and 14th District state Assemblywoman Dion Aroner.
Carson said the state is facing a $26 billion deficit that is bound to impact critical housing, health and education programs. He said the personal working alliance he has formed with Bates and Hancock will help the city and county attain state funds.
“We have to focus in on how we are going to help the least of us, the homeless, the battered, the hungry and the unemployed,” Carson said. “I think, with the economic state of affairs, it’s important to have the best possible collaboration with federal, state and local bodies to figure out ways to deal with our fiscal challenges.”
Dean, who plans to launch her re-election campaign in August, said that like Bates, she has enjoyed a productive working relationship with Carson while collaborating on such issues as the Alameda County Courthouse, health disparities and affordable housing. But Dean admitted that she wasn’t surprised when Carson endorsed Bates.
She said in the last election she won 60 percent of the vote without any endorsements from the “political machine” and she’s confident she can do it again.
“I’m energized to take my campaign to the streets,” Dean said. “I have been a 24-7 mayor and have worked really, really, really hard to bring this city back from the precipice and people can see the difference.”
Bates said Carson’s endorsement doesn’t have anything to do with a “political machine” and reflects simply what the supervisor feels is best for Berkeley residents.
“Eight years she’s been mayor and the people are ready for a change and now is a good opportunity,” he said.
Bates said he has spent nearly 24 hours walking the precincts since his campaign launch July 13. He has discovered that the issue people are most concerned with is education, and he has already begun devising plans to address the issue.
If elected, he will not draw a salary because he would have to forfeit his state pension plan from the state Assembly, he said. “Instead I’ll take the money that would have gone to my salary and assign a deputy mayor to deal with education issues such as the development of Vista College downtown,” he said. “I want somebody in my office day in and day out to be accountable.”