Page One

City’s Political Candidates Rake in the Campaign Cash

By Judith Scherr
Friday August 04, 2006

If money talked, it could turn into a noisy campaign season this year. Preliminary campaign finance statements for the 2006 races that were released Monday show most candidates in the City Council and mayoral races, despite lofty Berkeley idealism, are in hot pursuit of the gritty greenback dollar. 

Mayor Tom Bates, who spent $231,000 in his campaign against incumbent Shirley Dean four years ago, already has a hefty $49,600 in his war chest, picked up from 350 contributors, some 75 from out of town. Four years ago, at this time, he had raised $35,000. 

Individuals can contribute only a maximum of $250 each, but there is no limit on the total funds that can be raised, according to Berkeley election law. Corporations, nonprofits and unions cannot contribute. Candidates had to file contribution reports for the first six months of 2006 by July 31. Complete lists of contributions are available on the City Clerk’s website.  

Mayoral challenger and former Planning Commission Chair Zelda Bronstein, who has raised $17,000 from 103 contributors—21 from out of town—points to Bates’ contributors, saying that a significant number “come from developers and their allies.”  

But Bates argues that he is collecting funds from among a “wide spread of people.” Developers such as Denny Abrams, Ali Kashani and Bill Falik are contributors, but so is union organizer Charles Idleson, California Nurses Association; Berkeley Citizens Action activist Nancy Gorrell and Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli, Linda Maio and Gordon Wozniak. 

Without quoting a number, Bates said he planned “to raise enough to get my message across.” He said he would be spending less than he had in 2002. He plans to have a campaign office open after Labor day; a campaign manager is coming on board in mid August. 

Bronstein’s funds come largely from neighborhood activists such as Martha Nicoloff, co-author of the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance, writer and historian Susan Cerny, Middle East activist Barbara Lubin, cultural activist Bonnie Hughes, Planning Commissioner Gene Poschman, and Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Jill Korte. 

Bronstein said that while she expects to raise enough money to run her campaign well, she won’t match Bates dollar for dollar. “I don’t have the support of the development community,” she said. The funds raised to date, however “are respectable for someone in my position [as a challenger].” 

Bronstein is opening a campaign headquarters at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Virginia Street, and will be hiring someone to head her campaign but won’t be hiring high-priced consultants, she said, noting, “I have a lot of excellent [volunteer] consultants.” 

Mayoral Challenger Christian Pecaut has raised $150 and candidates Zachary Runningwolf and Richard Berkeley did not file statements. 


District 7 

In UC Berkeley area’s District 7, incumbent Kriss Worthington’s raised $12,800; challenger George Beier took in $5,000 and lent himself another $6,000. Seventy-nine people gave Worthington contributions, with 18 coming from out of town. Beier got 30 contributions, with two from outside Berkeley.  

Beier declined to say how much money he would raise. “It’s very difficult to run against an incumbent,” he said, noting there were 100 people at the campaign kick-off. Worthington had raised about $5,000 by this time during his 2002 campaign and said he plans to match whatever Beier spent. 

Beier is sharing an office with Councilmember Gordon Wozniak on Telegraph Avenue, but said he paid June and July rent in July, which is why that expense is not reported on his expenditure form. Worthington said he is considering opening an office. 

Beier had a poll done by David Binder, but did not pay for it in June, he said, which is why it was not reflected on his campaign finance statement.  

“I don’t need to do a poll,” Worthington quipped. 

Among Beier’s better-known contributors are Barbara Allen, a regular budget critic at City Council meetings; Davida Coady, executive director of Options Recovery Services; Ed Munger Sr. and Ed Munger Jr., Telegraph Avenue property owners where Beier has his office; Michael Wilson, president of the Berkeley Property Owners Association; Robert Herr, attorney whose website says he represents “an array of developers, owners, managers and lenders in commercial and residential real estate development …” (Beier’s contribution form says Herr’s occupation is unknown and his employer is the Oakland Raiders.) Both Wozniak and his wife, Evie Wozniak, contributed to the campaign. 

“A lot [of contributions] are from family and friends,” Beier said, adding that Wozniak helped out by asking for funds from his donors. 

Among Worthington’s better-known funders are former City Councilmember/former mayoral hopeful Don Jelinek, Berkeley Citizen’s Action co-chair Linda Olivenbaum, Oakland attorney/School Board Member Dan Siegel and Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, which works to legalize marijuana.  

Worthington said he won’t be hiring big-time consultants. “I can’t afford big money,” he said.  

Worthington spent about $41,000 on his 2002 campaign. 


District 8 

In the race that pits student and Rent Board Member Jason Overman against incumbent Gordon Wozniak in the southeast hills District 8, the incumbent has outspent the challenger 24-1. Wozniak has collected $24,400, while Overman, who has yet to officially announce his candidature, has collected no funds. 

Wozniak spent $73,500 on his last election, but, as he pointed out, that included a run-off race. He said he hasn’t yet worked at fund raising; his treasurer simply sent out letters to former contributors. He had raised $17,000 during the same period for his 2002 run. 

Some of the better-known names among his 167 contributors—just 10 of them from outside Berkeley—include Narsai David, KCBS food and wine critic; attorney Robert Herr and property management consultant Michael St. John.  

“I haven’t carefully looked over the lists,” Wozniak said, explaining that his treasurer sends him copies of the contributions. 

Overman, on the other hand, says his is “an insurgent campaign,” not part of the “moneyed interests in this city.” While Overman will be raising money, he said his campaign will depend mostly on volunteers. He said he would be able to beat out his better-funded opponent, as Phil Angelides did in his race against Steve Westley. 

“We will have the capacity to raise money and get the word out,” Overman said. 


District 4 

In the downtown-area District 4 incumbent Dona Spring has taken in $8,400, compared to challenger Raudel Wilson’s $4,800. 

Among those on Spring’s contribution list are neighborhood activist Dean Metzger, former Councilmember Don Jelinek, Berkeley Citizen’s Action Co-Chair Linda Olivenbaum, mayoral candidate Zelda Bronstein and Councilmember Kriss Worthington. 

Spring pointed out that much of Wilson’s support comes from the real estate community, which Wilson readily acknowledged. Among them are Soheyl Modarressi of Elite Properties, Mamood Mktari of Red Oak Realty, Robert Randall of Prudential California, Steve Schneider, independent real estate broker and Diane Verducci, also an independent real estate broker. 

Wilson said that so far the list is just of people he knows or that have reached out to him. “I haven’t held any fundraisers yet,” he said. That there are so many real estate brokers is “just a coincidence,” he said, noting that by the end of the campaign they will figure as a very small percentage of the contributors. 

“Who will the council member be beholden to when making a decision?” Spring asked rhetorically. 

Wilson said he has opened a campaign office at Fulton Street and Durant Avenue, but has not hired anyone to run the campaign. “I will do a lot myself,” he said. Spring does not plan to have a campaign office, but has hired neighborhood activist Nancy Holland as her campaign manager.