The champagne was flowing last night at victory parties for Nancy Skinner, who won the Democratic primary for the State Assembly with 46.8 percent of the vote and Assemblymember Loni Hancock, who won the Democratic primary for State Senate with 56.5 percent of the vote.
Seen as Democratic Party insiders, both overcame the challenges of strong competition and a passive electorate.
The mood was grim among the three dozen or so volunteers at Councilmember Kriss Worthing-ton’s modest campaign office at University and San Pablo ave-nues. Around 9:15 p.m., with only a fraction of the absentee ballots reported, Worthington, outspent he said by some competitors 3-to-1, stood on a chair to thank his supporters and concede victory to Skinner.
Early Wednesday morning, with all precincts counted (absentee ballots which were turned in on election day and provisional ballots won’t be counted for another 30 days), Worthington had picked up 16.4 percent or 7,820 votes, falling behind Richmond City Councilmember Tony Thurmond, who garnered 24.5 percent or 11,623 votes. Phil Polakoff got 12.3 percent or 5,857 votes. Skinner’s 46.8 percent translated to 22,234 votes.
In stark contrast, the mood was celebratory at Skinner’s victory party where some 50 supporters crowded into the back room at the Downtown restaurant on Shattuck Avenue to applaud the apparent winner, who made her appearance at around 10 p.m. and spoke more formally an hour later.
“People in this state deserve better—California used to be top in education,” said the former city councilmember with long-time personal and political ties to Mayor Tom Bates and Hancock, calling the governor’s antipathy to restoration of taxes “irrational.”
Skinner promised not to wait until she takes office in December to start her assembly work.
“I’m going to start building a statewide coalition now,” she said.
In his concession speech, Worthington called on his supporters to move Skinner to the progressive positions she espoused as a city councilmember in the 1980s.
“We need to all reach out to Nancy—work with her—pull her, so she’ll be the Nancy of years ago,” Worthington said.
Before her victory speech, the Planet asked Skinner whether she’d be pressured for votes against progressive values, such as Hancock’s vote for 50,000 more prison beds.
Skinner said that while she had support from labor and other “special interests,” no one group got her elected. “The money I raised was in over 800 individual contributions—that gives me more room” to vote independently, she said.
Back down on San Pablo Avenue, Hancock and supporters—many of them having driven across town from the Skinner office—were celebrating victory at the Sierra Club office. Flanked by Assemblymember Sandré Swanson and Oakland City Councilmember Jean Quan, Hancock delivered her second victory speech of the evening toward midnight. With all precincts reporting, Hancock won the race soundly with 56.5 percent to Chan’s 43.5 percent. Hancock got 46,694 votes and Chan picked up 36,037 votes.
She said her victory shows that “it is possible to run a positive campaign, even when being outspent two-to-one.” Hancock was talking about the last-minute barrage of hit pieces against her put out by Indian gaming interests in support of former Assemblymember Wilma Chan.
While Worthington and Skinner both talked about vacations they planned to take soon, Hancock will be going back up to the Assembly to try to get the state budget passed. She has introduced legislation aimed at taxing people who earn more than $250,000 annually, a levy that Gov. Ronald Reagan had instituted.
“We don’t need new taxes—give us our old taxes back again,” she said.
On Wednesday, Chan sent an e-mail to the Planet congratulating Hancock on her victory and called on her supporters to “roll up our sleeves, put on our walking shoes and get to work to make that hope a reality and to elect Barack Obama as our President.”
The Polakoff and Thurmond campaigns did not return calls for comment on Wednesday.
For more election results, see: http://vote.sos.ca.gov.