Kriss Worthington Survives District 7 Gerrymander (News Analysis)

Rob Wrenn
Wednesday November 05, 2014 - 10:39:00 AM

With all votes cast at the polls and some absentee votes counted, Kriss Worthington is ahead of his well-financed challenger Sean Barry.

Kriss Worthington: 421 votes (55.32%)

Sean Barry: 340 votes (44.68%)

An unknown number of absentee ballots remain to be counted but are not likely to change the outcome based on the breadth of Worthington's support. He won 8 of 11 precincts, including 7 of 8 heavily student precincts. He lost one precinct in the LeConte neighborhood and one in the Willard Neighborhood. These are the only precincts where homeowners are a significant part of the electorate. Barry was ahead in the initial count after these two precincts and initial absentees were counted but not by a large margin.

Kriss also lost one precinct east of College which includes fraternities, sororities and apartment buildings, but won the other 3 east of College precincts. This area was previously part of District 8. When The City Council redistricted District 7 to change it from a student-majority district to a student super-majority district, they removed precincts that had historically supported Kriss (including my precinct) and added the east of College student precincts. The new boundaries were approved by Mayor Bates and his allies on the Council over Kriss's objection. 

The number of initial absentees and votes cast at the polls in District 7 is tiny. In District 8, all four candidates have more votes than District 7 front runner Kriss Worthington who had only one opponent. While not all the votes have been counted, it's apparent that student turnout was very low. The absence of any hot-button state ballot measures or a hotly contested governor or senate race may help explain this low turnout. 

It's quite probable that Kriss will end up winning with the smallest number of votes ever won by a successful Council candidate since election by district replaced at large elections in 1986. This is a direct consequence of the creation of a student super-majority district, putting a huge number of UC students, especially freshmen and sophomores, who have historically not voted for local candidates in great numbers, in one district. 

It remains to be seen if the presence of a student candidate in a future election will inspire a higher turnout. This year there was no student candidate despite the fact that the ostensible purpose of creating a super-majority district was to get a student representative on the Council. 

Sean Barry outspent Kriss Worthington, raising over $36,000 (based on latest reports) compared to a bit over $25,000 for Worthington. In addition the Berkeley Police Association spent money for Barry and against Worthington (over $7000 total by my count). Barry was able to pay for 6 mailers (based on latest figures) and that doesn't include the literature supportive of Barry and critical of Worthington put out by the police union. 

Kriss certainly benefited from the endorsements by the Daily Cal and by the Cal Berkeley Democrats. His long record of appointing students to boards and commissions in large numbers and of helping interested students to get involved in local politics likely helped him to get endorsements and support from active students and to get the votes of many students even though his opponent is a young Cal grad. His long record of support for rent control and support from Rent Board candidates was probably a factor in tenant precincts