With all precincts reporting, incumbent mayor Gayle McLaughlin won a narrow victory over councilmember Nat Bates and John Ziesenhenne. However, Bates did not concede defeat before the night was over.
McLaughlin won with only 40.4 percent of the vote, edging out Bates by 607 votes. The mayor finished with 6,282 votes, Bates with 5,675 and Ziesenhenne at 3,551.
The vote tally was not finalized until after 1 a.m., and as of midnight neither Bates nor Ziesenhenne had officially thrown in the towel.
McLaughlin sounded exuberant at the Richmond Progressive Alliance’s headquarters, surrounded by a crowd of about 100 supporters.
“Thank you so much. I cannot say it enough,” McLaughlin said through tears around 11:30 p.m. “This is a grassroots campaign and it is a model to grassroots campaigns everywhere.”
The mood at Bates’ campaign was more subdued. The crowd hovered at around 25 people throughout the evening, and when Bates finally sent supporters home around midnight, he sounded resigned about his chances.
“We knew it was going be a tough one,” Bates said, wearing a white t-shirt featuring a photoshopped image of himself and the president in front of the White House. “John Z. and I were, to a large extent, getting votes from the same people — people who didn’t care for the mayor.”
Bates noted that the mayor did not win a majority of votes and said that if Ziesenhenne had dropped out, the results would have been different.
“If you look at the numbers you could very easily see that John [Ziesenhenne] and my numbers collectively would have very easily been a landslide,” Bates said, addressing supporters. “But that’s politics…you have to play the hand that’s dealt you.”
Ziesenhenne, who was stationed throughout the night at the Contra Costa Labor Center on San Pablo along with a few other candidates, said the mayor’s election was not good for Richmond.
“I’m certainly disappointed with not being elected,” Ziesenhenne said. “It looks like people who were elected have a different agenda for Richmond than the direction it has been going.”
Ziesenhenne said the progressives’ victory signaled that Richmond would not prosper in the near future.
“It’s certainly not mainstream. It’s going to continue on anti-business, increases in taxes… not having a type of plan to improve the city longterm,” he said. “I’m worried for business in Richmond. The future doesn’t look good for business. It’s not good for crime, either.”
Back at the RPA headquarters, McLaughlin said that her campaign had won despite hardball tactics from her corporate-backed opponents.
“They spent a lot of money, but they didn’t have the heart that our volunteers have,” McLaughlin said. “Our money came from people like you. We didn’t accept one penny of corporate money.”
Anne Brice contributed to this report.