In a hotly contested City Council election, with millions of dollars at play and a recent push into the national spotlight, Richmond voters have elected Nat Bates, Tom Butt and Gary Bell to the three open seats on the council dais.
The two RPA candidates, Eduardo Martinez and Marilyn Langlois, finished just outside the top three, with Martinez trailing Bell for the final council spot by 600 votes.
The return of Bell after an eight-year hiatus and reelection of incumbents Butt and Bates means the Richmond Progressive Alliance will lose its four-seat majority on the council once Councilmember Jeff Ritterman retires.
Bates led all candidates with 17.9 percent of the vote, Bell received 15.2 percent and Butt received 15.6 percent, according to the Contra Costa County election results.
In response to accusations that he is tied to Chevron, Bates said his victory was not about the money, though he said he appreciates those who gave directly to his campaign. “People know me, they trust me, they respect me,” he said.
Bates, who has historically opposed RPA-sponsored issues and positions, was critical of the RPA and their support for Measure N. “If you get too far out in front of your constituents, no matter what high goal the cause may be, you run into difficulties,” he said.
Butt has served on the council since 1995. Although not an official member of the RPA, Butt and current Councilmember Jim Rogers will likely maintain the council’s progressive direction.
“There’s Nat and Gary, Tom and I, and Gayle and Jovanka,” Rogers said, laying out his vision of the council’s new political makeup.
Butt agreed. “I don’t think it’s going to change radically,” he said.
Butt’s supporters did speculate that the shift gives Rogers more power because the progressives will need him more.
Energy at the RPA office started out high but dropped steadily as the night wore on; dancing to quick salsa beats that blared from speakers at the group’s headquarters dwindled as the election results poured in.
“The money is what it is, you know what the figures are,” Langlois said of the thousands spent to defeat her. “There are entities trying to buy this election. We had a lot of heart, and that counts for something.”
Additional reporting by Zach St. George, Stephen Hobbs and Sarah Phelan.