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Progressives prevail on council

on November 3, 2010

After a contentious election season, the votes are in: Cortland “Corky” Boozé, Jovanka Beckles and Jim Rogers won the three open seats on the city council. The race was extremely tight, with no candidate taking more than 15 percent of the vote in a field of ten candidates.

Corky Boozé, making what he said was his tenth run for council, led the pack with 5,885 votes. “I always wanted to do something for my community and this gives me the opportunity,” he said. “Now we can get things done, we can change this city, and we can change it in a positive way.”

Rogers was the only incumbent to keep his seat; this will be his fourth term on the council. Beckles, who narrowly missed winning a seat on the council in 2008, came in third, surpassing Myrna Lopez’s total by about 650 votes. “Everything we do will be in the best interest of you, Richmond, the city in which we live, the city in which we work,” Beckles told her supporters.

The new councilmembers will join Vice-Mayor Jeff Ritterman, Tom Butt and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Nat Bates on a council with a strongly progressive streak. Four members, as well as the newly re-elected mayor, are on record as opposing the casino at Point Molate. Voters also rejected Measure U, a nonbinding advisory measure intended to gauge public support for the casino.

Despite exceptionally large amounts of money thrown into the race from all sides, the biggest spenders did not win.

Jobs Now, an independent expenditure committee funded entirely by Chevron, pumped $1 million into the election. The funds went to support Maria Viramontes, Lopez and Bates.

Lopez and Rhonda Harris found themselves on the receiving end of attack mailers paid for by Northern California card clubs opposed to the casino at Point Molate.

Campaign contributions ranged widely. At the low end, Harry Singh raised $2,000 and Eduardo Martinez raised $12,295. Lopez was the top fundraiser with $73,536 and Viramontes came in second at $66,571. Adding Rogers, the top three fundraisers raised just over half the money in the campaigns. As of the last filing, the nine candidates together raised nearly $375,000.

Viramontes, Lopez, Rhonda Harris and Virginia Finlay received endorsements and donations from Richmond’s establishment: building trades unions, the Democratic Party organization and heavy industry. Each of the four expressed support for the casino, although most said their vote on the matter would be influenced by the outcome of Measure U.

Jim Rogers, something of an independent in the nonpartisan race, had support from both sides of the divide.

Gary Bell was also on the ballot, although he dropped out of the race in the summer to take care of his ailing wife.

In a city known for a hardball political culture, this year’s election was particularly divisive.

Through the political action committee Richmond First, the police and firefighters unions funded research on Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Beckles. The research turned up information on the mayor’s past financial and mental health problems, which was heavily publicized by the unions. None of the research into Beckles was released. The unions also paid for billboards denouncing both Beckles and the mayor as unwilling to listen to the police and fire departments.

The Contra Costa Times endorsed Viramontes, Lopez and Finlay. In an editorial, the Times criticized Rogers (supported by the paper in past elections) for “an arrogant attitude toward campaign laws, conflict of interest and public disclosure that we find repulsive.”

In an email circulated Sunday, the Bay Area Political Action Committee (BAPAC) targeted Beckles and Boozé. In it, BAPAC called Boozé “intimidating” and criticized him for a lack of leadership. Beckles, the email said, “selectively identifies her ethnicity.” Both Beckles and Boozé, BAPAC charged, are unduly influenced by the Richmond Progressive Alliance, a group promoting environmental sustainability and leery of corporate influence in city politics. Boozé ran on an almost identical platform to Beckles, but was not endorsed by the Alliance because he accepted corporate donations.

The Chamber of Commerce’s office was broken into, but no evidence has emerged to indicate it was politically motivated.

And on Tuesday morning, a minivan hit candidate Eduardo Martinez and sped away. Martinez, who was checked out at Kaiser and released, said the driver intentionally hit him after he tried to jump out of the way.


  1. Kay Wallis on November 3, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Congratulations to Mayor McLaughlin and new councilpersons Jovanka Beckles and Corky Booze. I hope their victories provide an enduring lesson to the police and firefighters union leaders who ran such a deplorable (and ineffective) smear campaign against the Mayor and Ms. Beckles. As a volunteer coordinator for the Mayor, I can report firsthand that the vicious personal attacks against the Mayor completely backfired. Our existing supporters were galvanized and energized, and a flood of new donations, endorsements, and volunteers were generated. The community was incensed by the attacks. Surely, rank-and-file members of the police and fire departments are also outraged. Imagine your union bosses wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars of your hard-earned union dues on a despicable political hatchet job. Imagine how that money could have been spent — support for police widows, scholarships for firefighters’ children. How sad that the RPOA-RFA leadership brings such disgrace to our public safety workers.

    • James on November 3, 2010 at 10:56 am

      Great to see my taxes will keep going up! They’re doing SUCH a fantastic job with the funds they’re already confiscating, I can’t wait for them to take more!

  2. […] progressives’ electoral victories last night will likely have a lasting effect on Richmond, further straining the city’s […]

  3. Patricia & Richard Perez on November 5, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Huge Congratulations! to ‘Corky’ Booze from all of the Perez family…who work on Spring Street. We believe that he will make a devoted Richmond City Councilman. He has been a friend since about 1982. Kudos to ‘Corky’ from all of us!

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