Kate Harrison to be sworn in Wednesday as new Berkeley City Council member

Kate Harrison’s election to the Berkeley City Council gives it a 6-3 majority of progressives. Photo: Courtesy of Kate Harrison

Kate Harrison will be sworn in as Berkeley’s newest City Council member Wednesday at 3 p.m. at City Hall, further cementing the city’s new progressive majority.

Harrison, 58, handily beat Ben Gould, 25, a UC Berkeley graduate student, who had also run for mayor in 2016, by capturing 62% of the vote. Gould got 38%. The Alameda County registrar of voters certified those results this week.

Voter turnout for the District 4 mail-in election was about 28% and Harrison said the fact that UC Berkeley students were in the middle of midterms the last few weeks might have contributed to the low numbers.

“It was a particularly bad time for students,” she said. Of the district’s 9,453 registered voters, 2,620 cast ballots, according to the election officials.


Harrison said, when she knocked on doors to talk to voters, many mentioned their concerns about President Trump and his pledge to cut money for sanctuary cities, housing and schools, as well as other matters. People were turned off by the national election, which may also have contributed to the low turnout, she speculated.

Voters also have a number of local issues that concern them, such as the high cost of housing, said Harrison. As the representative of the downtown area abutting UC Berkeley, she plans to make the question of student housing one of her priorities.

Harrison’s election means the Berkeley City Council has an even greater progressive majority than after the November 2016 election. Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who held the District 4 seat before Harrison, defeated former Councilman Laurie Capitelli, who had been endorsed by former Mayor Tom Bates. Cheryl Davila defeated Councilman Darryl Moore, a moderate, while Ben Bartlett won the seat of retiring Max Anderson, and Sophie Hahn won Capitelli’s former seat.

So the council swung from Bates’ 6-3 majority of moderates to Arreguín’s 6-3 majority of progressives.

Harrison raised more than $44,000 for her campaign, nearly tripling what Gould raised. One of her biggest donors was Berkeley Working Families for Harrison, which is funded by SEIU Local 1021, a union that represents local governments, nonprofit agencies, healthcare programs and schools. That group donated $11,500 to Harrison’s campaign, according to city campaign finance records.

Other donors included those active in Berkeley’s progressive political wing, including Michael and Becky O’Malley, Austene Hall, Kelly Hammargren, Daniel Knapp, Gene Poschman, Carrie Olson, James McFadden, Toni Mester, Gale Garcia, Zelda Bronstein, George Beier, and others, according to campaign reports.

Mayor Arreguín, Bartlett, and Hahn also donated, as did Jacquelyn McCormick, who works as an aide to Arreguín. Former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos, for whom Harrison once worked, also contributed, as did former San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt. Paola Laverde-Levine, who sits on the Rent Board, was also a donor, as was Sheila Jordan, the former superintendent of schools for Alameda County.