Update: Half of the votes still to be counted; some Berkeley results could still change

Watching the election results come in at the Golden Squirrel, election night HQ for Buffy Wicks who won the AD15 race. Photo: Pete Rosos

Update, 11 a.m. According to Alameda County Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis, about half of the county’s vote remains to be counted. The 2 a.m. update on the county’s website showed a tally of 255,442 ballots counted. That total includes all of the votes cast in person Tuesday and the early mail-in ballots, which Dupuis said arrived through Saturday and part of Sunday. His “guesstimate” of the ballots remaining to be counted is 250,000.

That includes roughly 90,000 further “early” mail-in ballots, plus any mail-in ballot that was delivered in person to polling stations, plus any mail-in ballots arriving after Sunday. Mail-in ballots postmarked no later than Nov. 6 and received in the next three days will also be counted.

“We’re looking at trays and we know about how many envelopes fit in each tray,” Dupuis said. “It’s not that accurate.”

But Dupuis was confident that his guesstimate was the right order of magnitude.


His office will spend Wednesday “crediting” all the in-person voters — the votes have been counted, but the registrar of voters will now record each individual as having voted. Thursday morning, he plans to start tallying the remaining vote-by-mail ballots. Dupuis said he does not yet have a schedule for announcing updates of counted ballots, but the next update could be as early as Thursday afternoon. If that deadline isn’t met, there will certainly be an update Friday.

With such a large percentage of the vote outstanding, it remains possible that the outcomes of some close races could change. In Berkeley, the two that have the greatest chance of change are districts 1 and 4. In District 1, Rashi Kesarwani has 46% of the current tally to Igor Tregub’s 34%. In District 4, incumbent Kate Harrison has 53% to Ben Gould’s 35%. If Harrison’s count dips below 50%, however, the race will go into an instant-runoff. Gould allied during the race with third-placed Greg Magofña to encourage supporters to select each other as second choice.

The SEIU, a major supporter of AD15 candidate Jovanka Beckles, issued a press release on Election Day saying Beckles would pull ahead of Buffy Wicks once all the mail-in ballots were counted. But Wicks’ current 56%-44% lead makes a Beckles victory unlikely.

Dramatic changes in the vote are mathematically possible but unlikely. Change depends on the voting pattern of the uncounted 50% being different from the counted 50%.

(Editor’s note: The following story was written before it became clear that half of the vote could still be outstanding.)

Original story: Berkeley has elected two new City Council members: Rashi Kesarwani and Rigel Robinson. The city also re-elected Lori Droste and Kate Harrison. Although there are still mail-in and provisional ballots to be counted before the final election results are available, there are no remaining mysteries in the local elections.

When the new council convenes for the first time in December, it will not only have the youngest ever elected official (Robinson is 22) but will be considerably more diverse. Robinson will become the first Asian-American councilman in more than 40 years, according to his campaign. Kesarwani is also Asian-American as she is a first-generation Indian-American.


While Robinson won handily, taking 55% of the votes to Cecilia “Ces” Rosales’ 34% and Aidan Hill’s 10%, the race to replace Linda Maio in District 1 was decided by ranked-choice voting. Kesarwani took an early lead of more than 50% of the votes, but by the time the ballots were all tallied she had 1,461 votes or 46%. Rent Board Commissioner Igor Tregub had 1,090 or 34% of the votes. Margo Schueler, whom Maio had endorsed, had 453 votes, or 14%. Mary Behm-Steinberg had 162 votes or 5%. These are unofficial numbers, pending tabulation of later-arriving mail-in ballots, but Tregub is unlikely to be able to overtake Kesarwani.

The first round of ranked-choice voting eliminated Behm-Steinberg and allocated her voters’ No. 2 choice to other candidates. Sixty-four of those votes went to Schueler, 45 went to Tregub, and 18 went to Kesarwani. (The ranked-choice system will be re-applied when all the ballots sent by mail are received.)

No candidate had 50% + 1 of the vote then, so Schueler was eliminated and her voters’ No. 2 choices were reallocated, putting Kesarwani over the top. In that round, she picked up 210 votes to Tregub’s 202. Kesarwani finished with 56% of the votes to Tregub’s 44% of the votes.

In the contentious D8 race, incumbent Lori Droste easily beat Mary Kay Lacey, who had emerged as her strongest competitor, gathering 57% of the vote to Lacey’s 31%. Alfred Twu picked up 9% of the vote and Russ Tilleman got 3%.

Kate Harrison, who was first elected to City Council in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Mayor Jesse Arreguín about 17 months ago, captured 53% of the vote. Ben Gould took 35% and Greg Magofña garnered 12%.

Arreguín told supporters at a party for Kate Harrison at Cornerstone on Shattuck Avenue that her win was crucial.


“This progressive council majority, which includes Kate, Cheryl Davila, Ben Bartlett, Sophie Hahn, Kriss Worthington and, soon, Rigel Robinson will work very very hard to make sure Berkeley is an equitable, diverse and progressive city,” he said.

Buffy Wicks greets the crowd at The Golden Squirrel. Photo: Pete Rosos

One of the biggest spreads of the evening came in the race to replace Assemblyman Tony Thurmond. Buffy Wicks won with 56% of the vote to Jovanka Beckles’ 44% of the vote.

The margin of victory was a surprise to many, but the victory itself was not. Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, who had predicted Wicks would win more than a year ago, said it was the well-organized ground game that made the difference. Even though momentum had been building for Beckles, particularly after the rally with Bernie Sanders in Berkeley and his subsequent endorsement, Beckles could not overcome the hundreds of volunteers Wicks had attracted and the 239 house parties she attended, she said.

“She has been doing a year and a half of retail politics,” Skinner said at The Golden Squirrel, the restaurant on College Avenue in Oakland where Wicks held her campaign party. “The difference is the ground plan. That’s insurance. Money can’t buy that.”

Former Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport embraces Jovanka Beckles as Brenda Laval Cager and Beckles’ mother, Hermina Hila, look on. Photo: Pete Rosos

In the race for the School Board, Ty Alper, an incumbent, and other members of his slate, Ka’Dijah Brown and Julie Sinai, won handily over the other candidates. Alper took 30.89% of the vote, Brown took 30.17%, and Sinai took 25.94%. The next closest candidate was Dru Howard, who took 4.88%.

The Community Power Slate coasted to victory and captured five seats on the Rent Stabilization Board, ending former Rent Board Commissioner Judy Hunt’s quest to take back the seat she lost. James Chang, Paola Laverde, John Selawsky and Maria Poblet were all re-elected. Soli Alpert, an aide to Harrison, won his first elected office as the fifth member of the slate to win.

The city auditor’s race, to replace long-serving Ann-Marie Hogan, was won decisively by Jenny Wong with nearly 92% of the vote over Vladislav Davidzon.

Berkeley voters overwhelmingly approved two measures that will direct money to the homeless and to build affordable housing for them and for low- and middle-income residents. Measure O, a $135 million affordable housing bond, won with 76% of the vote and Measure P, which increased the transfer tax on the top third of properties that sell, passed with 71% of the vote.

Mayor Arreguín said that private polling had shown the measures would pass with large margins. Passing the measures was a priority for Arreguín; he personally raised $283,000 for the “Yes on Measures O and P” campaign, he told Berkeleyside.

Arreguín and City Councilwoman Sophie Hahn, who was also at the campaign party, said the money will allow Berkeley to continue to fund the new Pathways navigation center and even add another portable trailer to serve more than 49 people at the same time. Berkeley will also look toward re-focusing its other shelters into more navigation-type facilities, they said.

Measure Q, amending the city’s Rent Stabilization ordinance, won with 69% of the votes, but most of its provisions won’t go into effect since state Proposition 10, the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, did not pass. The measure’s exemption of accessory dwelling units from rent control will go into effect.

Measure R, an advisory measure on Berkeley’s Vision 2050 plan, passed with 83% of the vote.