ELECTION 2014: Alamedans will see low turnout - on ballot

ELECTION 2014: Alamedans will see low turnout - on ballot

Michele Ellson
Alameda Election 2014

Alameda voters will be faced with low turnout on their local ballots this fall, with a pair of candidates running for mayor and three candidates in the race for two open council seats.

School board trustee Trish Herrera Spencer’s late-breaking decision to run for mayor dashed what would otherwise have been a coronation for incumbent Marie Gilmore, who bested four challengers when she ran for the open mayor’s seat in 2010.

Meanwhile, incumbent councilman Stewart Chen will run for a four-year term in the fall, against former councilman Frank Matarrese and Jim Oddie, an aide to Assemblyman Rob Bonta.

The number of candidates running for City Council this fall is the lowest in the 18 years of results that were available through the California Secretary of State’s office and the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. Most of those races saw seven or eight candidates bidding for council seats.

Candidates for mayor of Alameda are also at their lowest number, since 1998, online results show, with between three and five candidates running in mayoral races in 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010.

The reasons for the low candidate turnout aren’t yet clear.

Gilmore, who told The Alamedan in 2013 that her goals for the city are to maintain the momentum at Alameda Point, maintain solid budget numbers and take care of the local business community, has been mayor since 2010.

A native of the Caribbean who attended Stanford for her undergraduate education and got her law degree at the University at California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, she served on the city’s Recreation and Parks Commission and the Planning Board before being appointed to the City Council, in 2003.

Spencer, a Southern California native who also attended Cal and got her law degree from the Western State University College of the Law in Fullerton, has been on the school board for the past six years. Prior to her election to the school board, Spencer was president of Alameda’s PTA Council and an active school volunteer, and she has also worked as a substitute teacher.

In a comment on a Facebook post announcing her plans to run for mayor, Spencer said she found a planned land and cash swap between the school district, the city and the Alameda Housing Authority “disconcerting” and that she thinks the city needs a mayor who supports public education.

Chen, a chiropractor, earned the remaining two years of Bonta’s term in 2012 when Bonta was elected to the state Assembly. Prior to joining the council, Chen – who moved to the Midwest from Manila as a teen, in 1979 – was a member of the Alameda Health Care District Board, which governed Alameda Hospital.

Chen, who graduated from the Palmer College of Chiropractic in San Jose and who is fluent in five languages, also served a pair of terms on Alameda’s Social Service Human Relations Board and a term on the Alameda County Human Relations Commission.

The Alamedan reported earlier this year that Chen was convicted of insurance fraud in 1994. Chen has said he was innocent and apologized to anyone who disagreed with his decision not to share the conviction publicly.

Matarrese, a consultant whose company does compliance work for biotech and pharmaceutical companies, served on the City Council between 2002 and 2010, when he unsuccessfully ran for mayor. A Cal graduate, he also served on Alameda’s Planning Board and its Economic Development Commission, which has since been disbanded.

Since he left office, Matarrese has maintained his voice in local affairs by becoming a frequent op-ed writer in local news media. His pieces have called for a new approach to Alameda Point that would eliminate new homes in favor of jobs and open space and for more public input on the land and cash swap between the city, school district and housing authority.

He is also listed as a supporter of Friends of Crown Beach, a group that successfully sought to rezone a federal property where a housing development was planned for park space.

Oddie is an attorney who left his practice to serve as Bonta’s district director. He was elected to the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee in 2012; he also served for two years on the Alameda Health Care District’s finance and management committee, from 2010 to 2012 and has long been active in the city’s Democratic Club.

Oddie pulled nomination papers for a hospital board seat in 2010 but didn’t run; he also unsuccessfully sought to be appointed to the board, in 2009 and 2013.

In addition to his law degree from the University at San Francisco, Oddie holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Indiana University, a masters of business administration from Loyola University and is a certified public accountant. Prior to becoming a lawyer, he worked in business.

City races aren’t the only ones posting low candidate numbers this fall. Alameda’s school and health care district boards are also on track for low candidate numbers, with three people who have at least pulled candidacy papers for a pair of school board seats and five who have pulled papers for four health care district board seats.

The deadline to complete candidacy papers for school and health care district board seats is 5 p.m. today at the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.


Submitted by MJ (not verified) on Fri, Aug 8, 2014

Without an unbelievably good reason, my rule of thumb is never vote for an incumbent or an attorney.

"Unbelievably good reasons" are like albino alligators, they exist but are incredibly rare.

Submitted by luczai (not verified) on Fri, Aug 8, 2014

Decisions, decisions. Mayor's race? Devil or deep blue sea? City Council? Well, let's see. Frank hasn't been convicted of fraud and has proven that he can complete an entire term on the council without abandoning the City to further his personal political agenda, something I would expect Oddie to do since Bonta is his mentor (if he can swing it). I'm voting for Frank for council. As for mayor, I think I'll write in Kenny the Clown.

Submitted by MI (not verified) on Fri, Aug 8, 2014

There are two seats open for council so voters get to cast two votes. The open seats are Chen and Lena Tam who has termed out. With a normal field of at least five candidates and a plurality system the results are often convoluted with regard to majority. There are ranked choice systems which ameliorate this problem with multi seat races but since we don't employ any of them it is moot. However, this year because of the small field for mayor and council it should be clear who gets a true majority of votes cast, but ironically some of us are conflicted since we don't want to vote for any of the candidates. It will be interesting to compare the number of voters to votes cast for council. With a large field in multi-seat race it can be a strategic advantage to cast just one vote for council to insure a favorite candidate gets a plurality, but that effect will be lessened with just three candidates for two seats. http://www.fairvote.org/reforms/instant-runoff-voting/

Submitted by Tom (not verified) on Fri, Aug 8, 2014

After observing our mayor and city manager deal with 6000+ voters going against their zoning my vote is for Frank Matarrese.

The mayor is controlled by firefighters union. Russo is an out of control warrior attorney uncontrolled.

We need civil discourse and limited growth with investment in economic development not more housing and commuters.

Submitted by JD (not verified) on Sat, Aug 9, 2014

Any association with Rob Bonta is a good enough reason for me to vote against this guy Oddie. Sounds like a complete product of the democratic "machine". Blindly in favor of public unions, will support BART unions during their next strike (like Bonta publicly did). Will probably bolt Alameda for higher office without even completing his term(again like Bonta). Vote No on Bonta by voting No on Oddie.

Submitted by James H. (not verified) on Mon, Aug 11, 2014

Tom and JD. Couldn't agree with both of you more. The latest union-sponsored attack polls on Frank give us more reason to vote for him, and not the union shill Oddie (mini-Bonta) and criminal Chen.

Submitted by Ron V (not verified) on Thu, Sep 4, 2014

Frank Mataresse stepped up and help out Marina Dr neighbors who were appealing to AC Transit to route their out of service coaches other than over the wearing out High St Bridge. The bridge with its worn out center coupling is a source of constant dim in our homes. Since Franks absence AC Transit has regressed to its previous indifferent behavior. Time for a Frank M. return!