ELECTION 2014: SPENCER ELECTED MAYOR
ELECTION 2014: SPENCER ELECTED MAYOR
Updated at 7:31 p.m. Wednesday, November 12 with final, unofficial election results
Alameda voters have narrowly elected schools trustee Trish Spencer as their mayor in a stunning electoral upset, effectively abandoning a dozen years of progressive, pro-development leadership in favor of a populist mayor who has promised to slow development of the Island.
“This was a hard campaign, really grassroots, just a lot of hard work. And it worked,” Spencer said Wednesday afternoon from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, where she was observing the processing of the remaining ballots from the November 4 election.
Spencer thanked Mayor Marie Gilmore and her family for their service to Alameda and also, the registrar’s office for their work tallying ballots. Final, unofficial results had Spencer winning by 120 votes, with 20,856 ballots tallied.
Gilmore conceded the race Wednesday morning at a press conference on the steps of City Hall where she congratulated Spencer and her new dais-mates, Councilmen-elect Frank Matarrese and Jim Oddie, and listed her own accomplishments in four years as mayor, which included the cost-free transfer of hundreds of acres of Alameda Point and a budget surplus of $8 million.
"I have truly appreciated my opportunity to serve the community that I love, and I will continue to work with you to move Alameda forward," Gilmore said, listing pending issues including rising rents and the development of Alameda Point.
She said she would not seek a recount of the votes cast in the race, saying that doing so would not be in the best interest of the city.
Gilmore held a slim lead in the race after early vote by mail ballots were counted, but that evaporated as soon as poll results began rolling in, giving Spencer a lead she never relinquished. Spencer’s lead over Gilmore stood at fewer than 300 votes when Election Day was over and dropped to as few as 58 votes before rebounding over the weekend.
Both candidates stood a tense vigil over the vote count this past week, taking turns observing the tally in the registrar’s basement offices in Oakland.
Spencer’s slow-growth message and populist appeal helped her edge out Gilmore, who boasted two decades of service in city government. As of Election Day, Gilmore’s campaign also had five times the amount of financial support that Spencer enjoyed.
But concerns about development and what some feel is Gilmore’s too-close connection with the local firefighters union – along with Spencer's strong showing as a retail politician – seemed to win the day in an election in which fewer than half of Alameda’s registered voters cast ballots, the lowest general election turnout in at least a decade.
“I feel like Alamedans have stepped up,” Spencer said of the grassroots effort. “People were involved in the process. It really was a community effort.”
Much of the development that the election appeared to hinge on is already in process or close to final approvals. The Alameda Landing development is halfway completed and pre-construction activities for the 89-home Marina Shores development on the Northern Waterfront are underway. The hotly contested Del Monte warehouse development has been slated to go to the City Council on December 2, two weeks before Spencer becomes mayor, though it’s unclear whether the council will vote on it so close to a handover.
The council is scheduled to consider a proposal on Tuesday to negotiate a development deal with Alameda Point Partners to construct 800 homes plus commercial space in a planned waterfront town center at Alameda Point; a second negotiating agreement with a to-be-named developer for a proposed commercial campus is pending. City staffers hope to have a town center development plan and business deal before the council by May of 2015.
Spencer had promised to slow development on the Island, while Councilman-elect Frank Matarrese said he’d champion job growth, parks and open space at the Point. Two sitting council members – Tony Daysog and Vice Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft – voted in favor of the city’s general development parameters for the Point in February, and Councilman-elect Jim Oddie said that he also favors the city’s recently approved plan.
While it’s not yet clear what impact Spencer’s election as mayor will have on development efforts here, she could serve as an important swing vote on employee contracts set to expire in 2017, and more particularly, on the fate of public safety retiree health and pension benefits that many Alameda residents see as too generous.
Spencer said she wasn’t planning to run for mayor, but she made a late, surprise entry into the race when no one else stepped forward to challenge Gilmore.
“I felt there were some serious issues,” Spencer said.
Her exit from the school board will leave an opening the board will fill either through a special election or an appointment.
Spencer said her first orders of business will include outreach to local businesses and leaders of the East Bay Regional Park District, with whom the city is embroiled in an ugly legal dispute over the city’s decision to zone a piece of federal government property the park district wants for an expansion of Crab Cove to permit housing. She’ll also seek out City Treasurer Kevin Kennedy and Auditor Kevin Kearney for advice on the city’s fiscal condition.
Spencer said she also plans to reach out to members of the community, in an effort to be accessible and to improve dialogue around civic affairs.
“I see my role as facilitating solutions to the problems that people have,” Spencer said.
Separately, newcomer Jim Meyers prevailed over incumbent Lynn Bratchett for a seat on the Alameda Health Care District Board of Directors. Meyers, who bested Bratchett by 195 votes, will join incumbents Tracy Jensen and Robert Deutsch, who secured seats on Election Day.
FINAL UNOFFICIAL RESULTS
Marie Gilmore (i): 10,368/49.55%
Trish Spencer: 10,488/50.13
Stewart Chen (i): 9,113/29.79
Frank Matarrese: 11,103/36.30
Jim Oddie: 10,231/33.45
BOARD OF EDUCATION
Solana Henneberry: 11,444/39.58
Gary Lym: 9,397/32.50
Mike McMahon (i): 7,970/27.57
ALAMEDA HEALTH CARE DISTRICT BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Lynn Bratchett (i): 7,351/21.61
Robert Deutsch (i): 8,233/24.20
Tracy Jensen (i): 10,765/31.64
Jim Meyers: 7,546/22.18