Voters select Ashcraft and Daysog for City Council; Chen could get third seat
Tony Daysog raised only a fraction of the money some of his opponents in the City Council race did. So he decided to invest some sweat equity into his campaign, knocking on doors all across the Island. The strategy appears to have paid off for the urban planner and former City Councilman, who will be returning to the dais after securing a second-place finish in Tuesday’s contest.
“I’m kind of surprised,” Daysog said of the results late Tuesday. “But I guess all the door knocking really paid off.”
With 100 percent of the precincts tallied early Wednesday, Daysog had earned 18.05 percent of the vote. Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, who experienced her own Cinderella story Tuesday on her third try for a council seat, topped a field of seven candidates by earning 8,364 votes, or 25.09 percent of those counted.
Ashcraft, who raised more than three times the money Daysog did, said that she also engaged in the retail politics that helped Daysog succeed, knocking on doors and calling prospective voters.
“(In) all this age of media blitz and bombardment, people still really appreciate the personal touch,” said Ashcraft, who said her campaign covered half the precincts in Alameda by walking or by phone.
Ashcraft, an attorney and arbitrator with a record of public service that includes a leading role in the campaign to build the main library and time on the hospital and planning boards, had the aid of “a wonderful army of volunteers” that stretched back to her days on the library campaign. She earned the endorsement of the city’s powerful firefighters union, local newspapers and local Democratic groups.
Daysog, who said he respects Alameda’s firefighters but made a point of saying he didn’t take money from the union, hand-stamped thousands of small postcards after experiencing a “glitch” with the mail house he has used in the past. Ashcraft said she saw those postcards deposited on voters’ porches as she traced Daysog’s steps.
“I told someone I would muscle my way through the campaign,” said Daysog, who served on the council from 1996-2006. “It was a lot of hard work, but I had some friends help.”
Both Ashcraft and Daysog thanked local voters for selecting them to help lead the city.
“I just can’t say enough in terms of the residents of Alameda giving me this second chance. I really appreciate it,” Daysog said.
They may be joined by Stewart Chen if Vice Mayor Rob Bonta maintains the 1,558-vote lead he holds over Abel Guillen in their quest to represent Alameda, Oakland and San Leandro in the Assembly. Chen finished third in Tuesday’s contest, with 16.92 percent of the vote – enough to automatically qualify for Bonta’s seat if he vacates it.
Jeff Cambra, an attorney and businessman who has been active in a host of local organizations, came in fourth, earning 15.79 percent of the votes cast, while Golf Commission President and attorney Jane Sullwold came in fifth, with 12.65 percent.
Wildland firefighter Gerard Valbuena Dumuk followed, earning 2,032 votes or 6.1 percent, while Joana Darc Weber finished with 1,729 votes, or 5.19 percent.
This year’s council contest was far more open than the ones held in 2008 and 2010, without a single incumbent running for the seats since Councilwoman Beverly Johnson decided to drop out of the race. It’s the first council race without an incumbent running in over a decade.
This year’s race was also far less contentious than the 2010 race, when a flurry of anonymous mailers attacking Johnson and her dais-mates, mayoral candidates Frank Matarrese and Doug deHaan, along with then-Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant flooded voters’ mailboxes.
That campaign also saw the entry of the Alameda Firefighters Association into electoral politics, as that group – which was in the midst of contentious contract negotiations with the city – spent tens of thousands of dollars to back Marie Gilmore for mayor along with Bonta and Lena Tam for council seats. All three were elected.
Gallant’s contract was allowed to lapse and the trio brought in Oakland’s longtime city attorney, John Russo, as permanent city manager. They also settled the firefighters’ contract, though Russo is negotiating new contracts with all of the city’s public safety unions this month.
After the new council members are sworn in next month, they’ll be tasked with making decisions on how best to move forward with the revitalization of Alameda Point, which is expected to be transferred to the city in February 2013. Another issue the council will be expected to address is the city’s growing pension and retiree medical benefit costs.
The new council will also be asked to consider moving the city onto a two-year budget cycle so that members spend less time making budget decisions, and also to consider transferring the Meyers House to the nonprofit Alameda Museum, the latest effort of Russo’s to forge partnerships with and offload city assets to local nonprofits.
Daysog said he thinks the council’s newest members understand the city’s fiscal issues and that they will be faced with tough choices. But he thinks he, Ashcraft and Chen – if seated – have the experience needed to make those choices.
“You’ve got people who are ready to hit the ground running,” he said. “It’s still a progressive City Council that wants to get things done.”