The 2020 general election was one for the books -- in so many ways, a fitting reflection of the unexpected and unprecedented nature of this year.
At the local level in the Tri-Valley, the election results certified at the beginning of this month brought a unique mix of change and continuity, depending on where (and how) you look ...
Four cities have new mayors. That was totally expected (due to incumbent term limits), as was the fact each mayoral winner was an experienced council member. What was interesting is that the contests weren't particularly close in the end, even the races where multiple council members were facing off. Karla Brown (Pleasanton), Bob Woerner (Livermore), Melissa Hernandez (Dublin) and Dave Hudson (San Ramon) all won by comfortable margins.
Danville, which doesn't have a directly elected mayor, did achieve two significant milestones: Senior Advisory Commissioner Dave Fong became the first person of Chinese-American heritage and the first person of color ever elected to the Town Council, and councilmembers Newell Arnerich and Renee Morgan retained their seats to continue the streak that no incumbent has ever lost a re-election bid in Danville.
All four Tri-Valley school boards have at least one new member after Nov. 3, including three districts with an incumbent losing -- Greg Marvel (SRVUSD), Chuck Rogge (LVJUSD) and Jamie Yee (PUSD). Steve Maher (PUSD) and Gabi Blackman (DUSD) were the only incumbents to win re-election.
Speaking of Blackman, she had the most impressive victory, by margin, for any Tri-Valley candidate in a two-person race: She retained her DUSD Trustee Area 4 seat with a whopping 71.85% of the vote.
New Councilwoman Sherry Hu made history in Dublin by receiving the most individual votes (12,355) on record for a Dublin City Council election. She separated herself, by an astonishing amount, in a crowded nine-candidate ballot for two council seats. In fact, she nearly doubled the vote total of the runner-up, new Councilman Michael McCorriston.
All four incumbent Democrats won re-election, quite convincingly, to the state and federal legislative positions representing the Tri-Valley. That probably didn't come as much of a surprise -- unless you listened to certain commenters on our Town Square going into the election.
And a little insider's insight: Interacting with the two counties' election offices, from a press perspective, was like day and night. The Contra Costa County Elections Division, led by Registrar of Voters Debi Cooper and assistant registrar Scott Konopasek, always responded quickly and engaged with our reporters' questions. Alameda County Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis and his office, not so much. Emails and follow-ups were often unanswered, as were voicemails -- with just basic questions about the process or code interpretations during the general election cycle. A noticeable, disappointing outlier among their very responsive peers in other county departments.
Now some stats that stood out:
72 votes. That was the margin of the closest election in the Tri-Valley, San Ramon City Council District 1. With the lead going back and forth as the tallies were updated, incumbent Scott Perkins ultimately won a fifth term with 4,687 votes to narrowly defeat lone challenger Luz Gómez (4,615).
50.09%. By the skin of its teeth, Alameda County's half-cent sales tax increase (Measure W) passed; 50.09% Yes to 49.91% No. The tight contest saw Measure W's Election Night lead actually slip away at one point in the following days, but the Yes side regained the advantage in the ensuing days and never looked back. Contra Costa County also had a new half-cent sales tax on its ballot, and it passed much more easily -- 58.45% Yes; 41.55% No.
0.41%. The difference in percentage points between ACFD's $90 million fire facilities bond measure on the November ballot (Measure X) compared to when the identical proposal was on the primary ballot in March (Measure D). But that made all the difference this second time around. Measure X received 66.78% support, narrowly above the 66.6667% threshold needed to pass; in March, the $90 million proposal failed with 66.37% Yes (just 95 votes at the time).
But perhaps the most significant (and commendable) numbers of all: voter participation. Contra Costa County reported 84.09% of registered voters cast a ballot in the election; Alameda County also posted an impressive voter turnout at 81.28%. Both extraordinarily high numbers. Citizen participation is crucial for an effective democracy. Well done, Tri-Valley.
The changing of the guard occurred for each city council and school board across the Tri-Valley last week and this, including oath-of-office ceremonies for the Pleasanton City Council and PUSD Board of Trustees on Tuesday.
Congratulations to all of the winners in the Tri-Valley, and we look forward to watching your decision-making and public engagement in your term ahead.