SAN LEANDRO (BCN) — Consumer protection attorney Stephen Cassidy has edged out incumbent Tony Santos in the San Leandro mayor’s race by 172 votes in ranked-choice balloting.
“I’m very humbled and very grateful to be elected,” Cassidy said Friday.
He said, however, that Santos hasn’t yet conceded the election and has said he might challenge the results. This was the first time San Leandro has used ranked-choice voting.
“It’s unfortunate and shows a lack of understanding” about the process, Cassidy said.
Santos couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
Steven Hill, the co-founder of Fair Vote, a group that advocates for fair elections, said he believes the San Leandro mayoral election was “absolutely” fair and said Santos should accept the results.
Hill said Santos “led the charge” to have ranked-choice voting in San Leandro for 10 years and worked closely with him to develop the city’s new voting system.
Hill said Santos “knew everything conceivable about ranked-choice voting, and it strikes me as unfortunate that he’s not accepting the results.
“I think highly of him as a public official, and some day they might name streets, schools and buildings after him, but sometimes you provide a great service to the public when you go quietly into the night” when you lose an election.
Santos, 77, has been a key figure in San Leandro politics for many years. He served on the City Council from 1984 to 1992 and again from 2001 to 2006. He was elected mayor in 2006 and took office in 2007.
He was challenged by four opponents in the Nov. 2 election.
In the first round of voting, Santos finished first with 35.64 percent of the vote to 35.05 percent for Cassidy.
But because no one got the 50 percent threshold needed for outright victory, the city’s ranked-choice system came into play.
Voters ranked their first, second and third choices for mayor. The system eliminated candidates from the bottom up, and when a voter’s first choice was eliminated, their second choice was counted.
When the Alameda County Registrar of Voters ran its computer algorithm on Wednesday, Cassidy wound up with 50.43 percent of the vote to 49.57 percent for Santos.
“There’s no evidence that voters were confused” about the new system, Hill said, because 99.8 percent of San Leandro voters cast valid ballots.
Cassidy, 46, who served on the city’s school board from 2004 to 2008, said he believes the key issue in the election was “returning San Leandro to fiscal health.”
Cassidy said he thinks there’s a need for pension reform by making city employees contribute to the cost of their pensions.
“There was a desire for positive change for our city and to have transparent government and energetic leadership,” he said.
Cassidy said he feels grateful that San Leandro voters elected him even though Santos was endorsed by police and firefighter unions as well as the Alameda County Democratic Party and the county’s Central Labor Council.
He said his victory marks the first time a San Leandro mayor has been defeated in a re-election bid.
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