New Richmond Mayor Elected, Chevron-Backed Candidates Lose Big In City Council Races

RICHMOND (CBS SF) — City Councilman Tom Butt appears to have won Richmond’s highly contested mayor’s race and all three Richmond Progressive Alliance candidates won City Council seats in a race that has drawn national attention, according to complete unofficial election results released early Wednesday morning.

Butt, who has served on Richmond’s City Council for two decades, earned 51 of the vote compared to 35 percent for fellow City Councilman Nat Bates, another council fixture. Newcomer Uche Uwahemu garnered nearly 13 percent of the vote, according to the unofficial results.

Butt celebrated the win early this morning with family members and supporters at The Baltic restaurant in Point Richmond near his campaign headquarters.

“We feel excited,” Butt said. “Frankly, I really didn’t know how this was going to come out, I thought there was a good chance we might not win.”

As mayor, Butt said he plans to continue on the path the city is on now, with both violent crime and property crimes declining and the realization of sustainable, environmentally friendly programs such as the city’s linkage with Marin Clean Energy.

Bates was not immediately available to comment on the election results.

“To take on a campaign that’s funded with $3 million and our modest campaign budget was about $50,000, but we had a lot of grassroots help and we pulled it off,” Butt said, citing the $3 million Chevron funneled to the “Moving Forward” political action campaign in support of Bates’s campaign and for campaigns to defeat Richmond Progressive Alliance candidates.

The overwhelming campaign funding from Chevron drew national media attention to the city of about 107,500 people.

The mayoral race between Butt, 70, and Bates, 82, has been tight since Butt announced his candidacy in August.

The two long-time colleagues differ on many issues, from their political leanings to their stance on spending for city parks and their attitudes toward Chevron, the city’s largest employer.

The liberal-leaning Butt and conservative Bates have been involved in a heated, sometimes hostile race dominated by Chevron-funded advertising funded on Bates’s side.

Bates has accused Butt of backstabbing his friend, Richmond Progressive Alliance campaign coordinator Mike Parker, after Butt announced he would run for mayor even though Parker had already filed to run.

He has also said Butt was more concerned with his own environmental agenda than the needs of Richmond citizens when he brokered a $90 community investment deal with Chevron earlier this year along with City Council members Jim Rogers and Jael Myrick.

Butt, meanwhile, has attacked Bates for his cozy relationship with the oil giant, saying he is “obsessed with pleasing Chevron.” He has also sharply criticized Bates’s record of voting against  parks funding and said he is too narrowly focused on business interests at the expense of quality of life issues.

Joining Butt on the City Council after the Tuesday election are current Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles and Planning Commissioner Eduardo Martinez, three members of the liberal group Richmond Progressive Alliance, as well as City Councilman Jael Myrick, who the group backed.

Former City Councilwoman Donna Powers, West Contra Costa County Unified School District board president Charles Ramsey and retired postmaster Al Martinez — three candidates heavily backed by Chevron – fell short of winning seats.

In a statement released early this morning, the RPA candidates, who have dubbed themselves “Team Richmond,” hailed the election results a “stunning defeat to the Chevron Corporation.”

“Richmond voters have sent a resounding message: ‘We cannot be bought!'” McLaughlin said in a prepared statement.

“This is a great day for grassroots democracy,” she said.

© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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