Thursday, November 6, 2014

Progressives Win in Richmond, California, Fending off Chevron Money

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Progressives Win in Richmond, California, Fending off Chevron Money

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Richmond Confidential

In a surprise victory, Tom Butt was elected Richmond Mayor tonight after a multi-million dollar campaign by the Chevron Corporation failed to defeat Butt or elect a slate of candidates the giant oil company had supported.

According to tallies as of Wednesday morning, Butt received 51.43% of votes, beating his nearest opponent Nat Bates, whose was campaign supported by Chevron, by 16 points.

An ecstatic Butt, speaking from his headquarters, praised his campaign workers and marveled at the unexpected margin of victory: “I’ve never had such a bunch of people who are dedicated and worked so hard. It’s far away above anything that I’ve ever experienced.”

Butt’s election also helped bring victory to a slate of progressive candidates including Jovanka Beckles, Gayle McLaughlin and Eduardo Martinez , who each won a seat on the City Council.

The progressives’ sweep of city hall and the city council further means they’ll be able to fill Butt’s vacated council seat.

A number of observers said that Chevron’s aggressive spending may have backfired.
Uche Uwahemu, who ran third in the mayoral race, said,”The election was a referendum on Chevron and the people obviously made it clear they did not appreciate the unnecessary spending by Chevron so they took it out on the rest of the candidates.”

A cheer went up at Butt headquarters when his victory was announced and his supporters hugged and danced to Butt’s rallying song, “The Arkansas Rattlesnake.”

Butt and the other progressive candidates were considered underdogs in an aggressively fought campaign that involved hundred of thousands of dollars spent against them on billboards, flyers and even a mobile screen. Butt’s comparatively shoe-string campaign spent about $58,000. Chevron spending, which totaled over $3 million, attracted national attention to Richmond, a city of 107,000 people.
Turnout tonight was low with an estimated 11,000 people casting votes. Results are unofficial as more votes are being counted.

After the polls closed at 8pm Tuesday evening and results started coming in, Butt opened up a lead over Nat Bates and held that lead throughout the evening.

“It’s a bloodbath obviously,” said Bates after the fourth round of results were out. “I think citizens will eventually suffer.” Bates will retain his seat as a City Council member.

Butt’s campaign manager Alex Knox said: “I didn’t expect a full slate victory, but it’s a clear statement. I hope it means that this kind of money won’t be spent the same way again, that maybe it will change how corporations buy elections.”
Chevron’s outlay in the campaign amounted to about $281 per voter, based on tonight’s results.

Progressive candidates in Richmond have been gaining ground in recent years embarking on a series of progressive initiatives, including banning plastic bags, increasing bicycle lanes and green lighting marijuana dispensaries.

Asked about his priorities if elected as mayor, Butt said “my top priority is to continue the trend towards increasing the quality of life for all in Richmond, making it safer, cleaner, greener, healthier and more prosperous equitably.”

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