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Mayoral Write-In Candidates Join Conversation at Debate

28 October 2008 One Comment

By Angela Kilduff

BERKELEY — It was standing room only at last week’s mayoral debate, and the audience heard from twice as many candidates’ perspectives than the event billed. Two write-in candidates, Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi and Zachary RunningWolf, joined Mayor Tom Bates and Shirley Dean on stage to discuss their positions on Berkeley issues. Over 100 people attended the debate, sponsored by The Berkeley Daily Planet and held at the West Berkeley Senior Center.

On the City of Berkeley’s website, the City Clerk’s section lists three official write-in candidates for mayor: Jacobs-Fantauzzi, RunningWolf and Richard Lorren Jolly. All filed Candidate Intention Statements and checked non-partisan.

The Green Party of Alameda County endorsed Jacobs-Fantauzzi, 32. Last week, the educator and community organizer said, “People are excited about [the campaign]. The hard thing is getting people to find out.” To spread the word he said he planned to speak on campus and at events.

This is not RunningWolf’s first mayoral campaign. He went up against Mayor Dean in 2006 and, according to election results, received nearly five percent of the vote. RunningWolf, 45, is a Native American elder known for his involvement with the UC Berkeley tree-sit that came to an end in September. On Monday morning he said, “I’m waking up for another 10-14 hour day. I’ve had to do incredible groundwork.”

Jolly, 20, is a senior at UC Berkeley majoring in political science and media studies. While the other write-in candidates have more traditional websites, Jolly created a Facebook group, Richard Jolly for Mayor 2008. He said a website is in the works. His focus is on campus, where he is “flyering and talking to people at parties.” He did not attend Monday’s debate.

Jacobs-Fantauzzi and RunningWolf arrived early and spoke to Daily Planet Executive Editor Becky O’Malley. During the sometimes tense exchange that followed, RunningWolf raised his voice and told O’Malley, “Your publication hasn’t even covered all the people who are running.”

She told him, “We do the best we can.”

Jacobs-Fantauzzi asserted, “We have the right to speak on issues just like anyone else.”

In the end, both Jacobs-Fantauzzi and RunningWolf took seats on stage beside Bates and Dean. In her introduction, O’Malley told the audience, “We have a couple of people who insisted on being added to the program at the last minute.” She apologized, as she said it would cut into time for questions.

During the debate, the write-in candidates shared their perspectives and told the audience what set them apart from the others. Jacobs-Fantauzzi said, “I don’t want to be a politician like other politicians.”

RunningWolf told the audience, “It’s going to take people like myself to stand up to UC Berkeley.”

Speaking before the debate, Fran Gibson, 63, said she had not yet decided between Bates and Dean, but “I’m going to decide tonight.” In terms of write-in candidates, she said, with hesitation, “There are some?”

On Tuesday morning, Gibson said, “I thought the write-in candidates helped line out the issues.” She said she had made up her mind, opting for “detailed, accessible, bright” Dean.

Dean, who server as mayor of Berkeley from 1994-2002, said the write-in candidates’ participation “certainly was fine with me.” She added, “I thought they raised some good and interesting points.” Citing requests for her yard signs as an example, she said she thought the debate went well.

Will Thomas, 29, said that he saw Bates and Dean as “two sides of the same coin.” He had already voted and wrote in Jacobs-Fantauzzi after reading his statement.

After watching the debate, he said the evening was affirming. “This is the type of person we need, it’s not the kid of person we’ll get.”

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