Michele Ellson
Trish Spencer

Updated at 7:31 p.m. Wednesday, November 12 with final, unofficial election results

Alameda voters have narrowly elected schools trustee Trish Spencer as their mayor in a stunning electoral upset, effectively abandoning a dozen years of progressive, pro-development leadership in favor of a populist mayor who has promised to slow development of the Island.

“This was a hard campaign, really grassroots, just a lot of hard work. And it worked,” Spencer said Wednesday afternoon from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, where she was observing the processing of the remaining ballots from the November 4 election.

Spencer thanked Mayor Marie Gilmore and her family for their service to Alameda and also, the registrar’s office for their work tallying ballots. Final, unofficial results had Spencer winning by 120 votes, with 20,856 ballots tallied.

Gilmore conceded the race Wednesday morning at a press conference on the steps of City Hall where she congratulated Spencer and her new dais-mates, Councilmen-elect Frank Matarrese and Jim Oddie, and listed her own accomplishments in four years as mayor, which included the cost-free transfer of hundreds of acres of Alameda Point and a budget surplus of $8 million.

"I have truly appreciated my opportunity to serve the community that I love, and I will continue to work with you to move Alameda forward," Gilmore said, listing pending issues including rising rents and the development of Alameda Point.

She said she would not seek a recount of the votes cast in the race, saying that doing so would not be in the best interest of the city.

Gilmore held a slim lead in the race after early vote by mail ballots were counted, but that evaporated as soon as poll results began rolling in, giving Spencer a lead she never relinquished. Spencer’s lead over Gilmore stood at fewer than 300 votes when Election Day was over and dropped to as few as 58 votes before rebounding over the weekend.

Both candidates stood a tense vigil over the vote count this past week, taking turns observing the tally in the registrar’s basement offices in Oakland.

Spencer’s slow-growth message and populist appeal helped her edge out Gilmore, who boasted two decades of service in city government. As of Election Day, Gilmore’s campaign also had five times the amount of financial support that Spencer enjoyed.

But concerns about development and what some feel is Gilmore’s too-close connection with the local firefighters union – along with Spencer's strong showing as a retail politician – seemed to win the day in an election in which fewer than half of Alameda’s registered voters cast ballots, the lowest general election turnout in at least a decade.

“I feel like Alamedans have stepped up,” Spencer said of the grassroots effort. “People were involved in the process. It really was a community effort.”

Much of the development that the election appeared to hinge on is already in process or close to final approvals. The Alameda Landing development is halfway completed and pre-construction activities for the 89-home Marina Shores development on the Northern Waterfront are underway. The hotly contested Del Monte warehouse development has been slated to go to the City Council on December 2, two weeks before Spencer becomes mayor, though it’s unclear whether the council will vote on it so close to a handover.

The council is scheduled to consider a proposal on Tuesday to negotiate a development deal with Alameda Point Partners to construct 800 homes plus commercial space in a planned waterfront town center at Alameda Point; a second negotiating agreement with a to-be-named developer for a proposed commercial campus is pending. City staffers hope to have a town center development plan and business deal before the council by May of 2015.

Spencer had promised to slow development on the Island, while Councilman-elect Frank Matarrese said he’d champion job growth, parks and open space at the Point. Two sitting council members – Tony Daysog and Vice Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft – voted in favor of the city’s general development parameters for the Point in February, and Councilman-elect Jim Oddie said that he also favors the city’s recently approved plan.

While it’s not yet clear what impact Spencer’s election as mayor will have on development efforts here, she could serve as an important swing vote on employee contracts set to expire in 2017, and more particularly, on the fate of public safety retiree health and pension benefits that many Alameda residents see as too generous.

Spencer said she wasn’t planning to run for mayor, but she made a late, surprise entry into the race when no one else stepped forward to challenge Gilmore.

“I felt there were some serious issues,” Spencer said.

Her exit from the school board will leave an opening the board will fill either through a special election or an appointment.

Spencer said her first orders of business will include outreach to local businesses and leaders of the East Bay Regional Park District, with whom the city is embroiled in an ugly legal dispute over the city’s decision to zone a piece of federal government property the park district wants for an expansion of Crab Cove to permit housing. She’ll also seek out City Treasurer Kevin Kennedy and Auditor Kevin Kearney for advice on the city’s fiscal condition.

Spencer said she also plans to reach out to members of the community, in an effort to be accessible and to improve dialogue around civic affairs.

“I see my role as facilitating solutions to the problems that people have,” Spencer said.

Separately, newcomer Jim Meyers prevailed over incumbent Lynn Bratchett for a seat on the Alameda Health Care District Board of Directors. Meyers, who bested Bratchett by 195 votes, will join incumbents Tracy Jensen and Robert Deutsch, who secured seats on Election Day.



Marie Gilmore (i): 10,368/49.55%
Trish Spencer: 10,488/50.13


Stewart Chen (i): 9,113/29.79
Frank Matarrese: 11,103/36.30
Jim Oddie: 10,231/33.45


Solana Henneberry: 11,444/39.58
Gary Lym: 9,397/32.50
Mike McMahon (i): 7,970/27.57


Yes: 13,111/62.75
No: 7,783/37.25


Lynn Bratchett (i): 7,351/21.61
Robert Deutsch (i): 8,233/24.20
Tracy Jensen (i): 10,765/31.64
Jim Meyers: 7,546/22.18


Submitted by Tom (not verified) on Wed, Nov 12, 2014

Congrats to the citizen supported candidates Spencer and Matarrese!

Not beholden to Police, Fire, Unions, Developers, PACs etc etc etc

Fiscally supported by Alamedans living here and forcing out Big Money / Union pressures.

I will enjoy your interactions with Russo and his gang. Hopefully you will keep him under your tutorship. He needs some reprograming and behavior modification training.

Great to have you setting policy.

Submitted by WannaBeInAlameda! (not verified) on Wed, Nov 12, 2014

Bravo, Alamedans! Bravo!

There are some things money can't buy, and thank you for demonstrating one very precious thing that can't be bought when "real people" have their say.

Submitted by steve (not verified) on Wed, Nov 12, 2014

You might want to re-consider your assertion that Alameda voters are"effectively abandoning a dozen years of progressive, pro-development leadership", as if the term 'progressive' is somehow synonymous with 'pro-development'. Most progressives I know would beg to differ.

Submitted by A Neighbor (not verified) on Wed, Nov 12, 2014

Trish Spencer ran a grass roots very low budget campaign.

When it was time to speak with the press about the results, she spoke with our local reporter, right here, Michele Ellson, aka "TheAlamedan.org"

When Marie Gilmore decided to concede, she called a full court press conference with San Francisco based Channel 5 and Channel 7. It appears she did not even bother to telephone Trish personally and congratulate her.

This is just another example of the marked differences in style.

Even outgoing US presidents call their successor to concede.

Thank you Michelle, for your work and reporting.

Submitted by Happy Dave (not verified) on Wed, Nov 12, 2014

This is so wonderful for Alameda!
Of course the BOE needs Wonderwoman Trish more than ever too. - And there are no laws I can find that say she can't hold both mayor & BOE. Is there any way to clone her so Alameda can continue to finally sweep out the politicians beholden to anything but the best interests of the community of residents? Hopefully we will do the same with the planing board next election and in the meantime get Russo and the Alameda developer's dept on a tight leash until they fall in line with what the community wants, not what outside $$$$ wants. It is a great day for seeing that integrity wins over greed.

Submitted by SomeDudeOnLincoln (not verified) on Wed, Nov 12, 2014

I think Marie Gilmore has done a commendable job for our town. She impresses me as a forthright, honest person, with a heart in the right place. Her concession speech yesterday was gracious and eloquent. But she lost my vote at a candidate's forum at the library when she ducked a question about supporting a particular development project. She defended her stance saying legal restrictions prohibited her from taking a position, but what was worse, she seemed to take perverse glee in telling the audience she couldn't answer and that anyone who might dare to give a specific answer could later be held in violation. Horse hockey! Any candidate for mayor or council in this town owes the people a better explanation of where she stands on the major issues. It was one of those damn the torpedos full speed ahead moments, and in my opinion, Marie blew her chance.

Submitted by Loves Alameda! (not verified) on Thu, Nov 13, 2014

I agree with happy Dave and Steve. Progressive is social reform generating to make things better. I call Friends of Crown Beach progressive not thoughtless and reckless pro-development that our city government had $upported. We need to preserve the character of our community so that we have sustainable growth without destroying our quality of life because of overdevelopment and unbearable traffic throughout Alameda.

Submitted by Alamedan (not verified) on Thu, Nov 13, 2014

I always love a good dialogue. But why people have to bash on Unions is beyond me. Unions in America go a long way toward ensuring that Americans retain middle-class jobs. Without a middle class, less of the population can buy goods and services and economy will crash like a house of cards. Hoping there can be some nuance here folks. Perhaps you can be anti-growth and still support unions that protect the jobs of many Americans.

Submitted by C. (not verified) on Thu, Nov 13, 2014

Has anyone considered the possibility that we have excellent police and fire protection in Alameda specifically because we do offer a generous and competitive pay and benefits package? Because of that quality public servants wish to work and remain throughout their careers in Alameda? I take issue with the characterization that "many" Alamedans view the firefighters pension plan as "too generous". On the contrary, I would say "many" Alamedans fully support their public servants who put their lives on the line for us everyday. Everyone would be wise to remember this was a very narrow margin of victory for the new mayor. While some of us are concerned about development and the ensuing traffic it brings to the island I am more concerned that we continue to have excellent police and fire protection. I do not want to see us go the way of San Jose and it become difficult to recruit and retain our public servants because we have gutted their pay, pension and benefits. I think the question we might want to ask is why is the new mayor anti-union? Does she not realize what unions have done for this country? I am suspicious of anyone who portrays union workers - be they trades people, teachers, or first responders as takers and wants to reduce their pensions. They are the backbone of our country and should get highly compensated. If people are jealous of what union workers have achieved for themselves perhaps they should unionize their own industries and fight for higher wages and benefits for themselves. The income inequality we face today is not caused by union workers. To target them just makes no sense to me. The media led us to believe the new mayor was against the firefighters. Because of that alone I voted for Marie Gilmore.

Submitted by Jack Mingo (not verified) on Thu, Nov 13, 2014

I definitely agree that "progressive" and "pro-development" are a contradiction in terms. Open space is often better than the banal monstrosities that replace it.

Submitted by Tom (not verified) on Thu, Nov 13, 2014

Dear C

Your comments are appreciated but don't make budgetary sense.

I am a union person and have enjoyed union support and benefits my whole life.

The problem is not Unions but rather Balance of power between Union and our Elected Officials.

Alameda is excessively out of balance as are many Cities. That's why San Jose is in trouble with police and fire unions. When the voters allow unions to control those who approve contracts The Tax payer and citizens lose. Local IAFF 689 is out of control, too powerful and up until this election controlled the city council and mayor.

I appreciate Fire and Police just like I do the public works workers who keep my streets open, the garbage/ trash haulers who remove my garbage, the EBMUD water employees who provide me clean liquids etc etc. None are more important than others including Firemen and police. If we lose any we all will suffer.

So it will be interesting to observe how our fair city faces the issue of bankruptcy in the coming few years if we are forced to continue to gift police and fire and our excessively highly paid administrative staff the salaries, retirements, and lavish benefits the now have garnered.

Hopefully Spencer and Matarrese can inject a does of reason in the coming crises with fire and police expenditures.

Submitted by Denisea (not verified) on Thu, Nov 13, 2014

Spencer has not historically been "anti-union". She may not have received contributions from the fire or police unions, but AEA contributed $6062 to her campaign for the school board (the same amount they contributed to Barbara Kahn and $5662 to Jon Murphy) in 2012. And I believe her voting record clearly reflected their support.

AEA did not support her mayoral campaign in 2014 because the City Council has no formal say over matters that come before the school board. So, to say she is not "beholden to the unions" is not accurate, at least not based on very recent history. Who knows what her position will be when city employee, fire and police contracts come up.

Submitted by Laura (not verified) on Thu, Nov 13, 2014

Thank you commenter "Alamedan" for pointing out an important distinction: yes you can be against overdevelopment and yet still be pro union.

I would also agree that "progressive" has been incorrectly applied to Gilmore's administration primarily because there has been scant concern on the environmental impacts of ongoing/planned development. Of course they'd want to claim themselves as such but in fact the leadership has been way more "neoliberal" with exception to City Hall's relationship with unions representing their/our local public staff.

But while there may be some happy libertarians/tax haters who voted for Spencer because her campaign was local and without "external" funding/interests, she in fact was the only School Board candidate in 2012 to receive support from our local teachers union and it won her the election. Spencer is not anti-union and is environmentally concerned, check her record not the media's (see video coverage/minutes of past BOE meetings).

"C" I think you misinterpreted media's reporting on Spencer as being anti-union because lots of commenters in appreciation of her grassroots campaign have spouted lots of personal beefs such as the pensions/benefits maintained by/offered to our public safety staff.

Well-informed readers know that our local unions are not responsible for our current income equality, rather it is our outrage towards campaign funding and candidates accepting donations from entities with specific agendas for Alameda's public.

Submitted by VG (not verified) on Thu, Nov 13, 2014

Let me repost this link that appeared recently on Bob Sullwold's excellent blog, Alameda Merry Go Round, with a handy income list for our local city employees, beginning of course with public safety, at over $300,000 in pay and benefits.

Let readers decide for themselves if these figures seem reasonable. I've seen quite a few commentors refer to it as "organized bribery" and that pretty well covers it. Public unions bankroll candidates who then turn around and negotiate their pay packages. No one represents the taxpayer, and we're left with exorbitant and unsustainable pay packages.

And by comparison, here's a link to recent census data, from 2012 (as are the figures above). http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview....
Median earnings for male, full time: $60,122
Median family income: $86,335

There's no reason why citizens and public employees should have such a disparity in their income, and there's no way that this process can continue -- we just can't afford it. I used to be a union supporter too but no more.

Submitted by Happy Dave (not verified) on Fri, Nov 14, 2014

Alamedan, I too am absolutely pro union and feel this country is a lot worse because of the apparent collapse of unionism in the non-public job sectors. Corporations and private industries beat the hell out of unions, partially by manipulating laws including trade laws, then fleeing to 3rd world counties for cheap labor. Unions gravitated to the public sector where management did not have profit margin concerns. In fact, in the public sector, even management is unionized. Even the trade union workers (think of all the construction trades),are floating on the tax dollars with public projects, or those development projects we know so well in Alameda that are fueled by "tax increment funding". I understand why union carpenters, plumbers, electricians, sheetmetal workers, etc packed city hall to support projects like Alameda Landing. They want work, and they don't have to live here with the consequences. - I get it. I am very pro union, but I don't believe every union position is the best for society at large. It also seems like every firefighter union in the country sucked up every nickle they could milk from 911 sympathy, not caring what it did to the communities that employed them. Firefighter negotiators didn't care about the trailblazing to city bankruptcy, or closed pools, parks, museums, or reductions in library hours, public work projects and public health programs, etc. They just want more for themselves and their protected members. Nowadays, union leaders negotiate with unionized management.
My pro-unionism doesn't disable my moral compass, or make me blind to reality. Firefighting has never been safer due to modernized codes - and at the same time, "firefighting" has never been better compensated. I put the quotes on firefighting because our firefighters do very little firefighting. - Just look at the Alameda Sun's Firewire each week. Firefighting is still a very admirable profession, I mean absolutely no disrespect, but those across the table have been far too eager with the handouts of the tax payer's dwindling resources, and just as eager for the political endorsements, PAC money, and free campaign labor.

Submitted by DHL (not verified) on Fri, Nov 14, 2014

On the Nov 18 City council meeting: "6-D 2014-1024 Recommendation to Approve an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA) with Alameda Point Partners for Development of Site A at Alameda Point. (Base Reuse 819099)". Regardless of how you voted, it's appropriate for the Lame Duck City Council to step back off this and defer to this to the city council under Mayor-Elect Spencer and Vice-Mayor-Elect Mataresse. DO SOMETHING: http://notoz.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/do-something/

Submitted by DHL (not verified) on Mon, Nov 17, 2014

C: past performance failures indicate that Alameda city fire services are substandard: The FISC fire, the crude oil transfers, spills, Zack's death, the millions being allocated for a fire station in the one location our city does not require one (per fire service standards) ... none of this points to a well managed fire services department; quite the opposite in fact.