Election: Berman, Veenker lead the pack in Assembly race

With Berman enjoying sizable lead, Veenker holds narrow edge over Ohtaki for second place

• See precinct by precinct election results for the Assembly race on our interactive map

Palo Alto Councilman Marc Berman cruised to a first-place finish in the race to succeed Rich Gordon in the 24th Assembly District, while attorney Vicki Veenker was holding on to a slim edge over Menlo Park Councilman Peter Ohtaki for second place early Wednesday morning, according to the Santa Clara and San Mateo County registrars.

The contest between Veenker and Ohtaki were in a virtual dead heat when results from the mail-in ballots were released at 8 p.m., with each winning about 20 percent of the vote in the two counties, well behind Berman's 28 percent. While Berman retained his significant edge at the front of the pack as the ballots were tallied, Veenker and Ohtaki remained neck-and-neck throughout the night, with Veenker gradually expanding her narrow lead as more ballots were counted.

As of 1 a.m., Veenker had received 670 more votes that Ohtaki, with most precincts counted in both counties. By the time all precincts were counted in both counties Wednesday morning, her lead had expanded to 1,223 votes.

Trailing them in the field were Mountain View Councilman Mike Kasperzak, who received 11.3 percent, and Cupertino Mayor Barry Chang, who received 10.7 percent.

Also in the race were Mountain View Councilman John Inks, who received 4 percent; and Palo Alto residents Sea Reddy and Jay Cabrera, who each received 2 percent.

For Berman, the election was a drama-free affair, as early results showed him enjoying a sizable lead over the his seven opponents. With 40 percent of the precincts counted and his support level at 28 percent, Berman told the Weekly he is feeling optimistic.

"It's a good start," Berman said during his campaign party at the Palo Alto Art Center, where he was surrounded by a few dozen friends and supporters. "I'm fairly confident that we're moving on to November."

While Berman and Veenker, both Palo Alto residents, were the top vote-getters in Santa Clara County, Ohtaki did well in his San Mateo County, which has about 30 percent of the district's votes. With 104 of 109 precincts counted, Ohtaki had received support from 26.4 percent of his home county, trailing only Berman (31.2 percent) and well ahead of Veenker (19.8 percent). With all precincts counted early Wednesday, Ohtaki had received 4,090 votes to Veenker's 3,074.

Veenker made up for it in Santa Clara County, where she held a consistent second-place position throughout election night and where she led Ohtaki 12,220 votes to 9,981, with all precincts reporting.

She also benefited greatly from San Mateo County voters who cast their ballots on Election Day. While Ohtaki held a large advantage over Veenker in mail-in ballots in San Mateo County (2,700 to 1,569), more people who went to the polls in the county on Tuesday voted for Veenker than for Ohtaki (1,451 to 1,350).

Though by 9:30 p.m. the race for second place was too close to call, Veenker said she was feeling optimistic as she addressed a crowd of supporters at the Mitchell Park Community Center.

"We have gotten our message out about how to build a brighter future, how to bring a fresh perspective to Sacramento and how we can work together to get it done," she told the crowd.

Her lead grew in next few hours -- going from 385 votes at 11 to 464 votes by midnight (when 84 out of 109 precincts in San Mateo County and 156 out of 166 precincts in Santa Clara County were reporting). It then continued to grow as the count progressed throughout the night.

During her campaign party, Veenker said she is very proud of her campaign and thankful for her volunteers who helped her.

"I'm hopeful and time will tell," she said.

Ohtaki, the lone Republican candidate in the heavily Democratic district, spent his election night at Menlo Park City Hall, where the City Council was reviewing the budget for the coming fiscal year. He told the Almanac the he was "very pleased" with the early results, "given that my budget was a fraction of the other candidates."

Ohtaki, who was one of the last candidates to join the race, raised about $25,000 for his bid, less than 10 percent of what was raised and spent by his two main rivals in the race for a November showdown.

In addition to the financial disadvantage, Ohtaki noted that the Republican turnout was probably lower than it would have been if there had been competition for the party's presidential nominee. Conversely, the Democratic turnout was probably stronger because of the contest between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

Ohtaki said he had expected the race to be tight between himself and Veenker, based on his own spreadsheet modeling.

"I can't afford to do any polling," he said.

Instead of having an election party, he planned to celebrate his wife's and daughter's birthday after the council meeting.

Other candidate were less sanguine about the election results. Kasperzak and Inks both recognized fairly early Tuesday night that things aren't going in their favor.

"Well, let the chips fall where they may," Kasperzak told the Mountain View Voice. "My congratulations to Marc Berman, if he is the nominee, and whoever else joins him."

Inks, the lone Libertarian in the race, observed the race result was roughly on par with typical performances by third-party candidates.

"That's pretty much rock bottom," Inks said, looking at the results. "I wouldn't have been surprised by anything with how this race could have turned out."

The two top vote-winners will head into the Nov. 8 general election to square off for Gordon's seat in the district, which includes Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Sunnyvale, a part of Cupertino and the San Mateo County coastside -- from El Granada to the Santa Cruz County border.

Mountain View Voice Staff Writer Mark Noack and Almanac Staff Writer Kate Bradshaw contributed to this report.


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37 people like this
Posted by SUPERPAC Tuesday
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 8, 2016 at 5:52 am

If you are just waking up, here are the numbers from the County website as of 5:40 AM with 166 of 166 Precincts Reporting (one suspects it excludes some ballots
which arrived late)
MARC BERMAN (DEM) 14,973 27.38%
VICKI VEENKER (DEM) 12,220 22.34%
PETER OHTAKI (REP) 9,981 18.25%
Ok, Berman has a comfortable lead to make sure he's on the Nov. ballot, but an only 5% lead over Veenker when 73% of the voters didn't vote for Berman (including an overwhelming percentage of the democrats) means potential trouble for him this Fall. I say congratulations to Veenker who survived tasteless smear mailings from all special interest money (on the other hand, maybe that's what got her past Ohtaki, who knows). Failing to get Ohtaki into second is going to cost Marc's special interest groups a fortune. Can you just imagine how many mailings we are going to get in the months ahead???

8 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 8, 2016 at 6:34 am

You need to review the results of both Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

The final overnight results are:

Santa Clara San Mateo Total %
Berman 14,973 4,844 19,817 28.23%
Veenker 12,220 3,074 15,294 21.79%
Ohtaki 9,981 4,090 14,071 20.04%
Kasperzak 6,824 767 7,591 10.81%
Chang 6,000 1,472 7,472 10.64%
Inks 2,603 392 2,995 4.27%
Cabrera 1,162 391 1,553 2.21%
Reddy 928 479 1,407 2.00%

16 people like this
Posted by SUPERPAC Tuesday
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 8, 2016 at 6:45 am

I appreciate the correction. Otherwise, the data still support my comments (ok, Berman wins by 6.5%, not 5%). I can't imagine the Republican vote this Fall going to anyone and I suspect the "anyone but Berman" vote can drift over to Veenker. It's going to be interesting.

10 people like this
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 8, 2016 at 6:57 am

SEA_SEELAM REDDY is a registered user.

Congratulations to the top three; Marc Vicki and George!

We have superb candidates with great credentials. One of you will represent us well and make 24th assembly the top ten places to live and come home to.

Please be nice to each other. We do not need angry voters that want to disrespect us for nasty ads. Please discourage it and denounce it.

They have the money, but we have the trash can right next to us to throw away garbage in garbage.

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity you have given me to know you, feel your concerns, hopes and dreams.

I am a better person having been participant of this process.

I will continue to be friends with 928 plus voters at heart and work for your desires.


4 people like this
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 8, 2016 at 8:07 am

SEA_SEELAM REDDY is a registered user.


Congratulations to the top three; Marc Vicki and Peter!


53 people like this
Posted by Overmailed
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 8, 2016 at 9:06 am

I have a 10 mailer rule. If you send me more than 10 mailers, I won't vote for you (superpacs included).

33 people like this
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 8, 2016 at 11:17 am

Like Overmailed, I have a mailer rule of thumb too, but my limit is much lower. In fact, I'm pretty sure I don't need any more mailers about Marc Berman from now until forever. It seems that a few people with a ton of money to burn want him to be elected. Hmmm...

2 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 8, 2016 at 12:00 pm

The Berman mailers worked b/c they provided name recognition so we will likely all get more. Assuming Veenker ends up as the second, is she still distributing lawn signs?

23 people like this
Posted by edrie
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2016 at 12:12 pm

i want to "hank" the anonymous mailer author who wrote the ugly hit piece on vicki veenker.

"your" vitriol made me take a hard, cold look at vicki and as a result of that research, and that of the remainder of the field, ms veenker got MY vote! looking forward to working for her election in the fall!

words sometimes have unintended consequences. that mailer sure did. ;)

Like this comment
Posted by edrie
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2016 at 12:13 pm

um... thank, not hank in comment above

19 people like this
Posted by Berman Overmailing
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 8, 2016 at 12:13 pm

I expressly did not vote for Marc Berman because of his overmailing. I remembered his name in a a very negative light and voted for Vicki. I believe that anyone who overmails the way that Berman did is up to no good and can't be good for us. I will vote against him again in November just because he burns too many trees.

11 people like this
Posted by Berman triumphs
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 8, 2016 at 12:28 pm

And just to probe that the people who are constantly whining on this forum about the mailings constitute an extremely small number (I would estimate 5-10 people total) we see that Berman got more votes than anyone. Sour grapes.

27 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 8, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Just wanted to add my name to the list who voted for Vicki because of Berman's relentless ad mailer campaign. I wish I'd kept them all to add to the hundreds we'll be getting now, then taking them to his campaign headquarters.

12 people like this
Posted by John Kelley
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 8, 2016 at 12:59 pm

Last night, Democratic voters showed that experience counts. Marc Berman also put forth a thoughtful and detailed vision for the future with his "Silicon Valley 2028 Initiative." Marc's strong qualifications and his well-articulated objectives for meeting Silicon Valley's needs in the years to come will serve him well in November.

6 people like this
Posted by Content based voter
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2016 at 1:13 pm

I was a bit annoyed with the mailers until I realized most were from PACs. Luckily, our laws forbid any candidate from coordination with a PAC. As a result though a candidate cannot tell PACs to not send mailers either as that would be looked at as an FPPC violation. I guess I just cannot justify to myself not voting for someone with the most experience because someone else did something. Generally speaking I hope politics and voting remains about who is best situated to represent us, and not about a "personal mailer rule". That's essentially the same as voting for someone based off car color or the third letter in their middle name, but I understand for many that's what's become of the political process.

15 people like this
Posted by To the point
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 8, 2016 at 1:52 pm

Seeing Berman's face in dozens of booklets a day is unfortunate but not the point.

All who talk here about "experience" ... The guy himself could not list many except the hotel tax increase. That is supposed to be his "vision" of the Palo Alto and the state future? Tax the visitors a little more?

The embarrassing response to the Maybell controversy is another example of a "rising star" career politician that we are having here.

VOTE them all OUT.

7 people like this
Posted by Scotty
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 8, 2016 at 1:59 pm

[Post removed.]

10 people like this
Posted by Five Coats
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2016 at 2:46 pm

My husband and I did not vote for Berman due to the over the top quantity of mailers for his candidacy. We question how fiscally prudent he will be if his campaign bucket had the moneys to send that many mailers.

4 people like this
Posted by South PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2016 at 2:46 pm

@To the point, you seem to be missing the point. The increase in the hotel tax is funding major, and long overdue, improvements to the city's infrastructure. Those improvements will keep us safer (new public safety building and fire stations), save us money (better roads = less wear and tear on vehicles), improve quality of life (bicycle and pedestrian master plan), and enable us to go about our daily routines without enormous hassles. That is a concrete and significant accomplishment in public service that separates Berman from Veenker on a major issue facing the state. What concrete accomplishments in public service did Veenker point to? Or was it her detailed one-paragraph policy proposals on major issues that won you over?

I assume everyone complaining about the mailers has also requested that their postal carrier stop delivering all Penny Savers, catalogues, and credit card offers. One catalogue is more paper than all the mailers sent in this race combined.

Fortunately, 24th District voters think more broadly than many PA Online commenters and realized Berman is the better choice. I'm looking forward to seeing the exchange of ideas in the general election - I hope Veenker makes more of an effort on policy this time.

11 people like this
Posted by FAT CAT mailer
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2016 at 3:04 pm

I agree with most of the respondents about the inordinate amount of mailers that showed up at my door daily. If Mark Berman is such an environmentalist, why did he kill all these trees for mailers? The anonymous mailer, FAT CAT was a hit piece, full of over generalizations and innuendo. I'm not sure what leadership abilities Mark Berman has shown in Palo Alto, but by sending such NASTy hit pieces on Vicki Veenker he lost my vote. Money should not determine who wins a local Assembly Seat. This is a new low for democracy at the local level. Please NO MORE MAILERS in midtown where I live for Mark Berman.

6 people like this
Posted by To the point
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 8, 2016 at 3:36 pm

South PA,

"@To the point, you seem to be missing the point.".

I do not think I do.
There are five tax-based sources of revenue for the City of Palo Alto’s General Fund:

Property taxes: 19% of revenues [$32M]
Sales taxes: 15% [$26M]
Transient Occupancy Tax/hotel tax: 8% [$14M]
Utility Users Tax: 7% [$11M]
Documentary Transfer Tax: 4% [$7.5M]

The hotel tax increase was by 2% (two %), so I would not call it major compare to the rest 51%.

As far as the mailers from businesses ... They do annoy you but you sort of go with that. Business, what do you do.
Berman's mailers show that is business for him and what sort of business interests are backing him. Smearing of Veener .. wow .. I haven't seen that in Presidential elections.

And about him not coordinating with PACs ... bwah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah. All Citizens United little problem does not mean anything to you?

I am not looking forward to the discussion. Everything seems to be pretty clear to everybody. Bye ...

25 people like this
Posted by voter
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 8, 2016 at 6:05 pm

There’s a very big story here, if only the Voice/PA Weekly will cover it.

Berman received over a million dollars in outside support. This is unprecedented in a local Assembly primary, and I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that this massive expenditure had a corrupting effect on the election.

Here are some questions that have not been addressed in any election coverage:

1) Who precisely are the funders behind the "Independent Expenditure Committees" that funded the Berman mailers, polling, internet ads, and anti-Veenker hit pieces? These IEC’s were "EdVoice," "Cooperative of American Physicians," "Californians Allied for Patient Protection," and the California Apartment Association. A little internet followup indicated to me that EdVoice is a pro-charter school, anti-CTA entity funded by right-wingers, and the two medical-sounding groups are fronts for malpractice insurance companies.

The California Apartment Association, you may recall, sent $90,000 through the shell cynically named "Neighborhood Empowerment Coalition," in support of three pro-development candidates in the 2014 MV council election.

I’d really like to see a real reporter dig a lot deeper than I could. Who exactly are the individuals or corporations behind these IEC's?

2) Exactly why were these groups convinced it was worth a million plus to get Berman elected? I watched the candidate interviews that the Voice/PA Weekly provided; it seemed that their answers on questionnaires given to them by various interest groups determined whether they would be supported or attacked.

So, exactly what were the answers or issues that motivated support or attack?

3) Berman said that there was "no coordination" between his campaign and these special-interest groups. I see no reason to doubt that he followed the letter of the law. HOWEVER, was there coordination between the various interest groups? The timing of the mailers tells me that there may have been. If so, exactly who arranged it?

This was an infusion of dark money on a scale that we have not seen before. I sincerely hope that the Voice/PA Weekly is willing to help drag some of this information into the light.

21 people like this
Posted by Stepheny McGraw
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2016 at 10:39 pm

The most remarkable things about Mark Berman is the amount of dark money which backed him in this election and the overly vituperative attacks those who backed him put out on Vicki Veenker. Certainly, his tenure to date on the City Council itself is remarkable only for its lack of anything substantive and its lack of leadership. At best, he has been a participant and followed the path set by others.

As commenters above have voiced, PA Online should seek to identify whose deep pockets are funding Mark, but as he is a lawyer who works with the developers and PA Online is primarily funded by real estate ads, such a probe is unlikely.

Who are these backers and why did they choose him?

8 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 9, 2016 at 11:20 am

Representative democracy has been hijacked by special interests looking for government funding and other special consideration. Even at the state Assembly level, candidates (not rich themselves) take special interest money and assistance to compete. A sad situation.

Like this comment
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 9, 2016 at 10:48 pm

I was pointed to Berman's Facebook page where he states:

"Another negative flyer about an opponent has hit mailboxes in our community, and I again find myself disappointed by the tone of the piece sent by an outside group. There’s no room for these tactics in our race, and I’m requesting that these outside groups stop immediately.
My campaign is, and has always been, about communicating a positive message with voters about my record of service and a plan forward for California. I hope that voters will make their decisions based on policy positions and vision, and not on outside attacks."

It would be good perhaps if Berman were to take out a large ad in PAW to disavow the people putting out the mailers and to ask that they stop.

2 people like this
Posted by It is not complicated
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2016 at 11:15 pm

The mailers are annoying but the real reason to vote against Berman is that he is a 100% voter for major developments and developers.

So if you like the big glassy under-parked office buildings being constructed around town, and if you like the crowding and traffic they bring, he's your guy.

He is completely enmeshed in the real estate world, owns a whole lot of property, and votes for the money interests 100% of the time.

6 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 10, 2016 at 6:12 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Herman is in all but name a lobbyist for the big developers. It seems like some of his voters were low information voters, despite their formal education, who made the same mistake as voting Cory Wolbach into the CC, not knowing he is actually another big development supporter.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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