The August Endorsement Forum was a resounding success in many ways!  To begin with, we endorsed Rebecca Saltzman for BART District 3; Greg Lyman and Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto for El Cerrito City Council, and Mister Phillips for West Contra Costa School Board.  For a full report of results, see

Over 50% of our members attended; 160 ballots were distributed, and 159 were turned in.  In addition, there were about dozen people who came to listen to the candidates.  

Our system of voting cards worked very smoothly, thanks to our sign in and ballot distribution volunteers Pam and Paul Gilbert Snyder, Russell Skeahan, Gloria Merrill, Tom Cesa, Mary Lyman and Michelle Fadelli, Grace Shimizu and Jonee Grassi.

Bob MacDonald, Scott Lyons, and Dwight Merrill collected questions from the audience; Sue Roberts and Al Miller kept the refreshment table orderly, Ruby MacDonald kept tabs on everyone, and Amanda Staunko and Caroline Damon spent the day counting the votes.  With so many races on the ballot, it was a huge job; they stayed cheerful and focused the entire day!

Several folks pitched in for set up and clean up – Joanna Pace, the Gilbert-Snyders, Greg Lyman, Gabe Quinto, Peter Chau, and I know I’ve left some folks out.

We were also lucky to have three excellent moderators: our Vice President of Records Mollie Hazen moderate d the two transportation panels (BART and AC Transit); Peter Chau, communications volunteer and past candidate for school board, moderated the two education panels (Board of Education and West County School Board), and the Mayor of San Pablo moderated the Kensington Community Services Board and the El Cerrito City Council panels.  And our vice president of Publications, Kip Crosby provided excellent timekeeping throughout.

All but two of the candidates who have qualified for local races participated.  Our new Superintendent of Schools Matthew Duffy led us in the Pledge of Allegiance and spoke about Measure T; Chris Peeples from AC Transit spoke about Measure VV; Mayor Pro Tem Janet Abelson spoke about Measure X.  This just shows how broad and generous our community of Democrats is in West Contra Costa County.

And speaking of generosity – the refreshments provided by our candidates showed the whole gamut of delights: fruit salad, homemade cookies, sushi, sandwiches, cut up vegetables, flavored popcorn – all prepared and donated by our candidates.  Special thanks to Al Miller for providing the wonderful coffee from Well Grounded.

But nothing comes close to the dedication and generosity of Craig Cheslog who served as our endorsement voting judge.  He showed up at the beginning, steadfastly checked and cross checked the number of sign ins against ballots handed out, sat with our ballot counters to make sure the ballots were correctly counted and tallied, and finally, at the end of a very long day, moderated two challenges.

When Mister Phillips examined the ballots, he discovered one vote that hadn’t been counted for him, and noted that two ballots had to be disqualified because the voter had marked more than two boxes.  This lowered the denominator, increased the numerator, and ended up winning him the 60% majority need for our endorsement.

Nick Arzio, who had 36% of the vote for El Cerrito City Council, challenged the count for fellow City Council candidate Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto.  Upon careful examination of the ballots, our election judge Mr. Cheslog agreed to disqualify one ballot, but Rochelle still received 60% of the votes cast, and the Club’s endorsement.  Once the two challenges were settled, the results were announced, photographed, and posted on Facebook.  And the meeting was adjourned.

Our standing rules state that there can be no further challenges once the meeting has been adjourned; however, we did received several more emails from Mr. Arzio citing certain technical points in Roberts’ Rules of Order that could have affected the outcome.  However, our election judge, Mr. Cheslog, stated unequivocally even had Mr. Arzio brought citations forward before the meeting was adjourned, they would not have stripped the endorsement from Ms. Pardue-Okimoto.

As a club, we can be proud that so many of our members participated in our forum, that our process provided us with indisputable ballot distribution, and that the ballots themselves were organized in such a way that challenges could be raised and resolved.