BERKELEY -- Three challengers to Mayor Tom Bates in the November election are running as a team in hopes that the new rank choice voting system fouls out the three-time winner.

Triple teaming Bates are Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi, Jacquelyn McCormick and Councilman Kriss Worthington, each urging supporters to consider one another as their first, second and third choices.

The team approach worked in Oakland's 2010 rank choice mayoral race, where Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan asked supporters to vote for them as their second or third choice.

In the first round, former Assemblyman Don Perata got 35 percent of the votes, with Quan and Kaplan scoring 24 and 21 percent. But Quan won by picking up Kaplan's second and third-choice votes.

The Nov. 6 election will be the first time rank choice voting, where voters rank first, second, and third choices, is used in a Berkeley mayoral contest.

Jacobs-Fantauzzi, a Green Party member, said the system is a boon to lesser-known candidates like himself.

"When you're able to choose more than one candidate, you're able to vote where your heart is," he said. "You're also able to give opportunities to people that historically have not been able to participate."

On the campaign trail, the team approach gives the trio a three-to-one advantage at public debates. At a recent NAACP-sponsored forum, each challenger argued that Bates hadn't addressed gentrification and racial disparities in Berkeley. Bates had one-third the time to defend his civil rights' record and argue that market forces outside city control drive up housing costs.

Jacobs-Fantauzzi calls his association with Worthington and McCormick an "alliance" and is asking supporters to rank himself, McCormick and Worthington, "one, two, three in any order."

McCormick endorsed Jacobs-Fantauzzi for the No. 2 spot, but did not name a No. 3 choice.

Like McCormick, Worthington has endorsed Jacobs-Fantauzzi for a second place vote. Characterizing the collaboration among the three as an "informal network," Worthington said, "I haven't told people who to vote for as their third choice."

Bates' campaign did not return emails asking for comment on how rank choice voting might affect the race.

Worthington said that even though the three are working together, they do have differences.

"With Jacquelyn, I disagree strongly with certain positions," he said, pointing to his support for tax measures to repair streets and rebuild pools, which McCormick opposes.

Judith Scherr is a Berkeley-based freelance journalist. Contact her at judithscherr@gmail.com.