FREMONT — Mayor Bob Wasserman said his re-election Tuesday represented a vote of confidence in his efforts to bring the Oakland A's to Fremont.
"It says that we need to continue it, to pursue it, and to do it right," he said.
Wasserman, who has been the City Council's strongest advocate of the A's ballpark village project, handily defeated his two challengers, who were more critical of proposals to build a ballpark, shopping center and as many as 3,150 homes near Interstate 880 and Fremont's Auto Mall Parkway.
Former Mayor Gus Morrison, who warned that the $1.8 billion development would increase traffic and diminish quality of life, received just 21 percent of the vote. With several thousand ballots still left to be counted, he trailed far behind Wasserman, who had 43 percent, and Councilmember Steve Cho, who had 32 percent. Paul Reeder, who withdrew from the race in August, finished a distant fourth.
Cho had been the only council member willing to consider a public referendum on the A's final proposal. But now that he will be termed out of office next month, Tuesday's vote may be the closest Fremont residents will get to a referendum on the project.
If so, the ballclub would likely be happy with the outcome.
Not only did Wasserman win, but his ally, Sue Chan, also an A's backer, captured a council seat despite not having the Democratic Party's endorsement.
"With Sue and Bob getting elected, it seems as though
Wasserman wouldn't say the results were a mandate for moving ahead with the project.
"I think what it means is that people were happy with what's been going on here the last four years "... and the A's are part of that," he said.
Morrison, who had served five terms as mayor, said the A's still faced many hurdles heading into the environmental review process.
"They have a lot of problems, and they're not working to resolve them," he said.
One bright spot for project opponents was the strong showing of Vinnie Bacon, a local Sierra Club director, who finished third in the council race.
"I don't think (Wasserman and Chan's victory) is a vindication of the ballpark," he said. Most voters he spoke with weren't aware that their vote could effectively decide the project's fate, he added.
After a public relation blitz earlier this year, which included several direct mail pieces to Fremont residents, the team stayed out of the election.
A's officials didn't contribute money to any candidate, and stopped returning media calls about the project.
Meanwhile, the team, which has been addressing traffic concerns from nearby retailers and an auto plant, still hasn't submitted its final plan to the city.
The plan, which was expected to be completed last spring, could be submitted this month, city officials have said.
Morrison, who first ran for city office in 1976, said Tuesday's election would be his last.
He attributed his loss partly to a late start and voter fear that a vote for him would help Cho.
But he said he had no regrets about running for one last mayoral race.
"I chose to run against a guy (Wasserman) who's not unpopular," Morrison said. "I don't know of anything I could have done differently to change the result."