The Citizen

SAN LEANDRO Local activist and rapper Sara Mestas is poised to become the third challenger hoping to unseat San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos this November.

Mestas, who performs under the stage name Mo Wiley, issued a blunt press release Wednesday announcing her candidacy and equated herself as a Robin Hood-type figure defending the interest of the working class and poor.

“The unstoppable rap artist, political activist and mother of three prepares to conquer her next challenge: campaigning for mayor of her hometown,” the release says.

She joins a mayoral race that has been set and a bit staid since August of last year. San Leandro Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak and former school board trustee Stephen Cassidy have been campaigning raising money for months. Rumors are also circulating another candidate or two may eventually emerging such as former Councilwoman Surlene Grant, who termed out in 2008. Mestas will officially announce her candidacy May 25 at a press conference in front of City Hall.

Mestas candidacy comes as a surprise. She is an admitted newcomer to politics. In December, she was named to the city’s Rent Review Board, but her civic participation innocuously began last fall when she, like many parents in San Leandro, were unprepared to learn funding for school crossing guards had been cut by the city council earlier in the year. Mestas was one of the few parents who volunteered their mornings and afternoons to helping children safely cross streets. Afterwards, she stayed on duty after the city and school district agreed to split the costs of hiring crossing guards.

The issue of her nascent music career has also raised her profile among some residents and city officials in both positive and negative terms. Critics have questioned whether the content of her music is an appropriate face for the city along with her troubled youth, something, she says, she is not shy to reveal.

“The whole point of launching my career with an album about the streets is to tell people about the hard places I came from in my youth that listeners can relate to and then show them with later recordings just how I have matured and evolved since then,” said Mestas. “There would be a huge disconnect if I did that first without showing the sequence of events that brought me to where I am now.”

Mestas recently faced resistance from city officials who declined to work with her proposed youth mentoring program with the Police Activities League and a recreational baseball league sponsored by the San Francisco Giants. She says both the city manager and police chief flatly said her songs glorified a gangster lifestyle and, specifically, promoted prostitution.

COMING SOON: The Citizen has the inside story of the city’s reluctance to work with Sara Mestas.