Mar. 19, 2012 | In the 18th Assembly District, the road to Sacramento and party preeminence runs exclusively through Oakland.

“As the largest city in the 18th Assembly District and home to over 64% of registered voters in the district, Oakland will play a pivotal role in the outcome of the election,” says a press release issued today by the assembly campaign of Abel Guillen. Quoting political p.r. material is a precarious endeavor, but the sentiment is absolutely correct.

Oakland Councilwoman Libby Schaaf followed her colleagues Ignacio De La Fuente and Nancy Nadel last week in endorsing Guillen’s bid for the assembly. Although another candidate, Joel Young, also resides in Oakland, it has been Guillen who has been able to stoke support among the city’s liberal and progressive voters. The inclination of Oakland voters to register support based solely on the perception the candidate is one of their own should not be easily discounted.

One Oakland activist, who declined to be identified because they plan to run for a local central committee seat, succintly grasped the emerging sentiment in the city by calling themselves an “Oakland nationalist.” 

“I like Rob Bonta. I think he’s excellent, but he should stay on his island,” they said referencing assembly candidate Bonta’s residency in Alameda.

Of course, your name, where you’re from and your party affiliation is just the first step in the candidate/voter courtship just now starting in earnest and sure to intensfiy in the next few months. Each candidate’s beliefs and positions will surely be repeatedly poked and prodded by reporters and voters, but down ballot races will also show Oakland’s predominance as local kingmaker.
For instance, ever since redistricting maps were released last year, public officials and residents in San Leandro, who were sloughed away from Hayward and placed with Alameda and Oakland, have registered palpable fear over losing significant representation within their new borders.

The loss of power may be notable when it comes to typically overlooked elections for the district’s Democratic Party Central Committee. Twenty candidates are vying for 10 seats this June. Whereas, candidates from San Leandro, once had to merely cross their fingers and hope for being placed in the first six slots on the ballot, as happened in 2010, now find their prospects for election nearing extinction. A slate of ten candidates headed by Oakland Councilman De La Fuente is said to be looking to take over the party’s central committee.

Despite an historic exodus of Oakland population over the past decade, it appears the city still has the power to dwarf its neighboring locales. To what extent over the next generation may have less to do with its diminished strength, though, but a lack of growth and candidate development in its orbiting cities.