Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern is
running unopposed this June.
PHOTO/Shane Bond

ALAMEDA COUNTY | Patrick O’Connell — like most Alameda County politicians — has run unopposed each time he’s been up for reelection to his longtime post as county controller/auditor/clerk recorder. And most East Bay political observers expected him to once again run unchallenged this year. But then in a surprise move, O’Connell declared last week that he had decided to not run for reelection after 28 years in office.

The timing of O’Connell’s surprise move also was curious. He made his announcement after the March 7 deadline had passed for candidates seeking to replace him. And his deputy auditor, Steve Manning, officially filed papers to run to replace O’Connell just before his boss made his announcement — and just before the candidate filing deadline. O’Connell denied that the timing of his announcement was designed to help his deputy cruise into office this year, but the move was nonetheless emblematic of a decades-old problem with the Alameda County electoral process — a system that typically discourages competition and resembles political patronage…