Oakland mayoral challenger Joe Tuman
PHOTO/Steven Tavares

OAKLAND | MAYOR | “Did you hear the first words out of her mouth?” Oakland mayoral candidate Joe Tuman said incredulously of Mayor Jean Quan. “‘I’m sorry I misspoke.’ How many times have you heard that?”

Although, many candidates for mayor voiced specific displeasure with Quan’s first term in office at week’s public safety forum, there was only one brief, if not a passive, confrontation between the candidates. Quan versus Tuman.

Near the end of the forum, candidates were allowed to pose a single question to one other opponent. Quan chose Tuman. It was not clear whether the pick indicated she views Tuman as a threat or merely hastily chosen. Quan appeared momentarily like a kid having trouble picking an ice cream among many choices at Baskin & Robbins.

Some internal polls have shown Tuman’s campaign has strong support. One poll last December, which included Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan and extrapolated with ranked choice voting, showed Tuman, not Quan, in the final two with the undeclared candidate.

However, Quan’s question was simple last Thursday night. She asked Tuman, who ran for mayor four years ago, how many community meetings and ride-alongs with law enforcement did he attend before 2010? Tuman answered: two and zero.

When asked what he thought Quan was getting at, Tuman said he was wise to her. “She was trying to imply that I’m a Johnny-come-lately.” Tuman says there’s a simple reason why he wasn’t involved in Oakland politics before 2010. He was working as a political analyst for KPIX-TV. Crossing the line between media and advocacy would have been poor form. “The implication, somehow, that she has a longer history and, therefore, I’m not entitled to be mayor is typical of her logic,” Tuman added. “I’ve lived in Oakland 30 years. I’ve raised my children here, too,” said Tuman. “It’s ok, it’s politics. She can take her dig.”

Later in the forum, though, Tuman took the opportunity to return favor. Despite technically not a public safety-related question, Tuman asked Quan to address an assertion she made during last month’s State of the City that a budget surplus now exists. “What I think I said,” Quan responded, “and I misspoke if I said that…” Quan added a city staff report said Oakland had higher revenues than previously projected.

Afterwards, Tuman said the response was unacceptable. “I think if you tracked down Deanna Santana or Fred Blackwell, they would give you an earful about the budget. There is no deficit. In fact, we may be facing a sizable deficit. To say otherwise during the State of the City speech is just election year politics.”

Tuman paused and said, “I was disappointed with her answer, to tell you the truth.”